For two days this summer, people from all over the world will come to Soldotna to explore one of Alaska’s most outstanding products food.
Harvesters, processors and others involved in the Alaska food business have long had to travel far and wide to introduce themselves to the national and international food and food services market, but this summer they will have the chance to display their goods and services on home turf at the Global Food Alaska 2007 Conference and Tradeshow being held at the Soldotna Sports Center in June.
“Normally all the people in Alaska travel to all of these outside shows Boston, L.A., Vegas, Germany, Europe nobody comes to Alaska,” said Valerie Malanaphy, administrative assistant for Cook Inlet Salmon Brand Inc., which is co-organizing the event along with Global Food Collaborative.
She said Alaska has a thriving food supply industry, but that it would benefit greatly from an event that draws buyers to Alaska and familiarizes them with what Alaska has to offer the national and international food industry.
The two-day buyers conference will be held June 13 and 14 and feature 150 exhibitor booths, presentations and an awards program recognizing Alaska businesses that excel in food growing, harvesting, marketing, manufacturing and other aspects of the Alaska food industry.
This year’s event will be the first Global Food conference in Alaska, but organizers hope it will return every two years.
Malanaphy said the event will represent a wide range of Alaska foods, from reindeer and oysters to fish and berries, and a wide range of businesses involved in the food supply industry, including everyone from the harvester to the transporter.
“We’re just looking at anyone who has a piece of the pie,” she said.
She said the event offers Alaskans the opportunity to make food industry connections and show off their goods and services, something that has historically been a challenge in Alaska.
“You’ve got so many people here who have produced businesses against all odds in this state where it’s not as easy as it is in the Lower 48 to market food or food products, but somehow they’ve made it work,” she said.
The conference and trade show also is designed to make buyers familiar with Alaska and to dispel misconceptions about its relationship to the rest of the food industry, she said.
Although accessibility may have been an issue in the past, for example, Malanaphy said all of that has now changed.
“It’s a commonplace route now and we are attached to the international market,” she said. “To get something from here to Japan is nothing, it’s very simple.”
When the conference’s organizers began planning the event, they considered holding it in Anchorage, but because they thought buyers would be more likely to taste the full flavor of Alaska if they were to come to the peninsula, organizers chose Soldotna.
In Soldotna, buyers will be close to Alaska food suppliers and the ocean, and will have an experience that will make them want to return, she said.
“If we can get them attached then they’ll keep coming back,” she said. “If they just fly into Anchorage for two days and then fly out, then it kind of looks just like any other city. You get caught up in the city part of it and you don’t see the outside.”
To register for the event or for more information, call Valerie Malanaphy or Rick Roeske at 335-9453, Robin Richardson at 563-0154, or visit www.globalfoodcollaborative.com.
Patrice Kohl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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