Interview with Winter Fancy Food Show Trend Game winner, Eddi Marie of Beckles Candies

May 20, 2010

Q: Please tell us about your current job and what it entails. Tell us something about yourself and your lovely shop in Modesto, California.
A: We have owned and operated Beckles Candies and Gifts in Modesto, California, since December of 1988. For the most part, Jim and I oversee the daily operation of the shop, including  making and selecting products, packaging, and interacting with the customers. We have known some of them since they were children!  Although Jim is not at the shop every day, he is a very important part of the business and readily “on call!”  Our daughter worked with us during her teenage years, and still covers for us in emergencies.

Beckles is an old time candy shop, selling chocolates, our on-site-made fudge,  gourmet truffles, a variety of licorices and candy jar favorites, including a nice selection of sugar free products.  We like to shop for things we believe our customer will enjoy. Custom packages are prepared in any gift item or container the customer selects and we pre-package in traditional and non-traditional containers. We also enjoy helping corporate clients and special event planners meet their unique needs and successfully stay within their budgets.

Q: How did you become so knowledgeable of food trends coming into the Winter Show? What professional food related publications, blogs, etc. do you read regularly?
A: I’m not at all sure I am that knowledgeable! I do try to listen, pay attention to food trends, and generally be aware of what is going on in our area.  The California Central Valley is known for it’s agricultural success. Staying “green” and being self-sustaining are very important to us. Personally, I am quite health conscious, while still allowing myself the joys of treats, sweets, and special indulgences. 

Several trade publications come across my desk regularly and I always find interesting material in them. Reading printed matter I can hold in my hands is more my style than reading screens! Although, blogs and Internet information is sometimes handy, indeed!

Q: When you go out to eat—do you go to the same place or do you explore other cultures and types of restaurants?
A: We have long time favorites and are basically traditionalists.  However, new places must be investigated, and authentically prepared food of other cultures can be most interesting and even enlightening! I am more adventurous than Jim!

Q: What is your favorite type of food? Favorite meal/dish?
A: I like Salmon or Halibut, usually baked (sans oiliness)! Al dente steamed vegetables rank high on my list, as do fresh fruits and vegetables of most any kind. Southern barbecue, but not too spicy hot, is another favorite. And, of course great chocolate desserts!!! I use lots of nuts when preparing dishes and, although I like both, I go for weeks without eating beef or pork.

Q: How was your experience at the Winter Fancy Food Show? What was your favorite part?
A: Jim and I had a really good time. It was a quick, one-day trip from Modesto. I think our favorite part is anything that directly relates to our business, especially items we can almost link to specific customers. At times it becomes a game we play.

The displays were great,  the vendors were most cordial, the products were varied, and the attendees were enthusiastic. While conscious of the economic situation, people were not overwhelmed with gloom! We mentioned that en route home.

Q: Have you ever been to a Summer Fancy Food Show? If yes, what are the major differences between the Winter Show and Summer Show?
A: We have never attended the Summer Show, but we are excited!

Q: Do you have any tips to offer for attending/walking the show?
A: I go with a plan, or at least a list of items about which  folks have inquired or in which I have a particular interest.  We usually go for the “What’s new “area first,  then walk the rest of the show rooms. Some of the seminars would be helpful; however, we are always on a limited time schedule.

Q: What are you most excited about for the upcoming Summer Fancy Food Show in New York?
It is a new adventure! I’ve been told it is bigger than the Winter Show. It will be interesting to see how some of the winter focused items are doing, how they may have been adapted, and what’s new!

Q: Are you on any social media? (Twitter, Facebook or do you have a blog?) Website?
A: We do have a Beckles website.  It is in a stage of reconstruction, but viewable.  You can find it at


It’s sofi Time!

March 30, 2010

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.

NASFT Members! Who is your favorite retailer?

March 3, 2010

Since 2001, the NASFT, in association with Specialty Food Magazine, has celebrated and highlighted the annual Outstanding Retailers Awards. Honorably nominated and selected by NASFT members only, the Outstanding Retailer Award puts a stamp of quality on your functionality as a purveyor of outstanding service and value to local customers who care about high-quality, specialty food products.

How does the winner get chosen?
Out of hundreds of nominations, only five of the most Outstanding Retailers from around the nation will be chosen to represent and reign as one of the leading purveyors of specialty food and interest among NASFT member companies. Making the front page of Specialty Food Magazine’s June issue, each winner will be pictured and featured in the edition with a history, development and success of their retail endeavors throughout the years.

What does it take to win?
Great sourcing, premium services and true culinary passion can deliver to an Outstanding Retailer. Expressing true taste and belief in the products you sell gives other vendors a willingness to come back and do business. To read about former Outstanding Retailer winners, click here.

When are nominations due?
Nominations can only be submitted by NASFT Members and are due by March 10, 2010. Click Here for a Nomination Form.


Winter Fancy Food Video Coverage!

February 10, 2010

We have finally wrapped up the final visual pieces of the 2010 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. The lists below consist of the links including live interview footage with Nicole Ravlin from the Social Media Booth, and featured floor segments, as well as links to other coverage!

Livestream Interviews

  1. 1300 on Fillmore, David Lawrence
  2. Amrani Chocolates, Antoine Amrani and Martha Seidner
  3. Bambu, Jeff Delkin
  4. Bedford Industries, Gene Story
  5. Bella Chi Cha, Chi-Cha Russo-Boyes
  6. Bella Cucina, Alisa Barry
  7. Best of the West, Peter Wyckoff
  8. Black Market Bakery, Rachel Klemek
  9. Braswell’s, Chris McMahon
  10. Char Crust, Susan Eriksen
  11. Chocoveda, Julia Lungin
  12., Karletta Moniz
  13. Culinary Papers, Scott Mille
  14. Eat More Heat, James Beck
  15. Elaine’s Toffee, Janet A. Long
  16. Fall River Wild Rice, Hiram Oilar
  17. Feed the Hungry, David Flowers
  18. Jer’s Chocolates, Jerry Swain
  19. Larry Chiang
  20. Little Cow Cookies, Rae Stacks
  21. Lotus Foods, Caryl Levine
  22. Mediterranean Snacks, Vincent James
  23. Meyenberg, Tracy Darrimon
  24. Mrs. Renfro’s, Dan Fore
  25. Nature’s Indulgence, Rebbi Burdett
  26. Olivia’s Croutons, Francie Caccavo
  27. Original Juan, Greg Dennis
  28. Pamela’s, Stephanie Robbins
  29. Plocky’s, Paul Cipolla
  30. Pollen Ranch, Rebb Firman
  31. Republic of Tea, Kristina Richens
  32. Sables Gourmet Cookie Dough, Barbara Hazen
  33. Salsa Buena, Leah Aguayo
  34. Savor California, Jane St. Claire
  35. Silence Tea, Ross Darroodi
  36. Simply Boulder, Seth Mendelsohn
  37. Slow Cow, Keith Whitlock
  38. Smoked Olive, Brenda Chatelain
  39. Spice Hunter, Heidi Ripplinger
  40. Tanka Bar, Mark A. Tilsen
  41. Thatsanice!, Anthony Marciona and Joseph Lobue
  42. Valor Chocolates, Gonzalo Sanchez
  43. Vibrant Flavors, Donna Dockins
  44. Waffle Lady, Jeanne Scott
  45. Wine Soiree, Andrew Lazorchak

Featured Video Descriptions

  1. Charcuterie– The best charcuterie from all around the world featuring Framani Handcrafted Salumi, Fabrique Delices, Colombo Importing & Trois Petits Cochons.
  2. ChocolatesThe delicious chocolates of the NASFT’s 35th Winter Fancy Food Show. Featuring Fairytale Brownies, John Kelly Chocolates, TCHO Chocolate, and Xan Confections.
  3. Cold Beverages– A selection of some of the cold beverages found at NASFT’s 35th Winter Fancy Food Show. Featuring beverages from Activate, the Brewer’s Association, Dream Foods International, and Fizzy Lizzy.
  4. Feed the Hungry Donation VideoWhen NASFT’s 35th Winter Fancy Food Show ended, Feed The Hungry came in and collected donations from all the exhibitors. In total, over 130,000lbs were donated.
  5. Hot BeveragesHot Beverages from NASFT’s 35th Winter Fancy Food Show. Featuring products from Adagio Teas, Choice Organic Teas, Peerless Coffee and Tea, and Tom and Sally’s Handmade Chocolates.
  6. International Exhibitors– Many of the different countries and international vendors exhibiting at NASFT’s 35th Winter Fancy Food Show. Featuring Fabio Imports from Italy, Mrs. Palmer’s Pantry from Canada, and Isigny Ste Mere and Chevaliers D’Argouges, both from France.
  7. New Products– Some of the new products being introduced and exhibited at NASFT’s 35th Winter Fancy Food Show. Featuring products from Crazy Uncle Jester’s, Cugino’s, Hotlips Soda and Kenny’s Candy Company.
  8. Non-Chocolate CandiesNon-chocolate candy at the 2010 Winter Fancy Food Show including Hammond’s Candies, Sahagian & Associates, Kenny’s Candy Company, & Linda’s Lollies.
  9. Organics and Natural Foods– A sampling of the many tasty organic and natural products at this years Winter Fancy Food Show. Featuring Amy E’s Bakery, Caffe Ibis, Coffaro’s Baking Company, and Pearl River Pastry
  10. People of the Show– Video of attendees, buyers and exhibitors at NASFT’s 35th Winter Fancy Food Show.
  11. Snacks– Snack foods at NASFT’s 35th Winter Fancy Food Show. Featuring snacks from Deep River Snacks, KIND Healthy Snacks, Popcornopolis, and KIND Healthy Snacks.
  12. Sofi Winners– A video highlighting just a few of the many Sofi Winners exhibiting at NASFT’s 35th Winter Fancy Food Show. Featuring Anette’s Chocolates, The Ginger People, Nutorious Nut Confections, and Oregon Growers and Shippers.
  13. Trends– A few products from the show that fit into the trends at NASFT’s 35th Winter Fancy Food Show. Featuring products from Aliseo, Bissinger’s, Black Garlic, Kitchen Naturals, Savory Creations and Shakespeare’s Gourmet Chocolate.

Other Coverage:

  1. FoodChannel Food Channel coverage expanded throughout the week at the 2010 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. They have multiple articles and video interviews!
  2. Feed the Hungry NASFT members donated 130,000 lbs of donated food for the Feed the Hungry local and international efforts after the 2010 Winter Fancy Food Show. Click here to watch an exclusive video.

We hope you enjoyed the coverage of the 2010 Winter Fancy Food Show, including some of our featured product and company segments.  We look forward to seeing you at the 2010 Summer Fancy Food Show for live coverage at the Social Media Lounge and product features on the show floors!