It’s official. Today’s consumers are truly living—and eating—in an alternative dimension! Plant-based meat and dairy alternatives took three of six top honors in Prepared Foods’ 20th annual Spirit of Innovation (SOI) awards competition this spring.

Since 2003, the distinctive awards honor food and beverage product development teams for excellence in consumer insights, cross-functional product development execution and overall innovation. This year brought more than 120 submissions and after two judged panel tastings, experts selected six items according to a 10-point scale for overall innovation, the team’s problem-solution story and sensory performance (including taste, appearance, texture, smell, etc.) This year’s awards consider items introduced across all channels from January 2021 through March 2022.

This year’s honorees, by award category, include …

… Simple Mills Sweet Thins / Best New Retail Food

… Silk Nextmilk / Best New Retail Beverage

… Happy Little Plants Meatballs / Best New Foodservice Product / Front of House

… MorningStar Farms Incogmeato Chik’n Tenders / Best New Foodservice Product / Back of House

… US Foods’ Hilltop Hearth Pub Grain Hamburger Bun / Winner – Judges’ Selection

… Applegate Naturals Do Good Dog / Winner - Judges’ Selection

“Prepared Foods exists to inform and support those food and beverage manufacturer professionals who influence new product development. We’re celebrating 20 years of the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ and recognizing R&D teams for their behind-the-scenes achievement,” says Bob Garrison, Prepared Foods Editor-in-Chief. “In addition to advances in plant-based protein technology, flavoring and texture, this year finds us showcasing new items developed with extra environmental appeal. They take angles incorporating regenerative agriculture and/or upcycled ingredients.”

“It’s always an honor to participate in Spirit of Innovation judging,” adds Mike Leonard, publisher of BNP Media’s Prepared Foods and Cannabis Products. “I’m always reminded of our industry’s commitment to grow its presence and—through new food and beverage innovation—its positive impact on consumers. This year’s winners more than earned their accolades with some amazing products. Do not miss our awards ceremony because their stories are inspiring.”  

Join this year’s free event.

Prepared Foods Spirit of Innovation Awards Experience! 

Prepared Foods and SOI sponsors will host a two-hour Spirit of Innovation Awards Program and Integrated Innovation Experience on August 9, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT.

It will include…

opening “State of Food & Beverage Innovation” panel

Lisa Maas, Principal, Innovation at IRI, will moderate this 30-minute discussion, which will review trends and technologies driving new product innovation. Panelists include Inri Mouchette, Head of Innovation, Campbell Soup Company; and Barbara Stuckey, Chief Innovation & Marketing Officer, Mattson.

in-depth profiles of each winning company’s product

This unique video platform lets actual R&D team leaders and members directly share their problem-solution stories and strategies.

exclusive real-time, online chats

This exclusive webinar includes a live chat room where attendees can gather and ask questions of SOI-winning R&D team representatives.

Spirit of Innovation Award sponsors include ingredients supplier Cargill Inc.; and the Contract Packaging Association, representing the nation’s contract packagers and manufacturers. Prepared Foods also worked with operational partner Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations, Chicago, a third-party food and beverage product development firm.

Fast Facts: Prepared Foods’ Spirit of Innovation Awards

Prepared Foods received more than 120 initial submissions and companies were asked to support nominations with product and innovation details. BNP Media food and beverage editors used that information to identify approximately 50 new products, which advanced through two rounds of preparation and tasting in late April and early May at Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations, Chicago.

A panel of eight industry judges evaluated each product against a 10-point scale in three categories: overall innovation, the team’s problem-solution story and sensory performance (including taste, appearance, texture, smell, etc.)

Finalist judges were:

Melanie Bartelme, Global Food Analyst, Mintel
Nicole Wollack, Sensory and Consumer Insights Manager, Imbibe
Jim Carper, former Editor-in-Chief, Dairy Foods magazine
Charlie Baggs, Founder, Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations
Nicole VanWort, Chef, Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations
Mike Leonard, Publisher, Prepared Foods
Nick Roskelly, Exec Editor-New Media, Prepared Foods
Bob Garrison, Editor, Prepared Foods

Prepared Foods’ Spirit of Innovation Awards are unique in that they honor R&D teams’ multi-functional collaboration to identify market opportunities and work together in product development. There is no charge to enter, and to be eligible, products must have been introduced between January 2020 and March 2021.

The annual competition is open to all prepared foods and beverages developed for retail-grocery sales, commercial and non-commercial foodservice operations as well as alternative channel outlets such as in-store deli-bakeries and convenience stores.

Learn more about Prepared Foods’ Spirit of Innovation Awards and past winners—complete with winning product profiles.

Prepared Foods is the industry’s largest business-to-business title serving more than 36,000 food + beverage industry executives across all distribution channels. Prepared Foods serves manufacturer professionals in roles of consumer insights, strategic innovation, marketing, R&D, culinary, nutrition, and related product development areas.