September 1, 2010

Cover Story

Utah’s Own

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The Grocer in 16 Neighborhoods

At Your Service

Strength in Numbers

Utah’s Own Executive Panel


Utah’s Own Executive Panel

Utah Business Staff

September 1, 2010

HOUGHTALEN: From the food service side, there is some momentum in terms of the number of companies that come to us wanting to sell their products. And we are getting more operators asking for more locally grown products, not just produce also manufactured foods. But it is still a challenge for these manufacturers to get their stuff to market. It’s not quite as easily placed in the forefront like it is on a retail shelf. But I've seen progress made just in the last year.

SIMMONS: Utah's Own has been so significant for Apple Beer in a lot of different ways. What is wrong with asking us as companies to contribute to the funding crisis that Utah's Own may be facing? Frankly, we've found that Utah's Own has been more beneficial to us than some firms that we have hired and paid considerable amounts of money to. I would feel just fine paying a reasonable membership fee.

One of the great things that Utah's Own brings is relationships with retailers like Associated Food Stores and Log Haven, and distributors like Nicholas and Sysco. Companies pay a great deal for brokers to make those connections.

FREDERIKSON:  The future of Utah's Own lies in our youth. The rising generation is going to choose what they are going to buy—especially in a state with as many children as we have. When we put agriculture in the classroom, we train these young people and we have a tremendous future there.

Educate. Put a face on Utah's Own and tie it in with other departments of the state, other products in Utah. It's on the verge of exploding and I love it.

Considering where we are right now, what is the future of Utah’s Own? Where do we go from here?
WINDER: We have roughly 80 people going door‑to‑door, signing people up for home delivery. And the number one item that people are concerned about is the fact that we’re local. Sure, people want a fair price and they want a great product, but we are amazed at how many are impressed that it's a local product. That seems to be number one on the list. It used to be price; it used to be the issue of all‑natural and organic foods. Now they are saying, “is it local?”

BRANDT: The branding has been done and now it's time to create the story. That is where the evolution of this marketing campaign seems to be going. We've got it branded. Everyone has seen the logo. So now you deepen that logo by engaging into the story.

HUDSON: We really have something that is rising up in our culture, particularly in Utah. Food has all of these relationships that are really important. It has a relationship to the environment. It develops community. It supports our economy. It keeps our farmland in production. It makes our quality of life better.

And the stories have to do with knowing your neighbors. Knowing where our food comes from gives us a lot of power. We are putting something into our bodies that was grown around us in our state by people who care about that. Much of what the Utah's Own brand is doing is encouraging good citizenship in our business community as well, and that is a big part of the story.

We want our food to be safe and we want our food to be local. We also want to have real choice. Part of what Utah's Own is doing is offering real choices to people and letting them know that that choice makes a difference—they are voting with their forks, and that is meaningful.

CAMPBELL: There is a huge hurdle, though, to overcome, and that is the consumers' desire to have cheap food. It's something you need every day. And the better the food—unfortunately, you get what you pay for—the more it costs. Many people think that because it's made here, it's going to be cheaper, because it only has to come 20 miles or so. But the economies of scale are such that it costs a lot more money. The quotes that we get for arugula grown locally are five or six times the price of something we can get out of California.

People are so ingrained to get inexpensive food and chains don't help that. Chains are not getting their food from Utah, typically. They are getting it from the cheapest place they can find it to offer cut‑rate prices.

It's also extremely hard in this economy to pay twice the amount of money to get a better product when you can get something cheaper that at least fills your stomach.

HUDSON: That's true, but it does come down to education. And as the saying goes, you can either pay the doctor or pay the farmer.

When people really start thinking about this, they start to ask questions: "Where can I find something that was grown locally?" "Where did this apple come from?" "Who grew it?" Then it starts to make sense to them that their hard‑earned dollar goes to some person in their community. You are supporting your neighbor's company, or keeping that job in the state.

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