From tiny towns to sprawling metros, entrepreneurs from 74 cities across the Lone Star State entered this year’s H-E-B Quest for Texas Best contest with the hopes of winning cash prizes and a coveted space on the grocer’s shelves.
The second annual competition began with 400 items in the running, ranging from sauces and salsas to spreads and meats. After two qualifying rounds, the list has now been whittled down to the top 25 Texas-made goods based on taste and flavor, customer appeal, value, uniqueness, market potential and differentiation from products already available at H-E-B stores.
Making the final cut are seven North Texas food artisans:
Behrnes’ Pepper Salts
The Dallas-based line of homegrown pepper salt blends includes cayenne, green jalapeno and chipotle. Try them sprinkled on watermelon, used as a dry rub or dusted on a margarita glass.
Cessna’s Sassy Salsa
When Glenda Garcia’s father passed down the original family salsa recipe, the Marquez resident knew she had to share it with the masses. It comes in three flavors: hot, medium and mild.
CRC BBQ Rubs
Pitmasters know their rubs, and Kevin Riley decided to make his own when he could not find one to match his flavor profile. Made for cooking of any kind, the rubs are available in Riley’s Red Rub, Sweet Pecan, and Smoky and Bold.
Ham I Am Hogwash
With their Dallas-based business, mother and daughter Sharon and Meghan Meehan have been dressing up holiday hams for 26 years, providing a little sweet with a little heat for glazes, spreads and dips.
Franky’s Cucina Italiano Gourmet Italian Meat Sauce
Using a recipe straight from his mother’s kitchen, Grand Prairie’s Frank Arlaus provides quick and delicious meals that will fill your kitchen with the aromas of fresh herbs and tomatoes, ready in less than 10 minutes with little to no effort.
La Casita Hot Sauce
Growing up in her grandmother’s kitchen, Veronica Westlake learned that fresh, simple ingredients were the key to each jar of her grandmother’s canned tomatoes. Her hot sauces are available in mild, medium and extra hot.
Gilbert Pecan Company Pecan Honey
For Rhea Watts and her sister, opening the Gilbert Pecan Co. retail store in Santo was a no-brainer. Even though they produce a wide variety of pecan-inspired treats, customers can’t get enough of their pecan honey, made from pure Texas Hill Country honey and Gilbert farm pecans.
The deciding round of this year’s Quest for Texas Best is slotted for August 12 and 13 at the Houston Food Bank where a panel of judges will decide who shows the most potential as a retail supplier.
Four winners will receive cash prizes with first-place taking home the $25,000 grand prize and consideration to be added to the shelves of H-E-B stores.
The group of finalists also includes five product makers from the San Antonio and West Texas areas, six from Houston, four from Austin, and three from the Rio Grande Valley.