ALBANY, Ga. -- The Bread House & Granary, a local for-profit bakery that helps sustain the nonprofit GraceWay Recovery Residence, was named Friday as one of 13 recipients of the first National Restaurant Association Food and Beverage Product Innovation Awards.
The Bread House received the honor for its "Going Chia!" energy fiber bars.
"This caught us completely off-guard," Debbie Mazur, the past executive director of GraceWay, said of the honor. "If nothing else, this shows that God has a sense of humor.
"We were initially planning just to have a booth at the NRA Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago (May 21-24), but when we heard they were planning the Innovation Awards for the first time, we figured we'd take a long shot and enter. We honestly had no thought about winning."
But the handmade, 100 percent natural energy bars, which are made with freshly-milled Montana hard red wheat infused with chia seeds, grabbed NRA judges' attention and garnered the award for The Bread House.
The National Restaurant Association decided to hand out the awards this year to recognize progressive food and beverage products that will have a significant impact on the restaurant industry. The award-winning products will be showcased during the Hotel-Motel Show at Chicago's McCormick Place.
"There's no telling where our products can go once the 'Going Chia!' bars are showcased at the trade show," Mazur said. "An overwhelming majority of our business is mail-order business, and the kind of exposure we'll get at the NRA show will be huge.
"This is the kind of advertising we could never hope to buy."
Tim and Debbie Mazur bought the Bread House & Granary as a way to benefit GraceWay and its residents, who work at the bakery. Profits from the business go to GraceWay, and The Bread House employs as many of the recovery center's residents as it can.
"I think the judges were as impressed with The Bread House and GraceWay's story as they were our product," Mazur said. "The bakery is run by the girls in treatment, and it helps with their recovery as well as helping sustain them financially. We hope (the Innovation Award) will allow us to employ even more of the residents.
"We're also expecting the additional interest in our products to generate enough new business to help us move into a larger location. That's the next big item on our agenda."
The Bread House & Granary is currently located at 1902 Dawson Road.
A restaurant association news release said the award winners were selected for their significant advancements and innovations in ingredients, preparation, processing and packaging.
"Our independent panel of judges, who represent a broad variety of
both commercial and non-commercial industry segments, selected these 13 products based on the forward-thinking approach to food and beverages demonstrated by their creators," said C.W. Reed, the convention chairman for NRA Show 2011 and director of food and beverages for the Broadmoor Hotel.
"These truly innovative products will help drive customer satisfaction and profitability for restaurant and food service operators nationwide.
As the largest restaurant and hospitality trade show in the United States, the NRA Show offers the perfect forum to explore trends and find new products to enhance menus in the nation's nearly 1 million restaurants."