Economy takes toll on Michigan's local program - The Packer

Economy takes toll on Michigan's local program

06/28/2010 12:15:25 PM
Ashley Bentley

“The Caribbean is a big market for Michigan apples, and there may be some new potential in that area,” Zmitko-Somers said.

Michigan’s export access is through Miami, she said.

The department plans to do a follow-up trade mission to the Caribbean in 2011.

Before all of that, though, the state is bring back a bi-annual event that brings more than 20 international buyers to the state to meet with suppliers.

The event — set up through the Food Export Association of the Midwest, Chicago — should bring 24 buyers to East Lansing July 26 to participate in 30-minute meetings with interested suppliers.

In years past, processors have been the main participants in this program, but there are opportunities for the fresh side, as well, Zmitko-Somers said.

A few new trade shows are on the department’s schedule this year, too.

In October it’s using specialty crop block grant funding to participate in the Americas Food & Beverage Show in Miami. The Michigan Apple Committee plans to exhibit in the booth, along with a number of fruit processors, and possible some representatives from the Michigan vegetable industry, Zmitko-Somers said.

The show brings in buyers from the Caribbean, South and Central America and Mexico, all emerging markets for Michigan fruit and vegetables, she said.

In Michigan, the department is also hosting a booth at the Michigan Grocers Show for the first time this year. It is continuing its participation in the Michigan Restaurant Show, but is trying to do more chef demonstrations than it has in the past.

“Last year, we brought chefs in to use different types of fruits and vegetables to prepare some different food items,” Zmitko-Somers said. “We’re trying to show attendees and chefs some different options of how they can incorporate Michigan produce into their menus.”

Both of those shows are open to produce companies that would like to participate. There is a cost, but the department is giving discounts to fruit and vegetable companies to try to expand their participation.

The Select Michigan logo remains on some of the department’s signage and promotional materials, but Zmitko-Somers said it is not being used on any new materials.

In addition to continuing its use of the Select Michigan logo in certain cases, MBG Marketing is a strong supporter of retailer-specific locally grown programs and works with Wal-Mart, Meijer and Kroger, specifically, on their campaigns.

“From a promotion perspective, it’s one of the newer trends in the last few years,” Bragg said.

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