Toledoans serve up victory in food product contestWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) announced that two Toledoans were among the three winners of its fourth annual Food Product Development Contest.
The applicants submitted their products in June to a panel of industry judges who assessed the product’s’ viability, commercialization potential, business strategy, marketability and overall appeal.
“It’s really an opportunity for us to work with the startups,” Vice President and Director of Agricultural Programs Rebecca Singer said. “We do a lot of technical assistance and product development work for every company in the state. There’s a special place in our heart for the entrepreneurs and this is an opportunity to reach out to them and give them the assistance they need to get to the next step.”
Toledo natives Moussa Salloukh and Jules Wilkins joined Darlene White from Grand Rapids as winners of the contest.
“The stories behind each one of these people is very unique,” Singer said. “Each one has a different reason for doing it and a different perspective. The food industry is difficult. You have to have the passion and dedication for it and I sense that from their past experiences they will be able to.”
Salloukh is a managing partner for La Scola Italian Grill and his “white balsamic dressing” earned the honors. The dressing is described as “a sweet, light, yet crisp white balsamic dressing with a unique taste that covers and holds to lettuce without overbearing the salad.” It can also be used as a marinade on poultry and pork.
“We have had customers come up to me wanting to buy this dressing,” Salloukh said. “They want to buy a container or bring in their own container. It just dawned on me that maybe we have something good here.”
Wilkins submitted her “sweet and spicy thai marinade” which she developed 17 years ago and used in her career as a chef. She worked as the head chef at Chez Bin (1998-2002) and a corporate chef at Navy Bistro and Tango’s Mexican Cantina. The product is said to be “a rich, robust, and versatile marinade based on the Asian/Thai flavors of ginger, cilantro, toasted sesame oil and sweet and spicy chili peppers” and can also be used as a salad dressing.
“I love bold, robust things and I love when they come out in the flavors of what I do,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins works as a backstage caterer for bands and has served the likes of Pat Benatar, Bob Dylan, Kid Rock, Paul McCartney, Keith Urban, and Charlie Sheen for his “Torpedo of Truth” tour.
White, the only winner from outside Toledo, created “Barista Bites,” a scone and biscotti crossover. She works for a loan and nonprofit organization and brought her product in routinely to feed to her coworkers.
All three winners will receive benefits like nutritional testing and labeling, shelf life testing and help with increasing batch sizes. They will also receive vital help with logos and packaging assistance.
“Packaging is a huge thing,” Singer said. “Especially if you have things like the dressings that we have this year that is highly competitive, you need something that stands out to make the customer want to try it.”
CIFT is a nonprofit organization that offers assistance for food and agricultural companies. Although it works with large companies such as Kraft and Smuckers, it also focuses on small companies.
For more information on CIFT, visit www.CIFTInnovation.org.