Heinen’s Grocery Store is hosting its third “Shark Bank” competition this summer. The grocer, which got its start in Cleveland in 1929, wants to help get more local artisans’ products into its Ohio stores.

“We try and embrace our local products and people,” said Ed Thompkins, director of wine and beer events. “Not just because it’s local, but because there’s some quality things going on is this reason.”

Zipping down aisles at Heinen’s locations shoppers will see countless locally-produced items including Cleveland Coffee Company, Randy’s Pickles and Cleveland Kraut.

The “Shark Bank” competition is a way to celebrate the individuals and companies that encounter roadblocks when it comes to distribution.

“The products that are out there, that we’re discovering, it’s like ‘Geez, where have you been all our lives,'” Thompkins said.

Those wanting to enter the competition must complete an online application by Aug. 1. There are a few requirements. Two of the requirements include: Producer must be insured for licensed for sale in Ohio and have the proper labeling including accurate nutritional information.

Judges will whittle down the entries to the top 10. Those winners move onto the semi-finals being held Sept. 15 at Heinen’s downtown Cleveland store. The People’s Choice event will give Heinen’s customers an opportunity to sample the products and learn the story behind the creators and their companies. Customers will decide the top four, who then move onto the finals. The “Shark Bank” finals will be held Sept. 22 at the downtown location. Judges will crown a winner whose item will appear in all of the company’s 19 Ohio stores.

Sugar Chalet Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup from Bissell Farm in Rock Creek, Ohio won the first competition. Backattack Snacks‘ Almonds, made in Cleveland, won last year’s competition.

Heinen’s will spend an entire year with the 2017 winner helping to build the brand.

“We do demos the whole year in every store for free,” Thompkins said. “Then we’re able to tell their story.”

It’s an effort to launch local businesses into unfamiliar territory and bring customers more variety.

“I’m a foodie,” Thompkins said. “I find this fascinating and it’s fun to discover either new applications, new ideas (or) new trends.”

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