PORTLAND - A Portland entrepreneur with a passion for good food, local produce and ice cream was selected as the winner of the American Food Fight contest held Thursday (Nov. 11) at the Food Innovation Center in Portland.
The center is a collaborative research and development program operated by Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Lisa Herlinger and her Ruby Jewel Ice Cream Sandwich Treats were selected by a panel of judges, including food industry experts, renowned chefs and food technology professionals. The American Food Fight event attracted nearly 100 contestants with products that ranged from marionberry jam to salmon jerky, peppermint fudge and tortilla soup.
Herlinger will receive a commercialization package worth $2,500 to work with Food Innovation Center experts to develop her product for the marketplace. They'll help her refine and improve the production of her natural ice cream cookie sandwiches, design packaging and labels for them, and identify markets.
Ruby Jewel Ice Cream Sandwich treats use Northwest ingredients and feature ice creams made from locally produced items such as Stumptown Espresso and Oregon grown peppermint. Herlinger bakes the cookies herself and currently offers sandwich options that feature Cinnamon Chocolate Chunks and Dark Chocolate Treats. She sells Ruby Jewel Treats at Portland-area farmers markets, where she also buys most of the ingredients she uses for them.
"The American Food Fight was a perfect opportunity for me to network with other food producers, many of whom I had heard about and admired," said Herlinger. "I think that everything seems to be coming together to help me bring my product this far."
The Food Innovation Center is committed to helping entrepreneurs such as Herlinger find ways to bring their products to market, according John Henry Wells, superintendent of the center.
Bob Schwartz, owner of Palonis Classic Pizza in Aloha, was selected as a runner-up for Zuppa Cones breads - French bread cones used to hold fresh soups and chili. Heidi Liebowitz, a West Linn chef and owner of Souper Natural, a fresh soup production enterprise, won honorable mention for her tortilla soup.
Sharie Smith, a health-conscious Portland apartment manager, won honorable mention for her baked sweet chicken and vegetable rolls.
Hermanto Hidajat, a Beaverton food entrepreneur, won honorable mention for his Gluten Free/Dairy Free Snack Bar.
The winner, runner-up and the three honorable mentions will be featured at Taste of the Northwest events planned for the 2005 Northwest Food Manufacturing and Packaging Expo presented by the Northwest Food Processors Association.
"I think that food innovation is our strategic global advantage in the Northwest and to the extent that we foster innovation, we will be globally competitive," said Dave Zeponni, president of the NW Food Processors Association and a Food Fight judge. "Events like the American Food Fight focus attention on this important Northwest industry."
"The Food Fight event showed the rich diversity of foods being made and developed in the Northwest," said Sarah Masoni, product development manager for the Food Innovation Center. "Many competitors emphasized natural ingredients and the specialty crops that are grown here. It helped illustrate the creativity of the food entrepreneurs who are working in our communities.
"'American Food Fight...Portland Style' is one of an array of programs being carried out at the Food Innovation Center to stimulate the development of the Northwest region's far-reaching food industry."