Since early February, thousands of specialty food products have been arriving at the Food Innovation Center (FIC) at Rutgers University in Bridgeton, NJ, in preparation for the Specialty Food Association’s “specialty outstanding food innovation” sofi™ Awards – the most prestigious competition in specialty foods. Due to the pandemic, the judging has been delayed, leaving a large assortment of perishable delicacies needing a home.
Thanks to the generosity of the participating companies that entered products to be judged, FIC and the Specialty Food Association collaborated to ensure that those perishable foods set for tasting have been donated to feed local residents in the Bridgeton area.
“Our members are dedicated to combating hunger and food waste. It is comforting to know that they are making a real difference to the local community in need,” said Ron Tanner, vice president of philanthropy, government, and industry relations for the Specialty Food Foundation.
FIC and Specialty Food Association collaborated with Gateway Community Action Partnership, a local non-profit, which received the 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.
“We are grateful to have these truly special foods to provide to our community, especially at this time where our residents are at a greater need than we have seen in recent months,” added Marcus Weaver, director of agriculture and food initiatives for Gateway Community Action Partnership.
Earlier this year, the Specialty Food Association selected FIC as the new host location for the 2020 sofi™ Awards, which has been held annually since 1972 to recognize innovation and remarkable taste, and to highlight the flavors and the creativity found across the specialty foods industry. A prestigious list of buyers, chefs, food writers, and distributors, were preparing at arrive at FIC as judges to sample the hundreds of entries and select the gold, silver, bronze, and new product winners for each of the 49 categories.
Margaret Brennan-Tonetta, co-founder of FIC and executive director of economic development and innovation at Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, said, “Every cloud has a silver lining, and I am so glad that the Food Innovation Center, with the support of the Specialty Food Association and the food company applicants, were are able to bring these delicious foods to our neighbors in Bridgeton during this challenging time.”
About the Food Innovation Center at Rutgers University
The Food Innovation Center is a unique food business incubation and economic development program, which is a unit of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. The Center provides business and technology expertise to startup and established food and value-added agricultural businesses, locally and globally. It operates out of two USDA and FDA-certified manufacturing facilities located in Piscataway and Bridgeton, NJ, facilitating the commercialization of products into distribution, while also providing mentoring assistance in marketing, R&D, food safety, regulatory, manufacturing and sales and distribution. Visit foodinnovation.rutgers.edu.
About the Specialty Food Association
The Specialty Food Association is a thriving community of food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs. Established in 1952 in New York, the not-for-profit trade association provides its 4,000 members in the U.S. and abroad the tools, knowledge and connections to champion and nurture their companies in an always-evolving marketplace. The Association owns and produces the Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows, and presents the sofi™ Awards honoring excellence in specialty food. Visit specialtyfood.com.