One of the keys to any new product or business launch is finding imaginative ways to be different from your competition. Discovering that right creative name and having a strong business plan can go a long way in paving a path to marketplace success.
Kirk and Jolene Pisel of Pisel Farm near Gilmore City in northwest Iowa — recent recipients of a USDA Rural Development Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) — are following these marketing principles closely with their recently launched value-added ground beef product called “CYburdog” made from steers raised on their farm.
The Pisels have entered into a licensing agreement with Iowa State University to co-brand the unique product, which combines ISU’s team name with the word hamburger and its hot dog-like shape.
“We’ve been selling our farm-grown beef to local customers for six years, and the idea of the CYburdog came about as another value-added way to create demand for the excess ground beef we produce,” says Jolene Pisel. “There is a high demand for our premium beef products such as ribeyes and roasts, but we’ve been challenged with an oversupply of hamburger.”
Selling beef locally
In 2009, the Pisels opened JoKir’s Wild, a country store on their farm, where they sell a variety of cuts of locally raised and processed Black Angus beef. They also sell products from other local food entrepreneurs and products created by local artisans.
Along with receiving the $49,575 VAPG grant to help with product research and branding, the Pisels worked with the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative at ISU for assistance in developing a marketing plan for the CYburdog product.
“Introducing a branded product can seem like an overwhelming task with all the details associated with labeling, licensing, establishing marketing partnerships and providing opportunities for customers to experience the product,” Jolene adds. “However, the rewards for all the effort and time you invest can be extremely high.”
The Pisels are working on an agreement with ISU to have CYburdogs included on the school’s concession menu this year, and possibly at university tailgating functions. Current negotiations could also land CYburdogs on a new “Iowa” menu at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Product introductions started at Hy-Vee stores in West Des Moines and Ames last fall and at the Sports Page Bar and Grill in Ames.
Looking to expand business
“We are continuing to partner with ISU’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative this year and will be looking for opportunities to expand our product distribution into other retail locations across the state,” Jolene notes.
The Pisels farm about 600 acres near Gilmore City and finish approximately 300 head of cattle each year, with close to 30 processed locally and sold directly to customers.
USDA Rural Development VAPG grants can be used for a wide range of purposes to develop new agricultural products or additional markets for existing ones. They can support local and regional food systems, further the development of the growing bioeconomy, and finance the distribution of local and regional products.
The maximum grant awarded is $75,000 for business planning activities and $250,000 for working capital, and a 50% matching fund is required. The application deadline for the 2017 VAPG program will be announced later this spring.
For more information about USDA Rural Development’s VAPG program, call 515-284-4663 or visit the agency’s website.
Leach is public information coordinator with USDA Rural Development in Iowa.