photo: Jonathan Deutsch, Drexel University, Ken Blanchette, formerly of FreshDirect, and Sarah Nathan, formerly of Chobani Incubator, take part in the sofi Award judging.
More than 1,800 product entries were originally entered in the Specialty Food Association’s sofi awards. The blind tasting was scheduled to take place from March 23 – April 3 at the Rutger’s Food Innovation Center in Bridgeton, NJ, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of judging activity.
The rescheduled judging began on July 27 and will continue through August 7. To protect against the spread of COVID-19, the FIC, which was selected as the new host location for the 2020 sofi Awards earlier this year, is monitoring the temperatures of judges and other participants, requiring face masks, frequently sanitizing common area surfaces, and has placed restrictions on the number of staff members and judges allowed in the facility at one time to 15. Judges are stationed at tables about 12 feet apart and products are brought to them in souffle cups on trays. The judging is taking place in the same location in which the Impossible Burger was developed.
Before entries are tasted by the judges, who are food buyers, chefs, and food writers, they are prepared by a chef according to package directions. Products such as barbecue sauce, for instance, are used to flavor proteins such as chicken and tofu. Items are judged without packaging, pricing, or any brand identification.
Products competing for Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards are judged 70 percent on taste and 30 percent on ingredient quality. Products competing for the New Product Awards are judged 60 percent on taste, 20 percent on ingredient quality, and 20 percent on innovation. The highest scoring product will be named the sofi Product of the Year winner. The announcement of the sofi winners will take place in late August.
Photo: Ron Tanner