KANSAS CITY – The smallest companies are often the most innovative. A lack of scale and less complex supply chains allow these innovators to experiment more freely with emerging flavors and product formats. The Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) annual sofi Awards is a good place to get a sense of what trends and innovations may be emerging.

The sofi Awards are normally a feature of the SFA’s annual Summer Fancy Food Show, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) led to the cancellation of this year’s event.  The pandemic even interfered with judging.

Originally scheduled for March at the Food Innovation Center at Rutgers University (FIC), Bridgeton, NJ, COVID-19 caused the postponement of judging. Judging resumed in late July with a panel of culinary experts sampling their way through 49 categories via a blind tasting and ended in early August. Judges adhered to safety procedures and were spaced 12 feet apart in a controlled environment, with samples prepared and overseen by FIC staff. Products competing for Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards are judged 70% on taste and 30% on ingredient quality.

“The sofi Awards highlight the best of the best within the specialty food industry,” said Ron Tanner, vice president of education, government and industry relations for the SFA. “This achievement of conducting the sofi Awards under these challenging circumstances truly honors and celebrates our membership and our industry, and our 2020 winners exhibit a level of excellence that excites specialty food buyers and consumers across all channels.”

Visit the slideshow to learn about the Gold Award winners in such categories as barbecue and hot sauce, bread, salty snacks, functional and more. The full list of Gold, Silver and Bronze Award winners may be viewed going here.

View slideshow of Gold Award winners