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Midwest Pantry Awards Recognize Local Food Producers

Midwest Pantry co-founders Chad Gillard and Zoe Glass, themselves local food entrepreneurs, are working to ensure the sustainability of the local food movement by acting as a resource for small producers, helping them network and get their products—from artisanal gelato to gourmet chocolates and hand-crafted treats—in front of buyers.

Launched in 2010, Midwest Pantry helps Midwestern-based food entrepreneurs grow their companies from start-up through scale-up by providing education, experience, and mentorship with a series of local public retail and private wholesale events. One of those wholesale events, the Local Food & Gift Trade Show, is coming up Monday, August 10, and in advance of the event Midwest Pantry recognized leading producers with the first Top of the Pantry awards.

Judges, including FSN’s Amy Gasman, sampled 200 products on their way to choosing the seven winners.

Curly Girlz Candy earned the Rookies award for best new company. Created by Paula Trenda, the Medford business offers handmade fudge, toffee, old-fashioned nut rolls and other candies.

With its raw, hand-cut kimchi and sauerkraut, Fierce Ferments, based in Northfield, won the Shooting Stars award for best new product released in the last 12 months.


Judges, including (left) Brenda Langton of Spoonriver, Amy Gasman of Foodservice News and WCCO’s Jason DeRusha, taste and evaluate products in the running for Top of the Pantry awards.

The Shelf Classics award, given to an existing product that continues to impress, went to Smude Oil of Pierz. The company, run by Tom and Jenni Smude, produces cold-pressed, flavor-infused sunflower oils.

Two Gelato Guys, aka Tom Paschke and Darryl Buggs, won the Zero Flour Power award for best gluten-free product. Based in St. Louis Park, Two Gelato Guys makes foodservice-ready gelato in flavors such as roasted almond and blood orange sorbet.

Rounding out the food categories was Mademoiselle Miel with its Hey, Hey Good Lookin’ award for outstanding packaging design. Susan Brown’s St. Paul company crafts honey bonbons using the honey from urban rooftop bees.

Going beyond food, Midwest Pantry also gave two Good Enough to Eat, But Don’t awards to local companies making non-consumable products. Tied for the win in this category were North Mankato-based suds! Bath & Body, and Create Laser Arts of Minneapolis.

Each of the award-winning companies, plus about 30 others, will showcase their products at the upcoming Local Food & Gift Trade Show on Monday, August 10, at Solar Arts by Chowgirls in Minneapolis. There is no charge to attend as a foodservice buyer, but pre-registration is required online at www.midwestpantry.com

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