Student 'loafs' around for Tillamook's cheese

of Alberto Ibarra Kristin Hogan poses next to a Tillamook Loaf Love Tour bus. There are three modified 1966 Volkswagen microbuses on the tour.

Hogan travels West to promote hometown's signature dairy product

By ANNA WILLARD

Capital Press

At the beginning of her fourth year of college, Kristin Hogan, 22, had one thing on her mind: graduating.

That was until an opportunity to travel to nine states and 100 cities came along.

Last January, the Tillamook County Creamery Association, which makes Tillamook Cheese, launched the Loaf Love Tour, a nationwide advertising campaign for their products. The company needed people willing to take 11 months to travel across the country promoting Tillamook Cheese.

"The Loaf Love Tour was created as a unique way to bring our award-winning cheese to the people," said John Russell, Tillamook's senior director of marketing.

This is the first time Tillamook has taken on an advertising project this big, Hogan said.

"My sister saw an ad for it in the local paper (in Tillamook, Ore.) and said she found the perfect job for me," said Hogan, a Tillamook native.

The only reservations Hogan had about applying to be an ambassador for Tillamook was the year she would have to take off of school. Her first plan was to go through the interview, then decide.

"I decided I couldn't pass up the opportunity because at the time they weren't sure they would do it again," Hogan said.

In January, she packed her bags for their first stop, Tucson, Ariz., and has been on the road since.

The Loaf Love Tour has visited Arizona, California, Idaho and Washington. Utah, Colorado, Illinois, Arkansas and Texas still have Loaf Love Buses in the their future.

There are at least six Loaf Love Tour brand ambassadors on the road at all times visiting grocery stores, farmers' markets and food shows. Three of the ambassadors are from Tillamook and the other three are from Portland. Having a few people that know Portland on the tour is helpful as that is the city many people in other states think of when they hear about Oregon, Hogan said.

A typical day for the tour consists of visiting a store that carries Tillamook's products to distribute coupons, recipes and samples of Tillamook cheddar cheese. Sometimes the ambassadors will visit three grocery stores in a day, Hogan said.

One of Tillamook's goals for the tour was to excite and educate customers with an experience rather than traditional product-sampling, Russell said.

Talking with customers that are excited about their product is one of Hogan's favorite things about the tour. As far as educating customers about Tillamook cheese and the dairy industry, that comes naturally because Hogan grew up on a dairy in Tillamook.

"I have a lot of pride and passion for the dairy industry as well as our brand, and it definitely shines through while talking with consumers on the road," Hogan said.

Once the tour is complete, Hogan will continue pursuing her degrees in animal sciences with the dairy option, and general agriculture with a communications minor at Oregon State University. The tour ends in November, so she will start school again in January and graduate in June.

"This (experience) has worked out perfect," Hogan said. "I'm putting a lot of things together that I've learned (in school)."

After college, Hogan plans on getting a job in the dairy industry to become a more "well-rounded" individual before going back to work on the family dairy.

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