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February 24, 2020

Seven Maine food 'Tastemakers' selected for business cultivation help

Photo / William Hall Wilbur's of Maine Chocolate Confections, whose Freeport candymaking factory is shown here, was one of seven Maine food-related businesses selected for the Tastemakers Initiative.

Seven Maine food and beverage companies could each receive over $25,000 in business cultivation help as part of the Tastemakers Initiative, a program of Coastal Enterprises Inc. and FocusMaine.

In a Monday news release, CEI named the companies that will participate in this year’s program: Aurora Mills and Farm LLC, of Linneus; Bigelow Brewing Co., Skowhegan; Commonwealth Poultry Co., Gardiner; Glidden Point Oyster Co., Edgecomb; Maine Cap N Stem Mushroom Co., Gardiner; Ocean Approved Inc., which now does business as Atlantic Sea Farms, Saco; and Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections, Freeport.

As part of Tastemakers, each company may be able to access, depending on its needs and qualifications:

  • Up to $15,000 for consulting to pursue a strategic growth opportunity;
  • Up to $5,000 to coordinate supply chain planning with Maine producers;
  • 30 hours of organizational development and workforce consulting from CEI;
  • Up to $8,000 for facility design, engineering, and permitting; and 
  • A chance to promote products in Boston at the Maine Tastemakers Showcase, to be held in June.

The Tastemakers Initiative is part of an ongoing effort to develop Maine’s food economy led by CEI, a Brunswick-based community development financial institution, and FocusMaine, a private-sector program that supports workforce development in the state.

Tastemakers was launched in 2018. In its first year, the initiative looked at ways of developing the value chain for the state's grain-based food businesses. In 2019, Tastemakers brought together industry leaders to consider solutions for Maine's shortage of food processing infrastructure.

Commenting on the companies selected for cultivation this year, CEI Senior Vice President Gray Harris said, “These are businesses poised to grow, access catalytic capital and innovate to reach new markets. The Tastemakers Initiative enables these businesses to engage technical experts, including our partners at Maine Center for Entrepreneurs, to provide tailored business assistance to help them scale, create good jobs and reach new customers.”

FocusMaine President Kimberly Hamilton said, “FocusMaine recognizes Maine’s food economy as one of the most promising sectors for future job growth. Across the state, we see an inspiring cadre of growth-oriented entrepreneurs, makers and businesses eager to sell more of their products outside Maine.”

Editor's Note: This article has been revised to clarify that the level of business assistance is dependent on the companies' needs and qualifications.

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