Where is our Minneapolis Vision? Let’s look at Boulder, Colorado….

A February 4, 2017, article in the New York Times captured our attention and frustration (see ‘Foodies Know: Boulder Has Become a Hub for New Producers’). 

This article highlights newer food companies like Quinn Snacks, Purely Elizabeth, Made in Nature, and Good Karma Foods who have relocated to Boulder to leverage “the city’s deep bench of food executives, a food retail environment that prizes innovation and experimentation and a growing pool of investments in food companies.” 

Sound familiar?

Minneapolis is actually the unacknowledged food capital of the United States and a global food player as well. We have a Mill District along our Riverfront that was the birthplace of milled grains as brands like Pillsbury and Gold Medal Flour…grains which won International Awards for their overall quality and put Minneapolis on the map.  Our list of major food companies starts with General Mills, Land ‘O Lakes, Schwann’s and goes on and on. Why would we surrender food leadership to Boulder, Colorado?

There is no other place like Minneapolis with its deep bench of area talent in food research & development, food and agricultural supply chain management, brand development and management, retail sales management and advertising, digital and packaging development. It’s all here….now!

Our mayor should be building a united effort to grow the nascent food movement right here.

So what is Boulder doing that we are not?  Well, Boulder has established both formal and informal networks that support start-ups and emerging food brands.

Since 2005, Naturally Boulder has been a support group for entrepreneurs building natural food and consumer brands. This organization provides a place for industry veterans and new entrepreneurs to make connections and has offered more formal classes on what makes great, eye-catching packaging or linking up to the right capital source.

Local retailer outlets are focused on how to help start-ups get real-time experience in-store. And these retailers have evolved to the practice of allowing entrepreneurs the time to iterate their product offering so that the ‘renovated’ new brands can then be taken to regional and national markets.

Private equity firms targeting these start-ups are easy to find. Today, Boulder firms invest between $75 and $100 million in a wide net of new companies! Banking services are earmarking capital for this new industry segment and are sponsoring new food conferences that convene entrepreneurs, investors, and company executives from both coasts.

We should ask ourselves what would happen if we put together a more formal, concerted effort to be the Silicon Valley of Food.

Minneapolis, too, has support organizations like Naturally Boulder. Groups such as Grow North (http://www.grownorthmn.com/) and the Midwest Pantry (http://www.midwestpantry.com/) are working to provide our food entrepreneurs with the support they need. The new Food Building (https://www.foodbuilding.com/) in Northeast Minneapolis is building a true farm to table business model with Minneapolis brands. Our city should be supporting these efforts in specific ways like inclusion in city facilities and helping them grow!

Minneapolis also has sources of venture capital beginning to find their way to the imaginative entrepreneurs who are building the next generation of food brands. And Minneapolis has a wealth of industry leading experience that could be highly leveraged in a focused effort to speed our growth in this legacy industry sector.

Let’s lead in our ambition to exceed what others are doing. Let’s lead by working to make sure that our new Minneapolis brands are featured in all of our area outlets where we have influence…from the MSP Airport to all city-sponsored events. Let’s lead and spur the next generation of food entrepreneurs based in Minneapolis. Let’s grow our economy organically, setting a public goal of being the Silicon Valley of Food!

Help lead and join our movement to move forward and put the progress back in progressive!

Please share this and start a city-wide conversation on how we move Minneapolis forward. Share your ideas on how we build the “Minneapolis model” for growth.

Thank you for being part of this conversation.  Let’s lead this together!

 Tom Hoch

Tom Hoch