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Innovative Food Retailer Runs Contest to Find ‘Next Great Brands’

Innovative Food Retailer Runs Contest to Find ‘Next Great Brands’ Foxtrot Up and Comers Small Makers Awards
Foxtrot's Up and Comers program aims to help small-business owners gain exposure for their products and give them an opportunity for new business.

Upscale convenience store operator and e-tailer Foxtrot has launched its first-ever Up and Comers Small Makers Awards, an initiative designed to “find the next great brands in food, beverage, wellness, self-care and more.” The program furthers Foxtrot’s long-standing commitment to support local businesses.

To date, Foxtrot’s physical stores have served as an incubator for small and local businesses by giving them the chance to test products on their shelves. Building off this approach, the Up and Comers program aims to help small-business owners gain exposure for their products and give them an opportunity for new business.

“Since Foxtrot’s inception, we’ve believed in filling our shelves with best-in-class products that we know our guests will love, many of which are from small businesses that have grown to be the heart of our stores,” explains Mike LaVitola, CEO and co-founder of Chicago-based Foxtrot, which has eight locations across the city, as well as two in Dallas and two slated to open in Washington, D.C., this spring. “We are incredibly humbled and excited to now extend that opportunity to other brands across the country, and to increase our commitment to supporting small, local businesses with an emphasis on diversity of these makers. Through the awards program, our hope is that small-business owners will gain the tools they need to take their operations to the next level, while also giving our customers new brands to discover.”

Through Jan. 10, 2021, business owners and makers can apply to the Up and Comers Small Makers Awards for a chance to be sold in Foxtrot’s stores. Judging will take place throughout January, with the winners revealed in mid-February. They will collectively receive $100,000 in marketing support and cash rewards, in addition to real estate on Foxtrot’s shelves for at least three months.

LaVitola will serve as one of the judges, along with a panel of industry veterans and new voices:

  • Nilou Motamed, judge, Bravo’s “Top Chef”
  • Carla Lalli Music, author of “Where Cooking Begins,” host of “Carla’s Cooking Show,” and editor-at-large, Bon Appetit
  • Brinda Ayer, editorial lead, Food52
  • André Mack, sommelier and founder, Mason Noir Wines
  • Steven Satterfied, co-founder, Whetstone Media
  • Logan Langberg, principal, Imaginary Ventures
  • Jeni Britton Bauer, founder, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (Chicago)
  • Natalie Shmulik, CEO, The Hatchery Chicago (Chicago)
  • Ed Marszewski, owner, Marz Community Brewing Co. (Chicago)
  • Susan O’Brien, founder, Hail Merry Snacks (Dallas)
  • Al Goldberg, founder, MESS HALL (Washington)
  • Erik Bruner-Yang, chef and founder of The Power of 10 (Washington)

“Small makers determine the future of food,” noted Bauer. “It’s not a small role. They are filling the needs niche groups have — and some of those will become the next trend. And beyond that, it’s a matter of quality. There is no question as we look back over the last decade that small players have impacted quality and demand at bigger companies, because people want what smaller makers are offering.”

Once finalists are selected, the judges will choose one overall Hero Winner, as well as winners in the categories of Ingredient Innovation, Best Branding/Packaging, and Just Damn Good. Fan Favorites will also be named for products from the Chicago, Dallas and Washington markets, which will go to the local businesses that garner the most public votes on Foxtrot’s website

The Hero Winner, category winners and Fan Favorites of the Up and Comers Small Makers Awards will have their respective product offered in Foxtrot’s brick-and-mortar and online stores, and will receive marketing support starting at $8,000. Category winners will also get a monetary reward of $5,000 to invest in their business. The overall Hero Winner will receive the top prize of $25,000, mentorship by three of the program’s judges, and the chance to pitch their brand to New York-based Imaginary, the venture capital fund that, in addition to Foxtrot, has invested in such companies as Daily Harvest, Glossier and and HUM Nutrition.

Founded in 2013, Foxtrot describes itself as “marrying the best of neighborhood retail and e-commerce technology to create a community of discovery.” Consumers can use the company’s app for 60-minute delivery of items ranging from local beers and fine wines to chef-prepared meals, curated gifts and everyday essentials.

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