Northeast Center Excels at Supporting Food Entrepreneurship
CALS Impact Statement
A university-based center has been successful in supporting food entrepreneurship in the northeast, thus increasing the knowledge and competency of start-up food companies and creating local economic development.
Specialty foods continue to be a growth area in the food industry providing opportunities to people interested in developing their own businesses and to farmers looking for alternatives to utilize and market their crops. Increased regulatory oversight of new food products to ensure safety of consumers created the need to provide direct assistance to start-up companies to comply with federal and state regulations, and to transfer knowledge in food manufacturing. Business and marketing training is also necessary to increase the chances of success by small companies in a highly competitive niche marketplace.
A university-based regional center was created in 2000 by a partnership between Cornell University and the University of Vermont to support start-up food companies. In its sixth year of operation, the Northeast Center for Food Entrepreneurship (NECFE) continued to successfully provide comprehensive assistance to food entrepreneurs in the Northeast by offering direct counseling and educational programs. In 2005, the center responded to 1013 inquiries for assistance on marketing food products. We worked with 215 entrepreneurs who needed safety evaluations of 487 specialty products and processes for commercial production. The center's laboratory analyzed 390 samples of food prototypes to address their safety and technological feasibility. We conducted and sponsored 12 workshops and conferences in the northeast totaling 312 attendees and covering topics relevant to specialty foods production. Center personnel also participated as speakers in 14 technical programs reaching 1008 individuals. Printed educational materials with wide distribution included the 108-page manual "Small-Scale Food Entrepreneurship: a Technical Guide for Food Ventures" and the newsletter for the small scale food entrepreneur "Venture". Complete electronic archives are maintained in the website, which is being accessed by over 20,000 visitors per year.
In 2005, the center provided direct assistance or training to 2,300 people in food safety, food processing, and business development and marketing, complemented by appropriate referrals to existing local service providers. After 6-years of operation, the center has developed a highly productive program that has positively impacted 800 entrepreneurs for the commercialization of 2,700 food products. On a follow-up survey based on 3 years of operation,it was estimated that 806 full time jobs were created by new businesses and 7,836 existing jobs are supported by established businesses. Ninety four percent of clients were satisfied with the direct assistance received and 65% reported services provided aided in the success of their businesses. The center received the 2004 USDA Secretary's Honor Award in recognition of outstanding performance. Comprehensive assistance to food entrepreneurs through university centers is a successful model that increases the safety of specialty foods, increases entrepreneurs knowledge and competency, and creates local economic development.
funding source description
Federal Formula Funds - Extension (e.g., Smith Lever, RREA)