The application period for the E-Commerce and Digital Marketing Audit (EDMA) Technical Assistance Grant closed on June 1, 2021.

The EDMA Grant will support one or more providers who are qualified to provide 1:1 technical assistance in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy to small Minnesota food and beverage makers with branded food or beverage products.

Eligible Applicants

Eligible applicants are providers who demonstrate experience and success assisting small farm or food and beverage companies, including:

  • For-profit marketing and branding agencies and consultants
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  • Non-profit organizations and public agencies
  • Minnesota-based accelerator programs

Eligible Projects and Process

These grants will support technical assistance providers in working 1:1 with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and small Minnesota food and beverage makers with branded food or beverage products (recipients) to:

  • create an on-boarding application form that can be used to recruit eligible farms and food companies (this form may include a Non-Disclosure Agreement at the discretion of each participating recipient)
  • recruit small food and beverage companies to participate in this technical assistance process, using the on-boarding application form, with the MDA’s direction
  • select applicants (recipients) for participation, based on the potential for that particular provider to impact recipient e-commerce and digital effectiveness, and other predetermined criteria
  • meet 1:1 with selected recipients as an “intake” meeting (with the MDA)
  • audit recipient e-commerce and digital marketing strategy
  • create a list of recommendations, including an implementation strategy, for those companies to help position them for e-commerce and digital marketing success
  • meet with recipients to present and discuss results (with the MDA)
  • create and submit a brief report that details each project, for publication online as a case study by the MDA

Applicants should specify and make the case that they are able to set up a process to recruit and audit as many eligible entities as they deem possible within the timeline and their proposed budget.

Amount Available

We expect to award up to $70,000 total. Approximately one to three grants will be awarded. The final number of awarded grants will be determined by the size of each award. The maximum grant award is $70,000; the minimum award is $10,000. Grants may cover up to 75% of eligible expenses. That means the technical assistance provider must contribute 25% of the total costs.

Application Process

We must receive proposals by 4:00 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.

Read the full EDMA Request for Proposals (RFP) for eligibility and requirements and apply online. If you need the application in an alternative format, please contact the program administrator.

  • Submit questions on the RFP by Friday, May 21, 2021, at 4:00 p.m. Central Time. See the questions and answers in the Frequently Asked Questions section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

As of May 28, we’ve received responses from 16 of the 44 food and beverage companies we surveyed to help you understand the types of companies who would be served through the EDMA process. Here is a brief overview of the interested companies, divided into three groups by annual revenue.

Annual Revenue: $1 – $50,000

  • 6 respondents
  • 0 – 2 employees per company
  • 4 have shelf stable product, 2 refrigerated
  • Headquarters: New Hope, Scandia, Chanhassen, St. Paul, Minneapolis, New Ulm
  • Email newsletters: 3 have them, 3 do not (max. 100 distribution)
  • Website: 0 – 1,000 hits per month
  • Social: 5 of the 6 use Instagram and Facebook. Twitter, blog, LinkedIn were also mentioned.
  • Individual responses to “How do you communicate with consumers?”
    • website/contact us, Instagram, Facebook, Farmers Market direct feedback
    • I have a facebook page and the community facebook page and city website
    • Website blog and recipe ideas, Social media: Instagram & Facebook, In person at Farmers' Markets (committed to full season at MPLS Farmers' Market, Stone Arch Festival + others)
    • Social Media; brochures; newsletters; events; farmer's markets; retail store demos.
    • Social media.
    • Social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Linkedin) and weekly emails
  • Individual responses to “Describe the state of your e-commerce.”
    • My website has started to receive more visitors and sales, Feast! Local Food Market worked good as well, but Faire and Frank and Ernest Market doesn't work well
    • just started and can't quite figure out how to do it
    • Website launched late last year, needs more media spend (ie; funding) to drive awareness & conversion. Food certified fulfillment working GREAT with Indie Do Good in Chanhassen.
    • Amazon is working but with no margins. Word of mouth and direct consumer log ins are the best source of e-commerce.
    • Not yet profitable.
    • Just started and can’t figure out the best way to ship/fulfillment/scaling etc... definitely need help with this.

Annual Revenue: $50,001 – $250,000

  • 6 respondents
  • 0 – 2 employees per company
  • 5 have shelf stable product, 1 frozen
  • Headquarters: Minneapolis (3), Lakeland, St. Paul, Brooklyn Park
  • Email newsletters: 2 have them, 4 do not (max. 13,000 distribution)
  • Website: 0 – 1,500 hits per month
  • Social: 5 of 6 use Instagram and Facebook. Twitter, blog, LinkedIn were also mentioned.
  • Individual responses to “How do you communicate with consumers?”
    • We communicate with our customers like we communicate with our friends: warm, authentic, lighthearted. We respond to every single review and comment - good or bad
    • We have a website but we have a lot of improvement to do with our social media and marketing.
    • Not currently doing any communication with customers
    • Social media, PR with local news outlets.
    • FB, IG, LinkedIn, Twitter; Email newsletters; Story on our packaging; Personal, handwritten notes in online orders; Community and retailer events; Making it as personal and genuine as possible, is important to me!
    • Social Media website
  • Individual responses to “Describe the state of your e-commerce.”
    • Amazon is our biggest sales channel. We also sell through our website and three other online platforms. We've sold via D2C since we launched 3 yrs ago. D2C is our single biggest priority over the next 6-12 months. We need to drive more traffic to our own site and convert customers - but we don't really know how to do that effectively yet
    • Our e-commerce is profitable but we would like more customers and this is a real. Way we could grow.
    • Non-existent
    • Ever since we rebranded due to COVID sales have been pretty much non-existent. In April of 2020 we were doing 60 sales per week and now only get about 4 a month. It's been frustrating and discouraging and we just stopped trying because we couldn't figure out how to bring in sales through that channel. We sell a frozen product and starting shipping has almost impossible to figure out with how expensive it is. The demand is there (we had more than 50 requests to ship out of state), but had to turn them all down. If we could have the online store portion figured out and shipping figured out too it would definitely be possible.
    • Direct sales off of our website are most profitable, it's just a small percentage of our overall business. Amazon sales are still very small, and margins are dismal...but the opportunity is obviously massive.
    • Just started

Annual Revenue: $250,000 – $10 million

  • 4 respondents
  • 6 – 21 employees
  • 2 have shelf stable product, 1 refrigerated, 1 frozen
  • Headquarters: Minneapolis (2), Brooklyn Park, St. Paul
  • Email newsletters: 2 have them, 2 do not (max. 15,000 distribution)
  • Website: 2 have significant home page hits (up to 15,000 per month) and 2 do not.
  • Social: Instagram (3), Facebook (3), Twitter (2), blog also mentioned
  • Individual responses to “How do you communicate with consumers?”
    • Hired a branding agent to guide us through
    • Social
    • For retail: Newspaper Ads, Radio ads, Grocery Coupons, etc. For foodservice: Trade shows (local and national), distributor trade shows, presentations to distributor marketing and sales personnel, through our broker network, etc.
    • Social media, email subscribers, ads, packaging
  • Individual responses to “Describe the state of your e-commerce.”
    • Just started
    • break even on website, Amazon cash flowing nicely
    • no e-commerce
    • Our e-commerce is (a little) profitable. We seem to be leveling out after a large surge from COVID. We cannot figure out how to bring in new customers, though we do a great job with our existing customers.

We are looking for trainers to both: 1) work with us to recruit/choose representative small Minnesota brands to participate, and further define an “offer” to those entities; then 2) execute a process that trainers think will be effective, including 1:1 review and auditing of company e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, and making recommendations; and create reports that describe each “project".

We saw a need, but we had little idea who may apply for these funds to help “train” small Minnesota food companies by reviewing their e-commerce and digital strategy and making recommendations (assume consultants, marketing agencies, and other ecosystem supporters who may have those connections might be interested).

One trainer might specialize in working with “scaling” companies on their strategy, which may be more involved and require more time – while another trainer might have experience and contact with a bunch of smaller food/beverage companies, who could be served with less intense intervention, but perhaps broader consulting on the e-commerce options available, and with advice on “where to get started” with digital marketing.

We hope to serve as many companies as possible, but we expect grant applicants (trainers) to be realistic in describing what they can do for the amount of funds they are requesting, in the time allotted.

Grant reviewers from the MDA and from outside the MDA with e-comm/digital and small food/beverage company business development experience will evaluate applications for their relative potential to support the e-commerce and digital strategies of small Minnesota food/beverage companies. (Trainers, please pay attention to the grant scoring criteria/score sheet in the RFP.)

If this is not in your wheelhouse, please consider communicating the opportunity to the Minnesota food companies who you’re working with – and have them send an email to – to let us know they are interested in this process.

You are welcome to apply. Our best advice is to be honest about your skills and experience, and describe what you can do well in your application. Grant reviewers will have latitude to recommend hiring more than one trainer, with different skill sets or clientele they serve.

Incorrect. You may apply to work with however many companies you have the capacity to work with in the time allotted and within the budget you propose. We anticipate some applicants may interested in working with a small number of more advanced (yet “small”) food/beverage companies on their strategy, while others may express capability and interest in working with a larger number of companies who are just beginning to understand e-commerce and digital marketing.

Yes (see above). Our grant reviewers have ability to recommend funding for one or more than one grant applicant. Their sole purpose is to make recommendations so we can “hire” trainers that provide maximum impacts. Please peruse the “score sheet” in the RFP for the specific elements they will be scoring.

We want to work with the hired trainers to select a “representative” group. We have been collecting contacts from interested companies and may send out a quick survey to them soon, to gather some detail on their operations, including their “level” of understanding and utilization of e-comm and digital marketing. We want to hire “trainers” who can work with us through this process. (Update 5/28 – see the first question on the list to get an overview of the types of companies you would be working with.)

No, they will be under no obligation to implement recommendations from the trainers, other than to cooperate and participate in the process, if they are selected.

Yes.  This work is eligible for cost-sharing through our E-commerce Cost-Share Program.

So, if we set up a program with a trainer that includes fees to participating companies, those fees would be 50% reimbursable to the company (under the rules of that program). Note – qualifying companies are free to apply for 50% reimbursement for e-comm and digital “consulting” work already under that program– and separate from this process– but we have not seen much utilization for e-comm and digital consulting to date.

As you noticed, we already offer cost-sharing for many marketing activities for Minnesota food/beverage makers who have Minnesota Grown and MDA food licenses. Eligible costs under that program include e-commerce and digital consulting. Frankly, we have not had very many requests for e-comm and digital consulting cost-sharing under that program, yet we continue to see a need. This RFP/grant is another approach to help some number of companies with a deeper dive into e-comm and digital strategy, by hiring one or more consultants (trainers) to work with them 1:1 and create “case studies” to help educate others. By working WITH trainers, the MDA also hopes to add to their knowledge base. It appears to be working, because we are getting notes from a lot of companies who want to be put on our list to receive whatever more specific “offer” we put together with our hired trainer(s).

The MDA’s cost-sharing program may be used in conjunction with this program if participation fees are part of the final offer made to our food/beverage companies.

There is no set number. We hope to offer this e-comm and digital strategy audit service to companies with up to $10 million in revenue. For example – if you/the agency wanted to apply to help three companies for $30K in grant funding, you are welcome to apply with those parameters in mind. However, this is a competitive process, so your/agency proposal will be compared to all other proposals by the grant reviewers. It is our hope that agencies might be tempted to invest in this process to bring some companies in for an abbreviated "process" to get them some great information, direction, and value, with the potential to get to know them, putting yourself in a good position to offer more services in the future as they grow.

Any Minnesota food/beverage company that is “post-revenue to $10 million” is eligible, but the RFP specifies that the trainers would be working with branded food/beverage products. There is a list of criteria in the RFP that describes some priorities. Details will solidify as we hire grant trainers and evaluate their strengths. It’s unlikely we will be able to offer 1:1 training to every interested company. We may not be able to help small produce growers through this process, for example. Trainers will publish “case studies” which should help educate a larger group of Minnesota companies. Minnesota food and beverage companies can send a note to to express interest in the program. Everyone who does so will receive more information in June.

As long as the e-commerce and digital marketing audit is a component of the service, if you want to add extra services, you are welcome to do that. Keep in mind, however, that this is a competitive grant, and we’re looking for maximum impact on e-comm and digital strategy. Our reviewers will be limited to scoring proposals based on the points awarded in the RFP.

As of May 21, we have 40 small food and beverage companies who have expressed interest. This is a “pilot” program designed to provide e-commerce and digital audits to some number of those interested companies. We can’t veer too far from that focus, but if you’re successful as an applicant, you may develop a relationship with these companies who may choose to work with you on other aspects of their marketing plan. We understand most consultants and agencies have their own on-boarding/ideation process, but we are asking for some specific work with these grant funds. You may know that we already have a cost-share program in place that will share 50% of costs for many marketing activities, including e-commerce and digital consulting, web development (with e-commerce), etc.

Any Minnesota-based entity that makes a branded food or beverage is eligible (if they are in good standing, etc.)  There is some further guidance in the RFP, indicating preference may be given for certain other attributes and characteristics, including if the product is made in Minnesota.

No, but in the RFP, one of the other company attributes that will infer priority includes "companies with sustainability and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) credentials. The grant reviewers may look positively on companies who have a focus on communities where need is greatest, but that is not mentioned in the RFP.


We are in the middle of designing a survey to send out to gather some information on them and their e-commerce and digital “footprint”. We hope to publish more details in this section on Friday, May 28.  (Update 5/28 – see the first question on the list to get an overview of the types of companies you would be working with.)

Eligible costs are described in the RFP, including the match requirement.

It’s pretty simple really. Whomever applies for this money needs to cover 25% of the cost, and you can only request up to $70,000. So, if you request $70,000 in grant money, you need to contribute $17,500. That $17,500 can be in almost any form, including your time (in-kind).

We’re really looking for some help and creativity from applicants, a partner or two, to stretch this money as far as possible. You are welcome to request a smaller amount to work with only a few clients if you just want to test the waters, so to speak. No way to know how the grant reviewers would view that approach, but it seems valid to us.

We are hoping to make our funding announcement on June 15. We will also need to quickly contract with selected trainers immediately thereafter. The actual grant period can stretch through the end of the calendar year 12/31/21, with extensions possible with cause and permission.