A month-long celebration of the Colorado Proud marketing program kicked off Thursday at the Colorado History Museum in Denver, in conjunction with Colorado Day festivities, and will conclude during the Colorado State Fair at month's end.
The annual road show has become a tradition, but this one is special: it's been 20 years since the program began.
In an interview, Program Director Wendy White, who has been in that role for most of its existence, talked about the changes she's seen and why a decision was made to revise the popular Colorado Proud logo.
In 1999, the Colorado Proud program started with 65 companies. Now, it boasts more than 2,700 members statewide, which include growers, food manufacturers, restaurants, retailers and even farm-to-institution participants like schools.
White credited Colorado with starting the forward-looking program before it was hip to be local. In the beginning, she had to go out and recruit people to participate.
"Now they knock on my door, so that's been a shift," she said.
The program provides promotion and planning services for companies large and small.
"A lot of the work we do is business development and just helping companies get started," she said. "What are the rules and regulations, what do business owners need to be thinking about, how do they develop new market opportunities so they can grow and continue to develop their business?"
Now she sometimes has to turn potential candidates away, although she said that is rare, describing the program as inclusive in nature.
"It's very rare that we turn anyone down, but the program is limited to what is grown, raised or processed in the state. If it's a non-food product, at least 50 percent of the ingredients have to come from the state," she said. "We do include businesses like coffee roasters, because our goal is helping promote economic development across the state."
When the program started there was less interest in where ingredients originate. These days members are encouraged to share sourcing information and tell the stories behind their companies for consumers who are increasingly hungry for that knowledge.
Over the years, the Colorado Proud logo has become iconic as a stamp of identity. So why change it now?
White said the decision to refresh the logo wasn't taken lightly. In fact, she and her team spent more than a year on the process.
"We didn't go in thinking we would develop a new logo, but when we brought our partners and organizations together, this kept bubbling up, that maybe it was time to explore a change and maybe it was getting a little dated," she explained. "There's been so much growth in Colorado's population, and there's an immediate attraction to the state flag and its colors. We found that's really a draw for consumers, and we wanted to relay that same sense of pride through the logo."
"I was surprised by this, but consumers don't really care for the color purple," she continued. "They are no longer making the connection with purple mountain majesty. Instead they are drawn more to the blue, red and yellow in the state flag."
The new logo incorporates the words Colorado Proud and contains a mountain motif.
"It's just what retailers were looking for, so we're really excited about how it turned out," White said.
White and her team will be traveling the state over the next month to promote the changes and introduce more shoppers to the importance of choosing Colorado-sourced items. The state ag department released a road-trip schedule that includes stops at farmers markets or fairs in Denver, Broomfield, Boulder, Steamboat Springs, Craig, Ft. Collins, Woodland Park, Durango, Grand Junction and Dillon.
The caravan ends its run in Pueblo at the Colorado State Fair on Aug. 31.
The theme of this year's 13-community tour is "The Next Generation of Ag," honoring one of Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg's top priorities: supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers through market diversification and scaling up investment in high-value crops. Multi-generational produce-growing families are being featured in TV ads airing throughout the month.