By Louise Kramer, NASFT Communications Director
We’re enjoying a moment of calm in the 38th sofi™ Awards contest before the next wave of entries starts pouring in for the last two awards: Outstanding New Product and Outstanding Product Line.
So far, a great panel of specialty food experts has selected 125 finalists in 31 Awards categories, from Outstanding Appetizer, Antipasto, Salsa and Dip to Outstanding Vinegar. Finalists are listed at www.specialtyfood.com/sofi. The judges spent three very full days at our new offices in midtown Manhattan tasting and evaluating 1,570 entries, including a rather prodigious amount of the world’s finest chocolate, cheese, olive oil, cookies, pasta sauces, and so much more.
Actually, the judges tasted almost everything. They were not required to taste entries for “Outstanding Non-Food Specialty Item” – how could we make them bite into a refrigerator magnet or muffin tin??? – nor did they have to sample submissions for Outstanding Pet Food. So hats off to judge Gantt Bumstead, co-president of United Supermarkets! He actually tasted a dog biscuit. His review: delicious!
It is great fun to tell our members that their products have been selected as finalists. After all, a sofi honor means lots of publicity, potential sales, industry kudos, and the glow of victory for friends, family, staff and colleagues.
Here’s how one finalist, Kari Ani Shiozawa, reacted. Her Bakers Basics Banana Bread Mix is a finalist for Outstanding USDA-Approved Organic Product. “It was a huge blessing for me and I cried. My husband cried too,” she told me. “This is such a huge accomplishment. When you work so hard to get someplace and you get that recognition, it is tremendous. I still cry sometimes.”
The less fun part for us here at the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade is having the break the news to those hundreds of member companies who entered the contest but did not have their products selected as finalists. We totally “get it” that these awards are very important, and that our members put their heart and soul and money and dreams into making their great products. For many, a sofi makes it all seem worth it.
Here are some bloopers: One of our sofi staffers dropped a ketchup entry en route to the judging for “Outstanding Cooking Sauce or Flavor Enhancer,” and boy did it make a mess. And all the judges saw it.
A mini blooper: when it was time for the judges to taste and evaluate the 110 entries for Outstanding Chocolate—one of my favorite categories!–we realized that many of the packages were not opened. Time is of the essence during sofi judging. So we put out an all points bulletin to the entire NASFT staff (in the form of me running around begging for help while trying to look calm and professional). Special thanks to: Mary Jacobsen, executive administrator and Bill Lynch, senior director, membership and exhibitions, for jumping in.
Many thanks to our Part 1 judges, most of whom are pictured here: Sue Bicksler Taub, Holbrook Cottage, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.; Gantt Bumstead, United Texas, Lubbock, Texas; Mustafa Coskun and Robert Rosa, Garden of Eden Marketplace, New York, N.Y.; Patrick Crowl, Woodstock Farmers’ Market, Woodstock, Vt.; Franck Deletrain, John O’Neil and Lou Piuggi, Patina Group, New York, N.Y.; Faye Greenberg, Winn-Dixie, Jacksonville, Fla.; Madeline Romo, Savor the Flavor, Sierra Madre, Calif.; Lordes Reynoso, Institute of Culinary Education, New York, N.Y.; Celia Barbour and Rachel Mount, O, The Oprah Magazine, New York, N.Y.
Today, the sofi shelves are empty. The sofi team is wrapping up some important work. This week I am taking three days off to rejuvenate before sofi, Part Deux. Part 2 entry forms and information were mailed to NASFT members last week. Forms are also posted at www.specialtyfood.com/sofi.
Don’t forget to read the FAQ’s online. Questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And finally, thanks to all NASFT members who have entered so far this year, and for making it a great competition.