Athens, Ga. – Atlanta architect Amy Stankus has spent years creating beautiful buildings, but lately she’s turned her sights to some smaller—albeit more delicious—creations.
Her Atlanta-based chocolate shop won the grand prize March 12 in the 2013 Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest, a competition conducted annually by the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, part of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Chocolate South’s Peach Tea Bonbons were one of 24 products sampled and judged by a panel of food brokers, buyers and other food industry experts. In addition to winning the overall grand prize, Chocolate South took home first place in the competition’s confections category.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black were on hand to announce the winners as part of Georgia Agriculture Awareness Day at the Georgia Freight Depot in downtown Atlanta.
“The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the state of Georgia,” Black said at the awards ceremony. “If you don’t believe that, then you should see what these outstanding business people are bringing to the table.”
The annual contest is a chance for food businesses to showcase their new products.
“We had so many great contestants this year,” said Sharon P. Kane, Flavor of Georgia contest coordinator and UGA food business development specialist. “It really highlighted the high caliber of the food products created by Georgians.”
A licensed architect specializing in medical buildings and an avid “I Love Lucy” fan, Stankus started making her hand-crafted chocolates in her home kitchen for friends before launching an online shop and, in June 2012, opening her Chocolate South shop on Marietta Street in downtown Atlanta.
“I love talking to people about chocolate,” Stankus said. “I love sharing good chocolate with people. … I hope (being in Flavor of Georgia) showcases some interesting flavor combinations with chocolate. We have great products here in Georgia to pair with chocolate.”
Her Peach Tea Bonbon features a ganache infused with the flavor of Georgia Peaches Tea created by Atlanta-based small-batch tea maven Brandi Shelton. Shelton’s Georgia Peaches Tea also was a finalist in this year’s Flavor of Georgia.
Food industry experts-including chefs, grocery buyers, food service personnel and agricultural marketing executives-rated Stankus’ chocolates and the other products based on qualities like innovation, use of Georgia theme, market potential and flavor, said James Daniels, a UGA CAED food business development specialist.
Showcase events like the 2013 Flavor of Georgia competition help entrepreneurs get the word out about their products. After the contest, many have landed spots in regional and national grocery chains, like Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Harvey’s and Piggly Wiggly.
Other category winners are listed below by product, company, entrant’s name and location.
People’s choice: Georgia Buffalo N.Y. Strip Steak by Georgia Buffalo Inc., Troy Biven, Townsend
Jams and jellies: MiDi Spiced Blueberry Peach Jam by MiDi Blueberry Farm, Mike and Diane Stafford, Byron
Sauces: My Sweet Hottie Homestyle Sweet & Sour Sauce by Chinese Southern Belle LLC, Natalie and Margaret Keng, Smyrna
Barbecue and hot sauces: Hotlanta Honey: Honey With a Sting by Atlanta Bee Company, Grant Giddens, Atlanta
Dairy: Georgia Red cheese by Flat Creek Farm and Dairy, Ryan and Spice Burger, Swainsboro
Snack foods: Burke Bar by Byne Blueberry Farms, Richard Byne, Waynesboro
Meat: Hunter Pork Company Pork Sausage by Hunter Cattle Company, Del and Debra Ferguson, Brooklet
Miscellaneous products: Gayla’s Grits by Gayla’s Grits, Gayla and Kevin Shaw, Lakeland
For more information about these products and Flavor of Georgia, see www.flavorofgeorgia.caes.uga.edu.
Winners and finalists earn the right to have their products stamped with the 2013 Flavor of Georgia logo.
The contest is sponsored by the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development in partnership with the Center of Innovation for Agribusiness, Office of Governor Nathan Deal, Walton EMC, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the Georgia Agribusiness Council and the UGA department of food science and technology in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.