New jam takes She ditched the sugar and still managed to score a sweet victory.
Jill Tanner’s Jamore! — a fruit spread made with wild blueberries, prunes and organic chia seeds, but no added sugar or sweeteners — took home gold at this year’s Great Manitoba Food Fight, held at Red River Community College in Winnipeg over the weekend.
“I’m very conscious about what I eat, so I was already making it for myself,” she explained, adding that her family then encouraged her to try selling the fruit spread at farmers’ markets.
“It just flew off the shelf, or I guess off the table, at the farmers’ market, and since then I’ve had a really good response from people I’ve talked to about it,” Tanner said.
Currently, she is making her product at Ume’s Kitchen, a commercial kitchen located at a hot yoga studio in Winnipeg.
But with $13,000 in product development services heading her way as part of her first-place win, Tanner hopes to begin expanding.
“I really like the idea of it being local, from Manitoba. So I want to start there, sell in some smaller stores and then obviously I’d like it to grow, I’d like it to be — one day — maybe in your supermarket. But for the time being we’ll focus on the quality and keep it local,” she said.
All 10 of this year’s contestants — making products ranging from ice cream to sprouted buckwheat granola and beet dip — hope the experience will help them expand their businesses.
“The judges were very nice and gave good suggestions,” said Virginia Enriquez, adding that the advice they gave her on adding ingredients like leek and chives to her fish sausage will prove valuable.
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“Another judge also spoke about options on profit margins and how to change those,” she added.
The Winnipeg-based nurse began making the fish sausages while looking for a healthy alternative to other types of processed protein that uses locally sourced fish species. She would like to expand into stores, but currently sells at farmers’ markets.
“I will need more advice first,” Enriquez said.
Second-place Food Fight finisher, Bessie Hatzitrifonos of St. Adolphe, hopes that her Life Changing Kalamata Olive Tapenade will make it into specialty stores and eventually become a household name.
“It’s made with the choicest Greek queen purple olives money can buy, with sweet, delicious roasted red peppers, minced garlic and olive oil, so it’s very simple and wholesome, and delicious,” she said, adding that her Greek heritage inspired the product.
“I’m a first-generation Canadian, my parents’ still barely speak a lick of English after 45 years,” Hatzitrifonos said, adding she’s also worked in the restaurant industry for 25 years, including 10 years spent in the Caribbean, giving her a wide range of experiences to draw from as she goes forward with her tapenade and possibly, other products as well.
To move her fruit spread forward, Tanner has recently left her day job and will now focus on developing more flavours of her product, in addition to marketing strategies.
“This is going to be my day job now,” she said, adding that the whole Food Fight experience has been a helpful one.
“Leaving here today I took a look at my product a lot differently than I would have had I not participated, so I think it’s such a great program overall,” she said. “(The judges) gave me some great feedback on my packaging, and things that I could do, and I might experiment with it… everything was very positive.”
Roberta Irvine, a business development officer at the Food Development Centre and Food Fight moderator, said that providing entrepreneurs with guidance is a big part of the competition.
“It’s such a good experience and they’re getting such good feedback, you can’t pay for that kind of feedback, it’s really concrete and it really helps people get a faster start,” she said, adding that a continued interest in buying local is helping to drive product development.
Since launching in 2009, there have been 15 Great Manitoba Food Fight winners, nine of which launched products that remain in the marketplace today, Irvine said.