Asheville-based agribusiness incubator Blue Ridge Food Ventures announces the selection of eight finalists in its first ever food business contest, The Big Tasty. The competition offers food business entrepreneurs a chance to bring an innovative new product or service out of the kitchen and onto the market. The finalists were chosen from a field of 58 entries and judged by a panel of food industry and small business experts.
Big Tasty finalists and their product ideas are as follows:
· Alyse Baca, of Arden, N.C.: Sweet and savory empanada-style hand pies, drawing on Baca’s Mexican heritage and traditions from the pie shop owned by her partner’s grandfather.
· Vicki Daily, of Raleigh: Beet Magic beet powder for beverage preparation, based on reported health benefits of beet juice for athletes as well as for dealing with high blood pressure.
· Grace Eaton and Nicole Pond, of Asheville: Humble Crumb Handcrafted Doughnuts, a line of gourmet doughnuts featuring unique flavor pairings and quality local ingredients.
· Robert O. Parriott, of Spruce Pine, N.C.: Carolina Mountain Chips and Dips, small-batch chips from local potatoes and dips made from ingredients such as ramps and smoked trout.
· Ron and Valerie Patton, of Asheville: Vortex Doughnuts, gourmet doughnuts with unique flavors, inspired by “destination doughnut shops” in cities such as Portland and Austin.
· Alicia Rehburg, of Graham, N.C.: Gorilla Grains, gourmet granola made with 100 percent organic oats and real butter that “creates texture with a crispy, light ‘bite’ and flavor.”
· Ben Saylor, of Asheville: Smokey Mountain Sweet Potato Jerkey, a savory vegan snack food made with raw, locally sourced sweet potatoes and gluten- and soy-free ingredients.
· Jerilyn Turnamian, of Greensboro: Sully’s Blue Cheese Vinaigrette Dressing, made from Danish blue cheese and red wine vinegar, served with salads, pasta, fish, poultry and meats.
For the next several weeks, finalists are receiving one-on-one coaching from food business experts. Final presentations and taste tests with a professional panel of judges will be made in March. Winners will be announced in April.
The winner of The Big Tasty will receive $2,500 and 100 free hours’ use of the Blue Ridge Food Ventures commercial kitchen space and equipment, worth almost $2,400. The champion may also win shelf placement in the 15 North Carolina stores owned by Greensboro-based grocery retailer The Fresh Market®.