From the Desk of the CEO: October 2023

We have been quite busy this month, even more than we anticipated.

Earlier this month, Food Export welcomed our board presidents, our state partners, several of our In-Market Representatives, our USDA FAS representative and guest speakers to Philadelphia for our annual meeting. It seemed fitting that we gathered in Philly since Food Export-Northeast is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

This was my first time attending as CEO/Executive Director. It feels different on the other side of the podium! We made it a point to put away our slide decks at certain intervals and spend more time listening to our members and partners. I have always found the hallway conversations at conferences to be as valuable as anything up on a screen. The planning team did a phenomenal job executing this.

The week before our annual meeting, Food Export welcomed USDA FAS Administrator Daniel Whitley to the Chicago office. I was honored to spend time with him and share our organization’s plans for the future. He offered insight into international markets and complimented our team on their achievements this past year. We were able to highlight the work done by incredible firms across our regions.

The past two weeks have reaffirmed to me that American ingenuity is alive and well in the food and agricultural space. The nation sets the table, literally, with its innovative food products, adaptability, and evolving tastes.

Think about the evolution of the humble potato chip. Salt, barbecue and sour cream and onion are the mainstays, but there are new flavors that have evolved based on different markets. Think siracha, sweet soy and the old standby, salt and vinegar. Smaller suppliers have an agility that can often help them adapt to international market tastes more quickly than one might anticipate.

Food Export’s success is due to the faith and trust of our suppliers, the cooperation of our state members, and our partners at USDA FAS. These relationships allow us to identify new companies and have the resources to guide them through the exporting process.

This nation will always export food products. A global perspective is needed from the smallest home business all the way to the top of our federal leadership. To be competitive, small- and medium-sized suppliers need the support of our partners in D.C. For that reason, I remain optimistic that the Farm Bill will be supported at levels that will allow us to meet our suppliers’ needs for years to come. This piece of legislation is critical to fund groups like ours, in addition to ensuring strong agricultural risk management, nutrition programs, rural development, food safety, and research.

Empowering our suppliers to make new connections and increase their sales with international exports is what motivates us. Our expertise comes from experience and a willingness to learn. We are building an organization with a passion for learning, collaboration, and growth. Our commitment to supplier empowerment is exemplified by a recent initiative. Our Branded Program and Marketing and Communications team members proactively took digital marketing classes to stay at the forefront of industry trends. They recognized that promotional strategies and tactics are evolving, and by understanding digital marketing better, they could better service the companies in our programs. By sharing these new digital marketing strategies with other departments, we are ensuring that our suppliers receive the most up-to-date support and expertise in expanding their reach in international markets.

The work these companies do is inspiring us to step up! Our Marketing and Communications team started working on new ways to reach suppliers using digital channels. We want your buy-in. We welcome your feedback and insight.

We are excited for the next year. Check out our 2024 Event Calendar and you will see we have a busy year planned for our organization, our buyers, In-Market Representatives and, of course, our suppliers.

Until next month,

Brendan Wilson

CEO/Executive Director

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