Business Development > Marketing > Marketing Research

Where to Find Information for Doing Marketing and Business Studies

File C5-21
Updated April, 2010

download in pdf format pdf format

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. Often times 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 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.

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)

U.S. Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20230

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.

Census of Agriculture

Economic Research Service (ERS)

National Agricultural Statistics Service
(Ag. Statistics Hotline at 800-727-9540 or 202-720-3878)

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250

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.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Board

National Pork Board

United Soybean Board

Trade Associations

When looking at the trade associations specific to processing, one will find the American Meat Institute (AMI), the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), 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.

American Meat Institute (AMI)

Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)

National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods’ Association (NFRA)

North American Meat Processors (NAMP)

Refrigerated Food Association

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.


Spence Information Services (SPINS)

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 Beverage Packaging, Flexible Packaging, and Brand Packaging. International Trade Shows are excellent ways to get updated information from the trade.

Beverage Industry

Brand Packaging

Candy Industry


Dairy Field

Flexible Packaging

Food and Beverage Packaging

Industria Alimenticia (Spanish Language publication)

Meat Retailer

The National Provisioner

Private Label Buyer

Refrigerated Frozen Food

Refrigerated Frozen Food Retailer

Snack Food and Wholesale Bakery

Stagnito Communications

Stagnito’s New Products Magazine

Trade Shows

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


Food Marketing Institute (FMI)

Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)

National Restaurant Association

Natural Products Association

National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (Fancy Food Shows)

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 which track stock keeping units (SKU) along with numerous private firms, such as the Hale Group, SJH Group. See the list of AgMRC consultants for a larger list of consultants (

Dunn and Bradstreet

The Hale Group

Risk Management Association (RMA)

U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission

Trend Monitoring

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

American Demographics

Woods and Poole

For the lazy researcher, try

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

* Reprinted with permission, Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Iowa State University.

Mary Holz-Clause, former co-director, Ag Marketing Resource Center, former associate vice president for ISU Extension and Outreach