Blue Ridge Food Ventures contest winner to get shelf space at NC Fresh Markets, deadline extended

The prize for the Blue Ridge Food Ventures entrepreneurship contest, the Big Tasty, is growing. The winner of the contest will receive shelf space in The Fresh Market’s 15 North Carolina grocery stores. The deadline for entries has been extended to October 31. For more details, see the press release below or follow the link to the Xpress story.

Organized by Asheville-based agribusiness incubator Blue Ridge Food Ventures, The Big Tasty offers food business entrepreneurs a chance to bring an innovative new product or service out of the kitchen and onto the market. The grand prize winner receives $2,500 and 100 free hours’ use of the BRFV commercial kitchen space and equipment, worth almost $2,400. And now, thanks to Greensboro-based grocery retailer The Fresh Market®, the champion may also win shelf placement in the company’s 15 North Carolina stores.

“We are thrilled about The Fresh Market’s generous offer,” said Blue Ridge Food Ventures Executive Director Mary Lou Surgi. “The company has already demonstrated their support of local specialty food-makers by carrying several products that are made or got their start at Blue Ridge Food Ventures.”

According to Surgi, Blue Ridge Food Ventures was founded in 2005 to help up-and-coming businesses succeed, and support of The Fresh Market will take the contest to a whole new level. “This new component of the competition makes it even more important that contestants enter product ideas that are commercially viable – not just great tasting. We’re looking for products that our experts believe have excellent potential on the market,” she said.

Surgi urges those entering The Big Tasty to study the trends in developing new food products.

“For example, sorghum is growing in popularity as a sweetener. Sweet potatoes are turning up as ingredients in fries, crackers and baked goods. Unsweetened coconut, figs and American regional cheeses are also becoming more popular, as are gluten-free foods,” Surgi explained.

Surgi said consumers are choosing healthier snacks; whole grains and seeds, including oats, chia, flax, quinoa and couscous, are continuing to gain in popularity, as are Chilean and Indian foods. “And people are looking for new flavor combinations in sweets and desserts, such as cayenne pepper, ginger, bacon, maple and pomegranate,” she said.

THE DEADLINE FOR ENTERING THE BIG TASTY HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO OCT. 31; semi-finalists will be selected in mid-November. Contestants pay a $10 entry fee and submit an application package that explains, illustrates and introduces the new product or service. The competition is open to any North Carolina resident with an idea for a new food product or service, excluding packaged meat or dairy, low-acid products or products containing more than .5 percent alcohol.

In January, semi-finalists will receive one-on-one coaching from food business experts. Final presentations and taste tests with a professional panel of judges, which will include representatives of The Fresh Market, will be made in March. Winners will be announced in April.

Two runners-up receive $1,000 each and 50 business incubator hours at Blue Ridge Food Ventures. All winners receive a free Foundations of Business Planning course from co-sponsor Mountain BizWorks, an agency that offers training and consultation for small businesses. The competition is made possible with funding from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund.

For an entry form, complete contest details and more, visit


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