Big Food and Good Food Panel a Highlight of March 16 Financing Conference

by Bob Benenson, FamilyFarmed

FamilyFarmed’s three-day, 13th annual Good Food Festival & Conference kicks off on Thursday, March 16 at Chicago’s UIC Forum with the annual Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference .

Some urgent breaking news first: Monday (Feb. 20) is the deadline for entrepreneurs to apply to participate in the Financing Fair, a centerpiece of the Financing & Innovation Conference. The Financing Fair enables promising young businesses to interact with investors, trade buyers, sellers and other Good Food businesses. For more information, or to apply, please click here.

The Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference as a whole — as outlined in the article below — is devoted to thought-provoking discussions about Good Food business issues and networking opportunities for farmers, food producers, investors, buyers, sellers and advocates to connect.

Tickets for the day-long program and for the Good Food Trade Show and Policy Conference on Friday, March 17 can be purchased by clicking here. The Good Food Festival is on Saturday, March 18 and — in keeping with our Good Food on Every Table philosophy of increasing access to information about Good Food — admission is free! (The Festival program will include a ceremony at which Chicago’s Honey Butter Fried Chicken will receive our 2017 Good Food Chef of the Year award and our popular Chefs at Play demo stage.)

Deirdre Birmingham and husband John Biondi of The Cider Farm participated in the 2016 FamilyFarmed Financing Fair. The Cider Farm is one of the graduates of 2015-16 cohort of the Good Food Business Accelerator. Photo: Bob Benenson/FamilyFarmed

FamilyFarmed will kick off its 13th annual, three-day Good Food Festival and Conference on Thursday, March 16 with the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference. This event brings together investors, farmers, food entrepreneurs, trade buyers, retailers and distributors who are dedicated to accelerating the growth of the Good Food movement.

The Financing & Innovation Conference — and FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Business Accelerator (GFBA), which was inspired by the Conference — have generated more than $30 million in capital and debt financing over the past three years.

Once again, the Conference will revolve around a session in which entrepreneurs, including some of our current GFBA Fellows, will pitch their business, and a Financing Fair, where promising businesses can connect with buyers, sellers and investors. (Entrepreneurs interested in participating may apply through Feb. 20 by clicking here.)

And, as always, the Conference will feature stimulating panel discussions featuring prominent industry leaders, including:

Big Food’s Embrace of Good Food: FamilyFarmed defines Good Food as food produced as locally as possible using sustainable, humane and fair practices. The rise of the Good Food movement has not gone unnoticed by big conventional food companies that have bought up some of the early successful Good Food producers.

There are few issues that stir higher emotions in the Good Food community. Some advocates call these mergers window-dressing for Big Food companies, which they believe are not committed overall to products that are healthy for consumers and environmentally sustainable. Others say that Big Food is responding to clear market trends showing a rapid increase in the number of Good Food consumers, and that these buyouts amount to a step in the right direction — as well as a just reward for the entrepreneurs who developed those products and helped increase consumer interest in Good Food.

The outstanding panel discussion at the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference will include Dave Donnan, a partner in the A.T. Kearney food and beverage management consulting division; Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway, a producer of probiotic kefir that has remained independent; Andrew Whitman, managing partner of 2X Consumer Products Growth Partners; and Victor S. Friedberg of Seed to Growth (S2G) Ventures, which invests in sustainable food companies. (The Conference program also includes a ceremony at which S2G will receive FamilyFarmed’s 2017 Good Food Business of the Year Award.)

Urban Impact Investing and Community Revitalization/Good Food Close to Home: One of the most compelling arguments in support of the Good Food movement is that the rise in urban agriculture and food production is simulating economic growth and jobs, while contributing to the revitalization of communities that have struggled with financial and social ills. These two panels, made up of urban food businesses, experts and investors, will discuss the factors that make Chicago a national center for urban farmers and Good Food business development.

Rachel Bernier-Green of ‘Laine’s Bake Shop and Michael Bashaw (center), president of Whole Foods Market’s Midwest region, will participate on the Urban Impact Investing and Community Revitalization panel at FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference on March 16. Here they are joined by FamilyFarmed President Jim Slama at the April 2016 ceremony marking Bernier-Green’s graduation from the Good Food Business Accelerator. Photo: Bob Benenson/FamilyFarmed

Innovation in Food Sales, Marketing and Distribution: Even with the increased presence of Good Food products in the marketplace, getting product placement and distribution can still be a tricky maze. This panel, made up of an all-star group of distributors and marketers, will provide insights on how businesses can successfully navigate the maze.

Pitch It Good!

The discussion panels will bracket a pair of dynamic and interactive programs that will enable selected entrepreneurs to stimulate interest in their products among the investors and other business participants gathered at the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference.

Pitch It! Good Food Takes the Floor: We have given our annual business pitch session an upbeat new name. Entrepreneurs — including some of the Fellows in our current Good Food Business Accelerator cohort — will take a few minutes each to discuss their businesses, their strategic plans, and what makes their products special.

The Financing Fair: This business expo will enable rising enterprises — selected by FamilyFarmed from applications submitted by Feb. 20 — to interact face to face with investors and trade buyers about their products.

Ryan Jones of Gotta B Crepes participated in the pitch session at the 2016 Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference. Jones was a member of the second cohort of FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Business Accelerator, which graduated in April 2016. Photo: Bob Benenson/FamilyFarmed

The Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference will begin at 9 a.m. with welcomes from Family Farmed President Jim Slama and event co-chairs Jennifer Worstell of the Natarajan-Worstell LLC law firm (and a FamilyFarmed board member) and Marc Schulman, CEO of Eli’s Cheesecake.

Eli’s Cheesecake will also present sweet treats at the lunch provided to attendees, which will feature entrees from Farmer’s Fridge, a company that sells delicious fresh salads from vending machines and received a big boost from its past participation in the Financing Fair.

The Thursday program also will include FamilyFarmed: Into the Future, at which the organization will reveal its new logo and branding, and discuss its strategic plan to initiate a national dialogue about Good Food. And the exciting day of programming will end with a Networking Reception featuring local craft beverages!

Luke Saunders (right), CEO of Farmer’s Fridge, discussed his company’s delicious salads — sold from vending machines — as FamilyFarmed President Jim Slama looked on at the 2016 Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference. As in that year, Farmer’s Fridge will provide lunch to attendees at the 2017 Conference on Thursday, March 16. Photo: Bob Benenson/Family Farmed


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