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Food contest is for dreamers and doers

Ohioans with a strong passion for the food industry now have the opportunity to land their product on grocery store shelves with the 2018 Ohio Signature Food Contest.

Sponsored by the Center for Innovative Food Technology and Ohio Farm Bureau, the contest will showcase new, innovative products from across the state. Deadline to apply is May 31, 2018 (one product per application, although contestants may fill out multiple applications based on the number of products they would like to advance). 

“This unique contest serves as a catalyst to the growth of the food industry in Ohio,” said Rebecca A. Singer, CIFT’s president and CEO. “There is such a deep history of great products that started right in this state, such as the iconic Dum Dums lollipops, Quaker Oats, Bob Evans sausage and Life Savers candy. The creativity and innovation we have seen each year means there is a bright future ahead toward launching the next signature food item that can in turn enhance the economy and create jobs.”

The economic benefit from a food manufacturing company can be significant based on the number of people employed, use of Ohio resources for products, the increased income potential realized by an existing business/restaurant advancing a “signature item” consumers recognize and the trained base of resources already available within the region.

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2017 Winners: Garret’s Garden Life and Tiger Mushroom Farms

Entering is simple and quick.  Contestants complete a simple online form outlining the basic details of their product, and food industry experts will judge each based on the viability of the product, commercialization potential, business strategy, marketability and overall appeal to the marketplace. Emphasis is placed on products integrating Ohio ingredients when possible. Finalists will then be invited to present their business concept and product to a panel of judges.

The Ohio Signature Food Contest winner will be announced during a special ceremony in late July at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus.

Following the announcement, the winner will receive:

  • Technical and business development assistance to help advance a product to the marketplace
  • Production of product to be used for consumer feedback
  • Nutritional analysis
  • Shelf life/stability testing
  • Review of trademark and copyright components
  • Coordination with Ohio Department of Agriculture for label approval
  • Label design, packaging and ingredient source consultation
  • Attendance to training seminars for free
  • Inclusion in news release sent to media outlets across the state.

Production will be available at the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen in Bowling Green, a nonprofit commercial facility that educates and advises new and growing businesses, provides access to a commercially-licensed kitchen, networking opportunities with other similar entities and technical assistance.

Products do not need to be fully designed or ready for market; rather an ability to communicate a specific vision. The technical assistance aspect of the award will provide guidance toward a finished product.

Due to the collaboration with OFBF, increased awareness of this opportunity will be shared with its network. Consideration of membership is encouraged based on the mutual interest in the advancement of local food products. 

Deadline to submit the completed application is May 31 (one product per application, although contestants may fill out multiple applications based on the number of products they would like to advance). For more information, call 419-535-6000, ext. 117.

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Amy Graves 

Amy Graves is a freelance writer from Franklin County.