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The teams come up with business plans. Professors visit to talk about concepts like pricing. But much of the class happens outside the classroom.
“Sitting back and doing a [strengths and weaknesses] analysis is interesting,” said Stavig, director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship. “But I think you learn a hell of a lot more going out and getting it into market, getting feedback from the customers and seeing if you can sell it.”
The students had researched the growth of Greek yogurt and the market for spreads, but the conversations with grocery managers were what convinced them that Santé could sell.
“It definitely does fill a niche,” said Scott Heard, cheese manager at Seward Co-op in Minneapolis. “For people who are watching their fat intake, this product fits their bill.”
Heard was surprised how quickly the team “got their ducks in a row” — Fuller had to pass a food manager licensing course — and came up with pretty packaging. Sales of Santé, which retails for $5.49 for an 8-ounce package, have been “slow and steady, which is typical with a new product like this,” Heard said. But sampling works.
“A lot of people, especially co-op customers, are really looking to hear that story,” he said.
On a recent Friday afternoon, three students spread Santé on cookies and crackers, displaying them on a booth just inside the Linden Hills Co-op’s doors.
Hanson peppered customers with nutrition facts (“Only 15 calories in two tablespoons!”), asked for feedback (“What do you think? What’s it missing?”) and suggested accompaniments (“I personally like that one with kettle chips.”).
Jenny Bender of Minneapolis approached with her 6-year-old son. “That’s a strawberry dip, buddy,” she said. “You might like it.”
Hanson made her pitch: “We get the strawberries from a little Mennonite family that has a business in Wisconsin. The dairy’s from Wisconsin, as well. So we try to do local.”
Bender nodded, chewing.
“We’ll support it,” she said, tossing one in her cart.
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168