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Judging

BLIND TASTING

Entries are judged strictly on a blind basis—without packaging, pricing, or any brand identification. SFA has partnered with Rutgers Food Innovation Center in Bridgeton, NJ for judging and logistics management, bringing additional depth in food industry expertise to the competition. PLEASE NOTE PRODUCT FEEDBACK IS NOT PROVIDED AT THE END OF THE AWARDS.

 

EXPERT JUDGES

Seasoned food professionals serve as judges, including chefs, culinary instructors, recipe developers, food journalists and specialty food buyers who are experts in particular categories such as cheese, oil, chocolate, coffee, etc.

Previous judges have come from Food Network, Kroger, Whole Foods Market, The Fresh Market, Eataly, Food & Wine Magazine, FreshDirect, Kings Food Markets, Williams-Sonoma, Union Square Hospitality Group, UNFI, DPI Specialty Foods, and more.  

 

TASTING & EVALUATION

A team of professional chefs will prepare the products exactly according to the producer’s instructions and present to the judges for tasting. For example:

  • Marinade sauces and spice rubs will be used on a protein (e.g., chicken or tofu)
  • Dip and baking mixes will be made according to package instructions
  • Hot beverages will be served hot

The judges work independently in blind-tasting sessions to evaluate each product based on a set of judging criteria. Each judge marks a score for each criteria (on a scale of 1 to 5) and the percentages for the criteria are automatically applied. The final score for an entry is the average of all the judges’ scores for that product resulting in a score between 1.00 and 5.00 points. 

 

JUDGING CRITERIA

All products competiting for the sofi Gold & Silver Awards in each category are judged on:

70% Taste

Based on a product’s flavor, appearance, texture and aroma, and how these qualities come together as a whole.

  • Flavor How pleasant are the taste and aftertaste of the product?
  • Appearance Is the product aesthetically appealing?
  • Texture How is the consistency and mouthfeel?
  • Aroma Does the aroma positively impact the overall experience?

30% Ingredient Quality

This is an evaluation of a product’s ingredients, with consideration given to the use of ingredients in creative ways.

  • Additives or Artificial Ingredients Are there any unnecessary additives or artificial ingredients in the product or involved in its manufacture?
  • Creativity Are there any unexpected ingredients being used, or are common ingredients being used in unexpected ways? Is the overall result a positive, creative experience?
 

JUDGING CRITERIA FOR THE NEW PRODUCT WINNERS

60% Taste

Same definitions as above

20% Ingredient Quality

Same definitions as above

20% Innovation

Innovation is defined as:

  • Unexpected culinary experience in taste profile, flavor combination, use of ingredients, OR a new twist or spin on a classic
  • Creativity in the product recipe/formulation or manufacturing process that makes the product healthier and/or sustainable
  • On trend with changing consumer preference and evolving industry trends

 

 

SELECTION OF SOFI GOLD & SILVER WINNERS

Every product receives a score between 1.00 and 5.00 points. Within each category, the entry with the highest score receives the Gold and the 2nd highest receives the Silver

Rules

  • No ties: The potential winners will be determined by the highest score on the Taste criterion. The judges’ decisions are final and binding.
  • Minimum of 3.50 points to win.

 

SELECTION OF SOFI NEW PRODUCT WINNERS

Every product receives a score between 1.00 and 5.00 points. Within each category, the new-product entry that earns the highest score will be named the sofi New Product Winner in that category.

Rules

  • No ties: If there’s an initial tie in the scores, the potential winners will be determined by the highest score on the Taste criterion. The judges’ decisions are final and binding.
  • Minimum of 3.50 points to win. 

 

SELECTION OF SOFI PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

The General Entry with the highest Overall Score across all Judging Categories will be selected as the potential winning entry for the Product of the Year Award. The New Product Entry with the highest Overall Score across all Judging Categories will be selected as the potential winning entry for the New Product of the Year Award.

 

 

 

"As a judge,

I'm looking for great flavors, pleasing textures, and quality ingredients. As a journalist, I think the best stories grow organically (pardon the pun) out of the pursuit of those attributes. Poignant personal tales can make for good editorial hooks, and I'm not immune to their charms.

But in the end it comes back to these fundamental questions: Is this delicious? Does it replace something I already like or does it innovate?

And why do I need it on my table?"


- Meredith Ochs, Sirius XM Radio, NPR

 

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