Maine Crisp Co. CEO Lewis Goldstein, center, talks with an attendee Thursday at the Natural Products Expo East at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, while company founder Karen Getz prepares samples of a new line of snack crackers they’re introducing at the trade show. Courtesy Maine Center for Entrepreneurs

Maine food and beverage producers and promoters are increasing their collaboration and presence at national trade shows in the hope of attracting more buyers, retailers and investors to the state’s food-based economy.

It worked for Pemaquid Mussel Farms, whose plump, premium, rope-grown mollusks were showcased in March at a first-time Maine Seafood Reception held during the annual Seafood Expo North America in Boston.

Hosted by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs and the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, the reception served up lobster, scallops, oysters, mussels, seaweed, and other products representing more than 25 Maine seafood companies.

Networking among more than 200 guests at the reception, Carter Newell, managing member of Pemaquid Mussel Farms, found several new buyers and an investor willing to sink $1 million into his plan to double production to 1 million pounds per year.

“Those kinds of events are really good,” Newell said. “We were able to showcase our product. We’ve got the premium mussels in the country. We just needed to get them in front of people and tell our story.”

The Maine Crisp Co. is hoping for similar success this week at the Natural Products Expo East in Philadelphia. It’s one of a dozen producers representing the Pine Tree State at what is considered the biggest natural, organic and healthy products event on the East Coast.


The Winslow company intends to make a big splash at Expo East, said Maine Crisp CEO Lewis Goldstein. It will introduce a new line of gluten-free snack crackers made with Maine-grown buckwheat, and it will debut a new, more inclusive brand name, Better with Buckwheat, to allow future product expansion into cookies and other snack foods.

Coinciding with the new product line, the company is going national – the sea salt, herb, and “everything” flavored crackers will be sold in more than 1,000 Kroger supermarkets starting this month and in Sprouts supermarkets starting in November, Goldstein said. The crackers soon will be available in Maine online and through other distributors.

Members of Maine’s seafood industry, including harvesters of lobster, scallops, oysters and seaweed, combined efforts to sponsor a first Maine Seafood Reception during the annual Seafood Expo North America in Boston in March. Promoters of Maine’s food-based economy are using a similar collaborative effort at the Natural Products Expo East in Philadelphia this week. Courtesy Maine Center for Entrepreneurs

For Goldstein, renting a booth at Expo East, which drew 18,500 attendees last year, was a pillar of an ambitious business plan. The company recently moved to a 17,500-square-foot manufacturing facility that’s 10 times larger than its previous location, and it plans to increase its payroll from 21 to 31 employees in the coming year.

“It’s critical to be at the key trade shows for your product,” Goldstein said while on his way to Philadelphia. “The key retailers attend these shows. The more visibility you can get, the better. And being part of the Maine contingent is important. We highlight being made in Maine on our boxes because it means a lot.”

Several state agencies and nonprofits are fostering Maine’s increased collaboration and participation in trade shows by providing business advice, marketing assistance, and grants to cover exhibition costs that can run as high as $20,000 per event. That’s how much Maine Crisp received to design and build a booth and exhibit at Expo East, including funding through the Maine International Trade Center and Department of Economic and Community Development.

It’s a new strategy to better share financial, creative and organizational resources, and promote more producers under the Maine-made banner, which represents wholesome, natural, good things to many consumers in the global marketplace, said Sue Hanson, manager of the Food & Beverage Accelerators Program at the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs.


“We’re coming together to support Maine’s food and beverage companies,” Hanson said. “We know the resources we have. We’re coming together to coordinate and leverage those resources.”

In June, the Maine Department of Agriculture hosted six exhibitors, including Maine Crisp, in the State of Maine Pavilion at the Fancy Food Show held in New York City. Hosted by the Specialty Food Association, the event attracted over 30,000 attendees.

This week at Expo East, Hanson’s program is promoting several Maine food and beverage producers at its “Make it Maine” booth, alongside booths operated by Bristol Seafoods, Atlantic Sea Farms, Hey Freya, Singing Pastures, and Diggables Inc.

Hanson’s program also will host a “Make it Maine” cocktail reception at its booth on Friday afternoon, offering samples of surf and turf appetizers, snacks, and beverages.

“Key buyers in the natural and specialty foods sectors will have the chance to discover and appreciate the incredible offerings from Maine’s food industry,” she said.



The Maine Center for Entrepreneurs has worked with more than 75 food and beverage companies in recent years, in partnership with FocusMaine, a nonprofit dedicated to creating a thriving workforce through innovation and investment in Maine’s food, beverage, and bioscience industries.

Oysters topped with prosciutto served on a bed of seaweed were one of the appetizers served at the Maine Seafood Reception at the Boston seafood show in March. Courtesy Maine Center for Entrepreneurs

While exhibiting at a trade show may benefit many producers, Hanson advises companies to make sure they’re ready for the growth that might result. It’s an expensive proposition even with outside funding, she said, and it takes a lot of time and energy to do it well.

“First, go and see the show,” she said. “Walk the floor. See what it’s all about. Is it the audience you’re looking for? Are you ready for it? Because you have to be ready for it.”

Newell, managing member of Pemaquid Mussel Farms, was ready last March when he attended the Boston seafood show, which drew more than 16,000 attendees from around the globe.

Based in Bucksport, the company grows premium mussels on ropes dangling from eight patented submersible rafts in the pristine waters of Frenchman’s Bay, near Bar Harbor, as well as two nonsubmersible rafts off Damariscotta.

In the past 15 years, Newell has focused on growing, harvesting and processing the plumpest, sweetest mussels in North America, he said. Along the way, he got a doctorate in mussel biology. A recent uptick in marketing drew a spike in demand.


Newell went to the seafood show looking for an investor to help take the business to the next level. A chef served his mussels as a tasty appetizer at the Maine Seafood Reception, where Newell connected with a lead investor who is helping him develop a $1 million expansion plan.

He hopes to add eight submersible rafts and double annual production from 500,000 pounds to 1 million pounds within three years, he said. Eventually, his payroll will double, too, from eight to 16 employees.

And he’s glad it will happen in the company of other Maine food and beverage producers.

“It is important to be part of the Maine thing,” Newell said.

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