sofi Bloopers, Blunders, and Random Notes

May 11, 2010

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!

The 2010 sofi Team

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 sofiawards@nasft.org.

And finally, thanks to all NASFT members who have entered so far this year, and for making it a great competition.

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Q: “We’re a sofi Awards Finalist. How do we better use social media to spread the news? A:“First, congratulations! Here are some resources for you to consider.”

April 23, 2010

By Vivian Friess, Marketing Manager

Dos, Don’ts and How-To’s

We are embracing social media. But remember, it is very personal, and is not a mere marketing tool. Think of it as a great way to establish direct contact with your customers, one-to-one, in a casual environment, without a heavy sales pitch. Build some good will, and then present your product.

Here are some suggestions:

Facebook

If you don’t have a Facebook community page, it’s a good time to start.  Set a casual tone, and don’t be afraid to show your personality. Share photos, videos and announcements to keep your fans engaged. It is not about the number of posts you make, but the quality and relevance to your community members. Consider creating a “page box” to use as a diary. Here you can record your activities leaving up to the Summer Fancy Food Show and the sofi Gold judging there. Here is a sample post:

April 14, 2010
Just received an email from NASFT – we’re officially a sofi Silver Finalist! We’re so happy and want to share our excitement with you. Find our sofi winning product in retail stores, snap a picture, send it to us, and we’ll send you a free gift. And don’t forget to come and see us at the Summer Fancy Food Show, we’re going for the Gold!

Keep your posts simple. Throw in a special offer on occasion or highlight a promotion surrounding your sofi product. That’s right, your sofi product. Don’t forget, relevance is key. Your marketing objective is to boost your visibility as a sofi Silver Finalist, your company and your products.

Twitter

Did you know that we captured the sofi Awards judging April 14 -16 with real-time tweets from the NASFT Twitter @nasft? Many of you tuned in for up-to-date news and information directly from our kitchen and offices. Keep tweeting us! We’ll retweet and reply to help get your message in front of our near 3,000 followers.

Use hashtags! For example, “#NASFT” is associated with the Fancy Food Shows, if you’re exhibiting or attending, include “#NASFT” in your tweets to help others find you. “#sofi Awards” is for the Awards–use it whenever the awards are the topic or if you’re tweeting about the Summer Show. These hashtags will increase your exposure.

I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information. Hopefully you find this post useful and we’re always here to help. Email me or tweet me if you have questions.


Taking a quick break to report in from day 1 of the sofi Awards judging for the 38th sofi Awards for the outstanding specialty foods of 2010.

April 14, 2010

By Louise Kramer, NASFT Communications Manager

I am so thrilled that it has all come together today: Chef David Ward is whipping up baked goods, sous Chef Alistair Smith has started cutting up cheese, and the sofi support team is humming.

Our panel of nine judges arrived here at our new offices on Madison Avenue in Midtown Manhattan at 9 a.m. today. We were a little nervous behind the scenes because we’ve never done the sofis here and it is quite an operation! In the past week we received 1,570 entries, all great food products vying for the coveted sofi Gold Award.

We’ll present the Gold Awards at our Summer Fancy Food Show on June 28 in a red-carpet ceremony hosted by Dan Barber, a leading light of the artisanal and local food movement.

The judges come from across the US. We have a specialty retailer from Southern California from a family-owned business, a Dallas-based grocer whose company has dozens of stores, a big regional supermarket chain in the Southeast, a fab New York City retailer with several stores brimming with specialty and natural products from the members of our trade association. Oh, and the food editor of a fabulous major magazine, a chef instructor from a great cooking school, and the owner of a great store in Vermont, and the owner of a lovely shop in New York’s Westchester Country. To cap it off, we have an executive chef from a prominent New York restaurant company that has a branch in LA.

When we assembled the panel, our aim was to have a range of expertise and opinions represented.  It is there tough job – someone has to do it! — to select finalists across 31 awards categories this week, from Outstanding Appetizer, Antipasto, Salsa or Dip to Outstanding Vinegar.

In early June, we’ll have a panel come to our offices to judge the last two batches of entries, for the coveted sofi Gold Award for the Outstanding New Product of the Year, and Outstanding Product Line. They’ll pick finalists for those two awards. Sort of like coming up with the list of Oscar nominees.

So far today the judges have completed judging one category to pick the nominees/finalists, and are about to finish the second. The sofi team, lead by Marilyn O’Hara, the project manager, and Nicole Denis, the culinary manager, are running around quite a bit to make sure all entries are set out just right, that the fact sheets are there, that the judges have plenty of water and tasting spoons and napkins, etc.

This is my third year working on the sofi Awards, and I am very relieved that it has all come together. And I am especially relieved that our new oven is working! We weren’t quite sure it would be.

Here’s to a great sofi 2010. The finalists for the first 31 of the 33 Awards will be announced the week of April 19. The finalists for those last two Awards will be announced the week of June 7.

The sofi Gold winners for each of the 33 Awards will be selected by attendees at the Summer Fancy Food Show. All the finalists picked this week will be set out on long tables in a private room for retailers and buyers to taste and evaluate in order to make their picks. It will all be monitored by an outside accounting firm. They’ll tally the results right there so we can announce them at the show just a few hours after the judging of the finalists ends.

But I’m racing ahead of myself. We need to have a list of finalists first. And that’s what’s starting to happen today with the judges sampling about 500 products today. They’ll be here tomorrow, Thurs., April 15, and Friday, April 16. No doubt they will eat light this weekend.


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. CulinaryMuse.com, 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!


Winter Fancy Food Show Attendance up 9 percent–Renewed Momentum for Specialty Food Industry

January 27, 2010

New York, N.Y. (Jan. 27, 2010) – The 35th Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco last week had the highest attendance of any Winter Show in the past five years. The three-day event at Moscone Center, which ended Jan. 19,

Opening Day of the Winter Show. Over 16,500 people attendeed this year..a 9% increase from last year.

drew 16,780 buyers of specialty food from across the U.S. and around the world.

The show’s 1,300 exhibitors presented 80,000 specialty products from the U.S. and 45 countries, including Australia, Italy, Korea and Tunisia. There were 184 first-time exhibitors, and space was sold out for a pavilion featuring emerging food entrepreneurs. Participation was up 47 percent for the education program of 19 seminars, workshops and tours.

“The mood was very positive,” says Ann Daw, president of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade in New York City. “There is clearly positive momentum in our industry as consumers start to spend again on distinctive foods and beverages that add enjoyment to their meals.”

The Winter Fancy Food Show is the largest marketplace for specialty food on the West Coast. Attendees this year represented some of the most important names in retailing, including Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, Costco, Amazon.com, Macy’s, numerous local and regional specialty and natural food stores, gift shops, and even Alaska Airlines. They were in search of the next hot products and the best in chocolate, cheese, olive oil, salsas, snacks and more.

A huge variety of olives were part of 80,000 specialty products to see and taste

Trends that generated buzz included good-for-you-foods; coconut products; gluten-free; exotic citrus and nostalgic foods. There were new twists on bacon, including as ingredients in pancake mix and nut brittle, and flavors from India, Japan, and Morocco were plentiful. Craft beers were featured at a new pavilion from the Brewer’s Association, and dozens of artisan cheeses were presented by the American Cheese Society.

Exhibitors have a long tradition of giving back. This year amid continuing economic hardship for many Americans, exhibitors donated a record 130,000 pounds of food, enough to fill three tractor trailers, to Bay Area anti-hunger programs. More than 5,000 families received grocery bags filled with specialty items. Amid the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Haiti, the NASFT urged exhibitors to support relief efforts with financial contributions, and provided information on organizations that are collecting funds. The trade association also pledged to match contributions made by its staff members.

The NASFT presents two Fancy Food Shows each year. The 56th Summer Fancy Food Show will be June 27 – 29, 2010 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. The Winter Show returns to Moscone Center Jan. 16 – 18, 2011.

NASFT MEDIA CONTACTS:

Ron Tanner, VP, Communications & Education; 646-878-0115, rtanner@nasft.org
Louise Kramer, Communications Director; 646-878-0130, lkramer@nasft.org


Top 5 food trends and Grand prize winner of Trend Game Announced!

January 19, 2010

Great news! The Top 5 trends have been been picked by a panel of food experts at the 35th Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco!

The top trends are:

  • Good-for-you foods
  • Coconut
  • Gluten-free
  • Exotic citrus
  • Nostalgic foods

The experts scouted the exhibit halls of the Winter Fancy Food Show yesterday. Their picks are part of the Fancy Food Show’s online Food Trend Challenge. Hundreds of retailers, restaurateurs, journalists, producers, farmers and others in the industry played the online game for a chance to win monthly prizes and bragging rights as the trendiest person at the show. Grand prize was awarded to went to Eddi Marie Julian, Beckles Candies and Gifts, Modesto, Calif. She won the great prize of a free trip to the 56th Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City this June 27 – 29. Congratulations Eddi Marie!

The experts included: Lessley Anderson, senior features editor, CHOW; Kara Nielsen, trendologist, Center for Culinary Development; Tanya Henry, food critic, Marin Independent Journal; Nancy Wall Hopkins, deputy editor, food and entertaining, Better Homes & Gardens; Kay Logsdon, editor, The Food Channel; Denise Purcell, Editor, Specialty Food Magazine; Joanne Weir, PBS television host, Joanne Weir’s Cooking Class.


This Just In!

January 13, 2010

Attention Show attendees! If you haven’t played the Food Trend Game yet, now it’s the time! Why? Because the ante has been upped!

Not only will the winner of the Trend Game be named the “Trendiest Person at the Winter Fancy Food Show”, he or she will also win a trip to the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York in June! The prize includes:

• One round trip airline ticket to New York
PLUS

• Two nights hotel accommodations during the Summer Show
PLUS

• Free registration to the Show!

Play now and stop by the Social Media Lounge to vote. And watch out – the winner will be announced on Monday, January 18.
Good luck! …and see you in San Francisco!