Food contest gives chance to put product on shelves

Staff report

TOLEDO — Ever think of starting your own food business but didn’t know where to start? Have family and friends raved about your unique dish at gatherings? Or do you have access to local ingredients and always considered a value-added product? If so, consider applying to the Ohio Signature Food Contest as a method to transform a dream into reality.

Sponsored by the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) and Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF), the contest will showcase potential new, innovative products from across the state.

“We hear it often from food manufacturers of their desire to move toward more local-based products,” stated Rebecca A. Singer, vice president and director of agricultural programs, CIFT. “This contest reflects that growing trend of the consumer’s desire for ‘local.’ Giving someone in Ohio the opportunity to take their unique, delicious, and innovative product, and eventually place it on grocery store shelves is very exciting.”

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

Entering is simple and quick. Contestants complete an online form outlining the basic details of their food 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 food 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, Ohio.

Following the announcement, the winner will receive technical and business development assistance to help advance a product to the marketplace, as well as production of product to be used for consumer feedback.

Production will be available at the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen in Bowling Green, Ohio, 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 their 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 Wednesday, June 22, 2016 (one product per applicant). Click here to view the entry form along with rules/regulations, or call 419-535-6000, ext. 117 for more information.

Staff report