a national information resource for value-added agriculture
Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

Where to Find Information for Doing Marketing and Business Studies

Mary Holz-Clause

  Mary Holz-Clause                                                 Revised December 2005.
  Co-Director, Ag Marketing Resource Center
  Iowa State University Extension


Food is big business in the United States, with more than $850 billion spent on food in 2004. By the year 2020, it is projected there will be an additional 50 to 80 million people in the United States, adding another $200 billion to the food expenditures.

As a producer group or farmer looking into the food business, where can you find information that will guide you to the market niche or new product that will allow you to capture some of the food dollar?

In the quest for answers to conduct a feasibility study or do a market study, start with the “easy to collect” and “readily available” information. Oftentimes that will be the only information you will need to help you make a decision. This briefing will provide basic information on where you can go to begin your search.

However, there are times when public information is not enough, and you will have to either go to private sources for assistance or purchase information. For a listing of consultants who can provide specific information, go to http://www.agmrc.org/business_development/authors/. In this directory, there are numerous consultants who have worked with value-added agriculture ventures. Sometimes the information is not available. Then you will have to do the research yourself (or purchase that information) necessary to guide you to an answer in order to proceed with a project or create and find a new market opportunity.

In all research, remember to think creatively. Anything that is taxed is reported somewhere; anything that is inspected is reported; anything that leaves the country is reported, and anything that makes money is reported.

Public Processing and Manufacturing Information

All exported and imported products are monitored by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Commerce monitors the U.S. manufacturing industry through its Census of Manufacturers and other data monitoring. Information is classified through the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). In this system, the numbers for food are 31 through 33.

Public Agricultural and Production Information
Agriculture production is monitored and reported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), along with the Economic Research Service (ERS) which provide in-depth analyses of agricultural crops. Additionally, the Foreign Ag Service (FAS) provides detailed information on both production and market trends in manufactured food products.

Semi-public Information

Commodity boards funded by check-off dollars and producer members provide significant resources on their specific products such as rice, dairy, catfish, etc. Groups such as the United Soybean Board, the National Pork Board and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Board are an excellent resource for commodity-specific information.

Trade Associations

When looking at the trade associations specific to processing, one will find the American Meat Institute (AMI), the National Food Processors’ Association (NFPA), the North American Meat Processors (NAMP), the National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods’ Association (NFFA), and the Refrigerated Food Association to be excellent resources.

Such entities as the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the National Restaurant Association, the Grocer Manufacturers of America and Natural Products Association are also valuable resources for information.

Private Firms
Soyatech and Spence Information Services (SPINS) are examples of private firms that collect data or have inside industry sources that can supply them with proprietary information. To contact with these sources, talk to other groups, read studies and look at citations, as well as doing Web-based searches to ferret these individuals out.

Trade Publication
Trade publications include Stagnito Communications, publisher of Refrigerated and Frozen Foods, Dairy Field, Industria Alimenticia, The National Provisioner, Beverage Industry, Snack Food and Wholesale Bakery, Candy Industry, Confectioner, Private Label Buyer, Food and Drug Packaging, Flexible Packaging, and Brand Packaging. International trade shows are excellent ways to get updated information from the trade.

Trade Shows
Finally take time to attend the relevant trade association. Some of these include the Food Technologists (IFT), Anuga, Fancy Food Shows, Natural Product Shows, National Restaurant Show and  Food Marketing Institute. The Web sites are given below:

As definitions become more precise, in terms of micro levels of analysis, specific companies will emerge with information regarding websites, annual reports, Security and Exchange Commission filings and directories with appropriate person to call for specific information.

Original research will reveal analysis of company or product being researched.

For an outside and independent analysis of specific industries or companies, you can contact agencies such as Dunn and Bradstreet, the Risk Management Association (RMA), any number of firms that track stock-keeping units (SKU) along with numerous private firms, such as Sparks Commodities, the Hale Group and SJH Group. See the list of AgMRC consultants for a larger list of consultants.

Trend Monitoring

For information on trend monitoring, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a good resource, as is American Demographics and Woods and Poole.

For the lazy researcher, try http://www.AgMRC.org.


Research Quotes:


“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”

Albert Einstein


“Basic research is what I am doing when I don’t know what I am doing.” Werner von Braun


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