Meet the next generation of Southern food and drink.


Ever wonder how innovative new brands break into the food and drink industry? We'll give you a hint: It's hard work—and programs like this. The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival and Craft Catalyst have joined forces to support Southern-based food and beverage entrepreneurs, and Southern Living is getting in on the action too. Each year, the festival's Entrepreneurs Program gives a boost to exciting up-and-comers in the industry, supporting their emerging companies while helping them build their brands and gain exposure. This year, though, there's a twist: the Southern Food & Drink Entrepreneurs Awards.

Southern Living has partnered with the Festival's Entrepreneurs Program to host the Southern Food & Drink Entrepreneurs Awards, a celebration of extraordinary, new-to-the-scene Southern entrepreneurs who are poised to make a big splash in the food and beverage industry. This Thursday, five finalists will present products from their fledgling (less than 5-years-old) companies to a panel of expert judges, including Southern Living editor in chief, Sid Evans.

Incredibly inventive food and drink products are emerging across the South every year, and these are this year's best of the best. The awards will celebrate these exciting Southern entrepreneurs and will honor both their big ideas and their hard work. But who will win? Let's take a look at the finalists, some of whom have already taken home Southern Living Food Awards—and for good reason.

CatSpring Yaupon | Cat Spring, TX

CatSpring Yaupon produces Texas-grown, smooth, and sustainable yaupon tea, which is cultivated without pesticides or fertilizers. Sisters JennaDee Detro and Abianne Falla are the duo behind the burgeoning tea empire, and they have harnessed yaupon, the only wild-growing, naturally caffeinated plant in North America, to create an undeniably Southern cup of tea. The idea sparked when Detro noticed one evergreen plant on her family's ranch thriving in the midst of a drought. After some research and plenty of sipping, CatSpring Yaupon was born. This week they will be presenting their Pedemales Green Yaupon tea to the judges in Atlanta.

Crude Bitters & Sodas | Raleigh, NC

Established in 2012, Raleigh's own Crude Bitters is quickly becoming the North Carolina's favorite destination for small-batch bitters and sodas. Free of glycerin, chemicals, and dyes, the bitters are finely crafted and ready to elevate cocktails. Founder Craig Rudewicz's passion for the craft is informed by history, his work as a bartender, and the lifelong search for the perfect drink. At the awards, he will present "Rizzo" Bitters, a blend of rosemary, grapefruit, and peppercorn, which Crude Bitters bills as "Beautiful in a gin and tonic, devious in a glass of bourbon."

Harvest Roots Ferments | Mentone, AL

Handmade in Mentone, Alabama, the products of Harvest Roots Ferments range from kombucha and kvass to kimchi, kraut, and much more. Pete Halupka and Lindsay Whiteaker founded the organization, whose products pair with the duo's mission, which is to educate and build community around learning to ferment. At the awards, Harvest Roots Ferments will present their Kimchi, which is made from entirely local, organic vegetables, including Napa cabbage, Daikon radish, ginger, scallion, garlic, and gochugaru.

Malvi Smores Marshmallows

Malvi Marshmallow Confections | Cumming, GA

Billed as "fluffy cubes of joy," the marshmallows and s'mores produced by Malvi Marshmallow Confections are made with all-natural ingredients and come in innovative flavors. From Fluffy Nutter Marshmallows to cotton candy and tropical flavors, Malvi is taking marshmallows to places they've never been before. Founded by Laura Curtis, a Culinary Institute of America grad, and her husband, Paris Retana, Malvi (short for ‘malvavisco,' the Spanish word for marshmallow) uses whole ingredients to infuse marshmallows with pure delight. The judges will be meeting Malvi's Raspberry Hibiscus S'mores on Thursday.

Pure Southern | Chattanooga, TN

Chattanooga natives Carter Hudlow and Emily Spurling invite you to relax and drink up. The husband-and-wife duo helm Pure Southern, which is quickly becoming the go-to, Southern-inspired company for pre-mixed, handcrafted cocktails. The idea for Pure Southern's undeniably Southern flavors came from a bout of homesickness, sparked when the couple were sipping cocktails, talking about the South, and wishing for no-fuss mixers they could enjoy at home. At the awards, Pure Southern will present their Tennessee Cucumber Cooler, a ready-to-serve take on a classic Mint Julep.

WATCH: Southern Pimiento Mac and Cheese

These exciting Southern entrepreneurs are sure to make a splash on Thursday. Who will you be cheering for at this year's Southern Food & Drink Entrepreneurs Awards? Stay tuned this week to find out who will take home the prize and be featured in Southern Living.