Weekly REDEW: This Region is Delicious!

I opened my inbox this morning to find the sort of e-mail I get all too infrequently — an offer for free delicious popcorn snacks from Kitsap County’s own Popcorn Chef. What a way to start the day! As a pregnant lady and the organizer of the Prosperity Partnership’s December 3rd Specialty Foods Industry Cluster Tour, I spend a lot of time these days thinking about food. Fortunately for me, the Puget Sound is full of companies making all kinds of amazing goodies…

We’ve run our quarterly Industry Cluster Tours — day-long, industry-specific tours designed to help our business, government, education, labor, and nonprofit leaders learn about important industries and related economic development efforts, opportunities, and challenges in the region — for the past couple of years. We’ve covered medical device manufacturing, aerospace and defense, information technology, energy efficiency, tourism, and much, much more. But, up until now, we hadn’t done food. With roughly 14,000 folks working in the food manufacturing industry in our 4-county region, plus a whole bunch more making wine, brewing beer, and now running distilleries–we finally decided that the time had come to go see (and hopefully taste) some of this activity for ourselves.

I’ll be honest– I had no idea how many really interesting food and beverage companies there are here. I think a lot of us know that Starbucks has a major coffee roasting facilitiy in Kent, Jones Soda started in Seattle, Brown & Haley’s Almond Roca hails from Tacoma, you can watch Beecher’s Cheese be made at Pike Place Market, and that we process a lot of seafood. But did you know that Bainbridge Organic Distillers in the state’s first organic distillery? That we’ve got at least two major soup companies? Or that Greek God’s Yogurt is based in Mountlake Terrace? We’re also home to companies like the Tsue Chong Company (Seattle) and Golden Pheasant Foods (Kent) who make specialty Asian products including noodles, wontons, and fortune cookies for markets in the U.S. and overseas. Have you ever heard of FungusAmongUs in Snohomish (if you like mushrooms and truffles you might want to looks them up)? I could go on, and on… and on.

It seems that every day I learn about another food or beverage company operating and/or manufacturing here–some of whom are expanding their production facilities and adding new product lines. And the more I’ve learned, the more I’ve come to think that specialty foods and beverages are an exciting economic development opportunity for our region.

So where am I going with this? Well, there’s still time for you to register and join us on our December 3rd tour. We’ll start the day by hearing from representatives from Seattle Chocolates, CB’s Nuts, Isernio’s Sausage, Sahale Snacks, and DRY Soda). We’ll then visit Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in Sumner. We’ll have lunch at and tour Redhook Brewery, and hear from a panel of experts on the wine, beer, and craft distilling industries. We’ll end our day with a visit to Charlie’s Produce.

Maybe you’ll come away as excited as I am about specialty food and beverage manufacturing and all sorts of related activities, from local agriculture to distribution. Maybe we’ll all get some free samples (I know I’m keeping my fingers crossed). Maybe you’ll even get some food and beverage ideas for your holiday entertaining. Either way, it’ll be a fun opportunity to hear some good news about our economy.

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