Making a Buyer-Seller Connection - The VFN MatchmakerMarch 16, 2016
Vermont Fresh Network, in partnership with the Vermont Specialty Food Association, Vermont Retail and Grocers Association, Vermont Cheese Council and Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets, are planning the 2016 Local Food Matchmaker!
On April 29th, at the Hilton in Burlington, dozens of buyers and sellers of Vermont-grown food will meet face-to-face for this unique networking event. Along with sales connections, participants engage in open dialogue with the market they are courting and learn how to best market their product.
At last year's Matchmaker, 55 Vermont food producers and farmers came face-to-face with 30 major purchasers of Vermont grown and raised food. After a two-hour food show in the auditorium at Vermont Technical College in Randolph, "buyers" and "sellers" were set up on speed dates with 8 minutes to make a food connection.
The benefits that come from the Matchmaker go beyond finding possible new accounts--sitting down with large-scale buyers is an incredible learning opportunity for both parties.
Olivia from Terrafunga Mushroom Farm in Jamaica, VT was just launching her business selling fresh and dehydrated cultivated and foraged mushrooms when she participated in her first matchmaker. “The large supermarket chain was probably not a good match for us at this time,” Olivia shared, ”but the advice that was given to us as to who to market to, what additions we should make, the requirements of chain stores was so worthwhile. The better matches for us were the smaller specialty stores as well as some distributors that gave us wonderful feedback and the opportunity to work with them.”
Healthy Living Market and Café in South Burlington buys a tremendous amount of Vermont product. Being known as a the place to go for local product means that Lead Purchaser and Mentor, Michael Benoit, and his team have met with hundreds of Vermont farmers and food producers, but they wouldn’t miss a Matchmaker. “Most local small manufacturers reach out to us early and often, so it was surprising to see some products at the matchmaker event we had never heard of,” Michael spoke of his experience, ”and quite a few of them were really great! We were impressed with the labeling these small companies were displaying on their products--very professional.”
In a fast-paced and email-based industry, opportunities to just sit down together and talk can be few and far between. That’s the case for Michael, who got to reconnect with many current partners at the Matchmaker: “It was great to see some folks we already do business with. Often times it is an email or a phone call. Seeing them face-to-face helps build these relationships to the next level.”
Tabling side-by-side with other food producers was a fun and educational opportunity for a new producer like Olivia; “We were able to spend time with a host of extremely friendly vendors that sell fantastic Vermont made products, hear their stories of success and challenges, and make valuable contacts with growers and producers with whom we could cross-share our products.”
“The Matchmaker event enables VFN to bring people from all ends of the food industry together for one action-packed afternoon. We give them the space to gather and show off their products. We make introductions and then we get out of the way. Whether a purchasing partnership is made is not the only measure of success for this special day--so much valuable information is shared between the prospective buyers and sellers--for both parties to gain a better understanding of legitimate reasons for “no deal” might be just as illuminating as making the sale.” Meghan Sheradin, Executive Director of the Vermont Fresh Network.2016 Local Food Matchmaker:
What: Vermont Local Food Matchmaker
Where: Hilton Burlington at 60 Battery Street
When: Friday, April 29, 2016 - 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Registration: $20 per person. Space is limited for sellers in each food category to ensure diversity and broad product representation. Register here.
To check out more press and to view photos of the VFN Matchmaker, follow these links!