Brewer Jon Gagne with Perseus, a spotted turtle and animal ambassador from the Center for Wildlife, a Prince Percy Pilsner and the Good Food Award medal. Contributed / Maine Beer Company

FREEPORT — The Good Food Foundation singled out two local companies for awards from among almost 2,000 entries nationwide this year.

Maine Beer Company of Freeport and Ragged Coast Chocolates of Westbrook were recognized with 2021 Good Food Awards for their social and environmental responsibility, as well as their unique craftsmanship. Saco-based Atlantic Sea Farms was awarded for its Fermented Seaweed Salad, as well.

This year, the Good Food Foundation, based out of San Francisco, saw a total of 266 entries from 45 states, plus the District of Columbia and Guam. Beginning in 2010, the awards recognize food-based companies in 17 categories, ranging from pickles to coffee.

Winners gain access to exclusive use of the Good Food Awards Winner seal on their websites and packaging and a lifelong network of Good Food crafters to connect with.

In the summer of 2020, Maine Beer Company entered its Prince Percy Pilsner and Wolfe’s Neck IPA, which made it as finalists into the Good Food Awards.

“Our entire motto is designed around ‘Do what’s right’,” said Anne Marisic, marketing and communication representative for Maine Beer Co. “The company was founded with a focus on taking care of the environment, taking care of our staff and our community and doing so while making quality beer. Our owners believed that you could run a successful business and do all of those things; they aren’t mutually exclusive.”

According to Marisic, Prince Percy Pilsner is named after Perseus, a spotted turtle at the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick, one of the company’s long-term nonprofit partners. Before COVID-19 hit, Maine Beer Co. held monthly events at its tasting room, where the Center for Wildlife would bring animal ambassadors to interact with the community. Maine Beer Co. also sponsored the solar panels on the Center for Wildlife’s new building. 

Since it was released last summer, Marisic says Prince Percy Pilsner has been a great option for customers because of its unique place in Maine Beer Co.’s lineup.

“Hop character is something that we’re known for in our beers, so it has a really nice hop bite to it, but it’s a lighter option,” Marisic said. “It’s good introduction to craft beer for people who aren’t familiar with it.”

Chocolate is molded into bars at Ragged Coast Chocolates in Westbrook. Contributed / Tim Greenway

In Westbrook, Ragged Coast Chocolates is celebrating its Good Food Award-winning chocolate: the Cassis de Résistance Truffle.

Kate Shaffer, co-owner of Ragged Coast Chocolates, said she and her husband started the company, originally called Black Dinah Chocolatiers, in 2007 on Isle au Haut, off the coast of Stonington

“The Cassis de Résistance was inspired by a neighbor of ours who brought us some foraged black currants and we made a puree from them and created a special truffle and we loved it,” Shaffer said. 

The truffle became a part of their Maine Farm Market Collection, which features chocolates with ingredients from Maine farms or gardens.

According to Shaffer, the company only sources their fruit for the Farm Market Collection when it’s in season. They process the products immediately upon receiving them and freeze the purees, and that’s what they use the rest of the year. Although they still have the Cassis de Résistance Truffle in stock, Shaffer said they sell out every year.

Although most of the ingredients are locally sourced, arguably the most important aspect of their work must come from a bit farther away.

“Chocolate is an ingredient that is often grown in troublesome areas of the world, socially and politically,” Shaffer said. “From the very beginning, our criteria for sourcing our chocolate was to make sure we didn’t source from producers that use child or slave labor.”

Their mission first brought them to Venezuela, then to a producer in Ecuador, where the cocoa is directly sourced from the farmers. 

“The biggest political statement we can make sometimes is what we put on our plates,” Shaffer said. “The money that we spend on our ingredients, we want as much of it as possible to stay in our local community because that helps everybody, and strong communities that grow good food and support each other are better off. 

Prior to the pandemic, winners had the chance to sell their products to wholesale buyers and members of the public when the foundation held a Good Food Awards weekend each January. The ceremony of winners was held virtually Jan. 22 this year.

Business owners can pitch their products to a live audience of specialty food buyers online through Feb. 12. The Good Food Awards marketplace pop-up shop is open to the public on the foundation’s website through Feb. 7.

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