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Midwest Pantry founders Zoie Glass and Chad Gillard are betting on Minnesota’s potential as a thriving home for food-related startups and innovation.

Glass and Gillard founded Midwest Pantry in 2009 to help small food businesses grow by building connections between entrepreneurs and offering practical support. Now, they’ve formed the NE Food District – a cluster of workspaces in Minneapolis that they say will foster innovation by offering physical space for food entrepreneurs.

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Alyza Bohbot’s Minneapolis-based coffee business is steaming.

Five years after she acquired her parents’ business, Alakef Coffee Roasters of Duluth, and inaugurated an additional brand, City Girl Coffee, she has more than doubled the size of the company to $2.5 million in revenue and more than a dozen employees in Duluth and Minneapolis.

Bohbot’s City Girl also is the biggest tenant in one of three refurbished former factories in northeast Minneapolis owned by Ellis Properties and leased by Midwest Pantry, an 8-year-old local-foods marketer and accelerator in what’s dubbed the “Northeast Food District,” including a kitchen incubator.

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Midwest Pantry co-founders, Chad Gillard and Zoie Glass, are honored with a 2018 Progress Minnesota Award from Finance & Commerce. The Progress Minnesota awards program, now in its seventh year, recognizes individuals, companies and organizations that drive Minnesota into the future through economic development, entrepreneurship, technological innovation and workforce development. See the entire list of 2018 winners here.


Midwest Pantry, a 200-plus member marketing organization for small local-food producers, and several local farmers markets are joining forces to help one of their own who is battling cancer. Read the entire article here

Weekly Dish OnDemand

We recommend listening to the entire Weekly Dish show and our segment is in Hour 2 about 22 min and 45 seconds into the show! Listen here


I remember the first time I tried one of those spicy, Lucille’s Kitchen Garden pepper jams. It was 2007 at the Mill City Farmers Market. The bright raspberry, the hint of pepper, it was the perfect local food. Amy Glass co-founded that company with her spouse Zoie Glass, and built it from nothing into a self-distributed jam you see at retailers all over the place.

But now Amy is the one who needs help. She was just diagnosed with an aggressive Stage IV breast cancer.

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Chad Gillard was a food carney turned entrepreneur who saw so many great food products being produced but very few making it to supermarket shelves. How could he take the knowledge he learned about packaging and marketing and help food producers scale their products for the grocery store? Maybe if they collectively shared their ideas and brain space they could shorten the time to get to market. This was the genesis of his food distribution cooperative called Midwest Pantry. Listen here


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Midwest Pantry announces winners of 2015 Top of the Pantry Awards LIVE on KMSP’s The Fox 9 Buzz

Midwest Pantry announces 2015 Top of the Pantry Awards on Fox 9



Merely having a killer product doesn’t guarantee you success in any business. But the food business can be especially hard to break into. “It’s one thing to have your friends say you should really sell that hot sauce or jam or kimchi. It’s another thing entirely to try to bring a product to market,” says Zoie Glass, owner of Lucille’s Kitchen and co-founder of Midwest Pantry.

Many local food producers get their start at Twin Cities farmers markets, which can be a great way to develop a following. But after a couple of seasons braving the cold, heat, and rain, many start to think there has to be a better way. Thanks to Glass and her Midwest Pantry partner, Chad Gillard, there is.

Midwest Pantry brings local food producers and wholesale buyers together. Since 2013, one way they’ve done that is at their Local Food & Gifts Shows. The 2015 holiday show takes place on August 10, and this year, for the first time, Midwest Pantry sponsored the Top of the Shelf Awards in conjunction with the event.

On a steamy day last week, a panel of local luminaries, many of them food entrepreneurs themselves, gathered at the new digs of Chowgirls Killer Catering in northeast Minneapolis to sample local products ranging from granola to gelato. Proving that Brooklyn and Portland got nothing on us, judges sweated, sipped, and sampled 200 products to come up with seven winners, representing the best of the Twin Cities’ local food producers. The winning products ranged from sunflower oil to sauerkraut.

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 Mill City Times: Top of the Pantry Awards


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Midwest Pantry made a niche out of a pitfall that often kills startups in the food industry: the almost unbreachable chasm between the farmers market and mass distribution.

To cross it, food startups traditionally have had to go to large, expensive coastal expos, and many times the investment doesn’t pay off.

The company, founded by two food entrepreneurs, operates affordable, regional trade shows that act as a middle rung in the market, connecting buyers (mostly from independent, mid-size retailers) with small food businesses hoping to grow.

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Star Tribune – Neil St. Anthony –  Swelling ranks of small food companies find lower-cost exhibit for big retailers

Joe Moore, a buyer at Kowalski’s supermarkets, said Midwest Pantry provides easy, local access to a bevy of local food producers… “To be able to go booth to booth under one roof, meet the manufacturers and have an opportunity to possibly support them … is what we’re looking for. It’s nice to have something locally focused.”

“We’re turning people down to get in here,” said Glass of last week’s food and gift show. “We connect them to buyers. We want to organize the producers and vendors. Farmers markets aren’t organized for corporate buyers. But 10 percent shelf space at a store reserved for local vendors has a huge impact on the local economy.”

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The Gastrognomes – Blog – March 3 Feature

“What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?

Nobody is going to be surprised by this answer, but I think the greatest opportunity is in local food. Locally-sourced products continue to be a fast growing sector in both gift and grocery, outpacing organic and all natural. The issue for buyers and shop owners is that finding reliable, store-ready products in wholesale quantities is time consuming. This is where my company can help.”

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KSTP Channel 5 News – Shop Small Holiday Market – “Gathered together 25 small business under one roof”

“Small businesses make up 98% of the employers in Minnesota, and 65 cents of every dollar spent at a locally owned business stays in the community”

KARE11 Morning Show – Shop Small Holiday Market “Focuses attention on small Minnesota businesses all in one place”

Pam McCurdy, co-owner of GotKnot, presented her locally made neckware along with several products from Midwest Pantry’s Shop Small Holiday Market, which takes place each year on Small Business Saturday.

KSTP Channel 5 News – “Mpls. Food Show Helps Put Local Companies on the Map”

“Local food companies are receiving a helping hand to get more Minnesota products on the market.

More than 50 food producers took part in the Midwest Pantry Food Show in Minneapolis on Sunday. The goal was to connect the makers of foods like Cool Jerk, an Asian-style beef jerky made in St. Paul, to grocery or gift stores.

The food show is held twice a year and saves many local business thousands of dollars. ”

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KMSP Fox 9 News

Clicking image will route you to Fox9 clip on Midwest Pantry’s YouTube Channel.

Food Service News – “Connecting Local Producers, Buyers”

“Midwest Pantry co-founders Chad Gillard and Zoe Glass, themselves local food entrepreneurs, are working to ensure the sustainability of the local food movement by acting as a resource for small producers, helping them network and get their products—from simple syrups and artisan chocolates to soy candles—in front of buyers.”

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MN Department of Agriculture – “Food companies can apply for funding to help promote products”

“Small food companies face the same startup perils as any entrepreneur, but the wave of interest in artisan, local and healthy foods creates market opportunity. MDA Business Development Specialist, Brian Erickson, said, “Events like those provided by Midwest Pantry and the funding assistance to exhibit from the TSP help local food entrepreneurs capitalize on consumer trends by clearing marketing hurdles early in their development.”

Nearly 50 small Minnesota food companies participated in the first full year of the TSP. Those companies projected sales above $800,000 and accessed an estimated 3,300 new stores in 90 new markets. The MDA hopes to help more new food companies attend their first tradeshows with its 2014 funding.”

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Simple Good & Tasty – “Midwest Pantry: Power to the (Local) Producer”

“I saw firsthand some of the benefits of belonging to the Midwest Pantry coalition. First, they put together really great food shows. The one I attended was the first of its kind and consisted of about 20 local companies showcasing their goods. The attendees? Over 50 buyers from our local co-ops, Whole Foods, Lund’s, Kowalski’s, and other stores across Minnesota and even a few from Wisconsin and Iowa. So there is the first benefit, namely direct connection. ”

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WCCO TV – “Sample From Midwest Pantry At Food & Wine Show”