My most recent business trip took me to Telford, Pa., to visit our 2017 Independent Processor of the Year, Godshall’s Quality Meats. As part of the trip, I also visited their plant in nearby Lebanon. Lebanon, of course, is home to the famed Lebanon bologna, so while I was there, of course I had to find a good place for lunch.

My lunch spot, Snitz Creek Brewery, just so happened to have a grilled Lebanon bologna and cheese sandwich, featuring bologna from Seltzer’s Smokehouse. As an added bonus, the brewery partnered with Seltzer’s to make a “Seltzer’s Smokehaus #7” beer. The beer, according to my waitress, is smoked in one of Seltzer’s wooden smokehouses right along with its bologna. The result (as a professional journalist, I was obligated to sample the beer) was a smooth, smoky beverage.

This was the second time in two trips that I saw how the craft alcohol industry was intersecting with the craft meat industry. When I visited Wagonhoffer Meats in Oregon, I learned about their “Pirate’s Bounty” rabbit sausage, which was made with grog from Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery in St. Helens. In both cases, a local beverage company and a local meat company team up to great something entirely new that gives added publicity to both sides.

The meat/alcohol partnership really is a perfect marriage. Beer drinkers turn to local, lesser-known labels when they get tired of drinking the same major-brand beers and want something a little different — a little better than the mass-produced stuff they can buy at any store. They buy your bacon, steaks, chicken or sausage for the same reason. They can get their meat products at any grocery store, and probably for a better price than your products. The reason consumers seek out your products is because they are willing to pay more for the quality you provide.

The same reasoning applies to any other food item, from jams to cheese to pastries. With that in mind, it may be to your benefit to team up with smaller, local companies whenever feasible. If you have a meat market, fill it with locally made goods instead of commercial items. Shopping trips to your store may become a little more special when they can get some locally produced bread, pies or juice along with your sausages or ham.

Think about the synergies that are possible with local ingredients. If you’re making a beer brat, use a locally brewed beer. If you’re making a blueberry breakfast sausage, look into locally grown blueberries. By doing so, you’ve created a unique product that becomes more desirable to your shoppers. Chisesi Bros did something similar to this not long ago. The multi-generation New Orleans deli meat maker recently introduced a Cajun roast beef and Cajun ham, using Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning. Maybe that name doesn’t mean much to you, but if you’re from Louisiana, like my in-laws, that name is as good as gold. People who love Tony Chachere’s may be inclined to try out the Chisesi roast beef once they see that name on the label.

The retail environment now is as friendly as it’s ever been toward smaller companies and local brands, particularly in the meat and poultry industry. Creating partnerships now not only improves the outlook of small businesses in general, but it can also lead to profitable, long-lasting relationships.