2021 Small Bites January 27, 2021
created for farmers, food manufacturers, distributors, grocers, & anyone else interested in how food moves
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Happy Bird: increasing food access to the community with new farm-store investments
There is a saying in retail food "know your customer & meet their needs". That was easier before stores had to contend with a pandemic with no end directly in sight.
What we are seeing in Vermont is that may stores DO know their customers AND are meeting their needs, even when the needs keep changing due to the coronavirus. Take for example these independent stores & initiatives they have taken:
#1. Happy Bird Farm Market & Smokehouse located in Isle LaMotte, a town that no longer has any other store, the owners took the jump to expanding their small farm shop increasing product selections to keep locals from driving 20 minutes to another store for basics. Due to open in the Spring of this year, they are all hands-on deck-expanding its size, improving systems & developing product lines to meet the needs of its small, isolated community while also producing chicken for wholesale & selling DSD around Vermont.
#2 Sweet Clover Market in Essex. Long known for their premium product mix & service to its customers, the pandemic has them servicing shoppers with a creative line they call Hot & Ready Dinners. See their video of Yellow Thai Curry Chicken. With upticks in covid they have re-engaged curbside delivery AND they are also looking to expand the community connection by announcing the store is for sale. Perhaps a perfect time for someone in "covid transition" where a new endeavor would be running this successful community market.
#3: Brownsville Butcher & Pantry serves a community that has responded well to high quality, Vermont produced items. Many second home owners stop in on their way to or from their homes lining up (literally!) for their Friday Night Supper Club. With their wide range of menus, they are widening their customer base. Unlike other stores with pre-order planning, BBP creates a set amount of supper boxes as first come first serve. This has helped them to best manage the menu development, purchases & the customer service element in a way that leads to a profitable endeavor. With each meal sold, $10 goes to an area community non-profit on a rotating basis. Customers are invited to add to that amount & they willingly do appreciating the chance to give to the community. 
Red Hen Bakery in Middlesex temporarily closed down due to an employee contracting covid. Wholesale order shipments were reinstated on January 26th.
Up-train your Produce Staff with info from Vermont's Harvest of the Month. January is the month to feature beets. Give your staff time to read up on the varieties, their features & promote the recipes all provided at no charge to your store! This is a fantastic training resource to be explored & shared in social media posts.
Product highlights
Sherpa Foods is on a roll!
New stores are lining up to bring on this fast-growing company with roots in Nepal. The line of momo dumplings, hot sauces & vegan chowmein is top of the "New Product List" at stores around the state. These ready to eat foods are among Vermont's hottest items.
Sherpa Foods is available across the state & new accounts include Craftsbury General Store, Morrisville Coop, Plainfield Coop, & the Springfield Coop. Several of the AGNE owned stores are also doing well with the products. Jericho, Shelburne, Richmond & Waterbury Village Markets are well positioned to help them expand. Growth is full tilt for this fabulous company making easy to sell, easy to enjoy Nepalese delicacies. Are you interested in this line? Become one of the stores making strong sales & great margins!
Various supply chain issues in the packaging sector are being felt by food manufacturers as the pandemic continues. Look for future product out of stocks due to gaps from a
lack of glass & cardboard. Amazon is cornering the market on cardboard for online sales- with future impacts to our VSF producers- & glass bottles are also in short supply causing havoc for some food manufacturers. There is increased demand for retail pack sizes putting pressure on suppliers to meet the needs of their strongest customer, & those who pay within terms. In short 2021 will continue to have supply chain disruptions & increased prices.
Stores (& Growers) take note!
High Mowing Seeds predicts another year of banner seed sales & suggests planning to get your seed orders in early. Increased sales & variable supply are due to insane demand by home gardeners, farmers, stocking at grocers & nurseries.
Good Food Award Winners 2021 Winners in 17 categories come from 41 states, Washington, D.C. & Guam, rising to the top amongst 1,928 entries in a September Blind Tasting. Of the 219 Winners selected from 336 Finalists, 55% are first-time Winners, 51% are female-owned and 10% are BIPOC-owned. The greatest number of Winners come from the Golden State (44), followed by Oregon (25), Washington (17), Colorado (15), New York (14) & Vermont (13).
Congratulations to all the winners, but we are especially partial to our Vermont companies!
Vermont Everyone Eats provides nutritious meals to Vermonters in need of food assistance, as well as a stabilizing source of income for Vermont restaurants, farmers, & and
food producers. Funded by the Vermont Legislature to address COVID impacts. Local grocers are participating through their d & prepared meals program. Well done VTers!
AGNE purchase local, regional & national products to meet a wide range of customer needs
"Know your customer & meet their needs" applies to distributors too. Distributors are always seeing trends & new product developments to help steer sales at stores because product turns matter at every level. There is a balancing act to onboard new products & dropping slower sellers while also meeting customer expectations.
Since 1946, AGNE a large regional cooperatively owned distributor continues to meet many needs of independent stores & coops with a range of local & national contracts for procuring products. Interestingly, they also own several "small" supermarkets each with opportunities to buy DSD from suppliers close to each location. This formula allows them to sell large amounts of national brands meeting volume needs at each store while also crafting a local product mix curated to customers at each location.
AGNE has purchased formerly independent stores each a gateway for local vendors to work directly with stores to build their brands. With the acquisitions they had no reason to derail the DSD of local vendors because customers sought the product mix. From cheeses to dairy to local produce & ready to eat grab & go including Sherpa Foods, each store continues robust sales through this unique buy-sell arrangement.
When product mixes align with customers sales are strong, margins are attained & trust is built between the store buyers, the vendors & ultimately the customer. When products do super well in one store, AGNE has the distribution capacity to help grow Vermont brands in its other stores around the state.
Calling All Store & Distributor Marketers & Promo Teams

The first ever Vermont Hot Chocolate Week, sponsored by Vermont Fresh Network & DigInVT is coming right up.
This is your chance to showcase your finest VT milk, cream, chocolate & cocoa mix. Jump on the photo contest, drop into the insta & FB promotions all while engaging your staff in having some merchandising fun! The VFN team has gathered fabulous recipes to promote our Vermont products & your customer engagement.
Be 100% involved & follow @DigInVT & #vthothocolate. Here's the full media kit for your planning! 
On January 26th, Governor Scott presented his 2022 Budget Address & mentioned the need to use federal covid relief money to support grocers, meat processing infrastructure & the Working Lands Initiative.

"The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative supports innovative entrepreneurs at the forefront of Vermont’s Working Lands economy through technical and financial assistance to help growing businesses thrive. The program is made possible through the support of the state legislature, multiple state organizations and public/private donors."
Scott's plan has some alignment with Farm to Plate's Strategic Plan.
The Plan includes 31 product & market briefs, a stakeholder engagement process to refine & prioritize recommendations & strategies to develop a shared vision for the Farm to Plate 2.0 Strategic Plan. The final report will be delivered to the Legislature in February 2021 officially commencing Farm to Plate’s next 10-year cycle. Explore the Meat: Slaughter, Processing & Products Brief.
Farmer Resources of Interest:

Did you know? NOFA Vermont has a financial award given out monthly to family farmers for their commitment to resilient, sustainable agriculture. The Vermont Family Farmer of the Month Fund is designed to recognize organic farmers whose businesses are contributing to a resilient Vermont agricultural landscape & demonstrate environmental stewardship through sustainable practices. Apply now for the February recognition!
The Vermont Legal Food Hub connects income-eligible Vermont farmers, food entrepreneurs, & related organizations with attorneys willing to provide pro bono legal assistance.

Before things get really busy, farmers with retail operations should conduct a "farm store audit". This tool helps address operation & customer service variables. Created pre-pandemic, it has a lot of value in refining systems. You may want to evaluate your on-farm "covid-pivots" you are carrying into 2021.
Resource Organizations to Follow

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. Every week in Small Bites we will share a few; take a minute to check out the links then follow up with cross-promotion hashtags, likes etc. Here are few to explore & share with key staff for training & promotional tie-ins:

The Genny Feels the Bern & has fun making sales for high-drive products!
Contact: Annie H Harlow

Unless otherwise noted, photo credits are from company social media, websites or Annie Harlow

Grateful for the funding support provided by High Meadows Fund
Week 47 of Covid January 21, 2021