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These food startups aim to build on Idaho’s food heritage

Production leader Albert Barbosa pours freshly mixed hummus into a dispenser in 2015 to produce Zacca Hummus at the University of Idaho’s Food Technology Center in Caldwell.
Production leader Albert Barbosa pours freshly mixed hummus into a dispenser in 2015 to produce Zacca Hummus at the University of Idaho’s Food Technology Center in Caldwell. doswald@idahostatesman.com

Food has played an important role in Idaho’s entrepreneurial history. Two of Boise’s most famous entrepreneurs, Joe Albertson and J.R. Simplot, created food businesses that remain important contributors to Idaho’s economy more than 75 years after they were founded.

Companies like Agri Beef, an innovator in beef and pork products; Happy Family Brands, a company providing organic food products for babies and children, and Chobani, a leading provider of Greek yogurt, are all making their mark on the world, and Idaho. Chobani runs the world’s largest yogurt plant in Twin Falls. It grew to over $1 billion in revenue in less than a decade — a rare feat for a company in any industry.

Our next generation of food companies is emerging. Companies like Prosperity Organic Foods, Zacca Hummus, Killer Whey! Ice Cream and Dr. Pierce’s Bubbly Bitters are working hard to disrupt existing categories or create new ones. For example, ice cream has been made for centuries, yet it has never been considered a health product. Killer Whey! is making ice cream more healthy by adding whey protein and eliminating sugar. Now we can all scream for ice cream and good health.

Now is a great time to launch a food startup. Consumer interest in nutrition and health is increasing, and people are eager to try new products. Research from the Boston Consulting Group shows that between 2011 and 2015, $18 billion in U.S. food sales shifted from large packaged-goods companies to smaller businesses. That spells big opportunity for food startups.

Idaho is a great place to launch a food company. Because of its heritage, there are resources and talent available to help companies start and scale. One such resource is the University of Idaho Food Technology Center in Caldwell. TFC provides education, support and 7,000 square feet of certified commercial-food processing space to help people trying to launch food-based businesses.

To highlight the emerging food startups in Idaho, Trailhead is holding a food-startup competition in April called “Trail Mix.” Whether you’re a food startup looking for visibility or somebody interested in new innovations in food, you should consider competing or attending. For more information, check out trailheadboise.org/trailmix.

Raino Zoller, info@trailheadboise.org, is the executive director of Trailhead, which helps start and scale businesses and projects. This column appears in the January 18-February 14, 2017, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine. Click here for the e-edition (subscription required).

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