Located on the sixth floor of the venerable Fourth Avenue Building in Seattle’s historic business district is a high energy, contemporary office that is home to a local small business that helps other area small businesses succeed in international markets. Athena Marketing International (AMI) is a ten year old company that specializes in helping US based food producers and manufacturers expand into foreign markets. Working throughout the office are friendly young professionals who move with purpose and focus and on display in the office are samples of new and developing food products (www.athenaintl.com).
About the owner
After graduating from Pomona College in Southern California, Peter Guyer, founder and owner of AMI, went to work in Southeast Asia in international trade. Then he returned to California where instead of going to law school, as at first expected, he went on to earn an MBA from the University of Southern California. Next he accepted a position with Nestlé S.A. based in Switzerland where he coordinated export sales to Asia. There he saw how Nestle Swiss sold 98% of its products globally. In time he became concerned that, although there are many great US based food manufacturers with great products, most simply don’t know how to market outside the US. Given that only 5% of the world population is in the US, this means that these companies are missing 95% of the consumer market. So in 2003 Peter took the bold moves of returning to the US, moving to Seattle, and starting a business (Athena Marketing International) – three major life changes at once. Now ten years later, when asked if he has any regrets about not going to law school, he smiles broadly and says, “No regrets. I love what I’m doing!”
Since it’s founding in 2003 AMI has experienced growth every year as more and more food producers and manufacturers are looking outside US borders for sales. Local brands assisted by AMI include Kent-based Kristian and Gluten Freeda located in Burlington, Washington. Regional brands helped by AMI include Oregon Fruit Products Company (canned fruits and berries) headquartered in Salem, Oregon: ; Wild Planet (sustainably caught canned fish products) located McKinleyville, California; popchips located in San Francisco, CA; and Big Train, Inc. beverage mix manufacturer headquartered in Lake Forest, California. Currently, AMI is helping Sunkist Blends (new fruit and nut mixes) based in Pacoima, California get into markets in China and Japan.
So why is AMI located in Seattle?
Guyer states, “Seattle is a wonderful city that is close to the source of high quality, innovative food and beverage products and equidistant between London and Tokyo. Plus, it has the human capital (well educated bright young people), physical infrastructure (sea and air transportation) and capital/financial structures to support global trade.”
So what is AMI’s “Secret Sauce”?
AMI has the personal relationships (direct contacts), experience and knowledge required to cut through red tape and help US food and beverage companies quickly access high growth foreign markets. Included in this knowledge base is practical insight into consumer tastes in foreign markets. Consumers in other nations respond differently than US citizens to specific tastes, colors and packaging so product development, packaging and marketing need to be customized to these different responses.
How does AMI find clients?
Nearly 100% of AMI’s business comes via referrals from existing and previous food and beverage clients. An active presence at tradeshows throughout the world increases their contact list throughout the year.
What is next for AMI?
Currently two significant developments are underway.
First, more large US manufacturers are seeking to outsource their export sales support so as to produce higher sales with less overhead. AMI is perfectly positioned to meet this demand for outsourced food marketers as it accesses its contacts around the world and utilizes knowledge it already has acquired by supporting small to medium sized producers over the past ten years.
Second, AMI has begun to develop its own product line starting with healthy, convenient snack bars. Guyer realized that his company had the contacts for globally sourced natural ingredients and US-based product manufacturing and the internal knowledge and tools for branding, packaging and marketing to independently develop a line of food products that will have global appeal. The first products, Toosum Global Goodness snack bars, are nutritious, made from authentic ingredients sourced globally, and packaged simply in colors that appeal to local and global markets and include clear photos that show both the primary raw ingredients and the finished products (www.toosum.com).
In a time when both our national and our local economy need to grow, AMI is helping its local and regional food manufacturer clients find that growth in new markets. As a result AMI is continuing to see growth in its own ranks. To learn more about AMI visit http://www.athenaintl.com/us-foods-beverages-manufacturers/.