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Flavor of Georgia celebrates 10 years in 2016 By Merritt Melancon

From cheeses to chutneys, craft chocolate to chorizo, the annual Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest—hosted by the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development—celebrates Georgians’ creativity and craftsmanship by highlighting the best value-added products in the state.

The contest will celebrate its 10th year in 2016. Over the years the artisan food-makers who have participated in the contest have generated an economic impact of $27.9 million, according to study released by the center this August.

“Flavor of Georgia is a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs to gain publicity and exposure for their products,” said Sharon P. Kane, a UGA food business development specialist and the contest’s coordinator. “It’s also a chance for them to network with other food entrepreneurs and industry experts.”

To help celebrate this 10-year milestone, Flavor of Georgia organizers will host a showcase at the Taste of Atlanta, Sept. 25-27 in midtown Atlanta’s Tech Square.

More than 70 percent of finalists in the Flavor of Georgia contest have reported seeing increased interest in their products following the contest, and many others benefitted from increased sales, profits, publicity and website traffic, she said. Some also indicated an increase in full- and part-time employees.

Finalists and winners participate in a number of high-profile industry showcases throughout the year following each year’s contest, including the Georgia Grown Symposium, the Georgia National Fair and showcase days at the Buford Highway Farmers Market. They also receive industry feedback and use of the “Flavor of Georgia finalist” logo for their product’s packaging.

Registration for the 2016 contest will start in November. Product categories include barbecue sauces; beverages; confections; dairy products; jams and jellies; marinades and sauces; meat and seafood; salsas, chutneys and condiments; snack foods; and miscellaneous products. There is no limit to the number of products an individual can submit.

Contest finalists will be invited to participate in the final round of judging and a public tasting March 14-15 as part of the Governor’s Agricultural Awareness Day in Atlanta.

Food marketing experts, grocery buyers, chefs and Georgia agricultural experts will judge each product based on flavor, Georgia theme, unique or innovative qualities and commercial appeal.

Follow @Flavor_of_GA on Twitter for updates. For more information or to register, see flavorofgeorgia.com or call 706-583-0347.

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

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