Enter your recipe in the Ohio Signature Food Contest

At Grumpy’s restaurant in Toledo, the most popular item on the menu is the Garbage Salad. Billed as a “carnival of different tastes and textures,” the massive salad is tossed with a poppy seed dressing that drew so many raves from customers that the restaurant started selling it. Looking for ways to expand marketing and sales of the poppy seed dressing she had created years ago,

Jennifer Shemak and her nephew, Dustin Hostetler, entered it in the Ohio Signature Food Contest, which helps bring favorite recipes out of cupboards and onto grocery store shelves.

The poppy seed dressing was one of the winning recipes in 2012, and today it’s sold in about a dozen grocery stores and restaurants in the Toledo area and from Grumpy’s three food trucks.

“We had been selling the dressing out of the restaurant and were bottling it ourselves. Winning the contest propelled our poppy seed dressing (business) because it showed us how to get bigger exposure, marketing and production of the dressing,” said Sara Bauman who co-owns Grumpy’s with her sister, Shemak.

Grumpy’s expansion of its dressing is one of the contest’s many success stories. Started in 2009, the contest showcases new, innovative products from across the state that are perfect for commercial production. Last year’s winners are busy working on their marketing plans as well as meeting federal regulations to bring their Garlic Scape Pesto and Indian Creek Corn Whiskey Mustard to the marketplace.

The statewide competition is for any type of food product—whether it’s a baked good, dressing, snack, beverage or sauce. For the third year in a row, the Center for Innovative Food Technology and Ohio Farm Bureau are sponsoring the contest. Winners will receive technical and business development assistance from CIFT to help bring their product to market. That can include business planning, product/process development, shelf stability testing, labeling review, regulatory assistance and batch product preparation for sampling. Winners will have access to a commercially licensed kitchen at the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK) in Bowling Green.

Because consumers and retailers are increasingly interested in purchasing local food, the contest emphasizes products that integrate Ohio ingredients, said Rebecca Singer, CIFT’s president and CEO.

“This contest serves as a platform to help fill that appetite for ‘local’ in an innovative and creative way while assisting in launching the next signature food item for Ohio,” Singer said, pointing out that it also helps grow Ohio’s food industry businesses.

Apply today for the Ohio Signature Food Contest
The deadline to apply for the statewide contest (one product per applicant) is June 22. Finalists will present their business concept and food product in front of a panel of judges to determine the winner(s). The contest winner(s) will be announced during a special ceremony at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus. The entry form along with rules/regulations is available at ciftinnovation.org, or call 419-535-6000, Ext. 117 for more information.

Grumpy’s co-owner Jennifer Shemak created the poppy seed dressing at the request of a customer years ago.  Photo courtesy of Grumpy’s.