Food Processors Conference Looks At Marketing Economic Development

4/28/2005 3:27:25 AM

News Release Distributed 02/21/05

Selling food products identified with Louisiana can help build markets – both within the state and elsewhere – a food industry consultant told the Louisiana Food Processors Conference last week.

"The opportunity in this room is the Louisiana reputation," said Barry Burns, who’s with Informa Economics Inc. of Memphis, Tenn. "The strength of the Louisiana brand is one that’s second to none.

"The food service companies have figured it out," he added. "They’re selling Cajun food whether it’s good or not."

Burns was one of a dozen general-session speakers on a program that focused on economic development and marketing in the Louisiana food-processing industry.

The third annual two-day conference, sponsored by the LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Economic Development, was held Feb. 16-17 at the C.B. Pennington Jr. Conference Center in Baton Rouge. Other sponsors included Air Liquide, Greater New Orleans Inc., Tabasco and Entergy.

Registration for the conference was 170, said Dr. Mike Moody, head of the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Food Science and one of the conference organizers.

"Value-added food processing offers a lot to this state," Moody said, explaining the meeting’s focus on marketing and economic development.

In addition to the general sessions, the program also included a morning of specialized seminars ranging from seafood technology and microbiology to sensory testing.

Joli Cooper of Williams Capital Partners, which represents public and private investment funds, told the audience about "hot trends" in consumer foods.

Drawing on more than 20 years’ experience in consumer packaged goods, Cooper talked about taking existing product lines – regional Creole or Cajun, for example – to reach larger, national audiences.

"Know consumer food trends – then act on what you know," she said. "Invest in market intelligence."

Louisiana is in a good position to lead in consumer-driven products, Michael Olivier, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, told the conference.

"Food processing is one of the most important segments of the Louisiana economy," he said.

Olivier added that the state has economic development incentive programs equally available to existing businesses as to new businesses.

Other economic development opportunities for the food-processing industry can come from workforce training.

Dr. Walter Bumphus, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, and Jim Henderson, director of incumbent worker training in the Louisiana Department of Labor, both explained how their agencies can help businesses by providing training for current employees who need to upgrade skills.

Louisiana invests more in incumbent worker training than any other state, Henderson said.

Other conference speakers included Richard Chapman, president of Diversified Foods and Seasonings; Jill Gifford, manager of the food entrepreneur assistance program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Mark Drennan, president of Greater New Orleans Inc.; Julie Calzone of Calzone and Associates; Dr. Wes Harrison of the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness; and Charles D’Agostino, director of the LSU Business and Technology Center

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Writer: Rick Bogren at (225) 578-5839 or rbogren@agcenter.lsu.edu

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