Small Bites
In like a lamb for a day
March 3, 2021
created for farmers, food manufacturers, distributors, grocers, & anyone else interested in how food moves
click below "view entire message" for all the content
Putney Coop uses VT ingredients: does your store?
Grocers & Store Food Service
Woodstock Farmers Market re-opened in Waterbury on March 1st. Retooling after months of closure, they have adapted its format for changes in shopping behavior, adherence to state guidelines, & safety measures for its staff. The reopening of the Waterbury store provides another outlet for locals & travelers to purchase Vermont products.
Changes at the new Waterbury store include deli & bakery offerings. Due to Covid-19 safety precautions, no made-to-order sandwiches or entrees are available. Instead, they offer a selection of the most popular sandwiches & amazing salads in the grab-and-go case. A limited selection of pre-wrapped bakery items also will be available. Prepared food selections will increase over time providing the high quality & wonderfully flavorful meals they are known for. (With options like the Just Cut produce processing program out of Hardwick, it expands purchasing options for VT ingredients more available in prepared meals programs: see the product list).
With ski areas limiting access to their dining services, the Waterbury store located deep in an outdoor recreation hub, focuses on grab & go. Amazing Vermont made snack companies are always readily available & well positioned for sales & easily enjoyed outside.
Woodstock Farmers Market is long known for supporting Vermont products, exemplary merchandising & detail-oriented customer service. The stores have a history of training staff to understand business concepts of food retail. By working on financial literacy, employees become well versed in the impacts of their decisions on the store's bottom line. Teaching "open book management" was a great beginning place for staff to take on increased levels of accountability.

Financial literacy builds better teams & benefits stores through accountability as company culture. Unknowingly, stores can pit departments against each other; raises are often attached to performance measures that can be at cross purpose to long term well-being of the store. Eliminating the conflict by better understanding financials creates a more positive environment & develops business acumen among workers.
Deli & Prepared Foods
Food Cost Calculator

It's time to talk food cost in prepared foods / deli department at your store. We reached out to our "deli-hero", Allen Seidner, one of the team members at Rising Stars Seminars & founder of Thought for Food Consulting. He has generously shared some useful tools with the Small Bites community to help improve margins.
We know shoppers have significantly changed their behavior buying more prepared foods. The increased sales however do not necessarily convert to increased margins. As noted in the distributor column in this issue, costs are increasing due to supply-demand pressures up & downstream. These in turn translate to increased case costs which filter down to increased per-ounce “plate costs”.
By having control over the price to the shopper, you have the ability to safeguard against lost margins especially in this unstable period. Knowing how to launch a new deli item is an important & cost saving step. If your selling prices have not changed year over year, changes you are losing money in your prepared food department. Allen shared an excel cost calculator for costing, reach out to me if you want it emailed to you. Otherwise here is a manual food cost calculator to use. Also, he has worked with several Vermont stores & continues to consult on operations & profitability for prepared foods departments. Contact him for more info!
Product Highlights & Foods to Know
Increasing sales of Vermont meat is a hot topic right now. Many times folks are thinking about fresh or frozen cuts. But since it is parking-lot-snack & nibble-in-the-sugarhouse season, we thought you should feature some cured meat in your store.
A few notable & award-winning VT producers include: Babette's Table in Waitsfield, Agricola Farm in Panton, Maple Wind Farm BBQ sticks located in Richmond, Rosie's Beef Jerky up in Swanton & uses VT maple syrup in its products. Each business has a place to help drive sales at a variety of price points & distribution options. 
Maple sap will be flowing & sugarhouses will be steaming big time soon! Mud & maple, a favorite time of year for many & not just kids!
See how the season goes from the snowy woods to the shopping cart. From small scale boiling to super large scale, its always a great time of year to encourage sales promoting all your VT products through your online outlets. Market your maple products online, create maple displays, include maple in your prepared foods & use maple granola in yogurt parfaits.

With the pandemic, maple sales have increased at all outlets- online, in stores & at farms due to families eating more breakfast & baking at home.
Upper Valley Produce sells VT food to store delis
Distributor Cost Impacts
Alli Ball, founder of Retail Ready & host of the podcast Food Biz Wiz, implores food producers of CPG products to understand distributor costs & launching new product lines. Often businesses start small at farmers markets & as gateway products sold within their community markets. The pricing often does not account for costs of future growth.
Understanding the cost implications in accessing market channels is as important as understanding cost of production. Speaking of costs, shipping costs are rising fast due to supply chain disruptions: lumber costs have increased because of the corrugate industry demand for shipping boxes. Additionally, lead times to fill orders for all types of boxes have more than doubled stressing food manufacturers working with co-packers. A downstream effect is pallet manufacturing prices have risen too. An example of wood-cost impacts: 2x4s have increased 73% & plywood 170%. So, the costs of wood for pallets is up, the cardboard is up & there is another impact on trucking costs with the increase demand for drivers & the recent southern storm related increase in fuel prices.
In other words, look for significant price increases from to upstream & downstream supply chain impacts due to pandemic's impact on all supply-chain sectors. By taking time to understand costs is a lesson to learn before it’s too late. 
Farmer Resources: Improve Retail Operations

Deep Root Organic Coop seeks organic produce form area growers. Reach out if you have roots crops. They are also interested in bringing on new growers. call them! 802-730-8126

NOFA hosted an online meet up for farmers with retail stores to help understand product pricing, margins & merchandising. If you missed it live, it is available along with several helpful resources.
March Farm Goal: workspace over-haul & cleanup. UVM Extension Ag Engineering blog post on smooth & cleanable surfaces  provides a summary of finish surface materials, their pros, cons & prices.
Give your processing space an upgrade.
Prepare your farm crew for success by digging into policies & positive behaviors. Incorporate a fresh new attitude & implement some or all of the 10 ways to create a positive work culture.
Recommended Resources & Organizations

We have an amazing network of organizations supporting our local food economy- from trade organizations to micro-region social profit agents. Each is a fantastic resource to help educate about our food system. Here are highlights for this week: take a minute to check out them out & follow up with cross-promotion hashtags, likes etc.

Join the VT Fresh Network

List jobs & events & news on the Farm to Plate website

Hey Now!...List your company on the VT Food Atlas. It's free visibility!
Food Service & Everyone Eats

Many food manufacturers, across categories have food service pack sizes available. These are available to in-store prepared meals programs & to restaurants participating in the VT Everyone Eats program. Small Bites created a list of VSFA producers that have bulk sizes. Each business ships through a variety of methods. Check out the list knowing it does not include all food service products made in Vermont but is meant as a clue to begin to include more of our locally produced foods in your store meal programs.

Food service managers are encouraged to buy more VT products. VT Fresh Pasta offers foodservice pack sizes of their pastas, sauces & pesto! Available DSD, pick up at factory, UVP & BRP. Order today for your meals.
Community Action

East Calais Community Store, which actually has not yet opened, is servicing its community through distributing meals & local products. As an active member of VT Everyone Eats, they provide free meals on Thursdays from 4-6:00. The meal program partnership with Cornerstone Pub & Kitchen has increased steadily each week. Local bakers along with donations from Bohemian Bakery & local eggs from Schoolhouse Farm add luster to the program with donations of home bakeries providing nicely packaged foods in addition to the meals.
Farm to Plate Strategic Plan:
The Plan contains a vision for Vermont's food system in 2030, 15 strategic goals with 87 objectives, & 34 priority strategies (recommendations for action). It is based on a series of 54 food system product, market, & issue briefs highlighting current conditions, bottlenecks & gaps, opportunities, & recommendations. Explore the Specialty Food Brief or choose another from the extensive list of Briefs.