It’s sofi Time!

By Louise Kramer, Communications Director

Attention NASFT members! You can now participate in a live Q&A session with Louise via Twitter.  Tune in this Thursday at 1:00pm EST. Have questions about Twitter? Contact Vivian Friess at

It’s sofi time! The NASFT  38th sofi Awards contest starts this week. A sofi is the highest honor in the specialty food industry, and it is my honor to be running the contest for the third time. The deadline for submissions is Thursday, April 8, for Part 1. Click here for info on the contest, more dates and details.

For the next 13 weeks, it will be sofi 24/7 at our new offices in midtown Manhattan. We expect NASFT members to submit a whopping 2,000 entries for the 33 different sofi Awards. Our team of chefs and great sofi crew will prepare them all for our national panel of judges. The judges will select about 110 Silver Finalists across the 33 awards categories.

Chef Ming Tsai with the winners of Outstanding New Product 2009, from last year's sofi Awards ceremony.

This process will culminate in the gala red-carpet sofi Awards ceremony at the Summer Fancy Food Show on June 28. We have a great host and presenter this year: Dan Barber, a leading figure in the artisan and local food movement, not to mention a highly-regarded executive chef and restaurateur (and one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2009).

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves!  We get lots of questions from NASFT members about the sofi entry forms, how the contest works, etc. After all, a sofi award means your product is the best of the best, and that of course means more sales, more prestige, and confirmation that you were not crazy to pursue your dream of making and selling dark chocolate, goat cheese, or spice rubs…or jams, snack chips, sausage and more.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions, plus a few tips:

How many samples should I send?

  • Send enough for 10 small tasting samples. Do not send us a case of product. We don’t need it.

I’m having trouble filling out the fact sheet online. It’s driving me nuts!

  • I know, I know! We made a mistake when we created the interactive form and have corrected it. All forms are available via

Where should I send the entry?

  • NASFT/sofi Awards, 136 Madison Ave., 12th floor, New York, NY 10016.

How does the judging work?

  • The submissions are judged category by category. For each award, all submissions are prepared and set out for the judges to taste and evaluate. Each is set out on a tray containing samples for the 10 judges. The product package and the fact sheet are placed next to the product samples so the judges can taste the item and look at the package, and the information you provide on the fact sheet. The judges sample and evaluate each item. After they’ve sampled everything, they enter their votes on a ballot sheet prepared for each category by Marilyn O’Hara, our incredibly efficient sofi project manager, and her data management assistant. The votes are tabulated by Ron Tanner, NASFT’s VP of Communications & Education to determine the Silver Finalists in each category. (Ron is my boss).

What forms do I need to fill out?

  • You need to fill out one registration form listing each entry. You may enter a maximum of five products in the first part of the competition. You must also fill out a separate fact sheet for each entry. We need two copies of each fact sheet; three if the product is perishable.
    : The sofi awards require lots of logistics and running around behind the scenes. The forms help us keep track.

Do judges taste the entries for the Pet Product award?

  • Not usually! But two years ago a judge from a major national retailer ate a dog biscuit. I was impressed.

I am totally confused about Part 1 and Part 2. What gives?

  • We divide the sofi judging into two parts to handle the huge # of products flowing into our offices, and to help our judges manage their schedules. They donate five full days of their time to the judging, and we try to make it easier on them by splitting the work into two parts. The first part has 31 of the 33 Awards categories for them to judge.The second part has only two Awards categories, but they are by far the largest, Outstanding New Product (we had 414 entries last year for that one award) and Outstanding Product Line (we had 172 entries for that award last year).

If I enter my fab chutney in Part 1 for Outstanding Condiment, can I enter it for Outstanding New Product in Part 2?

  • Nope. There is no “double dipping.” You may enter each product only one time in the contest. The judges do not want to taste and evaluate the same product twice.

How does the product line award work?

  • Product Line is the only one of the 33 Awards where we permit members to submit products they have already submitted to the other Awards categories. That is because the judges are evaluating the entire line, not an individual product. To qualify, your line must have at least six different products under the same brand name. To enter, you must submit three, and only three, products in your line that will give a good sense of the entire line. Those three may be products you’ve already entered, or totally different products. Again, the idea is to present your line. You also need to send a sell sheet or other piece of marketing material to show that your line has at least six items. So that means if you have only three products in your line, you are not eligible for this award.

Why can’t I send all the products in my line?

  • We can’t handle the number of products if everyone submitted their entire line. That’s why we ask for three examples only.

I need to talk to a NASFT representative.

  • Send us an email at saying you need to talk. We check it constantly and will get back to you as soon as possible. Or, call the sofi hotline at 212-482-6440 x 305 and leave a message. We’ll get back to you just as soon as we can.

What more can you tell me?

  • Good luck! NASFT members have such outstanding products, and we want to encourage you all to go for the gold.

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