Redmond Minerals is lugging salt from Utah to Chicago to take part in a huge food expo where it hopes to gain international and domestic contacts for products.

Redmond is one of four Utah companies, along with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, that will participate in the 2000 U.S. Food Export Showcase held at McCormick Place in Chicago on May 7-9.The other companies are EZ Foods of Heber City, which makes dehydrated soups that are sold in health food stores and supermarkets; Kitchen Specialties, of Salt Lake City, which makes bread dough mix and tofu milk; and author Chuck Coonradt, who wrote "The Game of Work" and runs a goal-setting management program that has been popular with the grocery industry.

The Department of Agriculture and Food is sponsoring a pavilion of its own with mountain silhouettes as part of the backdrop. The four participating companies will occupy booths in the pavilion, and the department also will display between 25-35 other Utah-made products including skin creams, snack foods and candies.

"Our hope is that as we get inquiries we will bring back a handful of leads for these companies that they can follow up on," said Randy Parker, the department's marketing director. "Another important thing is to get importers to recognize the range of products we have in Utah."

At least 6,500 international buyers are expected to attend the expo. Within that event is the Food Marketing Institute's (FMI) Annual Supermarket Convention, which also will draw many domestic grocery buyers.

"We hope a lot of people attend that show to see the FMI will come over to the export showcase so we'll get double exposure," Parker said.

Utah officials also plan to meet with delegations from Germany and France, and they typically arrange visits with an African and an Asian delegation at the show.

This is the fourth year Utah has participated. "Sometimes those are our best opportunities to sell Utah," Parker said.

John Peterson, who heads marketing for Redmond Minerals' RealSalt, said the company's positive relationship with the Department of Agriculture and Food was one reason for participating in the expo. "Randy's give us some contacts into Japan and the Pacific Rim," Peterson said. "We're going for the exposure."

Peterson said the RealSalt product, which has been underground for 150 years, is an all-natural salt that is not heated, treated or mixed with anti-caking ingredients like other salts on the market. The company plans to show off some new varieties, including onion, garlic and seasoning salt, as well as its original product. And it recently got a new package design and logo.

The Chicago show could provide a greater entry into the gourmet market as well as mass markets.

You can reach Linda Thomson by e-mail at lindat@desnews.com