Purchasing and sourcing activity among the fifty-three participants in this study implies that, within 50 miles of Bangor, at least 70 percent of the potential market for Maine-grown food and ingredients is unmet. Among study participants alone this conservatively equates to $5,000,000 of annual opportunity or an average of approximately $94,000 per week.
On the demand side, buyers report the greatest potential for increased weekly orders of farm products in poultry, red meat, salad greens, apples, and tree fruit.
Within these categories, demand is highest for poultry (fresh, frozen, and portioned), ground beef (fresh and frozen), salad greens, sweet potatoes, strawberries and raspberries (fresh and frozen), apples, peaches, and pears.
Entrepreneurial opportunities exist for experienced food producers and farmers who have the ability to operate consistently in wholesale and retail segments to supply to markets with specific niche items in the quantity, quality, and form needed. Specific niches and product include:
- Out of hand goods. Bakers already in business likely have enough demand in the hotel and event centers, healthcare facilities, and college and university dining to add products or increase production of products made of local ingredients that are simple to serve, that fit in well on the patient menu, and that upsell in their in-house cafes: muffins, tarts, quick breads, sweet and savory corn bread, and cookies.
- Par-baked goods. Artisanal and home-style partially baked, or ‘par-baked’, breads, rolls, and bagels made of local ingredients for hotel and events centers, retail (take and bake), restaurants, and in-house institutional and corporate cafes.
- Salad greens are in high year-round demand across all markets
- Sweet potatoes are in demand at college and university dining facilities, high schools and grades schools, restaurants, and hotels and event centers.
Culinary Herbs & Sea Salt
- Culinary herbs (basil, chives, cilantro, dill, garlic, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, tarragon, thyme)
- Sea salt (all forms)
- There is a year-round demand for strawberries and raspberries: fresh in season and frozen the remaining months.
- Apples are preferred fresh and in demand at food stores, distributors, healthcare facilities, grade schools and high schools, colleges and universities, and summer camps.
- Other tree fruit, such as peaches and pears, are in high demand mostly for fresh. Some locations report a demand for frozen peaches year round when available.
Red Meat, Poultry, Fish
- Portioned, boneless, skinless chicken breast is high demand at healthcare facilities.
- Some groceries report demand for whole birds but most locations need portioned and frozen product.
- Event centers and restaurants prefer fresh when buying locally raised birds.
- Schools, colleges, and universities prefer to purchase frozen, finned fish that is filleted or in chowder portions.
- There is demand in nearly all locations for ground or portioned and frozen red meat and pork processed in USDA-inspected facilities.
- Although lamb is not in demand in institutional settings, it is desired in restaurants and food stores.