Online Tool Helps PA Growers Reach New Markets
Posted: November 5, 2010
For those of you that are not familiar, PA MarketMaker is a primarily business-to-business tool that connects buyers and sellers in the food industry, from production to retail. It was first developed by the University of Illinois and has spread to cover several states in the Midwest, South and East Coast. With its growing strength in numbers it is now being heavily promoted to national restaurant, grocery and wholesale organizations. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Penn State Cooperative Extension and several other organizations partnered together to bring MarketMaker to Pennsylvania this past summer. It is designed to help businesses who wish to buy locally grown products find those products and, in turn, contribute to agricultural profitability for producers.
PA MarketMaker is much more than an online directory for your business; several of those already exist. Individual consumers make up the main audience for most of those websites. MarketMaker is different in that the producers are now able to reach the food industry as a whole including brokers, retailers, processors, wholesalers, restaurants, etc. On the functionality side, one thing that really sets MarketMaker apart from other sites is the demographic data that it provides. With this tool you are able to access in- depth demographic data for specific regions of the state. For example, if you want to know the average food expenditures on fruits and vegetables in a specific county or even a smaller region, you are able to access that information. Curious if it would be worth your time to grow a specialty vegetable that is preferred by a certain ethnic group? MarketMaker can help you make that decision. In fact, you can retrieve data based on age, household type, race, income, education, food preferences and ethnicity of foreign born citizens. It is exciting to think about how you could tailor your marketing strategy with this type of data in your hands. In the past, businesses have had to pay outside market research firms to do the kinds of things that this tool can do. The ability to conduct this sort of market research on your own, at no cost, is invaluable.
You also have the ability to search for processors, retailers, restaurants and other potential buyers in a map based format. Likewise, a buyer can seek out farms and products to meet their needs. Additionally, the Buy-Sell forum connects you to thousands of producers and buyers across all participating MarketMaker states. For example, on October 5th of this year, a farm in Illinois posted that they were looking for bulk organic frozen fruit such as apples, strawberries and peaches to be processed into jams and pies. Within two weeks that post was viewed over 350 times. Likewise, a post from somebody looking to sell winter squash was viewed almost 1,000 times in the course of a month. Of course, there is no guarantee that this will lead to a successful business relationship, however, your odds are much greater when you have a chance to reach thousands of people every day.
All businesses can create their own profile on the website. You are encouraged to list more information than what can simply be found in a phone book. If you are an organic grower, GAP certified or have received some other type of third party certification it is suggested that you list this in your profile. These attributes are searchable on the site and help you to create a more targeted marketing profile. To learn more about how to use MarketMaker, please visit the main website at http://national.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/.
If you think that your business would benefit from MarketMaker, I would encourage you to register today. Registration and use of the site is free of charge. To get set up on Pennsylvania’s site visit the following website: http://pa.foodmarketmaker.com.