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Concord Grape Innovation Contest Offers $100K in Prizes

Applications are being accepted through Aug. 1 for the New York Concord Grape Innovation Award, a first-of-its-kind business competition aimed at stimulating innovation and development of new products and markets for one of New York’s largest and most historic grape industries.

Funded by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and organized and hosted by Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, the competition will award more than $100,000 in cash prizes and packages of support from Cornell experts.

The competition is split into two categories: best new Concord grape beverage and best new Concord grape-based product. Awards, decided by a judging panel of industry, government and academic leaders, will be given to the top three applicants in each category. The proposals will be judged on market readiness, innovative approach, economic impact to the Concord grape industry, potential for expanded utilization of Concord grapes and percentage of Concord grape in the product. Proposed products must contain at least 30% Concord grape.

“The Concord grape has an important legacy in New York state and it remains a vital part of the state’s agriculture economy,” said Sam Filler, executive director of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.  “Finding innovative uses for Concord will ensure it remains a valuable grape variety for growers.”

Finalists for each category will compete in a judging symposium on Dec. 9 at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva. In addition to the prize packages, winning products will also be featured at Taste NY welcome centers and markets across the state.

“New York’s Concord grape growers are leading our nation in the production of this specialty agricultural community and grape-related businesses across New York state,” said New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “I’m proud that the state is able to support the New York Concord Grape Innovation Award competition and look forward to seeing the exciting final products at our Taste NY marketplaces statewide.”

The idea for the competition grew from the 2018 New York State Concord Grape Summit, held at the Grape Discovery Center in Chautauqua County to bolster the industry, which has suffered from low prices and consumer demand, labor shortage and ever-increasing production costs in recent years.

“The Lake Erie Concord Grape Region’s history, heritage and economic vitality are closely tied to Chautauqua County and the state’s identity and success, and it is imperative to strengthen this agricultural sector for generations to come,” said Cathy Young, executive director of the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture and former state senator who participated in the 2018 summit.

Concord grapes make up around 80% of the total tonnage of all grapes grown in the state, with the greatest concentration of production being in the Lake Erie region. Statewide, around 121,000 tons of Concord grapes are grown annually on some 30,000 acres of vineyards.

“Concord vineyards in western New York have a long history of producing healthy and delicious fruit because the variety is so well adapted to the soils and climate in the region,” said Terry Bates, director of the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory.

“It is an optimal time to develop more foods and beverages,” Young said. “We look forward to the creativity, innovation and growth opportunities that will result.”

The link to apply, as well as a full breakdown of the guidelines and awards, is available on our website: cals.cornell.edu/concord-grape-award.

About the COE:

The Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech works to grow the food and agriculture industries in New York by connecting food and agriculture businesses and entrepreneurs with what they need to succeed. The COE provides mentorship, access to world-class Cornell research and experts and other resources to foster the growth of new companies, new products, and existing businesses.

For more information, please visit our website and follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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