Last updated on August 31st, 2022 at 03:18 pm
Creators of unique products from the Lone Star State are relishing the sweet taste of success as winners of H-E-B’s Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best contest. Due to the competition and unique flavors of Texas, a panel of expert judges narrowed a field of 25 finalists to an unprecedented five winners on Thursday at the Houston Food Bank increasing the winnings totaling $90,000. The winners received cash prizes and space on H-E-B store shelves in 2017.
“The final presentations were phenomenal, showcasing a unique blend of creativity, resolve and purpose,” said James Harris, director of diversity and inclusion and supplier diversity for San Antonio-based H-E-B. “As we celebrate the third year of competition we have enjoyed the inventiveness that our fellow Texans continue to showcase.”
Grand Prize ($25,000 and featured placement as a Texas Best Primo Pick)
Texas Pie Co. Original Pie Dough Puck (Kyle)
Chef Julie Albertson
Since 1988, Albertson has been crafting handmade pies, learning from her grandmother to use organic ingredients, including fresh fruits, dairy milk and eggs. Today, her pies are famous for their handmade quality and farm-fresh fillings. Using pecans from Texas growers and a homemade crust recipe, Texas Pie Co.’s Pecan Pie has been the No. 1 seller for more than 25 years.
First Place Winners ($20,000 each)
Kitchun’s Holy-Coco-Cacao! No-Grain-Ola
Gloriana Koll and Keesha Waits
Kitchun is “un”conventional brand of foods made with chef sensibilities. The brand line includes the company’s famous No-Grain-Ola and Batch, and Please! Cookie mixes, which contain no grains, gluten, soy, dairy or GMOs.
Bagel Dots Bagel Dots (Houston)
Purav Patel and Aarti Garehgrat
Bagel dots are an innovative, fresh, new solution to an age-old problem: eating bagels is messy. These bite-sized bagel balls filled with cream cheese and other ingredients of choice are fast and ready to go; this wholesome snack can be eaten at any time and any place.
Second Place ($15,000)
Culinary Cowgirls’ Lone Star Queso
Culinary Cowgirls’ quesos are made by Texas chefs and loaded with all-natural ingredients to create spicy flavors like Lone Star Queso, Roasted Hatch Queso and Salsa Con Queso. Based in Austin, every batch is hand stirred and overseen by the cowgirls who invented the recipes.
Third Place ($10,000)
Humble House Foods Ancho & Morita-Smokey Tamarind Sauce (San Antonio)
Influenced by the heart and dedication of family-owned farmers and ranchers in San Antonio, Luis and Marsha Morales established Humble House Foods with an emphasis on real food, real flavor and real sustainability. Using multi-dimensional flavors from dried, aged and smoked chilies, as well as real fruits like mango, papaya and golden raisins, Humble House Foods creates pesto, hummus and hot sauces focusing on the brand’s motto: “Flavor First.”
The judges included Scott McClelland, president, H-E-B Houston; Winell Herron, H-E-B group VP of public affairs, diversity and environmental affairs; Scott Pettit, H-E-B director of selling; Jeff Thomas, SVP and GM, Central Texas region, H-E-B; and Chef Michael Skibitcky, dean of the H-E-B Culinary Academy and a tenured professor at the Culinary Institute of America. Criteria included product quality, marketability and readiness for production as well as the makers’ suitability as retail suppliers.
“Quest for Texas Best is a win for all Texans. Local businesses are given a chance to grow with H-E-B, and our customers benefit from the added variety in stores as well as access to the best locally sourced products,” said Harris.
The Quest for Texas Best competition drew entries from 101 towns across the state. Through two qualifying rounds, H-E-B business development managers judged submissions on taste and flavor, customer appeal, value, uniqueness, market potential and differentiation from current products at most H-E-B stores.
Among the finalists were 10 entrepreneurs from the Houston area; two from the San Antonio and West Texas areas; four from the Dallas area; six from Austin and three from the Rio Grande Valley.