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A shocking 60 percent more buyers than initially expected showed up at the first-ever Montana Food Show to shop for anything from locally grown berries to Montana-made cheese.

Event organizers set ambitious goals for the 2018 show, which returns to Bozeman in October.

“It felt like a lot of people thought this was just a beginning,” says Steph Hystad, marketing officer for the Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA). “We had 45 vendors in 2017 and are shooting for 120 in 2018. We had 163 buyers and we’d like to hit that 300 mark.

Food makers throughout Montana told the MDA’s marketing team that they wanted a one-stop shop to showcase their Montana-made food and beverages.

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The department delivered, and buyers overwhelmingly responded. The 2017 Montana Food Show gathered a diverse mix of businesses that represented every business category the department had recruited, such as schools and colleges, restaurants, grocery stores, wholesalers and distributors.

“It was inspiring to hear the stories of folks who have been trying to get into Costco or a well-known restaurant for years and finally made that connection at our show,” Hystad says. “Companies with booths next to each other found their products could complement each other for future products. The energy was great.”

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At the completion of the 2017 Montana Food Show, about 60 percent of vendors reported more than $5,000 in sales during the show with another $170,000 in projected sales. Buyers indicated they want to shop among even more Montana vendors and products, and the MDA intends to meet the demand.

“Montana has incredibly high- quality agricultural products that can be used in so many different ways,” Hystad says. “We’re honored to be able to showcase the companies who are finding ways to create delicious, nutritious, value-added food products for Montanans and people around the word.”


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