Making Food Connections

About Food Connections:

Food Connections is a Twin Cities group of food professionals who meet 4-6 times per year to network, exchange industry knowledge and expand their own capabilities through trusted partnerships. We sat down with Anita Nelson, president/owner of IN Food Marketing & Design and Food Connections founder to learn more about how and why Food Connections was created.

Industry professionals gather for a Food Connections meeting.

About 13 years ago, a food packaging design company contacted Anita about sales and marketing support. This interaction sparked a thought: other companies might also be in need of specialized skills.

“I started to think of Minneapolis and St. Paul as a sort of food mecca,” Anita says, “With companies like Land O’Lakes, General Mills, and Schwan’s, there are so many professionals in the area that serve the food industry in a variety of specialties, like photography, package design, food styling, writing, media, and more.”

Anita set out to unite these professionals so they could be a resource to one another by sharing information, collaborating, and networking. The result was Food Connections.

When asked why she chose to start this group, Anita says, “I love connecting and bringing people together. I felt there was an untapped need for this type of group.” She continues, “Additionally, I thought this would be a great way for us to expand our network as a smaller agency. We don’t have all the specialized resources on-staff, but we have a trusted group through Food Connections that we can turn to.”

As trends, best practices and expectations continue to shift rapidly in the food industry, it’s important to have a group to rely on when change occurs. Anita hopes to see continued growth for the future of Food Connections.

“There’s power in a collective. My goal is to continue to expand the group and help others make meaningful connections. Hearing stories of people meeting at Food Connections now collaborating on projects, is one of the many benefits I get from the group,” she says.

A message from the members:

Throughout the years of Food Connections, members have built relationships with people they can count on. We asked a few people to share their experiences as members of this group and how it has impacted them professionally.

Here’s what Julie Kendrick, writer and Food Connections member has to say:

Food Connections members enjoy a breakfast over conversation and collaboration.

“We humans — all of us — are changing the what, why, when and how of the way we relate to food. Those of us who provide creative services to the food industry must respond with grace, agility and bareknuckled street smarts if we want our businesses to survive these many changes. One of the best ways I know to get through ‘interesting times’ is to openheartedly share with those who are experiencing the same thing. At Food Connections, we are given the opportunity to gather around the table and ask questions, share ideas and offer insights about what it all means and where it might be going. That, plus a steaming hot cup of coffee on an early weekday morning, should be enough to lift any weary creative’s spirits for the long days ahead.”

Jean Moench, marketing professional, and Food Connections member also shared her experiences.

She tells us, “I attended my first Food Connections meeting several years ago with no expectations. During this meeting, each attendee introduced themselves and concisely explained what they offer. We exchanged business cards, discussed, shared and mingled. I happily walked away knowing I met some great new contacts. The very next week I ended up getting a call from a company that was looking for a marketing contractor. As it turns out, I was blindly referred to them by a Food Connections attendee. The result was a 4-year, 15-25 hour per week ongoing relationship and multiple contacts in the company. Not all of my networking efforts have been this seamless and bountiful but, I have found that each networking activity usually has some level of benefit.”

She continues, “I am grateful for In Food Marketing and Design’s tenacity in offering a consistent forum for us to gather and collaborate.”

How to join:

Food Connections is open for anyone to join, and once you’re in, you’re in. It’s encouraged to attend meetings when available, but ultimately, it’s a low pressure and low-cost (read: no cost!) group.

Tasty treats provided at a Food Connections meeting.

“Opening our doors to people, offering them a good breakfast, and helping them make connections is what we enjoy,” explains Anita.

Since its founding in 2005, Food Connections continues to gather on a regular basis with a core group of about 65 people. One thing Anita loves about the group is the mix of people attending each meeting — there’s always an opportunity to meet someone new. Our LinkedIn group has grown to over 300 people and a recently created Facebook group is growing fast, too.

Interested in joining Food Connections or know someone who might be? Contact Anita Nelson at anita@infoodmktg.com.

 

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