Welcome to the blog for Colgate University's interdisciplinary course on food. This is the place to keep up with what students in the course are experiencing in their work at Common Thread Community Farm and through their everyday encounters with food.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Colgate Alum Tom Dempsey

I first got connected with Tom Dempsey a few weeks ago via email by another Colgate alum. Tom played football for Colgate many years ago and is now an active alum on the Board of Trustees. After Colgate, he worked for the snack food company, Utz, for several years and eventually became the President. Because of his extensive experience running such a large and successful food company, I was eager to speak with him and get his advice on some of the decisions I am making now.

During our first phone conversation, he was very interested to learn more about the product as well as the strategic business plan. He told me about the network of Colgate football alumni who have started their own food businesses. One notable company is Sunniva Caffe, which makes a 'super coffee.' (https://www.sunnivacaffe.com) Another company started by a Colgate football alum is called Squeaky Pops, which makes natural popsicles for kids (http://www.squeakypops.com). It was interesting to hear about other food entrepreneurs who also graduated from Colgate. I also learned that Chuck, the trainer for the football team, has a homemade ice cream business on the side that he sells at markets.

After the phone call, Tom invited me to his house in Hamilton to meet up in person since he and his wife would be in town for the football game. I went to their home behind the golf course on Friday with samples and we continued our conversation about how to choose the right contract manufacturer. Tom gave me lots of valuable input and also shared his experiences working at Utz. He said that although Utz has their own production facility for chips, they use a co-packer for the other snack food items that they sell such as cookies and pork rinds. He helped me outline several specific and targeted questions that I would need to ask the co-packer. The questions addressed everything from volume capabilities to ingredient sourcing to shipping access.

Overall, I found it extremely helpful to speak with an expert in the industry and learn more to better prepare myself when talking with co-packers.

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