February 23, 2021 (Brunswick, ME) – Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) today announced the names of the six Maine food companies selected for the 2021 Tastemakers Initiative: Bristol Seafood in Portland, Luke’s Lobster in Saco & Portland, Good to Go in Kittery, Maine Crisp Company in Winslow, Ocean’s Balance in Biddeford and Southpaw Packing dba Windham Butcher Shop in Windham. The selected companies will receive specialized consulting and investor networking opportunities. This is the fourth year of the Tastemakers Initiative, part of an ongoing partnership between CEI and FocusMaine to support the growth of Maine’s food economy.
“The COVID-19 pandemic stressed national food supply chains by disrupting production, distribution and sales channels, proving just how important it is to build and sustain a robust, and resilient, local food system,” said Gray Harris, Senior Vice President of Food Systems at CEI. “From meat and seafood processing, to value-added consumer products, this year’s Tastemakers have shown that they can survive and grow during a challenging time. The Tastemakers Initiative connects food entrepreneurs with tailored business assistance from technical experts, including our partners at the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs, helping them scale, create good jobs, reach new customers and expand Maine’s food economy.”
Awardees are established food and beverage companies intending to increase production capacity, with “shovel-ready” projects that directly support Maine agriculture, aquaculture or fisheries as part of their supply chain. As part of the Tastemaker offerings, cohort members were awarded up to $20,000 per company, with a total of $120,000 distributed across the cohort, to support the following:
- Strategic growth and/or adjustment in light of COVID19 to meet long term production and capacity goals
- Facility design, site engineering, process improvement, licensing and permitting
- Expansion of local supply chains with Maine producers
- Organizational development, workforce attraction and retention consulting
“Well before the advent of COVID-19, FocusMaine selected Maine’s food economy as a promising sector because of its potential to drive job growth in Maine,” said Kimberly Hamilton, PhD, President of FocusMaine. “We now know that the food sector will also play a critical role in Maine’s economic recovery–whether providing healthy, local food for those most in need or fueling a rebounding restaurant sector. Through our partnership with CEI, we are extremely honored to play a role in supporting the growth of these courageous and tenacious food entrepreneurs and, through them, a growing Maine food economy.”
With 43 years’ experience providing financing and business advice to Maine companies, CEI is keenly aware of challenges that food businesses face, including barriers in transportation, connections and scaling production to reach new markets; access to production facilities with cold storage, commercial kitchens and production space; recruiting and retaining employees; and the everyday realities of running a business, from financial management to marketing. Applications for the next round of Tastemakers will open in January 2022.
“Having been selected for the Tastemaker Initiative has offered Southpaw Packing Company, Inc. a much-needed boost of hope and inspiration allowing our business the opportunity to pursue our growth goals with the support of friendly, knowledgeable consultants who share our drive and passion,” said Nichole Sargent, Co-Owner Southpaw Packing dba Windham Butcher Shop.
“As a company that uses sustainably farmed and harvested seaweed to make its products, Ocean’s Balance is poised for growth in 2021 as consumers embrace seaweed’s nutritional and environmental benefits. Covid-19 has made traditional marketing more challenging and heightened the importance of a strong digital presence. The Tastemaker Grant will be catalytic in allowing us to build brand awareness, promote new products and elevate the profile of regenerative aquaculture. We are confident that both Ocean’s Balance and state of Maine will benefit from this funding in the form of increased market share and job creation,” said Lisa Scali, Director of Sales & Marketing, Ocean’s Balance.
“As a growing small business in Southern Maine, Good To-Go has been very lucky to benefit from the many programs in Maine that support companies like ourselves. CEI’s Tastemakers Initiative sponsored by FocusMaine, is one of those programs. Since starting our business in 2014 we have been in growth mode, needing to produce more of our product than our facility’s capacity. We have been planning a move to a larger facility for some time now. At the end of 2020, the application for the Tastemaker’s Funding was brought to our attention. The grant, which could be used for facility design and site engineering was perfect for our needs right now. We completed the application and were delighted when just a month later were told we had gotten the grant. The $20,000 award will be instrumental for the fees associated with site and design. We are ready to pull the trigger on the job and so is CEI,” said Jennifer Scism, co-founder/chef, Good-to-Go.
“As a Certified B Corp, and more importantly as a member of Maine’s seafood community, we’re committed to doing everything we can to build resiliency into Maine’s fishing industry. Our CEI Tastemakers award will allow us to continue to diversify the seafood we can buy from fishermen and farmers and bring to a worldwide market. It builds capacity in our existing facility, allowing us to leverage infrastructure already in place to process lobster for the handling of fish and aquaculture products so we return more value to more harvesters and suppliers at Maine’s shore,” said Ben Conniff, Co-Founder & Chief Innovation Officer, Luke’s Lobster.
“We are a Maine-based seafood company on a mission to make seafood America’s favorite protein. We must attract and retain a talented workforce to enable us to grow and thrive. We invested the grant we received from CEI’s Tastemakers Initiative towards this goal. It has allowed us to build on our recruitment efforts for quality jobs on the Portland waterfront,” said Brett Heidtke, Chief Operating Officer, Bristol Seafood.
“CEI has been a stalwart partner to Maine Crisp starting right when we moved out of the home kitchen. CEI has been a rock-solid supporter of Maine Crisp in each stage of our business. Their initial loan enabled us to hire our first employee and their continued encouragement and support has helped us grow along the way. CEI is a principled, proactive supporter of growing Maine businesses and the good jobs that come with that growth, leading to more jobs, more opportunities, more relationships and stronger communities as a result. The Tastemaker initiative has provided support, connections, educational opportunities most importantly, critical leadership in supporting and nurturing the growth of an exciting group of new manufacturing businesses. CEI leads the way as a successful community development organization because they clearly understand that business development, economic development and community development are inextricably linked,” said Steve Getz, Co-Founder, VP of Marketing, Maine Crisp.
Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) helps to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises and shared prosperity in Maine and in rural regions across the country by integrating financing, business and industry expertise, and policy solutions. Find out more at www.ceimaine.org.
FocusMaine is a 10-year, private sector-led initiative to accelerate the creation of quality jobs in Maine by investing in three of Maine’s most globally competitive and high-growth fields: agriculture, aquaculture, and biopharmaceuticals—and strengthening Maine’s workforce capacity. Find out more at www.focusmaine.org