Contact: Jeff Beach (609) 292-5531
Jason Schnoor knew he was bringing a proven product to the recent Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Show in Chicago. But he didn’t know just how popular it would be with buyers from other countries.
The Schnoor family’s Certified Clam Co. was well known in the region around its Highlands, New Jersey, base as the “Home of the Sand-Free Clam.” The company contracts with 150 baymen to hand-rake clams, which are taken directly to a depuration plant to remove sand and other impurities. Whether that time-tested method would attract exporters, however, was another question.
“We were open for about an hour on the floor and I already had a guy from Portugal who wanted to buy our clams,” Schnoor said early on the first day of the show, Sunday, May 7. “He told me, ‘You’ve already got the sale, we just need to talk about the numbers.’”
Certified Clam was among the companies that went to FMI as part of a state pavilion organized by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. Each year, the Department’s Marketing and Development staff works with companies who otherwise wouldn’t have the resources to attend FMI on their own and organizes them in a pavilion on the U.S. Food Export Showcase (USFES) floor of the show.
“The pavilion gives some of our state’s food producers and processors an excellent opportunity to make exporting connections they otherwise might miss out on,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Charles M. Kuperus. “In today’s global economy, even a small- to medium-sized company can establish an exporting relationship and increase their business.”
According to Logan Brown, Economic Development Representative for the Agriculture Department, the seven exhibitors in the New Jersey Pavilion are expected to realize a total of approximately $560,000 in new business within the first 12 months after the show, based upon past performance of exhibitors within the New Jersey pavilion.
Each company participating in the New Jersey pavilion pays $2,500 for its own booth space, with the NJDA using New Jersey-themed decorating materials to give the pavilion a unified look, Brown said.
Schnoor, Certified Clam’s sales manager, ultimately made exporting connections with representatives from Panama, Turkey, Finland and Iceland, in addition to the Portuguese lead.
“This was definitely worth the trip,” Schnoor said. “There’s only so much you can do domestically in the Northeast (United States), because it’s saturated with the New England states and others. But this gives us the chance to go beyond just our area.”
The Chicago show, which annually highlights new and unusual products for both the domestic and export market, provides producers and processors from many specialty areas the opportunity to benefit from thousands of buyers looking for a hot new item.
Clement Pappas, a Seabrook, New Jersey, beverage company making a return trip to the state’s pavilion, took the opportunity to talk up its latest varieties of juices, which include all-organic varieties and juices aimed at toddlers.
“They’re made for new mothers who want their children to have a pure, natural product,” said Clement Pappas’ Mike Goldberg. “The new line for toddlers will have pear, apple, and a few other flavors.”
The pavilion has been a winning proposition for small- and medium-sized New Jersey companies who are looking for limited export exposure but cannot mount those efforts on their own, said Logan Brown, Economic Development Representative for the Agriculture Department.
“The biggest measure of the success of the pavilion is how much enthusiasm there is among the companies to do it again,” said Brown. “The majority of the companies that were there with us this year have already signed up to go back next year. This is a great opportunity for those people who are looking for just enough export exposure, but not so much that it would overwhelm them.”