Hart Dairy claims Flavor of Georgia grand prize

Apr. 23—ATHENS — Hart Dairy won the grand prize at the 2022 Flavor of Georgia food contest for its Pasture Raised and Grass Fed 365 Days Per Year Chocolate Whole Milk.

Hart Dairy is an ethically driven dairy company based in Waynesboro led by Tim Connell and Richard Watson. Their cows are pasture raised, never confined and grass fed 365 days a year. The agribusiness promotes its chocolate milk not only as a treat for the whole family but as a beneficial post-workout drink due to the milk's protein and carbohydrate content.

Hart Dairy promises milk that is better nutritionally, better for the environment and better for the animals.

"We are thrilled to be among so many wonderful finalists," Hart Dairy Marketing Manager Mandy Schulz said. "Hart Dairy does what all these companies do — represent the amazing food and agriculture that comes out of the great state of Georgia. While our pasture-raised and grass-fed 365 days per year milk is nationwide, it all starts in Georgia, where our farms use regenerative agriculture systems, which are supportive of the environment, and our herd is certified humane. It is important that we tell that story."

Hart Dairy was among 32 finalists narrowed down from 148 entries during the first round of judging on March 11. Judges for the contest include food brokers, grocery buyers and other food experts. Entries are evaluated by category based on their Georgia theme, commercial appeal, taste, innovation and market potential.

"The feedback we received today from vendors, UGA students, alumni and faculty was tremendous," Schulz said. "Winning is nice, too, of course, but really, it is letting everyone know that dairy can be done in a responsible and affordable manner. It's time to care about your milk."

Flavor of Georgia, a UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences signature event organized by the Department of Food Science and Technology, has helped launch small, start-up food companies while garnering recognition in new markets for established brands.

"Congratulations to all of our 2022 winners, and thank you to all of our volunteers, faculty and staff for supporting this event and making it a major success," FST Department Head and Professor Manpreet Singh said in a news release. "We are excited to have the opportunity to work not only with the winners but all the contestants who participated, helping them with product development, getting their products market-ready and assisting them through the Department of Food Science and Technology at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences."

The 2022 Flavor of Georgia winners, listed by company, product name and city within the 11 competition categories (all entries are from Georgia-based businesses):

—Barbecue Sauces: Brooksmade Gourmet Foods Inc., Habanero Soulful Sauce, Alpharetta

—Beverages: Byne Blueberry Farms, Blueberry Cider, Waynesboro

—Condiments and Salsas: Pride Road LLC, Peach Hibiscus Chutney, Lithonia

—Confections: Maybird Confections, White Gold Pecan Toffee, Alpharetta

—Dairy and Related Products: Hart Dairy, Pasture Raised & Grass Fed 365 Days Per Year Chocolate Whole Milk, Alpharetta

—Honey and Related Products: Savannah Bee Company, Hot Honey, Savannah

—Jams and Jellies: We Bee Jammin' LLC, Strawberry Lemonade Marmalade, Pooler

—Meats and Seafood: White Oak Pastures, Pastured Pork Bacon, Bluffton

—Miscellaneous: Sutton Mill Creek Syrup Co., Spiced Apple Cider Hickory Syrup, Clarkesville

—Sauces and Seasonings: Komodo Sauces, Komodo Black, Kennesaw

—Snack Foods: Mokipops LLC, Mokipops Basil Lemonade Frozen Fruit Bar Popsicle, Atlanta

A People's Choice Award, chosen by event attendees, went to HIBO LLC for their HIBO Classic Hibiscus Superdrink +Peach.

While some of this year's winners were new to the Flavor of Georgia, others have a long track record of success at the competition.

White Oak Pastures won the Honey and Related Products category and was a finalist in Jams and Jellies as well as Snack Foods in 2020. The company was also a finalist in Meats and Seafood in 2015, 2016 and 2018 and won for both the meats category and the grand prize in 2008.

Sutton Mill Creek Syrup Co. was a finalist in the Miscellaneous category in 2020. Byne Blueberry Farms won Barbecue Sauces in 2019. They also won for Confections in 2012, Snack Foods in 2013 and Beverages in 2014.

Pride Road was a finalist in Jams and Jellies in 2018. Savannah Bee Company won Barbecue and Hot Sauces in 2012. They also won Natural and Organic Products in 2007 and 2008 and the grand prize in 2010.

Each entry in the Flavor of Georgia contest is featured in the print and digital product directory, including a professional photograph and brief overview, which is seen by leading food industry buyers and media outlets. The 32 finalists received a personalized press release, use of the Flavor of Georgia finalist logo on their label and promotional materials, and the opportunity to present their product to a panel of food industry experts at the final judging. Finalists also received a one-year Georgia Grown membership, courtesy of the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

The grand prize winner was awarded an exhibit space at the Georgia Food Industry Association annual convention (a $1,500 value) and three consultation sessions from the UGA Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center on product or process design, ingredient functionality, sensory testing or shelf-life determination (a $1,500 value).

In his comments at the award ceremony, CAES Dean and Director Nick T. Place said that Flavor of Georgia is an opportunity for competitors to embark on improvements in their end products and business plans during the competition itself and to make connections with other experts at UGA.

"The University of Georgia's Innovation District is one of the resources that competitors can connect to during their time in Flavor of Georgia," Place said. "With experts in business, entrepreneurship, small business and marketing, the Innovation District is one of the most effective resources available to small business owners. CAES is proud to partner with UGA on initiatives such as these in order to see Georgia-based businesses thrive.

"In the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, we place a high value on innovation and entrepreneurship. We recognize that, without those two elements, we are unlikely to find success in moving agriculture and the environment forward into the future. I firmly believe that Flavor of Georgia is a shining example of what happens when innovation and entrepreneurship come together in the food industry."

To learn more about the contest, visit flavorofgeorgia.caes.uga.edu.