Program to put more Missouri products on grocers' shelves

Monday, July 3, 2006

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A new program is seeking to put more products made in Missouri on grocery store shelves.

State officials are working with the Missouri Grocers Association and grocery chain RCPS Inc. on the Missouri-Made effort.

"Many Missouri products can't get to the shelf. It is too costly," said John Morrison, director of the Missouri Grocers Association. "We're trying to do it with a more effective and efficient manner."

That's good news for people like 90-year-old Dorothy Holterman, who bottles her own salad dressing.

Her grandson, Steve Picker of Jefferson City, has been driving store-to-store begging for shelf space for Grandma's Cool & Zesty Dressing.

Under the new program, entrepreneurs like Picker could send their products to a warehouse, where they will then be distributed throughout the region.

Earnie Bohner, of Persimmon Hill Farm near Branson, said it's daunting for small producers to get linked into the traditional product distribution system. Stores often charge a fee for placement on their shelves, and they sometimes require a massive insurance policy to participate.

"It's a difficult thing for little guys to deal with," Bohner said.

The program will first be tested with the sale of nonperishables at five Price Cutter stores in the Springfield area. Morrison said it could then expand to stores across the state, and grow to include fresh produce and meat.

Backers of the effort say it could prove beneficial for the state. They point to a 2004 study of a similar New Jersey program, started in 1984, that reported $54.49 in increased economic output in the state for every dollar spent on the program promotion.

Erick Taylor, president and CEO of RPCS, said the program makes perfect sense.

"If we can help Missouri's small producers and farmers and achieve success and prosperity, they will spend back in the community," he said. "It's Missouri helping Missouri."


Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.springfieldnews-leader.com

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