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Georgia 4-H'ers compete to develop the next big snacking sensation By Merritt Melancon

From crackers, to cheese snacks, to nutritionally enhanced juices, each new food that debuts on grocery store shelves starts with an idea and entrepreneurial passion.

This year more than 20 Georgia 4-H’ers showcased that same innovation and passion when they entered the nation’s only 4-H Food Product Development Contest.

“These youth are well on their way to careers in food development,” said University of Georgia Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Specialist Cheryl Varnadoe, who has organized the contest for more than a decade. “We hope that many of them will choose to attend UGA and study food science.”

The contest requires teams of Senior Georgia 4-H’ers to not only develop a novel food product, but to develop a full marketing plan for that product. In May, three final teams – from Spalding, Chatham and Walker counties – traveled to Athens, Georgia, to present their ideas to food industry experts at the UGA Department of Food Science and Technology.

This year’s winners, from Spalding County 4-H, are the creators of Ice Cream Dippers, Fritos corn chip-sized, sugar-cone wafers that consumers can use as an edible spoon.

Team Ice Cream Dippers envisioned that the dippers would be sold in french fry-style cartons alongside ice cream at sporting events or other places where a traditional ice cream cone might be too messy.

Members of the team include Hannah Rutledge, Isabel Rutledge, Carrianna Simmons, Nathaniel Haulk, Jordan Turner, Francisco Javier Zepeda and their coach, 4-H Program Assistant Lisa Kelley.

Members of the second-place Chatham County 4-H team who represented their GAP2 line of Georgia-focused muffin cakes include Sonté Davis, Ashley Johnson, Amari McDonald, Anna Morris, Faythe Robinson and their coach, Chatham County 4-H volunteer Martha Morris.

Members of the third-place Walker County 4-H team who represented their dairy-free cheese cracker, CheezBeez, included Ella Carter, Rylie Chamlee, Jeanna Sweatmon and their coach, Walker County Extension agent Casey Hobbs.

This is the second year that Spalding County 4-H’ers have submitted Ice Cream Dippers to the contest. In 2015, they came in second place. They spent the last year polishing their pitch, and this year they came in first.

The devotion that these teams have to their products is not rare, Varnadoe said. The winners of the 2015 Georgia 4-H Food Product Development Contest, Coffee County 4-H’s Ninja Chips, submitted their fruit-studded snack crackers three years in a row.

Each year they would take the judge’s feedback, work on their chips and revise their presentation until their work paid off. The Ninja Chips team was the first to showcase their product at UGA’s Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest in Atlanta, an annual event that draws hundreds to the Georgia Freight Depot to sample the state’s best, new food products.

This year’s winners may be able to display their products on a much larger stage, said Varnadoe. Georgia 4-H has been asked to develop and host a national 4-H Food Product Development Contest in the future.

For more information about Georgia 4-H and how get involved, visit georgia4h.org.

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

Georgia Food Product Development Contest
Georgia Food Product Development Contest

Members of the first place Spalding County 4-H Food Product Development Team include Hannah Rutledge, Isabel Rutledge, Carrianna Simmons, Nathaniel Haulk, Jordan Turner, Francisco Javier Zepeda and their coach, 4-H Program Assistant Lisa Kelley.

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Members of the first place Spalding County 4-H Food Product Development Team include Hannah Rutledge, Isabel Rutledge, Carrianna Simmons, Nathaniel Haulk, Jordan Turner, Francisco Javier Zepeda and their coach, 4-H Program Assistant Lisa Kelley. Download Image
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