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Mission business owner a finalist in H-E-B contest

20140813 MISSION H-E-B-Quest-for-the-Best 2716Mission resident Pilar Gonzalez learned to make a variety of dips from her aunt two decades ago.

Today, its possible Gonzalez’s dips could be sold in H-E-B stores across the state through the H-E-B Primo Picks Quest for the Texas Best contest. Gonzalez is one of 25 finalists. She and one other Rio Grande Valley business owner were chosen from 600 entries.

A grand prize winner will be named a “Texas Best” Primo Pick, and three others will win cash and an opportunity to be sold at H-E-B stores.

“I keep pinching myself,” Gonzalez said, adding that she was so excited, “I don’t sleep anymore.”

And she doesn’t expect to get much sleep if she’s named a winner. To get to this point in the competition, candidates had to submit a business plan on how they would meet the demand of each H-E-B. Gonzalez said the winners have 30 days to negotiate with H-E-B and a year to grow into the demand.

Gonzalez owns Habibi Gourmet, and makes Dip-It yogurt in cilantro, jalapeño, green olive, chipotle and piquin flavors.

Her aunt, who taught her to make the dips, has had a store in Mexico 30 years. Gonzalez said she had a restaurant in San Antonio, but when it closed she started a small factory at her house and started selling the dips out of the garage. She moved back to Mission in 2002. The dips currently are sold at local stores like Zarah’s Meat Market.

“You are our winners,” H-E-B spokeswoman Linda Tovar told Gonzalez and owners of La Nueva Tortilleria, based in Brownsville, in a news conference Wednesday. “You are our representatives of the Rio Grande Valley.”

Winners will be selected next week by a panel of 10 judges who will be looking at the quality of the products, marketability and readiness for production, Tovar said.

If she wins, it won’t be the first honor bestowed upon Gonzalez’s growing business. She was given a $25,000 grant through Mission Economic Development Corporation’s Ruby Red Ventures program in February. The program aims to encourage entrepreneurs by awarding grants to residents who are looking to expand or launch new ventures in Mission.

As for H-E-B’s Quest for the Best, the grand prize winner not only will be named a “Texas Best” Primo Pick, the honor also comes with a $25,000 award. The first-place winner will receive $20,000, the second-place winner will be given $15,000 and the third-place winner will receive $10,000.

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