Tradition, elegance and ingenuity took high honors at the Virginia Food and Beverage Expo March 24 in Richmond. Cornmeal from a Native American corn variety, spice-infused hand-painted chocolates and an age-it-yourself single malt whiskey kit were the winning entries in the Best New Products competition at the biannual trade show. The Expo, a Virginia-only food industry trade show, was sponsored by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). It is the state’s premier trade show for Virginia grown and produced products, and 2010 was a record year with 130 exhibitors, more than 1,000 buyers and nearly 50 contest entries.
“The Food and Beverage Expo was abuzz with activity,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd P. Haymore. “There was a palpable energy on the show floor as buyers and sellers came together and shared their excitement about Virginia’s high quality food and beverage products. Many of the exhibitors are small business owners, and the Expo gives them one day to meet, greet and sell to buyers from Virginia and across the nation. It is one of our priorities at the Secretariat and at VDACS to support this kind of entrepreneurship by helping our agribusinesses boost their sales and access new markets. The economic activity that took place yesterday is a sign of more to come as we continue to ramp up our marketing efforts for Virginia agricultural products.”
Winning products in the Best New Products competition are a microcosm of Virginia’s diverse food industry. Cornmeal grown from a variety of corn used by Native Americans embraces Virginia’s traditional agricultural heritage. The age-it-yourself whiskey kit shows the creative thinking of Virginia’s entrepreneurs in tough economic times. And the elegant spice-infused chocolates in the simulated book packaging show that Virginia’s producers can compete with the highest of the high-end products.
The Best New Food award winners were Bill and Laurel Savage of Pungo Creek Mills on Virginia’s Eastern Shore for their Indian Cornmeal. The Savages began making and selling their Indian Cornmeal in 2009 from a Native American variety of corn. They grow, harvest and stone grind heirloom Indian corn using vintage equipment. Their Indian Cornmeal is part of VDACS’ Virginia’s Finest trademark program. Consumers may follow Pungo Creek on Facebook.
Rick Wasmund, the owner and master distiller of Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, took home the Best New Beverage honor. Wasmund’s brain child was to make a whiskey from fruitwood rather than peat to impart an earthy, woody and robust flavor. He produced his first bottle of Wasmund’s Single Malt Whiskey in 2006 and today produces between 100 and 150 cases per month. Wasmund pot-stills in small batches honoring time-tested methods. His new product, Wasmund’s Single Malt Spirit Barrel Kit, enables consumers to age their own spirits at home with the mini barrel included with the kit. Click here to learn more about Copper Fox.
The Best New Product overall award went to the Mexican Chiapas Coffee-Infused Chocolate produced by Spice Rack Chocolates in Fredericksburg. Owners Mary and Paul Schellhammer specialize in herb- and spice-infused chocolates. Their goal is to change the way the world eats chocolate. They hand mold and hand paint 24 different flavor combinations of specialty chocolates. Spice Rack has earned the Virginia’s Finest designation.
A panel of five judges of food writers, reporters and chefs evaluated the Best New Product competition entries on originality, taste and aroma, creative packaging, visual appeal and presentation. Click here to learn more about the next Expo taking place in 2012.