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Stew Leonard's hosts food entrepreneur contest

The Stew's Tank contest will offer entrepreneurs a chance to sell their products in the chain's East Meadow location - and possibly all six of its grocery stores.

Stew Leonard's, with its iconic mascot, will showcase

Stew Leonard's, with its iconic mascot, will showcase its local contest winners products at its East Meadow store. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

New York food entrepreneurs have a chance to be shelved.

Grocer Stew Leonard’s is inviting makers of food and food-related products to compete in Stew’s Tank, a contest offering entrepreneurs a chance to sell their products in the chain’s East Meadow store — and possibly all six of its grocery stores.

The contest aims to remove one of the biggest barriers for companies — exposure to customers, said Stew Leonard Jr., president and chief executive of the Norwalk, Connecticut-based grocery chain.

“You can have a great product, and if you can’t get it on the shelves, your … product is not going anywhere,” he said.

Stew Leonard’s is soliciting video sales pitches from contest entrants until May 5 online at stewstank.shortstack.com/9ZPqCL

Selected vendors will meet with Stew Leonard’s buying team by May 17 for a sales presentation.

From that pool of vendors, Stew Leonard’s will select 20 to showcase and sell their products in the East Meadow store throughout the month of June, Leonard said.

A panel of judges, including the grocer’s buyers, will evaluate those entrants based on several factors, including how well the product sold, customer feedback, pricing and company history, Leonard said. Five winners’ products will be placed on shelves at all Stew Leonard’s stores, he said.

The final winners will be selected during the week of July 8.

“It’s a win for customers. It’s a win for the entrepreneur. … It’s a win for Stew Leonard’s. I guess it’s a win-win-win,” Leonard said.

The contest started Thursday and had received 30 entries as of Friday afternoon, he said.

The grocer’s contest name is a play on the title of the ABC reality TV show “Shark Tank,” in which entrepreneurial contestants try to convince a panel of business people to invest in their companies.

Stew Leonard’s will not require stakes in its contest entrants’ companies, and there is no fee to enter the competition, Leonard said.

“We will work with them to figure out how to make their company successful … and product successful,” he said.

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