Published on 05/15/18

Georgia 4-H members pitch healthy, convenient concepts for future food products

By Merritt Melancon

Busy lives and busy schedules often mean that families put convenience ahead of nutrition when it comes to eating on the go, but Georgia 4-H’ers have developed new food products that add a nutritional punch to the ready-to-eat food market.

Four teams of Georgia 4-H’ers traveled to the University of Georgia’s Athens campus last weekend to showcase their new food product prototypes as part of the Georgia 4-H’s Food Product Development Contest.

This year’s product proposals included a shelf-stable yogurt snack, a honey-tinged oatmeal breakfast bar, an antioxidant-packed berry juice drink and a cheese cracker developed for people with dairy allergies.

In their third year in the contest, the Cheez Beez team from Walker County walked away with first prize for their dairy-free cheese crackers. They have participated in the contest since 2016. Each year, they refined their crackers and their presentation.

They developed their concept for a vegan cheese cracker after learning that one of their fellow Walker County 4-H’ers was diagnosed with a dairy intolerance that prevented her from eating cheese. After talking to the mothers of other children who could not eat dairy foods, they thought a dairy-free alternative to those ubiquitous, fish-shaped cheese crackers might find a foothold on crowded grocery store shelves.

The LaFayette, Georgia-based team included LaFayette High School juniors Rylie Chamlee and Jenna Sweatmon and seniors Lauren Pike and Tori Lowrance. Walker County 4-H’s Casey Hobbs coached the team.

As part of the contest, the 4-H’ers must develop a recipe for a new food product, research the market for the product, create a marketing plan, and design a food safety and manufacturing plan for the product. They pitch their product to a panel of judges from the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) Department of Food Science and Technology.

In addition to recognizing the Walker County team, the judges awarded a second-place plaque to Floyd County 4-H’ers for their Clover Cups, a breakfast bar produced by Mason Daniel, Natalie Daniel, Karmen Holbert and Veeka Malenchuk and coached by Floyd County Cooperative Extension Agent Abbie Salmon.

Terrell County 4-H’ers Alyssa Dunbar, Larry Hall, Wanya Hall, DarVarous Jones, Janya Scott and Sebastian Shattles took third place with Burri-licious, an antioxidant-packed berry juice tonic. Terrell County 4-H’s Margaret Halbrook coached the team.

An honorable mention went to the Haralson County 4-H team for YAP, a shelf-stable yogurt snack developed by team members Ayshanna Frazier, Rachel Ibbetson, Rebekah Ibbetson and Jozie Mize. Haralson County 4-H’s Jenelle Hanyon coached the team.

“Every year these students blow us away with their creativity, dedication and attention to detail,” said Cheryl Varnadoe. “Each one of these products deserves a spot on the shelf at the local grocery store, and we’re proud that Georgia 4-H gives these students the ability to develop their entrepreneurial skills while learning about nutrition and food safety.”

For more information about the wide range of programs offered by Georgia 4-H, visit

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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