The Specialty Food Association has completed its 2020 sofi™ Awards judging in the midst of the pandemic. Launched in 1972, the sofi (specialty outstanding food innovation) Awards celebrate the culinary excellence and creativity of its 4,000+ members. This year, however, the process was more complicated given the challenges of COVID 19. Thanks to a partnership with Food Innovation Center at Rutgers University (FIC), the Specialty Food Association (SFA) persevered, and produced its 48th annual sofi™ Awards competition, resulting in 157 winners across 49 categories from around the world.

Originally scheduled for March at the FIC in Bridgeton, N.J., the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of judging. Faced with perishable entries, the SFA and FIC collaborated with Gateway Community Action Partnership, a local nonprofit, which received donated specialty foods that included breads and tortillas, coffees and teas, a wide variety of cheeses, dips, yogurt, honey, soups, snacks, chocolates, and specialty candies.

With the cancellation of the Summer Fancy Food Show, and its members experiencing an unpredictable marketplace, the SFA forged ahead with its sofi Awards program. Nearly half of the entries needed to be resubmitted due to expiration dates. Judging resumed in late July with a panel of culinary experts sampling their way through 49 categories via the blind tasting and ended early August. Judges adhered to meticulous 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. Products competing for the New Product Awards are judged 60% on taste, 20% on ingredient quality, and 20% on innovation.

"The sofi Awards highlight the best of the best within the specialty food industry," said Ron Tanner, vice president, education, government and industry relations at the Specialty Food Association. "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."

The full list of winners is available here; the sofi Award Product of the Year, given to the product that received the highest cumulative score, will be announced during the Specialty Food Association's Specialty Food Live! 2020 - A Virtual Marketplace, taking place September 21-24. The first virtual specialty food marketplace in North America, it will feature products from around the world, education sessions, guided tastings, and events.

Registration for the Specialty Food Live! 2020 - A Virtual Marketplace is at