Food Entrepreneur Group & Conference

The AU Food Systems Institute hosted 39 entrepreneurs eager to learn more about opening or growing their food business at the seventh annual Food Entrepreneur Conference April 16-17, 2019. The event is held annually in Auburn and co-sponsored by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES).

Keynote speakers included Ashlee Jones, market activation manager for the central region of Coca-Cola bottling company, and Jay Short, owner of Jala Jala Foods in Huntsville. Jones’ talk centered on product branding and marketing, while Short spoke about how he turned his love of jalapeno peppers into a thriving business with products in more than 50 grocery stores throughout Alabama and Tennessee. Participants were also treated to a panel of four successful small-business entrepreneurs who fielded questions from the audience about how they got their businesses started as well as their successes and missteps along the way.

Food industry experts from the Alabama Department of Public Health and ACES discussed topics such as food safety regulations, product labeling, and packaging. Kelly Wilson, a financial advisor from Edward Jones, addressed the ins and outs of financing a new business, and AU faculty presented on “the future of food” – innovations in food production and processing. The conference wrapped up Wednesday afternoon with breakout sessions on topics such as Cottage Food Law certification; the “business of food;” catering/food service/bakery; food trucks; and the aquaponics industry.

The next Food Entrepreneur Conference will be held in Spring 2020. For more information, contact Regina Crapps at 334.844.7456 or join the Food Entrepreneur Conference Facebook page.

Conference speakers included:

  • Ashlee Jones, Coca-Cola Bottling Company (keynote)
  • Jay Short, Jala Jala Foods (keynote)
  • Robert Armstrong, G Momma’s Cookies
  • Jason Pope, Drive-By Tacos food truck
  • Kelly Wilson, Edward Jones Investments
  • Ellie Taylor, Alabama Grocers Association
  • Beth Hornsby, Hornsby Farms
  • Amber Anderson, FPH Bakery
  • Jimmy Wright, Wright’s Market in Opelika
  • Mitzi Waldo, Alabama Department of Public Health
  • Christy Mendoza, Chilton County Food Innovation Center