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Atlanta chocolatier wins first place at the 2013 Flavor of Georgia contest By Merritt Melancon

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 of the 2013 Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest.

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 Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and Gov. Nathan Deal were on hand to announce the winners on March 12 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 than you should see what these outstanding business people are bringing to the table.”

The annual contest, conducted by the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, is a chance for food businesses to showcase new products.

“We had so many great contestants this year,” said Sharon P. Kane, Flavor of Georgia contest coordinator. “It really highlighted the high caliber of the food products created by Georgians.”

Peach Tea Bonbons win over judges

A licensed architect specializing in medical buildings and avid “I Love Lucy” fan, Stankus started making her hand-crafted chocolates in her home kitchen for friends before launching an online shop. She opened the Chocolate South chocolate shop on Marietta Street in Atlanta in June 2012.

“I love talking to people about chocolate,” Stankus said. “I love sharing good chocolate with people … I hope (being in the Flavor of Georgia Contest) showcases some interesting flavor combinations with chocolate. We have great products here in Georgia to pair with chocolate.”

Peach Tea Bonbon features a ganache infused with the flavor of Georgia Peaches Tea, created by Atlanta-based small-batch tea maven Brandi Shelton. The tea was also a finalist in this year’s contest.

Flavor of Georgia is a boon for food entrepreneurs and grocery merchants alike

Food industry experts — including chefs, grocery buyers, food service personnel and agricultural marketing executives — rated the contest’s 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 Flavor of Georgia competition help entrepreneurs get the word out about their products. Many have landed spots in regional and national grocery chains, like Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Harvey’s and Piggly Wiggly, after the contest.

Other category winners were:

People’s Choice: Georgia Buffalo, Inc.; Georgia Buffalo N.Y. Strip Steak; Troy Biven; Townsend, Ga.

Jams & Jellies: MiDi Blueberry Farm: Spiced Blueberry Peach Jam; Mike & Diane Stafford; Byron, Ga.

Sauces: Chinese Southern Belle; My Sweet Hottie Homestyle Sweet & Sour Sauce; Natalie and Margaret Keng; Smyrna, Ga.

Barbecue and Hot Sauces: Atlanta Bee Company; Hotanta Honey: Honey with a Sting; G. Giddens; Atlanta, Ga.

Dairy: Flat Creek Farm & Dairy; Georgia Red; Ryan and Spice Burger; Swainsboro, Ga.

Snack foods: Byne Blueberry Farm; Burke Bar; Richard Byne; Waynesboro, Ga.

Meat: Hunter Cattle Company; Hunter Cattle Company Pork Sausage; Del and Debra Ferguson; Brooklet, Ga.

Miscellaneous products: Gayla’s Grits; Gayla’s Grits; Gayla and Kevin Shaw; Lakeland, Ga.

For more information about these products visit www.flavorofgeorgia.caes.uga.edu.

Winners and finalists earn the right to have their products stamped with the 2013 Flavor of Georgia logo. Flavor of Georgia is only a starting point for many of the category winners, Kane said.

Kane followed up with the 2011 winners and found that between 70 and 80 percent experienced increased interest in their products, sales and business contacts as a result of the contest. This contest is sponsored by the UGA CAES 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.

(Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

FOG2013_ChocolateSouth6
FOG2013_ChocolateSouth6

Atlanta architect and chocolatier Amy Stankus serves chocolates to the public during the Flavor of Georgia 2013 legislative reception on Monday March 11 at the Georgia Freight Depot in Atlanta. Stankus' company Chocolate South won the first prize in the 2013 Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest.

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Atlanta architect and chocolatier Amy Stankus serves chocolates to the public during the Flavor of Georgia 2013 legislative reception on Monday March 11 at the Georgia Freight Depot in Atlanta. Stankus' company Chocolate South won the first prize in the 2013 Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest. Download Image
FOG2013_Chocolate South
FOG2013_Chocolate South

Governor Nathan Deal and Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black present the 2013 Flavor of Georgia first prize award to Amy Stankus, owner of Chocolate South. Stankus' company Chocolate South won the first prize in the 2013 Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest with her Georgia Peach Tea Bonbons.

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