September 1, 2010

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Utah’s Own

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Utah’s Own

Making the Difference for Homegrown Products

Janine S. Creager

September 1, 2010

The ABCs of Utah’s Own
The history of the Utah’s Own brand and program began in 2001 when the Utah Food Council was created with the help of a grant from the Risk Management Agency of the U. S. Department of Agriculture. On that council was a group of individuals devoted to increasing the awareness of the benefits of buying locally grown agricultural products. By pooling their efforts and expertise, Utah’s Own was officially launched in December 2002.

From the start, an effort was made to establish a brand, a logo, which would be easily recognized—something that would catch the eye of consumers and give them enough incentive to reach out and pick that product over another.

But even before that, businesses needed to be on board with the process. When the program was born, 10 companies had signed on to participate in the program.

“We’ve really pushed it the last six years,” says Winterton. “We’re almost at 500 members, companies that see us and want to be a part of what we do. . . . We’ve seen significant growth every year.”

While the effort is to attract all companies, the greater interest has come from smaller and newer businesses that benefit from networking with others. Winterton cites Lehi Roller Mills as an example, although some would hesitate to place this company, which opened its doors more than 100 years ago, in the “newer” category. But in some respects, the company really is only a few years old because of the radical changes it has made in both products and marketing.

“There is a mentoring that goes on from established companies to our smaller companies that are trying to get started. There doesn’t seem to be a competition process. People come together and step in and help grow some of these smaller companies,” says Winterton. “There tends to be camaraderie to help each other be successful.”

Clark Caras uses the term “co-op-petition,” a combination of the words “cooperation” and “competition”, to describe the environment this thinking creates. Promoting one product alongside another one can benefit both. He points to Ogden, which has become a Mecca of sorts for companies within the outdoor industry in recent years. The presence of similar businesses manufacturing and selling similar products has been beneficial to all. Together these companies can take advantage of transportation resources, as well as the purchase of shared raw materials.

“They all need support, but they all can’t build it out of one factory,” says Caras. “This brings the best of all worlds here. (We) see these companies that traditionally would be competitors in what they sell, and they come here and their support services spring up around them, and they all cooperate and see the benefit because it makes their industry stronger. You literally have competitors side by side and they benefit each other.”

Education is the Key
With hundreds of businesses involved in Utah’s Own, and a logo and brand that is becoming more and more visible, the next challenge is to educate the public about why all this matters.

But knowing about something and doing something about it are two very different things. You can know that exercise is good for you physically, mentally and emotionally without actually putting on running shoes or heading off to the gym. For the folks at Utah’s Own, the key effort now is getting consumers to translate their knowledge into action.

People see the logo, but if they are not actively looking for it and then making and following through with the decision to buy Utah products, then nothing has really changed.

“With the amount of promotion we’ve done, we have what we consider to be a strong brand recognition,” says Winterton. “What is the next step? How do we drive the consumer and the citizens of the state to buying that first? You take that brand and you buy it first if it fits into your need. It’s not enough to recognize the brand…How do they make it a priority in their lives?”

The goals of this educational process include encouraging more businesses to join Utah’s Own and educating the consumer about the benefits of buying locally. For example, Utah’s Own sponsored a recipe contest this year at the State Fair in which all entries must include at least three locally grown or produced ingredients.

But it even extends into a more traditional educational location: the classroom.

Seth Winterton recalls a presentation he made to an elementary school about the benefits of making local purchases. One little boy just couldn’t understand. Why did it matter where things were purchased? Winterton asked him what his father did for a living. On learning that he ran a business that gave sleigh rides in the winter, Winterton gave the boy this explanation: What if a company in Colorado came in to the area offering the same services. Where would that little boy want people to go and why?

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