The Specialty Food Association has crowned its next crop of new and outstanding foods. Winners of this year’s sofi Awards, which are celebrating their 50th year, run the gamut from a red wine and rosemary cracker kit and Japanese barbecue sauce to plant-based salmon patties and everything bagel-flavored goat cheese.
The awards are open to product-qualified members of the Specialty Food Association and were judged at the Rutgers University Food Innovation Center. Judges undertook anonymous tastings across 47 categories using criteria including flavor, appearance, texture, aroma, ingredient quality and innovation. A total of 102 products were awarded Gold or New Product trophies.
“For 50 years the sofi Awards have been recognizing the best of the best in the specialty food industry,” said Laura Lozada, VP of membership for the Specialty Food Association. “Our members are the foundation of our industry and we are proud to honor their innovation, growth, and creativity.”
Other products honored this year include bake-and-serve Wake-N-Bagels from Little Shop of Bagels, Callie's Hot Little Biscuit Sausage Biscuit and Cassava Chips from Turbana Corp. Scamps Toffee Duo took the Gold award in the Chocolate Candy Category and Bee Razzled Honey Shrub won the Gold award among Alcoholic Beverages & Cocktail Mixes. A full list of winners is on the Specialty Food Association's website.
Product of the Year Award and New Product of the Year Awards will be handed out on June 12 during the Summer Fancy Food Show, which will be held at the Javits Center in New York City.
In honor of Military Spouse Appreciation Day, Texas-based grocery H-E-B handed out more than 4,500 floral bouquets at military bases and community events around the Lone Star state.
This is an annual gesture of support by H-E-B, which first launched events for Military Spouse Appreciation Day in 2013. Held the Friday before Mother’s Day, the events are part of the retailer’s Operation Appreciate program that honors and supports active duty service members, military veterans and their families throughout the year.
H-E-B's overarching program includes an annual donation campaign for military-serving nonprofit organizations and the H-E-B Homes Built for Heroes initiative, among other efforts. In addition, the grocer estimates that it has hired more than 20,000 veterans and military spouses since 2014.
The support of U.S. military members and their families is one facet of H-E-B’s recent community outreach efforts. In April, the grocer announced that it is teaming up with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to help conserve wildlife, habitats and natural resources in its home state. And through May 24, H-E-B shoppers can contribute to an annual donation campaign benefiting EarthShare of Texas.
Rouses Markets has once more been named the official supermarket of the New Orleans Saints, with the additional designation of presenting sponsor of Saints Training Camp. Through the deal, Rouses customers will receive early access to training camp practices with a Fast Pass Lane.
“Saints fans are some of the most passionate and proud sports fans in the country, and I’m one of them,” noted Rouses’ Donny Rouse. “There is a loyal Saints fan base in every market we serve across the Gulf Coast. This partnership is good for everyone, especially the fans. We will be creating a Saints experience throughout our stores and in our advertising year-round.”
The long-term partnership includes fan and community activations, with on-field fan features including the Tunnel Team experience, in which fans are selected to participate before each home game, and Kick-Off Kids, an opportunity for youngsters to be junior tee retrievers. There will also be retail promotions especially for Rouses customers, as well as sweepstakes to win tickets and autographed merchandise.
"As part of this important partnership, we are going to work with Rouses Markets on a wonderful project called Tackle Hunger," said New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson. "We will be encouraging all of our fans to donate nonperishable food at any Rouses Market, that will go to food pantries and community centers throughout the Gulf Coast.”
Throughout the Saints Season, the Saints and Rouses Tackle Hunger Truck with Saints alumni, Saints mascots and the Saints cheer krewe will travel across Louisiana to collect nonperishable food and donations in person.
The National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade organization representing the independent grocery industry, has revealed several new hires to strengthen its advocacy and member services teams.
Stephanie Johnson (far left in photo) joined Washington, D.C.-based NGA as VP of government relations, in which she’ll be responsible for the organization’s food and nutrition issues, and will advise the NGA Foundation on federal nutrition program grant work. Johnson previously worked in the office of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., as a legislative assistant. A registered dietitian, Johnson brings food policy and public health experience to NGA. She also spent four years working for two independent grocery stores, where she saw firsthand how federal policies, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, affect community grocery stores and their customers.
Max Wengroff (second from left), NGA’s new executive assistant, will provide support for the leaders of the association’s government relations, industry relations and communications teams. He was previously a federal legislative associate for environmental policy group Environment America.
Kelly Hanson (second from right) has come aboard as the new project assistant for the NGA Foundation. Hanson has experience in project management and early-childhood nutrition. She worked as a program specialist for the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children and as a public health nutritionist for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Josh Anderegg (far right), the new project manager for the NGA Foundation’s Technical Assistance Center, previously ran a mobile food market for the Pittsburgh Food Bank that offered nutrition incentives, among other endeavors.
Robomart, which offers a pioneering store-hailing service fleet of on-demand mobile mini-marts, has teamed with Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based Unilever to offer a virtual storefront, The Ice Cream Shop. Unilever will deploy a fleet of Ice Cream Robomarts this summer in Los Angeles, featuring treats from such Unilever ice cream brands as Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Good Humor, Magnum ice cream, and Talenti.
Using a patented one-tap grocery ordering technology, consumers can hail The Ice Cream Shop Robomarts to their location using the company’s proprietary mobile app. When the vehicle arrives, the user swipes across the app to open the door. A checkout-free system allows consumers to remove their selected products and walk away without physically checking out or swiping a credit card.
“We’re excited to work with Unilever – the world’s largest ice cream maker – to pilot The Ice Cream Shop as one of the flagship storefronts on our new marketplace,” said Ali Ahmed, CEO and co-founder of Santa Monica, Calif.-based Robomart, which originally launched in Los Angeles in 2021. “Putting a spin on the classic ice cream truck by bringing it to consumers on-demand, we have pioneered a new way for everyone to get their favorite ice cream treats in as little as two minutes. This rollout brings to life the original vision my co-founder and I had over a decade ago while working at Unilever to create ‘The Everywhere Store’ – the fastest and most accessible way to get all your essentials.”
“Our pilot program with Robomart is revolutionizing ice cream delivery for consumers and making it even faster to get our beloved brands to our ice cream fans,” said Russel Lilly, general manager, Unilever North American ice cream. “What better way to shop for your favorite ice cream than just a few steps from your front door?"
H-E-B has started construction on a new store in Georgetown, Texas, which will replace an existing location less than a mile away. The new store will have a larger footprint and provide customers with an expanded product selection, along with more services and features.
The new H-E-B store will be located at 1010 W. University Avenue in the Wolf Lakes Village neighborhood. It is expected to be complete sometime in spring 2023 and will replace the 67,000-square-foot store at 1100 South I35, which opened in 1989. That location will remain operational until the new store opens.
At 121,000 square feet, the new store will reportedly have the feel of a European village, relating to the character of the surrounding neighborhood, and feature two entry towers and pedestrian-friendly surroundings. The store will tout a two-story True Texas BBQ, H-E-B’s barbecue restaurant. Other amenities will include a pharmacy with two-lane drive-thru, patient education and nutritional services; a full-service bakery and tortilleria; a Meal Simple area with chef-inspired options for quick meal planning; Sushiya, offering handmade sushi selections made in-store daily; Texas Backyard, offering products for grilling, gardening and outdoor entertaining; a fuel station and car wash; and H-E-B Curbside and Home Delivery.
All H-E-B employees will be given the opportunity to transfer to the new location once it is complete. H-E-B plans to hire another 100 associates to staff the new store, employing more than 450 associates in total.
In celebration of the new store’s groundbreaking, H-E-B donated $5,000 each to several area organizations.