Chapter 4 Teaser Product Development & Packaging

Creativity, Innovation, Product Development and Packaging

photo credit: MR LIGHTMAN

In my observation this is often where economic development falls flat. As economic developers we don’t always think of ourselves as creatives, innovators, marketers, product developers and packagers. We do however think of ourselves as sellers. Ironically if we don’t think of ourselves and act as the former we can’t succeed at the latter.

I learned a lot in my first decade as an economic developer and I borrowed heavily from my previous decade and a half as a marketer and a seller. A major insight that I had upon reflection of my work in Prince Edward County is that the various “products” that we developed were instrumental in developing our economy.

The reason I believe the products were instrumental is that the products animated the strategy and created a tangible identity for our community. It followed the principle I learned in my marketing career of “easy to understand and therefore easy to sell and easy to buy”. I don’t believe Prince Edward County would have come as far or as fast and furious without the products, packaging and marketing that we and others undertook during the last dozen years or so.

Where do you start?

I am going share my experience by way of example and hope that I can illustrate the process for product development and packaging.
There are many components to an economy, putting them in a product form and packaging them makes them easy to understand, easy to buy and easy to sell. I believe the key to economic development success is to tap into your creative economy and its people, you must build on your strengths and tie into your strategy.

A Case Study: Product Development & Packaging

Product Development: “TASTE! a celebration of regional cuisineTaste Logo


We knew at the time that Agri-Tourism in Prince Edward County was a strength and that shoulder season was a targeted time period to grow tourism and investment attraction was a key economic development objective. With that background I developed a product called “TASTE! a celebration of regional cuisine”


  • Attract more investment in gastronomy (the value added and experiential agri-food supply chain)
  • Showcase the community’s cluster of  gastronomy assets
  • Create buzz and excitement around our existing assets and illustrate the potential for growth in the market to investors
  • Create an annual event that builds shoulder season tourism and therefor more demand for gastronomy which in turn encourages supply chain expansion.


  • Develop an event showcasing Prince Edward County’s gastronomy assets all in one day under one roof
  • Engage and involve local farmers and business in the gastronomy supply chain to participate
  • Hire the local destination marketing organization to project manage event
  • Engage the media, by staging a mini event a month in advance and host a media day.  Market “best of category” invite the media to be judges at the event


  • TASTE! “a celebration of regional cuisine”  The event that led Prince Edward County to be dubbed “The Gastronomic Capital of Ontario by the Globe & Mail, Canada’s national newspaper.
  • A one day gastronomic celebration of everything local a veritable food & beverage orgy.
  • Add jazz music for ambiance and to leverage local Jazz Festival as a means to build local partnerships and synergies
  • Create a friendly competitions such as ‘best of” categories to raise the product development and quality bar, excite attendees and engage the media as judges


  • Showcase regional cuisine in the century old Crystal Palace agricultural building and farigrounds.
  • Pair restauranteurs, chefs and growers together to encourage local food and beverage matches, menu development, collaboration and innovation.
  • Use any and all means of marketing and promotion. Iconic graphics, web-site, posters, brochures, event guide and public relations, public relations, public relations. Minimize paid advertising.


  • A product is tangible and makes it easier to understand what a community has to offer both consumers and investors.
  • Packaging creates focus and helps define your community’s offerings.
  • Showcasing a major gastronomy event  can be impactful, educates what is within the community and what is possible.
  • A successful event illustrates the appetite for the products and therefore further development potential.
  • Showcasing gastronomy during shoulder season maximizes the harvest bounty and builds demand and traffic when needed most

Conclusions and Insight:

  • Products and packaging makes the intangible tangible and clarifies to consumers and investors what opportunities exist in your community
  • The business of economic development is way behind the curve in terms of product development and packaging compared to the private sector. This is an opportunity for innovative economic development organizations and individuals.
  • Product development and packaging is a highly leverageble communications tool.
  • Product development can help define your quality of place, available tourism experiences and investment opportunities.
  • The media, consumers and investors understand products and packaging and respond to them positively when well executed.
  • Engaging and partnering with the media builds highly leveragable exposure, product awareness and demand for your product. It is as close as a guarantee as there is to build success.

Brief Background & Bio
As economic development officer, I pioneered the practice of Creative Rural Economy, Economic Development in Prince Edward County, Ontario for a decade starting in 2001. Now as the President and CEO of the Greater Peterborough Economic Development Commission and the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster my role has expanded to include both urban and rural creative economy work. I have a keen interest in the economics of urban-rural interdependency. I also speak regularly to groups, organizations and conferences in order to help them grow their economies. I’ve spoken across Canada in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Want to Hear More?
I enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise to help others on developing Creative Economies – Rural, Small Town & Big City too. To book me for speaking engagements, facilitation, workshops and more click here or email here.

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