The program, which works to promote the state’s agribusinesses, started with around 30 companies and has grown over the years to include 680 participants.
Utah’s Own helps create demand for local products, and then helps companies meet those demands by providing them with the resources they need to be successful.
In 2014, the program teamed up with small business development centers and business resource centers around the state, as well as some private organizations, to help with tasks such as business planning and securing capital.
The Utah’s Own program also offers cooperative marketing and advertising, and provides networking opportunities and referrals for members.
“One of the best benefits of Utah’s Own is the connections,” says Ashley Simmons, marketing director for Apple Beer, a Utah’s Own company. “They help small companies come into contact with large retailers and other entrepreneurs. Utah’s Own is a great resource for both small Utah companies that are just starting out, and for more established Utah companies that want to expand their distribution.”
Apple Beer has been producing its own version of the German Fassbrause, or keg soda made with the flavor from apple peels, since 1964. Simmons says the company’s connections to the Utah’s Own program have also helped them secure distribution deals with large retailers.
Creminelli Fine Meats in Salt Lake City is another Utah’s Own success story. The company began crafting artisan Italian-style meats in 2007, using all-natural ingredients, including pork that’s been raised and cured in Utah. Creminelli ships its prosciutto, salamis, mortadella, coppa and mocetta all over the country.
“What we do is open doors. We can’t go sell their popcorn or barbecue sauce for them. Only they can do that,” says Jed Christenson, director of marketing for the Utah department of Agriculture and Food. “But we can provide opportunities. We can introduce them to buyers from Associated Food Stores or Smith’s or Nicholas & Company. We can give them names and contacts, and we can create opportunities for their products to be seen and tasted.”
Each year, the department hosts an event at the Utah State Fair called A Taste of Utah, for example. Utah’s Own companies are encouraged to bring their products for fairgoers to sample.
Christenson says the 2014 event was visited by some 3,500 fairgoers with about 50 companies represented. The program has also partnered with grocery chains to host a Utah’s Own tasting and showcase event, during which buyers and category managers for all the stores in that chain are able to sample products and visit one-on-one with companies.
Christenson says Utah’s Own companies aren’t the only beneficiaries of the program. he says consumers also reap the rewards.
“The greatest benefit is economic, because those dollars stay right in our community,” he says. “The company that sells the products buys more inputs from other vendors to make more products; those vendors then purchase more inputs to make more products, creating a multiplying effect as those dollars are reinvested over and over again throughout the community.”
Fruits Of Their Labor
Christenson says another benefit for consumers is the high quality of food produced in Utah. he says the state’s dry, hot days and crisp, cool nights yield some of the best fruits and vegetables in the country.
“The fruit produced in Utah is second to none,” he says. “We also have some of the best cheeses in the world produced here, as well as chocolates and other high-quality products. So that’s a benefit; we enjoy being able to eat high-quality food that doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles to get to our plates. And of course, that’s another benefit – it reduces our carbon footprint.”