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Food Fight Changes Course

Big changes are coming to the 2011 Great Manitoba Food Fight, including a new venue, earlier deadlines and more rigorous application procedures.

The food fight – where competitors enter a food product they’ve developed – is being moved next spring to Assiniboine Community College’s campus Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts faculty.

Until now, the event has always been held at the Keystone Centre in conjunction with a three-day Capturing Opportunities, formerly known as Rural Forum, in Brandon.

An earlier deadline of Dec. 15 will give applicants opportunity to seek advice on business plans, which all will now be required to possess to enter the April 20 event.

Only 10 competitors will be selected to compete next year, compared with previous years when the competition was open to all, with pre-judging based on overall product and business plan development.

The changes are aimed at helping those truly intent on starting commercial food businesses in Manitoba and based on feedback from past competitors and judges, explains Jeff Fidyk, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) consumer trends specialist. Fidyk will chair next year’s event.

A common complaint from judges and competitors alike in other years is that, with so many entries, no one had enough time to talk about their product and explain their business plan. Ten entrants will have much more focused attention from the judges.

“This way every competitor will have 25 minutes in front of the judge to be able to make their pitch, present their product, and talk about what they’re going to do to commercialize it, as well as what they’ll do with the (prize) money,” Fidyk said.

Another new aspect is that competitors next year will be paired with MICA’s first-year and second-year student chefs to help cook up new ways of using and presenting their product or ingredient. The aim of that is to give the competitors new ideas about using their product as well as help them better pitch and present it at the competition.

The other big change is that every competitor must have a business plan. The Dec. 14 deadline will allow time for all applicants to get feedback from MAFRI staff to fine tune their plan, said Fidyk. Contestants will then have until Feb. 1, 2011, to submit the final draft, after which the top 10 competitors will be selected for the competition.

The food fight will also play host to a special invitation-only business reception to provide the 10 competitors opportunity to meet and mingle with guests from the retail and wholesale industry and the food service sector.

Three cash prizes of $15,000, $10,000 and $5,000 will again be awarded to the top three finalists. The funds are to be used towards hiring expertise to do further product research, development and marketing.

In past events, not all food fight winners have maximized their prizes, Fidyck noted. “It’s been a different story with each one in terms of whether they have or haven’t.”

Applications are available by contacting Fidyk at jeff. [email protected] or by phone at 204- 871-0491, or from any MAFRI GO office. Applications must be submitted by Dec. 15 and must include a business plan for the development and commercialization of the product.

The 2010 competition attracted 17 participants representing 15 communities.

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About the author

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Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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