Growing here

Departments - Consumer Corner

A Chicago-based start-up aims to make its mark with locally sourced, clean food.

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July 27, 2017
Chris Manning
Here, led by president Megan Klein, made its trade show debut at United Fresh 2017.
Photo by Chris Manning

This year’s United Fresh show in Chicago was the first trade show for Here, a company based in Chicago that specializes in locally sourced juices, dips and dressings. Their booth, which featured sampling of their entire product line, was consistently packed with attendees.

Safe to say, it was a good start for a company that’s just starting out.

“We want to give people local food year-round,” said president Megan Klein.

Prioritizing local

Almost every ingredient used in Here’s products are sourced in the Midwest. Its tomatoes, for instance, come from MightyVine in nearby Rochelle, Illinois. Greens come from hoophouses in Indiana and Illinois, and the wheat grass comes different farms in downtown Chicago.

The focus on local food is also in the company’s DNA, as Klein’s previous jobs were as an energy and environmental policy lawyer and as president of FarmedHere, a vertical farm operation based in Chicago. Her decision to found Here actually stemmed out of FarmedHere, as FarmedHere (which is no longer in business) originally sold what are now Here salad dressings five years utilizing “ugly” basil that couldn’t be shipped to local grocers.

“We want to do more that, and we’re foodies ourselves,” Klein said.

From there, Here saw a need for juices and dips that paired with available products from local producers. Chicago and the surrounding area — which Klein calls “the capital of urban farming” and a hub for local food — provides everything Here needs.

“We knew that we had a good base for the juices, and worked with our chef to come up with flavors that were not only locally sourced, but unique,” Klein says.

The ingredients in Here’s products are all sourced from growers in the Midwest.
Photo by Chris Manning

Expanding the business model

Here’s business model of sourcing, and then selling, locally has been successful so far despite the business only being around a short time. In the Midwest, they are in every Whole Foods store and various other stores across the Midwest. At United Fresh, Klein said several grocery store buyers showed interest in Here’s products. She says it’s for a simple reason.

“We’re giving them something new,” she says. “We’re doing something new that no one else is doing.”

Growing could mean expansion, which isn’t as easy for Here as it might seem. According to Klein, were Here to expand to any other region in the U.S., it would take time. To set up shop in somewhere like the West Coast or New York, Klein said it would take about a year to find the right producers and right recipes for new markets.

“We want to make something that’s really great that people want to eat it again and again because it tastes good and it supports Midwest farmers,” Klein says.