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Cooks know what a cedar plank can do to the flavor of grilled fish, meats and vegetables.

But here's a twist: The Highland-based Wasatch Mountain Plank makes six different seasoned planks, from chili lime chipotle to rosemary Merlot flavors for the home barbecue.

On Wednesday Jaxon McAffee was offering plank samples to local grocers during the Associated Food Stores show at the Salt Palace.

Thirty-two Utah vendors were among 320 businesses offering samples and information on products that could be stocked in Associated Food's giant warehouse, which supplies 400 independent grocers in the Intermountain West.

The McAffee family has yet to break into the distribution system. But this week, Kicking Lizard salsa was selected to become a supplier to the Farr West warehouse, which ships more than 750 truckloads of groceries each week.

"Mangers liked our salsa so much, they wanted us to start suppling them tomorrow, but we said, 'Whoa — we'll have to start making more first,' " said Marc Paxton, whose parents are partners in Bountiful-based Kicking Lizard.

Utah vendors were not just small businesses.

Shoppers picking up Associated Food's private label Birch Berry baby back ribs, pulled pork and other meats are supporting the Richmond-based Rockin' L BBQ Co. The plant sends out a truckload of smoked products every day.

And there's the longtime favorite Green River melons, made flavorful because of the hot days and cool nights in southeastern Utah. Associated Food is Thayns Melons biggest customer.

Avan Thayn said Utahns can expect cantaloupe and watermelon to ripen by July 24 "with a little luck and good weather."

Associated Food supplies groceries to independent chains such as Harmons, Ream's, Winegar's and Kent's. Corporate-owned supermarkets operate under the Macey's Dan's, Lin's Dick's and Fresh Market banners.

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Utah's Own program

Shoppers are looking for locally produced foods. Here's a breakdown:

Local foods • 55 percent of people along the Wasatch Front say locally grown products are important, compared to only 48 percent in 2008.

Grocers • Whole Foods trains small food businesses; Smith's Food & Drug Stores forms strong relationships with local growers; and Costco allows small businesses to test the marketplace.

Farmers markets • Numbers have increased significantly in the past decade, particularly in Salt Lake and Utah counties, Cache Valley and southern Utah.

Source: Department of Agriculture and Food

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