Virtual trade show to connect food, beverage makers with customers

vdacsThe Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is hosting a series of virtual meetings to help connect Virginia’s Finest specialty food and beverage producers to customers.

The Virginia’s Finest Specialty Food and Beverage Virtual Trade Show Series, on Oct. 29 and Nov. 5, consists of four virtual sessions that are designed to help producers of Virginia’s Finest products make connections with food industry buyers and merchants from across the United States.

The live sessions will feature Virginia’s Finest products in the categories of Baked Goods, Snacks & Confections, Non-alcoholic Beverages and Salsas & Condiments.

“This virtual trade show series is an example of how VDACS continues to support Virginia agriculture and in this instance, Virginia’s Finest businesses, during these very unprecedented times,” said VDACS Commissioner Dr. Jewel Bronaugh. “Virginia’s specialty food and beverage buyers have come to rely on the semiannual Virginia Food & Beverage Expo as a way to connect, face-to-face with Virginia’s Finest producers and sample a wide array of exceptional Virginia products. As the 2020 Expo was canceled due to COVID-19, this virtual trade show series will provide industry partners, and those in search of private-label brands, exposure to Virginia’s Finest products that are packaged and labeled for retail settings.”

Each virtual session is a live and moderated tasting. A group of five exhibitors will guide buyers through a tasting of up to three pre-shipped products. Each exhibitor will share their stories and describe what makes their food and drink unique.

An added benefit of the virtual setting is that buyers will gain an insider’s perspective as exhibitors invite them into their kitchens and onto their farms.

Rose Jeter, marketing director for Homestead Creamery in Franklin County, will participate in the event as a buyer for the creamery’s farm market. Tastings are split into four categories: baked goods; snacks, candies, confections and nuts; non-alcoholic beverages; and condiments, dressings, seasonings, salsas, pickles and relishes.

“It’s a one-stop shop for Virginia’s Finest products, and a chance to talk to growers and producers directly,” Jeter said of the event. “You get to know people in specialty-food sectors you might not meet otherwise. Virginia’s Finest really has become a family, and VDACS’ support is wonderful.”

The Virginia’s Finest program has been promoting local foods for more than 30 years—long before local food became as popular as it is today, said Tony Banks, a Virginia Farm Bureau Federation commodity marketing specialist.

“Local food is not only important for consumers and producers, but its economic impact cannot be overlooked,” Banks said.

Virginia’s food and beverage processing industry employs more than 42,000 people, accounts for more than 17% of Virginia’s total manufacturing employment and is the Commonwealth’s second-largest manufacturing sector. It is also one of the Commonwealth’s fastest-growing industries as employment in this sector has grown by 15% over the past five years, the second-highest rate in the Southeast.

In 1989, VDACS introduced the Virginia’s Finest® Trademark Program to enhance the economic opportunities and success of Virginia’s specialty food companies, processors and agriculture producers. The classic Virginia’s Finest® trademark identifies, differentiates and promotes top-quality Virginia agriculture and specialty food and beverage products. Buyers and consumers have grown to recognize the blue and red “VA check mark” logo and know they are purchasing top quality Virginia-produced and processed products. Only Virginia products that meet or exceed quality standards are eligible for the Virginia’s Finest® program.

For more information on the virtual trade show series, visit www.2020vaexpo.com.


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