In the mood for doughnuts? How about sweet potato jerky?

Asheville’s got doughnuts on the brain.

Eight finalist will move on to the next round of The Big Tasty, two of which represent gourmet doughnut lines. The other contending businesses include snacks, a beverage powder and a salad dressing.

“We’re not just looking for a product in a jar,” Mary Lou Surgi, executive director of Blue Ridge Food Ventures, told Xpress at the competition’s onset. “We’re looking for a new way of creating a service or a product that people need.” Blue Ridge Food Ventures, a branch of the WNC economic development firm, AdvantageWest, sponsors the competition. The winner receives a $2,500 prize and 100 free hours in the Blue Ridge Food Ventures test kitchen in Candler, as well as a chance for shelf placement in the 15 North Carolina Fresh Markets.

The finalists include:

– An empanada-style hand pie concept

– Beet Magic, a powder beverage mix

– Humble Crumb Handcrafted Doughnuts

– Carolina Mountain Chips and Dips, which are made from local ingredients such as ramps and smoked trout

– Vortex Doughnuts, inspired by the specialty doughnut shops in cities such as Portland and Austin

– Gorilla Grains gourmet granola

– Smokey Mountain Sweet Potato Jerky, a savory vegan snack food

and Scully’s Blue Cheese Vinaigrette Dressing.

The eight finalists were chosen our of 58 entries from all over North Carolina. Five out of the eight contendors hail from the Asheville area. The finalists will continue to develop their businesses until March, when they will make a final presentation to a panel of judges. Blue Ridge Food Ventures will announce the winners in April.

For more background about The Big Tasty, check out this article, or this one. For more information about Blue Ridge Food Ventures, visit


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