Chewing on local food distribution PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Farm Editor   
Thursday, 28 February 2013 11:04
"Local" is certainly a buzzword in agricultural sectors. But what defines local and what is the best way for local producers get the most exposure on store shelves?
Matthew Kennedy, owner of Sustain Brand, attempted to offer some enlightenment in that area on Feb. 21 at the monthly Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum held at the Agricultural Incubator Foundation. His company has a new approach to getting local products in front of the consumers.
For Kennedy and his operation, they consider local to be roughly 300 miles or within a half-day of travel, commonly called "food miles." Food miles is the distance food travels before the consumer purchases it.
He said many companies like to regionalize operations and consider it local. However, that is not the focus of Sustain Brand.
"They may ship 800 miles away - that's not local," Kennedy said.
He added that taste profiles are different roughly every 500 miles. In other words the people have different likes and dislikes as a society every 500 or so miles.
He thus explained the concept behind Sustain Brand's operations as an umbrella group which can put local products on grocer's shelves easier than each individual having to go to the store by themselves. With the products grouped under one brand, they have greater clout and weight with the stores.
The Sustain Brand promotion uses the term, "locally grown, locally owned, nationally known."
The brand is open to selling most any kind of locally-produced product, but seems to have a nice market developed for jams, soups, salsas and sauces. They also have a producer with sorbets and gelato.
"The retailer doesn't want to deal with multiple manufacturers when they can deal with just one," he said.
The beauty for the producer is they can obtain more sales through marketing with Sustain Brand. They maintain their own brand and sales, but also create the same product under the Sustain Brand label to get into additional locations and drive more sales.
Kennedy explained Sustain Brand still identifies the local producer and even features a brief synopsis of the local producer on each label to identify their brand.
"We tell their stories on the back of each label," Kennedy said of the product placement which gives the producers more volume.
And the customers get all the product advantages created by buying locally-produced vendors.
He shared the story about how Hamilton, Ohio, was named the "World's Best Water," finishing ahead of everyone including Vienna Austria.
"Their water beat the water from the Alps," he said.
So the city bottled their water and now sells Hamilton water as "the world's best water" through the Sustain Brand label.
The nearest Sustain Brand hub is in the Cincinnati area, but Kennedy is open to opening something in this part of the state. He said the easiest route would be to start with an online presence in the area, before advancing to another distribution center.
Sustain Brand has products on locally-owned grocery shelves as well as wider chains such as Kroger, Whole Foods Market and Jungle Jim's.
The company has recently added an online story which allows a wider selection of products and faster product shipment.
"The business plan has to work for everybody, the consumer, the processor and the retailer," Kennedy said.
He stressed they are not a private label company.
The one key to success and expansion is communication and getting the message to the consumer.
Kennedy is looking forward to working with the local Center for Innovate Food Technology who coordinates both the breakfast forums and many similar locally-produced products at the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen at the Ag Incubator.
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 12:09

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