Specialty food entrepreneurs get tips from professionals at seminar

Johnny Morgan  |  11/22/2017 2:34:58 PM

(11/22/17) BATON ROUGE, La. — Creators of specialty foods from as far away as Bolivia and Nigeria attended a specialty foods seminar on the LSU campus on Nov. 17.

The seminar featured Ron Tanner and Shawn McBride, professionals from the industry who presented information to help those in attendance become productive as marketers of their products.

Specialty foods are “unique and high-value food items made in small quantities from high-quality ingredients” such as sauces, pickles chips and dips.

Tanner, who is the vice president for communications, education, government and industry relations of the New York City-based Specialty Food Association, and McBride, the vice president of FOAH International, provided tips for how to market and sell their products in the marketplace.

“What we want to do today is provide new business owners in Louisiana with information on how to sell to brokers, distributors and supermarkets,” Tanner said. He added that one of the biggest mistakes food producers make is trying to sell direct rather than using a broker to distribute products for them.

Tanner discussed a number of statistics about the specialty food industry, and McBride gave practical tips on how to get products before consumers.

“Today specialty foods represents about 15 percent of all food items sold at retail,” Tanner said. “That’s up from about 3 percent about 12 years ago.”

Tanner said specialty food currently controls as much of the market as produce does in most stores.

“One unique thing about specialty foods is that it can be found throughout the store,” he said. “Some can be found in grocery, some in produce and some in the deli.”

Gaye Sandoz, the director of the AgCenter Food Incubator, said the goal of the incubator is to help food producers take their recipe, tweak it if needed and get it ready for the market.

Gaye Spaht, the owner of Old Soul said she can’t say enough good things about the Food Incubator. Her Lafayette-based company makes pickles, preserves and sauces.

“I like to say that it incubates the person as well as the food,” she said. “There is just so much information that they provide to us.”

E. Eric Guirard attended to look at ways to promote his Bee Sweeter honey sweetener product.

“We’re in the incubator, and we are in the development stages,” he said. ”They provide the information from start to finish. I’m in the legal profession, so I needed expertise in the workings of the food industry.”

Demi Stevens, a restaurant owner from Los Angeles, said she attended the seminar to gain more knowledge on how to market her cocktail mixes.

“I’m here because it is too difficult to do this type business in California,” Stevens said. “I’ve spent a lot of personal money and time and just couldn’t get my product launched before coming here.”

Firdaws Ashiru, a hibiscus tea producer from Nigeria heaped praise on the Food Incubator.

“I find that the incubator is a great resource for legal information,” Ashiru said. “They have helped me with my pH levels and with lots of legal advice.”
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Ron Tanner, vice president for communications, education and government and industry relations for the New York City-based Specialty Food Association, discusses marketing foods at the specialty foods seminar held at the LSU AgCenter on Nov. 17. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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Shawn McBride, vice president of Foah International, explains how to deal with food brokers and distributors at the specialty foods seminar held at the LSU AgCenter on Nov. 17. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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