Reuben Canada, CEO of Canada Enterprises and creator of Jin+Ja Drink was thrilled to learn his product would take home the gold at the 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show, hosted by the Specialty Food Association. The gold standard, the Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation (sofi) Award in the specialty food industry, is one of the greatest achievements a specialty food or beverage company can attain and Rutgers Food Innovation Center client Jin+Ja Drink had just achieved that distinction.
Jin+Jan Drink creator Canada received the news of his product win at the red carpet event on July 1 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. Jin+Ja Drink competed with thousands of entries and two other category finalists before beign announced winner by notable chef Marcus Samuelsson, host of the sofi awards ceremony.
Jin+Ja received business and technology expertise as a client of the Rutgers University Food Innovation Center (FIC), which provides such help to startup as well as established food companies in New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic region to help grow their businesses.
According to Canada, winning the sofi creates a sense of satisfaction much greater than an award. “It is validation that you can believe in yourself and share with the world some of that inner light that makes you special.”
Jin+Ja is certainly a special kind of beverage blend, combining fresh ginger, cayenne pepper, green tea, mint, and lemon to create an all-natural, gluten-free, healthy and powerfully refreshing beverage. Canada considers his journey in developing and distributing his product as a difficult yet rewarding experience. He steered away from the social norm and instead focused his positive spirit and used his life experiences to start his business.
“Breaking through the weakness of conformity to be daring, elegant and powerful was my motivation to create Jin+Ja, leading me from the beaten path and onto an inspired journey.”
It was this exact attitude that made it possible for the Rutgers Food Innovation Center to assist Canada in the development and commercialization of his product – including formula optimization, scale-up and production, quality assurance, production scheduling, label development, sales strategy and general support of the initial launch.
“Taking a product from your kitchen into the stream of commerce is a daunting task, said Canada. “The FIC was the ideal partner to teach me what I needed to know and guide me through the many challenges that come with producing a high quality consumer product. The FIC is a vital resource for America’s future,” he added.
Choosing a sofi gold winner is certainly not an easy task. A panel of judges from some of the top names in food service and retailing first met at the Specialty Food Association office in New York to sample and evaluate a record number of 2573 entries in 32 categories. The finalists were then determined and the last round of judging took place at the Summer Fancy Food Show. Buyers tasted and evaluated the finalist products and cast their votes just several hours prior to the winners being announced.
About the Fancy Food Show: Since 1955, the Fancy Food Shows have been North America’s largest specialty food and beverage marketplace. Between the Winter Show in San Francisco and the Summer Show in New York City, the Specialty Food Association events bring in more than 40,000 attendees from more than 80 countries and regions to see 260,000 innovative specialty food products, such as confections, cheese, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural, organic and more.
About Rutgers Food Innovation Center: The Rutgers University Food Innovation Center (FIC) is a unique business incubation and economic development accelerator program that provides business and technology expertise to small and mid-sized food and agribusinesses and utilizes its outreach capacity to reach the food industry throughout the nation. Clients include startup food companies, existing small and mid-sized food establishments, farmers and cooperatives and retail and foodservice markets. The center’s 23,000-sq.-ft. food incubator facility enables the marketing, marketing research, development and distribution of new products for the center’s clients, and the evaluation of new technologies and processes. FIC is a research and extension center of Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.
About Canada Enterprises, L.L.C.: Canada Enterprises LLC is a holding company. Jin+Ja, the first product produced and distributed by Canada Enterprises, is an all natural, health tonic. It is made of fresh ginger, lemon, cayenne, mint and green tea.