2020 Ohio Signature Food Contest Winners

A homemade snack bar and spice rub were the winning products in the 11th annual Ohio Signature Food Contest co-sponsored by Ohio Farm Bureau and the Center for Innovative Food Technology.

The contest showcases new, innovative products from across Ohio. The winners will receive expert guidance on how to advance their product in the marketplace as well as consumer feedback. They will have access to the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen.

This year’s contest was held virtually with five finalists describing their product to six judges, including Tim Hicks, Ohio Farm Bureau business development field director. The judges already had sampled and scored the products on a variety of categories, including viability and commercial potential of the product, business strategy and overall appeal to the marketplace.

“The demand for locally grown and produced foods is growing every year, and we’re fortunate to have a platform to highlight our local entrepreneurs,” said Rebecca A. Singer, president and CEO of CIFT.

2020 contest winners

Nicole Reno of Toledo won for her R.O. Bar (stands for raw and organic), which contains only five ingredients and is currently being sold on social media. She wants to expand her business to gyms and farmers markets.

Bijou Nuakey, a native of Togo from Canal Winchester, won for her Exotic Kebab Rub, a recipe of West African spices that’s been handed down from her grandmother and mother. She’s a food science student at Ohio State University and hasn’t produced her food rub professionally.

Reno and Nuakey will receive technical and business development assistance to help advance the winning product to the marketplace, assistance with production of samples to be used for consumer and buyer feedback, nutritional analysis, process authority assistance (if applicable) and coordination with the Ohio Department of Agriculture for label approval, among other guidance.

2021 Contest

The 2021 contest will open early next year. Deadline to enter is generally at the end of May with award presentations at the Ohio State Fair.

Photo caption: Winning products are the R.O. Bar (raw and organic), above and West African Exotic Kebab Rub, below.

Having opportunities to attend leadership institutes, advocate for rural Ohioans on the state and national level, facilitate young ag professionals events, and serve in a variety of leadership positions have helped my skills grow exponentially.
Sara Tallmadge's avatar
Sara Tallmadge

Ashland County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Business Solutions
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
I was gifted the great opportunity through an Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation Youth Pathways grant to run a series of summer camps here. That really expanded my vision of what ‘grow, maintain, sustain and explain’ could actually be.
Jim Bruner's avatar
Jim Bruner

Mezzacello Urban Farms

Farming for Good
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

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