National chains are helping Park City businesses to launch | ParkRecord.com

National chains are helping Park City businesses to launch

With the opening of Whole Foods, many Utah brands will be featured

Ritual Chocolate owners Anna Davies and Robbie Stout will open their new location at Whole Foods on Oct. 18. The partnership with the chain store has helped them expand. (Photo by Georg Beyer)

A movement has been gaining momentum for people to purchase items locally. It is seen in the food at the farmers' markets and specialty items at art festivals, but perhaps the biggest increase has been on grocery store shelves.

The shift toward offering more local products stems from the demand from customers themselves, said Darcy Landis, local product coordinator for Whole Foods Market. By partnering with chain stores, small businesses are able to grow and build connections.

Landis, who prefers the title "forager," has the role of looking for local, artisan foods in the Rocky Mountain area that Whole Foods can sell. At the opening of the market's new location at 6598 N. Landmark Drive, it will have more than 90 Utah brands and 1,200 local products, including Creminelli meats, Cox honey, HUGO coffee and Jafflz toasted pocket sandwiches.

"Whole Foods was initiated to support local, organic and all-natural suppliers," she said. "It's just kind of natural to us."

Other grocery stores such as Fresh Market also like to feature native brands, said Rand Mickelson, senior marketing manager at Associated Food Stores, parent company of Fresh Market. Selling products that are native to the area has less environmental impacts, due to a decreased need to truck food across the country, and provides cultural variety, Landis said. But, it can also have a major impact on the economy.

"It's important to have cities and counties and states seek revenue for their local communities in their local communities," she said. "Buying from local communities helps fulfill those as well as preserve farmland and ranch land."

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Plus, local companies can then build partnerships among themselves, said Cristiano Creminelli, co-founder and owner of Salt Lake City-based Creminelli Meats, which partners with Whole Foods and Starbucks in Park City.

"We are like a small community," he said. "We share information and we help each other."

They can receive advice about troubleshooting problems when first starting up or use the others' products in their own.

Ritual Chocolate, a Park City artisanal chocolate company, is opening a second location at the new Whole Food. It decided to partner with local jam companies like Butcher's Bunches in Logan, who are filling truffles that the company makes inside of the market, said Anna Davies, co-founder of Ritual Chocolate.

"I feel like it is really important to have a community for local small businesses, because the more we can work together and help each other, the more we can grow and improve our quality," she said. "The more you can collaborate with other people, the more it helps and perpetuates itself. It also helps for business confidence as well."

Being adopted by a major grocery store in the local food section can help businesses launch nationally as well. Park City business owner Meryl Van Der Merwe said getting into Whole Foods was a catapult for her pocket sandwich company Jafflz to then get into stores throughout the state.

While Ritual Chocolate, Jafflz and Creminelli Meats are unique in their products, the local food movement is constantly attracting more companies and large stores.

"If you think just 20, 25 years ago, the approach for the food was, 'I need some gas for my body. I don't really care what I eat,'" Creminelli said. "But now, actually, it's totally different. People pay a lot of attention… And it is not going to stop. It is going to continue to evolve."