WOOSTER — It is the place where makers and marketers of natural food products go to see and be seen.
And Hartzler Family got its share of attention at the New Hope Network’s 2017 Expo East, walking away with one of the organization’s NEXTY awards for outstanding new products in the natural food industry.
It was the business’s recently introduced non-GMO project-verified string cheese that caught the judges’ attention and they awarded it the prize in the best new meat, dairy or animal-based product category.
“This is the go-to trade show in our industry,” said Hartzler President Paul Sommers. “We’ll use the notoriety from the award and go after distribution.”
The show, held in mid-September, attracts about 30,000 people, including a number of buyers from grocery chains all over the world.
Hartzler submitted the string cheese for consideration earlier in the year and was named one of 66 finalists by a national panel of industry experts. A total of 420 items were submitted across 21 award categories, Sommers said. What he said he found particularly gratifying is that all makers of natural foods compete against each other, regardless of size. “We beat a brand that is owned by General Mills,” he said. “For us, that’s vindication that we’re doing something right.”
The string cheese is the first to be GMO-project verified and is made from the milk of cows from five Wayne County dairy farms.
“The work begins now,” Sommers said, as the dairy got a lot of a attention from buyers at the show and is looking for a distributor that can get the product out to a larger market. “We know it has far-reaching potential,” he said, adding that other local dairies already have been enlisted to add the additional milk Hartzler’s will need as the string cheese reaches a larger market.
Among the competition were items like Buffalo jerky and Greek yogurt, “all things that have been done before,” Sommers said. “We just had the one thing that hadn’t been done before.”
Reporter Tami Mosser can be reached at 330-287-1655 or firstname.lastname@example.org.