A successful trade mission to Toronto, Canada, led to a whole new market for The Gluten Free Bar, and the company now has its sights on Australia and Europe.
“We shipped our first order to Canada in 2015 and our business there has doubled every year,” says Marshall Rader, co-founder. Rader credits the International Program of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for the trade mission and helping to open the market.
“The help provided to small companies like ours makes exporting financially viable,” Rader says. “We started shipping five flavors of our bars and three flavors of our bites and they’ve been well received.”
Herkner Farms is looking for that same kind of success with their sauces, marinades and fruit toppings for the foodservice industry including bakeries and ice cream and food manufacturers.
“We’re in the process of building relationships in Canada and China,” says Bruce Byl, Herkner Farms president. “We are working on establishing relationships in Canada and have a distributor working with us, promoting our products and sending samples to showcases.”
In China, Byl has met with 17 potential buyers vetted by MDARD. “We had very promising meetings,” he says. “They like our products. We’re working on a new mango product based on the critiques we heard in China.”
Byl describes the MDARD International Marketing program as a “tremendous” resource. “They are knowledgeable and they want us to be successful,” he says. “Their goal is to increase Michigan exports to foreign countries.”
Exports are key to opening new markets and attracting new customers – a combination that’s good for Michigan’s food and agribusinesses.
Michigan exports nearly $3 billion annually in food and agriculture products. The state’s biggest markets include Canada, Japan, China, Thailand and Mexico. Exports have a positive impact on farm prices and income, while also supporting more than 22,600 jobs both on and off the farm in food processing, storage and transportation.
The Gluten Free Bar was the first-ever recipient of the Michigan Rising Star Award in 2017, presented by MDARD.
“The Gluten Free Bar sets a great example for other small- and medium-sized companies as to the opportunities exports provide in generating more sales and growth for a company,” says Jamie Clover Adams, MDARD director, in a statement announcing the award. “Exports are critical to the Michigan food and agriculture economy, and companies like The Gluten Free Bar are a vital part of the growth.”
Jamie Zmitko-Somers, MDARD’s International Marketing Program manager, has seen a significant increase in the number of companies exporting goods to other countries. The department helps companies connect with international buyers and consulting experts, assists with marketing research, and helps the companies identify and apply for grants and funding through the MDARD programs.
More and more Michigan companies are seeing success with exporting. Exporting can increase profits and increase brand awareness. “Farmers and producers here in Michigan are able to produce high-quality food. Exporting is a great way to share what we produce here,” Zmitko-Somers says.