Originally published on Localvore Today's Daily Beet in the sponsorship of Healthy Living on September 10, 2015. 

Beet syrup? Maple sap water? Tropical fresh-pressed juices? Artisanal cured meats? The products being invented and offered in the Green Mountain State are getting curiouser and tastier, and we couldn’t be more overjoyed! Healthy Living is sharing our excitement, too, and for three years running they’re celebrating this fervor with their Foodie Pitch Competition.

 Jason and Caitlin & Beet Rosemary Kvass

Jason and Caitlin & Beet Rosemary Kvass

Healthy Living’s Foodie Pitch Competition is a stage for all aspiring Vermont food producers to come and give their elevator pitch to an audience of peers, industry professionals, and onlookers. Eli Lesser-Goldsmith, owner of Healthy Living, created this opportunity to give motivated, creative people a leg up in the food world. Following the application process (happening now), the top five products-to-be will be making their case for why they’re ideas and wares should become the next thing to line the pantries and refrigerator shelves of Vermonters. It is the third year of this food-lovers’ dream event, and the stage is being set at Burlington’s Oakledge Park during the Eat x NE festivities on September 20th.

 Sobremesa kimchis and dilly beans at the Winooski Farmers' Market

Sobremesa kimchis and dilly beans at the Winooski Farmers' Market

The blue ribbon went to Sobremesa last year. If you frequent the Burlington or Winooski Farmers’ Markets, you’re sure to recognize the smiling faces of Caitlin and Jason Elberson. The couple has an insatiable curiosity about all things agriculture and food and they put all that passion directly into their fermented pickles and kimchis. With a new farmstead in the winding roads of Marshfield, the two are growing more and more to utilize for their goods, as well as sourcing from local farms to keep up with demand.

As the business grew, and they were able to find a home and growing space, Caitlin and Jason can now do a little more experimenting. While they always have their flagship products ready for their regular customers, having more seasonally-inspired selection is a means of providing new tastes and feeding that curious energy. Some items on the list include pickled coriander seeds, unexpected kombucha flavors, and zucchini noodles.

 Caitlin and Jason minding the sheep

Caitlin and Jason minding the sheep

Caitlin and Jason attribute their opportunity to grow and evolve in part to their time spent in the Foodie Pitch Competition and the conversations they had with Healthy Living staff after their win. “It was an amazing opportunity to connect with a store,” Caitlin explained. “We were still a very new business at the time of the competition and the feedback was so helpful.” They were able to get advice concerning labeling, design, volumes that would work for farmers’ markets versus stores, and what aspects of the business to make sure customers know about. “It is really important to places like Healthy Living that products are local and organic. That was one of things they wanted us to highlight more clearly.”

 The flock emerges

The flock emerges

nd what about the Vermonters out there looking to apply this year? “Expect a wide variety of businesses and ages; it goes from just ideas, to people already selling at the farmers’ markets, to established businesses,” says Caitlin. “It’s scary but totally worth it. Everyone at the competition gives considerate but helpful advice.” Jason adds, “Be confident, have your elevator pitch, and come in believing you’re the next best thing.” Additionally, the duo suggests preparing samples, identifying customer types, and having recipes people can use your products to make.

 Caitlin plucking peas in the garden

Caitlin plucking peas in the garden

You can find Sobremesa products at both the Burlington and Winooski Farmers’ Markets, and they are on their way to offering their jars at Healthy Living as they perfect their manufacturing practices with
the suggestions from last year’s competition. You can attend the 2015 Foodie Pitch Competition at the Eat x NE festival on September 20th and find all the application requirements on the Healthy Living website. Winners receive a three-month trial of their product on Healthy Living’s shelves, product consultation, plus a $1,000 Healthy Living gift card. 

Good luck and happy tasting!