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Michigan Firms Receive Honors During Conference
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Four local businesses received awards at the Making It in Michigan conference and Premier Specialty Food Marketplace Trade Show on Nov. 12 at the Lansing Center in downtown Lansing, Mich. The Michigan State University (MSU) Product Center Food-Ag-Bio puts on the conference and trade show.


Source: Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Contact: Paul Werner, wernerp3@msu.edu or Matt Birbeck, birbeckm@msu.edu

Michigan Firms Receive Honors During Making It in Michigan Conference


Four local businesses received awards at the Making It in Michigan conference and Premier Specialty Food Marketplace Trade Show on Nov. 12 at the Lansing Center in downtown Lansing, Mich. The Michigan State University (MSU) Product Center Food-Ag-Bio puts on the conference and trade show.

The Product Center presents the awards to Michigan firms that show special talent or characteristics. The awards presentation took place during a luncheon at the conference. An introductory video featured each of the award winners. (Videos are available at http://www.youtube.com/user/msuproductcenter2013.) The event was free to attend.
 
Drought of Detroit and owners Jennifer and Caitlin James received the Entrepreneur of the Year award. The owners started out selling fresh raw, cold-pressed juices from a vending cart at Detroit’s Eastern Market. The company has moved away from mobile food to a fixed location. The entrepreneurs conducted a successful crowdsourcing campaign, and opened a store in Plymouth, Mich. A recently opened second location on Canfield Street in Detroit partners with Shinola, a watchmaking and bike-building company.
 
Morano Foods of Muskegon received the Barrier Buster award for busting the product saturation barrier. Owner Greg Morano worked with the MSU Product Center to develop tactical marketing to overcome competition and to increase distribution within the state. Morano Foods offers its genuine Italian spaghetti and pizza sauces to 300 Michigan retail stores, restaurants and markets as well as to consumers through direct online sales. Each all-natural, gluten-free sauce has no artificial preservatives.
 
The Gluten Free Bar, based in Ada, received the Start-up to Watch award. This award goes to a relatively new company that has made tremendous progress but has even greater potential to expand the business. The Gluten Free Bar team includes Marshall Rader, president; Elliot Rader and Ben Wahl, vice presidents; and Jeremy Sher, research and development director. Launched in 2010, today the company sells its products in more than 650 stores in the Midwest and through eight national distributors. Internet sales constitute 10 percent of total sales. The company is experiencing a 300 percent compounded annual growth rate. The business employs 11 workers ‒ up from three at launch.
 
Hickory Knoll Farms Creamery of Onondaga received the Value-Added Agricultural Producer award, which recognizes the extra value created by a producer of agricultural products. Winners Rusty Plummer and his partner Mike Metzger are both graduates of the MSU cheese-making program. In 2006, they began plans to build a creamery. After regulatory and investment challenges, the facility was completed and became operational in 2011, producing farmstead cheese. In 2012, the company added additional labor to assist in sales and delivery of the cheese. In 2013, a full-time employee was hired to make cheese and assist with all aspects of production and marketing. Forty percent of the milk produced is processed into 14 different cheese products.
 
The Making it in Michigan conference combines a marketplace for producers to sell their products to grocery buyers, an educational component that delivers classes from marketing to regulation, and a formal conference and expert speakers. This year’s keynote speaker was Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications for Domino’s Pizza.
 
Founded in 2003, the MSU Product Center helps Michigan entrepreneurs develop and commercialize high-value, consumer-responsive products and businesses in the agriculture, natural resources and bioeconomy sectors. The center’s statewide network of innovation counselors provide business counseling support to Michigan residents interested in starting or expanding a business or product line.