Good Food EXPO| March 8, 2019

Five Questions for EXPO Exhibitors, Part 4

Produced by Bob Benenson, FamilyFarmed

The Good Food Marketplace has been the centerpiece of the Good Food EXPO since it launched in 2004. This will again be the case at the 15th Anniversary Good Food EXPO, March 22-23 at the Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. You will be able to sample and buy products from many of the Midwest’s best food and farm producers. 

We invited EXPO vendors to submit their answers to five questions. Meet Lifeway KefirPilot LightCrapola!, and The Guiltless Garden.

There is still time to register to exhibit if you have a Good Food business or organization. Access a registration form at the Good Food EXPO site, and contact Lisette@familyfarmed.org if you have any questions.

You can purchase tickets for the Good Food Trade Show on Friday, March 22. The Good Food Festival on Saturday, March 23 is free, but pre-registration is requested

Lifeway Kefir

Kefir (fermented milk) products

FamilyFarmed: Elevator pitch time: Tell us in a few sentences what your business does and why.

Lifeway: Lifeway uses only all-natural and organic ingredients, because we believe that eating real food is better for you and for the Earth.

Lifeway Foods is America’s favorite probiotic kefir company. Since 1986, Lifeway has been committed to creating great-tasting cultured and fermented foods to support the health of your microbiome. You can find Lifeway kefir, skyr, supplements, farmer cheese and ProBugs for kids at your local grocer and online.

We’re committed to natural and nutritious ingredients, environmental responsibility and sustainable sourcing.

FamilyFarmed: We define Good Food as delicious, produced as locally as possible, using sustainable, humane and fair practices. How does your business relate to this definition?

Lifeway: Lifeway emulates the definition of Good Food in that we produce locally, right in Morton Grove, Illinois. This helps the communities where we do business, and buying local leads to less packaging being used and fewer emissions from miles being traveled.

Along with using 100 percent recyclable packaging that is always BPA free, Lifeway also purchases renewable energy credits to offset 100 percent of the electricity used to produce our products. This landmark effort will avoid more than 2.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide pollution.

Lifeway only uses milk that comes from grass-fed cows with no artificial hormones nor antibiotics. Our company encourages all of the farmers and cooperatives who supply us with milk to support efforts that promote the enhanced welfare of cattle, including proper grazing systems, the disuse of artificial growth hormones and responsible dehorning practices.

FamilyFarmed: What do you view as the strongest short-term opportunities for your company or organization, what (if any) do you see as obstacles that need to be overcome? 

Lifeway: Lifeway’s strongest opportunity is our co-partnership with TruFusion gyms. Together we are promoting a healthy lifestyle through staying active and having a balanced diet. A new protein-enhanced kefir smoothie (named TruEnergy) will be sold exclusively at TruFusion gyms nationwide. We hope to partner with more companies in the future that share our values and mission. 

FamilyFarmed: In what years have you exhibited at the EXPO, and how did the experience(s) persuade you to join us again? What do you hope to gain as a result of your participation this year?

Lifeway: Lifeway has participated at the Good Food EXPO for more than three years. We thoroughly enjoy the connections and one-on-one interactions we receive at this event. Communicating with businesses and consumer individuals makes the EXPO a must-attend for Lifeway every year. We hope to gain more networking connections as well as debut to attendees new product lines coming out later this year. 

FamilyFarmed: Finally -— do you market locally, regionally or nationally and where can we find your products?

Lifeway: Lifeway markets nationally, and is available at every major grocery store nationwide in the yogurt aisle. Find an extensive range of our products at Mariano’s, Jewel, Fresh Thyme and Target. 


Pilot Light

Food education non-profit

FamilyFarmed: Elevator pitch time: Tell us in a few sentences what your business does and why.

Pilot Light: Pilot Light is a food education not-for-profit. We focus on helping kids make healthier choices by connecting the lessons they learn in their classrooms to the foods they eat on their lunch trays, at home and in their communities.

FamilyFarmed: We define Good Food as delicious, produced as locally as possible, using sustainable, humane and fair practices. How does your business relate to this definition?

Pilot Light: Pilot Light relates to this definition in a number of ways. Good Food is not only a part of our lesson development, but it is also something we believe that everyone deserves. We want students to be educated on issues such as equal access to Good Food and the ways that we can obtain a fair and just food system for all. 

FamilyFarmed: What do you view as the strongest short-term opportunities for your company or organization, what (if any) do you see as obstacles that need to be overcome? 

Pilot Light: Teachers and other educators are excited about our program and what it can offer in learning environments. We see the growth of our program as both short- and long-term opportunities that are supported by the Food Education Standards we created last year. The largest obstacles are tied to refining our program to be as effective as possible as we expand to new communities, schools and cities.

FamilyFarmed: In what years have you exhibited at the EXPO, and how did the experience(s) persuade you to join us again? What do you hope to gain as a result of your participation this year?

Pilot Light: 2015. Alex Desorbo-Quinn, our executive director, exhibited at the EXPO and she had a great experience. The number one thing was that we were able to reach so many individuals about the work we are doing. The platform for getting our mission out is amazing. We hope to gain the same thing, to be able to connect with folks attending the EXPO and educate them on what we do and opportunities we have to be involved. 

FamilyFarmed: Finally -— do you market locally, regionally or nationally and where can we find your products?

Pilot Light:We work in Chicago Public Schools on the South and West sides of Chicago. We do not have products per se (yet!) but our website is a great resource! www.pilotlightchefs.org

Paul Kahan of One Off Hospitality, an award-winning chef and co-founder of Pilot Light, works with grade school children during a Pilot Light classroom session. 
Photo: Bob Benenson/FamilyFarmed

Crapola!

Cranberry-apple granola

FamilyFarmed: Elevator pitch time: Tell us in a few sentences what your business does and why.

Crapola!: We are the makers of Crapola (CRanberry APple granOLA). Our products are delicious, nutritious and functional. Our branding uses humor to highlight the benefits of dietary fiber. We started this brand as a joke, yet we have been growing for more than a decade thanks to the support of our “regular” customers. It’s a lot of work, but we find great satisfaction in making healthy, tasty food (and making people laugh).

FamilyFarmed: We define Good Food as delicious, produced as locally as possible, using sustainable, humane and fair practices. How does your business relate to this definition?

Crapola!:
With backgrounds in biology and natural resource conservation, Andrea and I met while teaching Environmental Education curriculum. It was there that we became more interested in sustainable agriculture.  This interest led to some apprenticeships on organic/biodynamic farms where we cultivated a deep respect for sustainable farming practices. 

We lived and worked on CSA farms and saw the beauty of that model, nourishing a community while caring for the soil and watershed, paying farmers a living wage… all in an apparent symbiotic relationship. The health and integrity of the community is reflected in the health and integrity of the farmland. 

It was this experience that informed our early-stage decisions in everything from sourcing our ingredients to our production methods to our independent business model. We use many organic ingredients in our products, we purchase our honey, maple syrup, millet, buckwheat, sunflower kernels and flax seed directly from local producers. We source organic oats, barley and rye directly from the millers. We purchase other ingredients directly from producers when possible, fair trade when applicable. We make our own product, and we do it carefully in small batches. We’re proud of our granola.  

FamilyFarmed: What do you view as the strongest short-term opportunities for your company or organization, what (if any) do you see as obstacles that need to be overcome? 

Crapola!: Our strongest short-term opportunity is to enter new markets throughout the Upper Midwest, and get our new production facility up to capacity. The challenges we face are largely due to our limited resources.  Our competition is mostly larger national brands, and we just have to be patient and resourceful. We enjoy what we do, and we have no shareholders or outside investors to please, so fast growth isn’t particularly necessary or desirable.

FamilyFarmed: For first-time exhibitors: How did you learn about the Good Food EXPO? What do you hope to gain as a result of your participation?

Crapola!: I think we were contacted via email about signing up for the EXPO. Our main goals are to connect with the Good Food community in the Chicago area, meet fellow manufacturers and retail buyers, and build a little brand awareness.

FamilyFarmed: Finally -— do you market locally, regionally or nationally and where can we find your products?

Crapola!: We’re primarily distributed in Minnesota right now, in many major grocers and co-ops. We’re just getting into Wisconsin and Illinois. For more info, people can visit our website www.crapola.us or find us on social media.

Photo credit: Annie Brenny

The Guiltless Garden

Guacamole made with avocado, vegetables and beans

FamilyFarmed: Elevator pitch time: Tell us in a few sentences what your business does and why.

The Guiltless Garden: The Guiltless Garden aims to offer tasty, healthy, well-balanced snacks consumers don’t have to feel “guilty” about. We want to improve the nutrition of snacks that consumers know and love without compromising taste. As Registered Dietitians, we believe it’s important to positively influence the food industry and provide reliable nutrition education to consumers. Our first product, Guiltless Guac, is a combination of avocado, vegetables and beans. It contains fewer calories, less fat, and increased protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals when compared to regular guacamole. 

FamilyFarmed: We define Good Food as delicious, produced as locally as possible, using sustainable, humane and fair practices. How does your business relate to this definition?

The Guiltless Garden: We are a Chicago company. After about a year of producing in River Forest, Illinois, we will soon be moving to produce in East Troy, Wisconsin with an experienced co-manufacturer. It was important for us to keep production in the Midwest so we can personally monitor quality to provide delicious guac to our consumers. We have opted to choose ingredient suppliers in the Midwest, when possible, and all suppliers chosen are committed to sustainable farming practices. 

FamilyFarmed: What do you view as the strongest short-term opportunities for your company or organization, what (if any) do you see as obstacles that need to be overcome? 

The Guiltless Garden: As we are in a transition phase from producing ourselves to a co-manufacturer, our strongest short-term opportunities include scaling the business to move from farmers markets to space on retail shelves. We are talking to a select number of smaller Chicago corner stores, gyms and suburban grocery stores, and will expand from there. We also hope to become a part of an incubator program within the next year or two to help us gain the tools/skills we need to help our business succeed and to overcome obstacles such as distribution and retail. 

FamilyFarmed:For first-time exhibitors: How did you learn about the Good Food EXPO? What do you hope to gain as a result of your participation?

The Guiltless Garden: We learned about the Good Food EXPO through other small businesses that we had met during our first farmers market season. It was a goal for us to be able to participate in the 2019 EXPO. Then, at the Bloody Mary Fest, Lisette [Medina, FamilyFarmed’s events coordinator and EXPO producer] saw us, sampled and enjoyed our product, and encouraged us to apply! We are thrilled to have reached our goal and to have met the wonderful people at FamilyFarmed.

FamilyFarmed: Finally — do you market locally, regionally or nationally and where can we find your products (or get involved with your cause)?

The Guiltless Garden: Currently, we only market locally and do not yet sell online. During the winter, we participate in the Market at the MART (Merchandise Mart) and a few other events. We will be in a few farmers markets and a lot of food festivals this summer. We hope to be on select retail shelves in Chicago by summer 2019. 

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Good Food EXPO


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