Jam of Love is more than a business name for Emily Myers and Gina Bodell of Dunwoody: It’s a philosophy. Each jar of their traditional, all-natural jams are made in small batches and poured by hand.
The duo's Emily G’s Pear Honey Jam took top prize in the annual Flavor of Georgia food product contest Tuesday, March 22 at the Georgia Freight Depot in downtown Atlanta. Their jam beat out blueberry barbecue sauce, spicy pecans, coffee toffee, shrimp cakes, jalapeno tamales and coffee ice cream to capture the Grand Champion title at a ceremony led by Gov. Nathan Deal and Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black. Winners were selected in seven categories and were announced as part of Georgia Agriculture Day.
The annual contest is conducted by the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.
“We are absolutely flattered to win this award,” Myers said. “There are so many great products represented here, and we are honored to win.”
Pulling from their culinary backgrounds, Myers and Bodell were drawn to jam through trips to pick-your-own farms.
“Three years ago we went to Washington Farms and picked way too many strawberries to eat, so we started making jams and had a lot of fun doing it,” Bodell said.
Today, the pair makes 24 different flavors of jam ranging from Rhubarb Marmalade to Tipsy Onion and Garlic. Products can be found in more than 100 stores nationwide or purchased online at www.emilygs.com.
Pear Honey Jam was one of 21 products sampled and judged by a panel of food brokers, buyers and other food industry experts. Contestants were awarded points based on flavor, Georgia theme, unique or innovative qualities, commercial appeal and originality. Finalists were chosen from 89 entries from all across Georgia.
“We typically see submissions from most of the major state commodities and have a broad representation,” said Sharon P. Kane, contest organizer and a UGA CAED food business development specialist. This year’s other final products included pork, Vidalia Onions and pecans as well as blueberries, milk and shrimp.
“This contest is a way to develop food entrepreneurs and showcase their products,” said CAED director Kent Wolfe. “All contestants receive feedback from food industry leaders on packaging, ingredients and taste. And they have an opportunity to meet people who can help them grow their business.”
Judges gave this year’s contestants the highest scores ever received at Flavor of Georgia. Scores were also the closest they’ve ever been in the five years of the contest. Only three to four points separated first place from third place in several categories.
Category winners were:
- Barbecue and Hot Sauces – Kenneth Dasher of Hogwaller BBQ Sauce in Hoboken, Ga., won with Hogwaller ‘Blue Heaven’ Blueberry Gourmet BBQ Sauce.
- Confections – Beth Cleveland of Cleveland Organics in Fort Valley, Ga., won with Coffee Toffee.
- Dairy – Nicki Schroeder of High Road Craft Ice Cream & Sorbet in Atlanta won with Caffeine and Cacao ice cream.
- Jams, Jellies and Sauces – Emily Myers and Gina Bodell of Emily G's in Dunwoody won with Emily G’s Jam of Love: Pear Honey Jam.
- Meat and Seafood – Linda Whiddon of Dubberly’s Seafood in Savannah won with Sweet Savannah Shrimp Cakes.
- Other Products – Marco Martinez of 100% Artisan Foods LLC in Atlanta won with Jalapeno Tamales.
- Snack Foods – Beth Cleveland of Cleveland Organics in Fort Valley, Ga., won with Twisted Pecans.
The people’s choice winner was Lauri Jo Bennett of Lauri Jo’s Southern Style Canning in Norman Park, Ga., for Lauri Jo’s Blueberry Pepper Jelly. Winners and finalists earn the right to have their products stamped with the 2011 Flavor of Georgia logo.
“Flavor of Georgia is only a starting point for many of the category winners,” Kane said. She followed up with the 2010 winners and found that nearly 90 percent increased their sales and business contacts as a result of the contest. More than 80 percent experienced increased interest in their products, and 75 percent saw an increase in the publicity for their product.
The annual food contest is sponsored by the UGA CAED in partnership with the office of Governor Nathan Deal, Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Agribusiness Council, Center of Innovation for Agribusiness, Walton EMC and the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department of Food Science and Technology.