Local food will take center stage during the Making it in Michigan conference, presented by the Michigan State University Product Center on Nov. 11 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Lansing Center. Two winning food entrepreneurs will earn more than bragging rights at this year's event.
L&L Food Centers will award two Michigan food products coveted shelf space in their eight mid-Michigan grocery stores as part of the third annual MSU Product Center specialty food show.
"L&L is a Lansing company," says Rick Zahm, L&L Food Centers general manager. "We've been here for 78 years and MSU has been here for more than 150, so we're excited to work together to help entrepreneurs and introduce new products to our customers."
Two winning products will be selected by L&L's owner, Stan Levandowski, brand manager Martha Levandowski and their team of specialty food professionals. The products will join hundreds of other Michigan-made products offered by the grocery chain, including Legends of the Lakes Great Lakes whitefish and Grand Traverse Pie Company baked goods.
The MSU Product Center serves more than 600 clients through its statewide network of innovation counselors, and has helped launch 127 new Michigan business ventures in food, agriculture, natural resources and the bioeconomy. Matthew Birbeck, MSU Product Center supply chain specialist and the conference coordinator, said this is the third year the MSU Product Center has put on a food entrepreneurship event, but the L&L partnership increases its value to all attendees.
"This contest is a critical learning opportunity for our clients," Birbeck says "They have to know what buyers are looking for."
Birbeck says aspiring food entrepreneurs will learn how to take their idea from possibility to packaged product during morning educational sessions.
"We want people to leave the conference inspired with practical knowledge, industry resources and the confidence to put them to use," he says. "Our current clients will get a chance to show and sell their products and inspire the next generation of Michigan food entrepreneurs."
The conference will feature four educational tracks that address common hurdles that entrepreneurs often encounter. Attendees can choose from sessions about consumer trends, food safety, packaging and regulatory issues.
Keynote speaker Elizabeth Sloan, Ph.D, a California-based consultant who studies food service and restaurant business and marketing trends, will present "Nifty Nitches and Very Big Ideas for New Consumer Products" covering the latest consumer trends and introducing new product ideas from both global and local markets.
"We've planned a great range of educational sessions with dynamic speakers," Birbeck says. "Michigan State University experts, Michigan Department of Agriculture regulators and representatives from county economic development corporations are just some of our presenters."
MSU Product Center director Chris Peterson will announce the L&L contest-winning products during the afternoon marketplace trade show. More than 70 organizations will display their products to the public while in-depth information and counseling is available to attendees from Product Center clients, business consultants, regulatory officials and food and farming groups.
More information and conference registration are available at www.makingitinmichigan.msu.edu. The conference registration fee is $60 before Oct. 16 and $75 after that date. It includes educational sessions, afternoon marketplace admission, breakfast and lunch.
The MSU Product Center, founded in 2003, helps Michigan entrepreneurs develop and commercialize high-value, consumer-responsive products and businesses in the agriculture, natural resources and bioeconomy sectors. The MSU Product Center receives major operating support from Project GREEEN, MSU Extension and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.