By Doreen Hemlock Sun Sentinel. Photo courtesy: Helen A Lockey.
Former school teacher and mom Gigi Twist started her granola business in Boca Raton out of frustration. She bristled at "long lists of unpronounceable ingredients in most foods labeled all natural or healthy."
Her company, Upfront Foods, is featured this week among 14 women-owned businesses at the first-ever women's pavilion of the annual Americas Food & Beverage Show underway in Miami Beach.
Upfront Foods produces single-serving granola with organic and natural ingredients. Started in 2011, it now sells in Whole Foods Markets across Florida as well as distributors serving stores on the U.S. East Coast.
Twist runs the business with her daughter Kaki.
Show organizers created the new pavilion to highlight the growing number of women-owned businesses across the Americas. They worked with nonprofit WEConnect International and the Women's Business Development Council of Florida to select certified women-owned firms to participate.
"Women are not in evidence in top executive roles in the corporate world in the numbers they should be, so they're stepping out and starting their own businesses," said Charlotte Gallogly, president of the World Trade Center Miami, which organizes the show.
"And women make more than 70 percent of purchasing choices for households, so they're more likely to produce goods that other women would buy," added Ana Guevara of the Trade Center's board.
Other women-owned businesses in the pavilion come from Miami (2), Peru (3), Mexico (1) and Colombia (8), organizers said. Twist late Monday called the show "an excellent experience," complete with seminars on exporting.
"We've had a lot of interest in our grab-and-go granola from hotels, from a vending-machine company and from a retailer who wants to sell to the yachting industry," she said.
Twist expects her business to top $100,000 in sales this year, double last year. That may include exports for the first time, thanks to contacts made at the Americas show, she said.
The annual food and beverage show is open to the industry only and not the general public. It targets wholesale and retail trade across North, South and Central America as well as the Caribbean.
More than 10,000 people are expected to attend this week's exhibits at the Miami Beach Convention Center before it wraps up Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Last year's show featured 490 booths covering 45,000-square-feet of exhibition space. A total of 464 companies exhibited from nearly two dozen countries, with most from the United States.
Organizers estimate the 2013 show produced $205 million in actual and projected sales.
For more information on the show, visit http://www.americasfoodandbeverage.com.