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H-E-B Names Quest For Texas Best Winners

Luke, Ayden, George and Traci Johannson, 3 Sons Foods Diablo Verde Sauce, Houston.
Luke, Ayden, George and Traci Johannson, 3 Sons Foods Diablo Verde Sauce, Houston.

After two days of intense deliberations and tasting a mix of brats, brittle, sauces, pickles, mixes, mixers, meats, cookies and crickets, H-E-B’s Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best named five winners. The winners of the sixth-annual event hail from Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Woodway and Atlanta, Texas, and received a combined $80,000 in cash prizes as well as a chance to showcase their products on H-E-B store shelves.

“Each of these 20 competitors displayed unprecedented creativity, style and commitment to providing outstanding, unique products for our consideration. In fact, the entries were so good that we ended up with five winners this year. We are delighted to share that diversity and ingenuity with our customers across the state,” said James Harris, H-E-B director, diversity & inclusion and supplier diversity.

The 2019 H-E-B Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best Winners include:

• Grand Prize Winner—3 Sons Foods Diablo Verde Sauce, Houston; Traci, George, Luke and Ayden Johannson; $25,000, featured placement as a Texas Best Primo Pick.

3 Sons Foods is a family-owned company operated by sixth- and seventh-generation Texans Traci Johannson and her three sons, George (11), Luke (14) and Ayden (16). The mother-son company produces and sells a creamy cilantro sauce called Diablo Verde. Available in mild, medium and hot, Diablo Verde combines cilantro, lime, garlic, jalapenos and spices for dipping and flavoring seafood, chicken, tacos, enchiladas, salads, burritos, empanadas, samosas and other foods. Diablo Verde is gluten-free, preservative-free, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free, vegetarian and 100 percent natural . 3 Sons Foods has won and placed in many competitions, including first place in best Salsa Hot and second place for best new product from The Chile Pepper Magazine Contest; and first and third place Green Sauce Judges Award and second and third place Green Sauce People’s Choice from The Austin Chronicle Salsa Fest. Staying true to the company motto, “Eat Diablo, Save Rhinos,” a portion of Diablo Verde sales goes to the International Rhino Foundation to help stop the illegal poaching of rhinos.

• First-Place Winner—Uncle Ray’s Peanut Brittle, Austin; Courtney Ray Goodson; $20,000.

Goodson’s Great Uncle Ray perfected his peanut brittle over the span of 35 years. He shared his secret recipe with Goodson over coffee, laughter and morning talks about life and brittle. Goodson was a quick study. As she left for a stint in the Peace Corps, she enlisted Uncle Ray to send brittle, which was used to make friends in her new community in the South Pacific. She started making it herself to crowdfund a local woman’s start-up business, in turn starting her own. Goodson has since created eight flavors handmade with no high-fructose corn syrup, additives, GMOs or gluten. The lineup includes bacon pecan, butternut, pecan and classic peanut brittle.

• Second-Place Winner—Evoke, collagen drink, Woodway; Derrick Newball; $15,000.

Fruit of Life’s story began seven years ago with a dream to create a company capable of producing healthy drinks from coconuts using the entire fruit. Newball bottled raw coconut water, handcrafted coconut milk soaps from the coconut pulp and composted the coconut shells to create fertilizer for his coconut farm. After four years of exploring consumer taste preferences and trying new ingredients to leverage its original coconut water, the company created Evoke. It is one of the first drinks to capitalize on the collagen trend with a product that is beneficial for skin, hair, joints and bones. It is available in three flavors: coconut, mandarin coconut and pineapple coconut.

• Third-Place Winner (two)—To the Moon Family Foods, Nutty-Carrot Spread, Atlanta; Kay Lynn York and Joan Reece; $10,000.

Made with carrots, pecans and spices, To the Moon Family Foods’ Original Nutty-Carrot Spread can be enjoyed on a sandwich, as a stuffing for baked chicken, as a dip, as a topping for pork or fish or it can be rolled in balls, coated with breadcrumbs and fried.

• Third-Place Winner—Grain4Grain, Low-Carb Flour and Mix, San Antonio; Yoni Medhin and Matt Mechtly; $10,000.

Medhin and Mechtly recycle spent grains from local microbreweries to make a low carb, high protein, high-fiber flour. Current products include Low Carb Flour Pancake and Waffle Mix. For every pound of flour sold, Grain4Grain donates a pound to those in need via the San Antonio Food Bank and Hill Country Daily Bread, with plans to expand statewide. To date, the company has helped thousands of people take positive steps in reaching their nutrition goals, upcycled more than 17,000 pounds of spent grain and helped feed more than 1,650 families through its buy one, give one program.

The 2019 Quest for Texas Best competition drew more than 800 entries from nearly 140 cities and towns across the state after a call for entries in February of this year. Through two qualifying rounds, submissions were judged on taste and flavor, customer appeal, value, uniqueness, market potential and differentiation from current products at most H-E-B stores.

The judges included: Cory Basso, H-E-B group VP of advertising; Juan Alonso, H-E-B regional VP, Houston Division, South Region and Mi Tienda; Justin Tippet, H-E-B director of HR SA/West Division; Charlotte Samuel, H-E-B culinary nutritionist and product development chef; Tanji Patton, Good Taste TV executive producer; Greg Morago, Houston Chronicle food writer; and Winell Herron, H-E-B group VP of public affairs, diversity and environmental affairs.

H-E-B Quest for Texas Best is a signature program for H-E-B’s Primo Picks brand, which labels the best-in-store products. Since its inception in 2014, Quest for Texas Best has yielded nearly 500 new products on H-E-B’s grocery, bakery, deli and market shelves across the state.

As part of H-E-B’s commitment to providing local product options, H-E-B is the single largest retailer of the Go Texan program with more than 1,000 H-E-B brand items that include the Go Texan watermark in stores throughout the state.

Quest for Texas Best
H-E-B’s 2019 Quest for Texas Best winners.

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