The state has rolled out a new program to encourage small food companies to sell more of their goods in foreign countries.
Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture is systematically buying booths at trade shows in South Korea, Vietnam, China and Dubai, and then renting the space at up to a 50 percent discount to Minnesota firms that make food ingredients or agricultural products and want to find new markets.
“We’re buying space at trade shows … where we think Minnesota companies will have an interest, and we’re having Minnesota pavilions at those shows,” said Brian Erickson, an ag marketing specialist who helps companies get signed up.
An initiative called the “Branded” program offers reimbursements to companies for the cost of going to a trade show in a new market, and helps with labels and translations.
The Agriculture Department has booked space at six trade shows through the end of May, two in the United States and four overseas. Companies can get up to a 50 percent discount on booth space, and so far demand has been healthy.
The Dubai and China shows are sold out, but the Vietnam and South Korea shows still have space.
Minnesota is not the only government agency renting space at these shows. Cyprus, Germany, Ethiopia and Holland are among the governments sending contingents to the Gulfood Exhibition in Dubai at the end of this month.
Some 156 companies and trade groups from the United States are registered as exhibitors, plus 257 from India, 209 from Germany and 187 from China.
Five companies from Minnesota plan to attend Gulfood, not including those in the Agriculture Department pavilion.
“We have over the years seen other states do similar things,” said Christina Connelly, who manages the department’s international trade program.
The incentive can make it possible for a small firm to attend one of these trade shows, said Erickson. “At Food & Hotel Vietnam, it’s roughly $6,000 for a booth” he said. “It can be a barrier for a small- to medium-sized company to pay that much, and then your travel and accommodations are an expense on top of that.”
Sometimes the Agriculture Department splits a booth in half, offering a spot for $1,700. Food & Hotel Vietnam is April 24-26 in Ho Chi Minh City. Seoul Food & Hotel in South Korea is May 13-17. Shows in Anaheim, Calif., and Chicago are also upcoming.
A list of trade shows, applications, registration and contact information is available at the Agriculture Department’s website.