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6 May

Living La Vida Local

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Discover gourmet products straight from the source in Georgia and Virginia.

The gourmet food industry’s local movement isn’t a fad; it’s a long-term trend that continues to gain momentum. Like the farming and production practices it supports, it’s sustainable with more Americans demanding to know where their food comes from and who produced it.

That’s what makes two special pavilions in the Gourmet Temporaries so attractive to buyers this July. Georgia Grown and Virginia’s Finest each feature gourmet food vendors who actually make what they’re exhibiting.

“Most of the foods at the show are shelf-stable items that will sell well for retailers looking for gourmet or artisan foods,” says Georgia Grown’s Sarah Cook.

Virginia’s Finest has a similar offering. The mix of long-time and first-time exhibitors in both pavilions reflects the growth of local gourmet foods over the last couple of years.

“There are probably 1,200 companies in the state and about 500 are in our program,” says Virginia’s Finest promotion and events specialist Marshall Payne. “We get new applications every three weeks, and the types of foods are all over the map. A lot of newer companies are doing non-GMO organic.”

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Keeping it real – and healthy

Payne says healthy is a buzzword among Virginia’s gourmet food producers, although that will likely expand to new and interesting directions. Vendors are always finding creative ways to produce and market their foods, which ultimately makes the products an easier sell for retailers

“We have a few companies looking at getting kosher certification,” says Payne. “You don’t see that too often but it seems to be catching on.”

In Georgia, meanwhile, Cook says gourmet companies are doubling down on the regional angle, creating various edibles from cheese straws to the pepper jelly that Georgia is known for throughout the country.

“People are looking for cultural experiences through the food they eat,” says Cook. “That’s why many of our vendors are going back to their roots and making the foods that have long been made in this state.” 

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Opportunities for big and small

Both Cook and Payne say they’re looking forward to seeing what vendors do next. If Cook had to guess, she says she thinks they’ll find more ways to connect with their consumers to foster loyalty in the products.

“People really enjoy getting to meet the makers,” Cook says. “Sometimes if the maker is also the farmer, it’s neat for the consumer to understand the providence of the product and know where it came from.”

Payne says he sees the movement growing with bigger retailers. Even Walmart, he says, has gotten into the act in its produce departments. But that doesn’t signal the beginning of the end for smaller retailers. There is plenty of room for everyone.

“It just opens up more opportunities for local companies to get their products into more locations,” Payne says. “Some of our companies are too small or don’t want to go into big box stores. They want to stick with mom-and-pop shops.”

Those smaller vendors tend to be the most innovative. Thanks to the Virginia’s Finest and Georgia Grown pavilions in the Temporaries, AmericasMart buyers will know just where to find them in July

 

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Contributing Writer
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