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As the local food movement surges on, Portland, Ore.-based New Seasons Market is expanding its Local Finds program to make it even easier for small local crafters, food artisans and growers to bring their products to market. Building on its 14-year history of helping local producers shine while offering a more streamlined product submission process, New Seasons Market’s Local Finds program provides vendors with tailored help, with everything from packaging to FDA approvals and product marketing.
“We took everything we had learned from more than a decade of helping local cooks, crafters and farmers, and developed the Local Finds program,” said Chris Tjersland, New Seasons Markets’ private brands development manager. “While we are thrilled to have so many local products on our shelves, the Local Finds program is about more than that. It’s designed to work with vendors so that they get the right help at the right time so that they can grow sustainably. It’s about helping local entrepreneurs—whether they are growing pears or making cookies—succeed at a pace that’s right for them.”
Nearly 100 products were submitted to New Seasons Market during a six-month Local Finds pilot that wrapped up this spring, the majority of which are still on its shelves today. Local Finds products have ran the gamut from gluten-free muffins to kimchee to cycling hats, adding to the thousands of local products already available at New Seasons Market.
Since its inception, all of New Seasons Market staff, regardless of their department, have been encouraged to champion local products and producers. Tjersland said the result has produced a powerful network of deep and lasting relationships between staff and local vendors from across the region. The Local Finds program makes that connection even easier, helping staff champion a local foodie, grower or crafter and make the bridge to company buyers.
Susan Hall, Local Finds vendor and creator of the baked cheese snack Chedz, explained: “Chedz started as a snack I would make for my family and friends. They loved it and kept asking for more. When I decided to try to take the product to market, I knew I was going to need some help. The New Seasons Local Finds program has been a very positive experience," continued Hall, "and is such a clear expression of the company’s focus on helping small, local vendors. Everyone I’ve worked with has been a champion for Chedz. We started selling at the Williams store the first week of December, and today we are in seven stores and hope to grow to all 13 soon.” Chedz, which is sold under Hall Brands, LLC, has become so popular that the company recently added gluten-free options.
Building Long-term Local Roots
“While we are proud of Local Finds, it’s really not a new idea for New Seasons Market," notes John Boyle, New Seasons Market’s director of merchandising and buying. "We’ve been working in partnership with local farmers, cooks, and crafters for the last 14 years. We created the Local Finds program as a way to maximize what we were already doing," said Boyle, foremost to which "means building long-term relationships with local family farms, helping home cooks figure out how to connect to customers, and lending a hand when one of our growers needs help getting their harvest in. We are passionate about working with local vendors, and have helped literally thousands of people and businesses succeed – there’s nothing better.”
Vendors who wish to submit a product to the Local Finds program can go to the Solutions Counter at any New Seasons Market store, ask for the Local Finds application, and submit their product on the spot.
Founded in 2000, New Seasons Market is the first grocer in the world to become a certified B corporation, which recognizes businesses that place as much value on taking care of their staff, the community, and the environment as it does on growing and operating their business. With nearly 2,700 employees, the independently owned grocer operates 13 stores in the Portland-Vancouver area, and is one of the Portland area’s largest private employers.