“We’re busy. We got lots of good stuff today.” So reports Marilyn O’Hara, project manager for the sofi Awards. The sofi Awards recognize the year’s outstanding specialty foods and beverages in 33 categories. They are considered an important industry honor. The awards are open to members of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. “sofi” stands for specialty outstanding food innovation.
We have awards for Outstanding Chocolate, Outstanding Cheese, Outstanding Salad Dressing, and Outstanding Shelf-Stable Foodservice Product, etc., etc. Click here for a list of all the categories, and the finalists that have been selected so far this year.
The sofis are a fun and all-consuming project every spring. We bring in a national panel of specialty food experts for two judging sessions (the first, for three days, was last month) to taste and evaluate all entries and select finalists for each award. Next week the judges will be back at our offices on Wall Street—we’re in a building filled with trade associations and have no connection to the financial industry—to evaluate entries for the last two awards: Outstanding New Product and Outstanding Product Line. We get the most entries for these two awards. Last year we received 589 entries for Outstanding New Product of 2008, and more than 100 for Outstanding Product Line.
The awards are a highlight of our Summer Fancy Food Show. Buyers at the show are invited to judge the finalist products and vote for which merit gold awards. An outside accounting firm tabulates the votes right at the show and the winners are announced at a ceremony hours later. This year’s gold chef statues will be handed out by chef Ming Tsai. Jacques Pepin did the honors last year.
We’ve been eager to see if the rotten economy would bite into the sofi awards. Members—many entrepreneurs, career-changers, and small businesses–must pay $50 to enter each product. And there is the cost and hassle of filling out several forms, shipping products to our offices, etc. But so far we are on par with last year’s record of 2,091 submissions.
One gauge is Prevost, our tireless UPS guy. Prevost has been delivering packages to the NASFT for 11 years, he told me today. He was unloading a cart that looked like it was sagging under the weight of about 30 more sofi boxes. “You get a lot of boxes every year,” he said. “Every year it is getting bigger.” Prevost (that’s his last name, which he prefers to use) said he is still waiting for his award. He deserves one for delivering so many boxes year in and year out.