Sustain Brand offers a new strategy for company's going local

The average grocery-store food product travels 1,500 miles from source to shelf. Yet locally-grown and prepared foods can be hard to distribute efficiently. This puzzle moved Matthew Kennedy, owner of  Sustain Brands, to create a new kind of "food web" - where food is supplied, grown, packaged, and sold within a 300-mile radius.

Sustain Brands launched in mid-2009; its motto is "Locally Owned, Locally Grown, Nationally Known." Small Mom-and-Pop food growers and manufacturers supply the products, and Sustain's recognizable brand provides them entrée to supermarket shelves.

Kennedy enjoys using his 25 years of marketing experience for a cause he believes in.

"I've experienced the positives of a big national brand, but I also appreciate the uniqueness of regional brands. I saw how (regionals) were being squeezed out by supply chains. We were not supporting our communities, and quality suffered. One brand cannot be all things to all people."

Local products benefit both producer and consumer. Reduced "food miles" - commuting distances from farm to plant to store - cut down on CO2 emissions from shipping. Local businesses provide stable jobs. Products are fresher, and require fewer preservatives and consumers enjoy the convenience of buying a local product at their neighborhood grocery. These unique varieties and flavors add to a community's identity.

Though the front of each Sustain product carries the company logo, the back label tells the story of the local farmer or manufacturer who makes it. For Kennedy, finding and sharing these stories is a rewarding aspect of his work. He also relishes the chance to make connections across food webs. On February 27th, Kennedy will host a demonstration of Sustain Brands' locally-produced soup at  Jungle Jim's International Market in Fairfield.

The Cleveland native has made Cincinnati his home since attending UC. Kennedy feels that Ohio's productive agricultural economy and plentiful grocery stores make it the ideal place to effect change in our food supply.

Kennedy is also CEO of Kennedy Creative, a brand strategy firm, and runs both out of a New Richmond office with a view of the Ohio River. Sustain Brands has an Adirondack office in Malone, New York, with its own food web network. Kennedy is interviewing for two more Cincinnati employees, and developing two additional food webs in other locales.

To watch a video on Sustain Brands, click here.

Writer: Elena Stevenson
Source: Matthew Kennedy, owner, Sustain Brands;

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