The winners of the 2014 sofi™ Awards for the outstanding specialty foods and beverages of the year were announced this evening at a red-carpet ceremony at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York.
The awards, considered the top honor in the $88.3 billion specialty food industry, were presented by acclaimed pastry chef Dominique Ansel, creator of the Cronut®, a croissant-doughnut hybrid. The Awards are open to members of the Specialty Food Association, a not-for-profit trade association for food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs. “sofi” stands for specialty outstanding food innovation.
This year’s contest was the largest in its 42-year history, with specialty food makers submitting 2,737 products across all 32 awards categories. The sofi Award for Outstanding New Product went to East Hampton Gourmet Food’s Lentil Rice Crispbread with Sesame and Pink Salt.
“The creativity and passion our members bring to their foods and beverages was evident in the variety and quality of the contest entries this year,” says Specialty Food Association President Ann Daw. “The winners clearly reflect our brand for the industry, “Specialty Food. Craft. Care. Joy.”
This spring, a national panel of specialty food professionals convened over eight days to taste and evaluate all entries and select 125 finalists. To determine the winners, 275 buyers at the Summer Fancy Food Show sampled the finalist products and cast votes for their favorite in each category. The results were tabulated by an outside accounting firm this afternoon.
The Summer Fancy Food show is the largest marketplace devoted exclusively to specialty food in North America. The show ends tomorrow, July 1, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. Learn more at fancyfoodshows.com.
By Lorrie Baumann
Jessie Osias is serving Mint and 6 Spice Drinking Chocolates at nibmor’s booth #4475 at the Summer Fancy Food Show. This is nibmor’s debut at the Fancy Food Show, although the company, headquartered in New York, has been around for five years now. Both of the drinking chocolates that are being served in the booth are made with cashew milk. “Everything is vegan, so we stick to a nondairy milk,” Osias commented.
All of nibmor’s chocolate products are ethically sources, certified either by Rainforest Alliance or Fair Trade. The company is currently planning for a fall release of a 6 Spice bar, which is dark chocolate with 72 percent cacao. The 2.2-ounce bar will retail for about $3.99. At the same time, nibmor will release a Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Bar with 80 percent cacao. This will also be a 2.2-ounce bar to retail for $3.99.
nibmor is also planning a new All-Natural Superfruit line of chocolate bars intended to offer a healthier confection option to the mainstream grocery market. “We’re trying to meet the consumer where they are,” Osias says. The line is tentatively scheduled to launch at the end of this year. “At this point, it’s still being discussed,” says Osias.
By Lorrie Baumann
PARTNERS is just introducing at the Summer Fancy Food Show its Double Chocolate Gluten-Free Brownie Thins under the Free For All Kitchen brand that signifies that they’re part of a product line that’s gluten-free as well as meeting all the other PARTNERS product standards for good taste and clean ingredients.
These little squares are a sweet cross between a cookie and a cracker, and they’re made with ancient whole grains, naturally sweetened, and they’re absolutely gluten-free, although you wouldn’t think it when you taste them. They contain no rice, corn or soy ingredients. You can taste them for yourself, along with other products in the Free for All Kitchen line, by visiting PARTNERS in booth #4112 at the Fancy Food Show.
The Brownie Thins are offered in a 4-ounce package to retail for $3.99 to $4.29, and around the time school starts this fall, they’ll also be available in a 120-calorie single-serving package that will retail around 99 cents and that will be a great item to tuck into that school lunchbox. “Being able to have something to give your kids who are gluten-intolerant that’s a sweet treat,” says PARTNERS Vice President Cara Figgins, “There just aren’t sweet alternatives on the market in single serves…. It’s a sweet treat, but it’s all clean ingredients, and it’s way better than eating Oreos.”
By Lorrie Baumann
The folks at Hammond’s Candies (in booth #3930 at the Summer Fancy Food Show) are delighted at the market’s reception of its new Cotton Candy, which launched in March and exceeded market projections for the entire year by the end of April, according to Hammond’s CEO Andrew Schuman.The Hammond’s Cotton Candy is offered in Classic and Peppermint as well as a couple of other seasonal varieties, and Schuman is predicting that the peppermint flavor, which is made from crushed Hammond’s candy canes, is going to be a strong seller during this holiday season. Shipping of the product is in hiatus during the summer, but once the weather is a little cooler this fall, Hammond’s Cotton Candy will be available again. Schuman recommends ordering in September so you can offer it for sale to customers during the fall and holiday season.
The Hammond’s Cotton Candy is packaged in plastic bags to hang from a tree, and it retails for $2.99.
Also coming this fall is the Hammond’s Popcorn line, which will be relaunched in August, says Andrew Whisler, Hammond’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing. It’s coming in a newly designed bag with a much more attractive retail price point that should appeal to customers. Flavors include Caramel, Chocolate Caramel, Cinnamon Toast, Mango Habanero and Honey Peanut, as well as Chicago-style, which Whisler says is half caramel and half cheese popcorn. “It is so good, especially in combination,” he says. The popcorn retails for $3.99 to $4.99.
And new in the Hammond’s booth at the Summer Fancy Food Show are the Hammond’s Brittle Crisps. These are nut brittle confections that are a little thinner and a little crispier than the traditional brittle, and they’re infused with adventurous new flavors like Jalapeno Lime. There’s a Cashew & Cayenne Brittle for the folks who like sweet heat and a Sea Salt & Caramel Brittle for the folks who are fond of the sweet and salty taste. They’re packaged in 9-ounce bags to retail for $3.99 to $4.99, and they’re available to ship.. “They’re going to do real well,” Whisler says. “The price point is really nice on them.”
By Lorrie Baumann
In a matter of hours, Riccardo Felicetti of the Pastificio Felicetti will know whether he’s eating his Monograno Felicetti pasta with butter and anchovies for a celebration dinner or because that’s his ultimate comfort food. “It’s very easy, very simple, but it’s exactly the pasta meal I eat when I come back from my travels,” he says. “This is exactly my comfort food.”
The pasta has been named a finalist for two sofi Awards: one for Best Organic Product and one for Best Pasta, Rice or Grain, and it’s the first time that Pasta Felicetti has ever been in the running for the Specialty Food Association’s ultimate recognition for outstanding food innovation. Felicetti wangled an invitation for dinner at a friend’s New York apartment with the understanding that his favorite Spaghettoni with Butter and Anchovies would be on the menu. “And if I don’t get the award, then I will need a heavy comfort food,” Felicetti says ruefully.
He believes that his product was considered by the award’s jurors because it’s a single-source organic pasta from the biggest organic pasta producer in Italy. The buyers from Pastificio Felicetti travel Italy and the world searching for the best organic grains and then combine that grain with pure spring water from springs in the Italian Alps around their pastificio production facility. The pasta’s taste and its elegant packaging probably also played a role, he acknowledges.
He hopes that American consumers will appreciate the premium pasta for its great taste and texture, regardless of the degree of al dente to which it’s cooked. Even in Italy, there’s no consensus about that proper degree of firmness for the cooked pasta, and so the Felicetti pasta is made to be good no matter the al dente preference of the cook who prepares it. “It cooks to your preference,” he says. “The most important thing is that you cook it the way you like it.”
Putting food into the body is an extremely intimate act, and Felicetti hopes that the consumers who ultimately purchase, prepare and eat his product will choose it because they understand and appreciate that the pasta was made in a modern production facility with 21st century sanitation practices using a safe process that enhances the grain’s natural flavors. “I trust that always more people will be interested in knowing what they are eating,” he says. “We will continue to offer high-quality product to interested American customers because we believe they will understand the difference between a high-quality pasta and another pasta.”
Visit Pastificio Felicetti in booth #2615 at the Summer Fancy Food Show.
By Lorrie Baumann
Stonewall Kitchen is showcasing the flavors of maple and bacon in two new products that will put a stamp of excellence on holiday entertaining events. See them in booth #3914 at the Summer Fancy Food Show. Maple Bacon Onion Jam has the sweetness of maple and onions combined with the savory umami of bacon for a flavorful and versatile product. Put it on the cheese tray during the cocktail hour or use it to glaze the dinnertime ham. There’s even a pizza recipe — just use the jam as the base sauce on the crust and then top with cheese. For a super-easy appetizer, pick up some flatbread at the grocery, spread it with this jam and toast it in the oven. That would be fabulous, and there’s no requirement at all that you tell anyone at all how easy that was to pull off.
The other new maple-bacon product is a Maple Bacon Aioli that’s made with canola oil, real bacon bits and pure maple syrup. Try it as a sandwich spread, especially on a BLT, just use a dollop on grilled meats to add some extra flavor, or you could even use it as a dip for fries or vegetable sticks. After tasting it, I can hardly wait to slather it over some chicken pieces, bake that in the oven and serve it to somebody I love.
Stonewall Kitchen is also introducing a second aioli — this one a Cilantro Lime Aioli. Use this one to top fish tacos of other summertime Mexican dishes. Remember that commercial in which the hamster in the plastic ball points out that the dinnertime tacos aren’t going to eat themselves and then the young woman bounces in anticipation? “Oooh, tacos!” Well, that’s the reaction this Cilantro Lime Aioli would get.
The Maple Bacon Onion Jam retails for $7.95, and the aiolis retail for $7.50 for a 10.25-ounce bottle.
Mexico thought ahead in its planning for the Summer Fancy Food Show and brought along a pair of big-screen TVs that made the centerpiece for a theater-in-the-round that attracted several hundred visitors to the Mexico pavilion in the 2300 aisle at the show as Mexico played against the Netherlands in their Round of 16 match at the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil.
By Lorrie Baumann
Beaverton Foods CEO Domonic Biggi is in his booth #2263 taste-testing some bold new sauce flavors that incorporate sriracha as well as offering samples of its latest award-winner from the World Mustard Competition.
Beaverton Foods just took home a gold medal for its Inglehoffer Sriracha Mustard, which is available for sampling during the Summer Fancy Food Show alongside the new Inglehoffer Bread and Butter Pickle Mustard. Both of those are available at retail for a suggested price that’s around $3.89 to $4.49.
On the same table, Biggi is offering show attendees the chance to sample and comment on some of the flavors he’s experimenting with in his test kitchen. “It’s easy to be brilliant in your office,” he said, adding that he finds it even easier to be brilliant when his own intelligence is augmented by the advice of Fancy Food Show attendees, who bring exceptional palates and experience in food retailing with them.
Among the flavors he’s offering are Sweet & Sour Sriracha, Sriracha Sauce, Wasabi Tamari Sauce, Teriyaki Sriracha and a Creamy Sriracha Sauce. Depending on which of those flavors are greeted favorably at the show, they should be ready for release soon under either the Beaver or Ingelhoffer brand or both, Biggi said.
By Lorrie Baumann
Buddy Squirrel is introducing a new line of All-Natural Honey Bites in booth #1160 at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show. The line is made with real Wisconsin honey, which eliminates the need for any artificial preservatives, and no artificial flavors or additives are used. Each of the bite-size snacks comes in around 80 calories.
There are three varieties: Cinnamon Coconut Almond, Cranberry Peanut Butter, and Pistachio Cashew, all made with premium nuts and packaged in cups that will fit into car cupholders for snacks on the go. Each 3.6 ounce cup contains a single variety of the bites and retails for about $6, and there’s also a 7.2-ounce cup with a variety assortment that retails for about $10, says Buddy Squirrel Marketing Coordinator Emily Zager.
The cups are sealed to maintain freshness, which gives them a shelf life of about six to eight months, and the bite-size treats are individually wrapped as well, so they’d be great for school lunch boxes or for tucking into the kids’ bags for summer camp. “It’s really designed for people on the go,” Zager says.
By Lorrie Baumann
The British government settled its own controversy about the sanitation of cheeses aged on wood a decade ago, and government regulators there have come down on the side of permitting cheese makers to age their cheeses as they think best, says the Right Honorable Owen Paterson, British Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. “It should be the cheese manufacturers who decide what to do. They’ve got a long history,” he said. “We believe very strongly that people should be responsible for their own production systems. What counts is the outcome.”
The outcomes that count should be that food should be safe to eat and it should taste good, and the British government has decided that the way to achieve that is to let the experts who are making the products decide how to get to that goal, and the government learned that through its own missteps in trying to regulate cheese production methods, he said. “Cheese is not suited to being produced on plastic. It sweats,” he said. “It’s a natural product, and it sweats.”
Paterson stopped in to promote British food at the Summer Fancy Food Show on his way to a meeting with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, with whom he’s negotiating a trade agreement that he says he’s “mad keen” to get through as a step in opening up the American market to more food imports from the European Union. He says that British food producers are well positioned to capitalize on access to the American market. Americans ar already enthusiastic about British products and are already purchasing $3.5 billion/year worth of British food products — about 10 percent of British food exports. British food production is a $170 billion/year industry that employs just under 4 million people. “It’s by far the most innovated food sector in Europe,” Paterson said. As an example of how fast British food production is growing, he points to Walkers, which has gone from a small family bakery with 16 employees baking shortbread cookies to a large enterprise that currently employs 1,600 people in a business that’s based primarily on exports. And shortbread isn’t the only Scottish product that’s enjoying the world’s good opinion, he said. “The French drink more Scotch whisky in a month than the French drink French cognac in a year,” he said. “We’ve got more varieties of cheese than the French have.”
The British dairy industry has been deregulated and is poised for growth at a time when world demand for dairy products is growing hugely, Paterson said. “We’re ideally placed to take advantage of it,” he said. “I opened the world’s largest fresh milk dairy inn Aylesbury last week.” Britain is home to the only USDA cheese producer in Europe, which introduced the Kingdom brand of cheddar cheese in the U.S. late last year. The milk in Kingdom Cheddar comes from a small group of organic family farmers in South-West England, where cheddar cheesemaking first began in the 12th century. “We use old-world artisan techniques, conducted under today’s exacting organic standards, which makes for an exceptional product,” said Nicola Turner, Export and Marketing Director at the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative (OMSCo,) the largest organic dairy farmers’ co-operative in the UK. OMSCo manages the production of Kingdom Cheddar.
Paterson recommends the Kingdom Cheddar along with other British cheeses, which are made with a long history of cheese production, very modern plants with rigorous production standards and a great deal of innovation in presenting new varieties and flavors of cheeses onto the market, he said. “These guys are really motoring, and there’s potentially a huge market.”
Along with cheese, Paterson aims to provide new opportunities for British meat exports into the U.S. Americans are ready to eat British beef again, he said. “They love eating British beef when they come to London,” he said. Britain has the landscape and the beef breeds, including the Aberdeen Angus, to export high-quality grass-fed beef to an American public that will welcome it, he said. And after he’s gotten beef coming to America, his next step will be to follow up with lamb. “There are a lot of Americans of Scottish descent who are being prevented from exercising their ancestral right to eat haggis,” he said.