Thursday, January 17, 2019
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20140822 MISSION HEBQuestForTexasBestFinalist 081914 MCWMission’s own Pilar Gonzalez took second place in the H-E-B Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best competition Wednesday.

Gonzalez’s Habibi Gourmet was awarded $15,000 with the honor. Gonzalez was one of 25 finalists. She and one other Rio Grande Valley business owner were chosen from 600 entries.

Winners have a chance of supplying their product to all H-E-B stores in the state. Candidates had to submit a business plan on how they would meet the demand of each H-E-B during the judging period. 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.

Her business received a boost from Mission Economic Development Corporation’s Ruby Red Ventures last year, which awarded her a $25,000 grant that allowed Gonzalez to purchase a piece of equipment to help her produce more product.

“That little bit of money that we do give ends up creating a huge impact,” MEDC’s director Alex Meade said of the agency’s development. “We're hoping we can grow in the future.”

The grand prize and $25,000 went to Nanette Watson’s Frio Farms of Concan. First place and $20,000 went to Hector Alba’s MaxFrut of Arlington, and third place and $10,000 went to Sara Vela’s Vela Farms out of Victoria.