HEB 2016 Quest for Texas Best Winners

Creators of unique products from the Lone Star State are relishing the sweet taste of success as winners of H‑E‑B’s Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best contest. Due to the incredible competition and unique flavors of Texas, a panel of expert judges narrowed a field of 25 finalists to an unprecedented FIVE winners on August 11 at the Houston Food Bank increasing the winnings totaling $90,000. The winners received cash prizes and coveted space as a H‑E‑B product on store shelves in 2017.

“The final presentations were phenomenal, showcasing a unique blend of creativity, resolve and purpose,” said James Harris, Director, Diversity & Inclusion and Supplier Diversity, H‑E‑B.  “As we celebrate the third year of competition we have enjoyed the inventiveness that our fellow Texans continue to showcase.”


Grand-Prize-Texas-Pie-CompanyGrand Prize ($25,000 and featured placement as a Texas Best Primo Pick):
The Texas Pie Company Original Pie Dough Puck (Kyle)
Chef Julie Albertson

Since 1988, Chef Julie Albertson has been crafting handmade pies, learning from her grandmother to use organic ingredients including fresh fruits, dairy milk and eggs. Today, her pies are famous for their handmade quality and farm‑fresh fillings. Using pecans from Texas growers and a homemade crust recipe, Texas Pie Company’s Pecan Pie has been the number one seller for over 25 years.

TWO First Place Winners ($20,000):

KITCHUN-No-Grain-OlaKITCHUN’s Holy‑Coco‑Cacao! No‑Grain‑Ola
Gloriana Koll and Keesha Waits

Search no further for healthy snacks that will satisfy your cravings. KITCHUN is an UNconventional brand of delicious foods made with chef sensibilities. The brand line includes their famous No‑Grain‑Ola and Batch, and Please! Cookie mixes, which contain no grains, gluten, soy, dairy or GMOs. They are just tasty, good‑for­you ingredients put together with an UN expected great taste.

Bagel-DotsBagel Dots Bagel Dots (Houston)
Purav Patel and Aarti Garehgrat

Have you ever wondered what happened to the center of the bagel? Aarti Garehgrat has the answer! Bagel dots are a truly innovative, fresh, new solution to an age‑old problem: eating bagels is messy. These bite‑sized bagel balls filled with cream cheese and other ingredients of choice are delicious, fast and ready to go. This wholesome snack can be eaten at any time and any place.

The-Culinary-Cowgirls-Lone-Star-QuesoSecond Place ($15,000):
The Culinary Cowgirls’ Lone Star Queso
Alexandra Worthington

Culinary Cowgirls’ quesos are made by Texas chefs loaded with all‑natural ingredients to create spicy flavors like Lone Star Queso, Roasted Hatch Queso and Salsa Con Queso. Based in Austin, Texas, every batch is hand stirred and overseen by the cowgirls who invented the recipes. This is not your momma’s queso. So, saddle up and spice up your life with the Culinary Cowgirls.

Humble-HouseThird Place ($10,000):
Humble House Foods Ancho & Morita‑Smokey Tamarind Sauce (San Antonio)
Luis Morales

Influenced by the heart and dedication of family‑owned farmers and ranchers in San Antonio, Luis and Marsha Morales established Humble House Foods with an emphasis on real food, real flavor and real sustainability. Using multidimensional flavors from dried, aged and smoked chilies, as well as real fruits like mango, papaya and golden raisins, Humble House Foods creates pesto, hummus and hot sauces focusing on the brand’s motto: “Flavor First.”

The judges included Scott McClelland, President, H‑E‑B Houston; Winell Herron, H‑E‑B Group Vice‑President of Public Affairs, Diversity and Environmental Affairs; Scott Pettit, H‑E‑B Director of Selling; Jeff Thomas, Senior Vice President and General Manager Central Texas Region, H‑E‑B; and Chef Michael Skibitcky, Dean of the H‑E‑B Culinary Academy and a tenured professor at the Culinary Institute of America.  Criteria included product quality, marketability and readiness for production as well as the makers’ suitability as retail suppliers.

“Quest for Texas Best is a win for all Texans. Local businesses are given a chance to grow with H‑E‑B and our customers benefit from the added variety in stores as well as access to the best locally sourced products,” added Harris.

The Quest for Texas Best competition drew entries from 101 towns across the state. Through two qualifying rounds, H‑E‑B Business Development Managers judged submissions on taste and flavor, customer appeal, value, uniqueness, market potential and differentiation from current products at most H‑E‑B stores.

Among the finalists were 10 entrepreneurs from the Houston area; two from the San Antonio and West Texas areas; four from the Dallas area; six from Austin and three from the Rio Grande Valley.

H‑E‑B Primo Picks invites customers to enjoy products that are unique, delicious, and possibly new to their palates.  Selections represent best‑in‑store products and include previous Quest contestants such as Four Escobars BBQ Sauces, The Jank Gourmet Barbecue Sauce and Armadillo Eggs from Western Grillers.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.