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Back in October, the Rooster Design Group announced their Next Big Small Brand competition for aspiring artisanal food manufacturers throughout the city. The winner would get free design and packaging services from the group, which is responsible for the look of such brands as Salvatore Bklyn and Early Bird Granola. Last night, the judges convened at iCi in Fort Greene to pick their favorite of the five finalists.
The finalists were Catskill Confections, a line of bon bons made by Beth Kimmerle; Bklyn Batch Craft Jerky, jerky made with local grass-fed beef from Fleisher’s; Better Butters, compound butters made by two young women who run the Jonas White catering company; Kombucha Brooklyn, Eric Childs’s Greenpoint-based kombucha tea company; and Anthony Kurutz’s Ploughshares Coffee Roasters.
The audience favorite award went to Bklyn Batch, which had wooed the crowd with its orange-ginger, bulgogi, and “classic” jerky flavors, but the judges — who included Salvatore Bklyn co-founder Betsy Devine and the Brooklyn Flea’s Eric Demby — picked Kombucha Brooklyn as the contest winner.
It was a curious choice, given that Kombucha, which is already carried in numerous stores, such as Marlow & Sons, Urban Rustic, and Bierkraft, and is a fairly well-established business, wouldn’t really seem to be in need of the free marketing and design services the company has to offer. But from the judges’ standpoint, it’s probably easier to put the firm’s name behind a known quantity that already has a strong following, rather than an obscure product that’s being made in somebody’s kitchen in Brooklyn. Is that right? Not necessarily. But it is, as any Top Chef producer could tell you, the somewhat stark reality.
That said, one-fourth of Fork in the Road is hoping that we’ll soon be seeing more of Bklyn Batch’s jerky and Catskill Confections’ knock-out honey-and-Cope’s dried corn nougat available on store shelves, even as we hope for an abatement in the aggressive use of the words ‘local,’ ‘artisanal,’ and ‘handcrafted.’