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Local confectionery slugging it out in 2012 Flavor of Georgia contest
A plate of Lacey Grace’s Milk Chocolate Toffee with Pecans. The toffee is one of four finalists in the confections category of the 2012 Flavor of Georgia food product contest. - photo by Tom Reed

A local treat is in the running to become a signature Flavor of Georgia.

Lacey Grace Gourmet Goods’ Milk Chocolate Toffee with Pecans is one of four finalists in the confections category of the 2012 Flavor of Georgia contest.

The company, which was featured as a "hidden gem" in the December issue of the "Cooking with Paula Deen" magazine, is based out of a shop at 102 Clarks Bridge Road in Gainesville.

"This is our first time entering the contest," said Milli Jordan, Lacey Grace owner, "so being a finalist is pretty exciting."

The contest is designed to spotlight market-ready food that’s made in Georgia.

It is sponsored by the Center of Innovation for Agribusiness, the Office of Governor Nathan Deal, Walton EMC, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the Georgia Agribusiness Council and the University of Georgia Department of Food Science and Technology.

"We had 115 entries this year," said Sharon Kane, food business development specialist with the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, a Flavor of Georgia sponsor.

"We want to provide exposure to Georgia food entrepreneurs, so it’s excellent to have such a good response for entries from throughout the state."

The original field of 115 was narrowed down to 26 finalists.

The entries were judged on their flavor, innovative qualities, commercial appeal and originality. They’re also judged on their use of Georgia ingredients and theme.

The competition was divided into seven categories including: barbecue and hot sauce, dairy products, meat products, snack foods, jams and jellies.

Some of the other finalists include are Sweet Georgia Soul BBQ Sauce, Georgia peach chevre and Grits Bits Vidalia Onion Cheese Biscuits.

Jordan’s toffee will be competing in the confections category against caramel chocolate pretzels from The Sweet Shoppe of Blue Ridge, dark chocolate blueberries by Byne Blueberry Farms and Cinnamon GODZ Candy by Heavenly Confections.

"I originally entered our pecan coconut brittle and the milk chocolate toffee. I picked those two because they’re our top two sellers," Grace said.

"The pecan coconut brittle used to be my best seller, but then it was beat out hands down by the milk chocolate toffee. Sales are trending more toward the toffees now. People can’t get enough — it’s because of all the butter I put in there."

Based on estimates by the contest organizers, Jordan may see that pattern continue. About 80 percent of contest finalists see an increase in their sales after the event, organizers say.

The final judging for the contest will take place on March 12. The winners will be announced during a public ceremony as a part of Georgia Ag Awareness Day festivities at the Georgia Freight Depot in Atlanta on March 13.

In addition to bragging rights, the winners will be able to stamp their product with "Flavor of Georgia Winner 2012."

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