SUNY Cobleskill boasts the only collegiate National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) team in New York, and is one of only 40 such teams nationwide. This alone is a distinction. Yet as SUNY Cobleskill’s team of six students headed to Kansas City, Missouri to present at the organization’s annual conference for the fifth consecutive year in 2019, the goal was not to stand out for being unique. The goal was to stand out for being prepared, and to build on the experience of previous competitions.
It began back in September with the selection of the 2018-2019 team, and, literally, bore fruit later that fall when the team decided on the product it would be theorizing for presentation in April’s national competition. It is called Segunda Margarita Mix, and is made from fruit that, for one reason or another, would otherwise not make it into a marketable product. Fruit often fails to make it to the marketplace because it is unable to pass visual inspection standards, despite being safe for consumption. NAMA teams compete each year at the national conference by marketing a product that solves a problem in agriculture. Segunda, says Caroline Crouch, chair of SUNY Cobleskill’s NAMA Chapter, is “a delicious cocktail mixer that consumers can feel good about drinking…using fruit that would otherwise be left in the field as field waste.”
The journey to Kansas City next includes months of product research, conceptualizing, branding, design, and display. The team turns to custom-built online surveys to gather cursory research on their target consumers. These influence packaging design, flavoring, pricing, and portioning. By March, the team had submitted its executive summary in preparation for the national competition – a comprehensive, six-page product overview. Crouch says she and her teammates then spent one final month readying their 20-minute presentation and subsequent five-minute Q and A session with judges.
Once in Kansas City, the team debuted a secret weapon of sorts: student-produced “testimonial” videos. Regular conference and competition attendees have come to expect video productions from SUNY Cobleskill, which team members say are vital to “lightening-up” a tension-filled presentation. Joining the team were six non-member students, who attended for the valuable networking opportunities the conference makes possible.
While SUNY Cobleskill did not advance in the competition, the team competed in a bracket that ultimately produced the overall winner, and, more importantly, improved its score from 2018. The chance to compete on a national stage, network with current and future agribusiness leaders, and meet fellow student-competitors from across the continent is a victory in itself. Explains Crouch, “SUNY Cobleskill is truly in the presence of our nation’s future agricultural leaders when we attend the conference each year.”
Photography courtesy of the Agribusiness Club & NAMA Team at SUNY Cobleskill