Ajiri Tea Co. and Tea Forte Win sofi Gold Awards

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Ajiri Tea Company of Kenya took home a Gold sofi and Tea Forte was also recognized for its packaging at ceremonies of the 57th Summer Fancy Food Show hosted by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade this week.

A sofi Award is considered the highest honor in the $70 billion specialty food industry. The acronym stands for specialty outstanding food innovation. Tea accounts for $613 million in retail sales at specialty grocers nationwide.

The 2011 sofi for Innovation in Packaging Design or Function was awarded to Kenyan black tea producers Ajiri Tea. Ajiri hand-picked black tea is packaged in natural colored boxes as loose or bagged tea. Each box has a handcrafted banana leaf label, with an inner cello bag tied with artisan produced dried banana bark twine and complemented with hand-rolled and lacquered magazine beads inside each box. The suggested retail price starts at $9.

sofi Award StatueA sofi Gold award for Food Gift went to Tea Forte recognizing their “Teas for the Heart” gift box. The firm’s beautiful heart-shaped tea box helps raise awareness for WomenHeart, the national coalition for women with heart disease. The boxes contain some, or all, of the following teas, depending upon the size of the box: Green Mango Peach and Jasmine green, both organic, and Oasis, Moroccan Mint and Sencha. The antioxidants in the tea promote heart health. The boxes retail for $12 (6 pyramid boxes) or $20 (12 pyramid boxes).

The Summer Fancy Food Show attracts 2,400 vendors and 22,000 buyers and trade representatives from around the globe. Two thirds are buying for specialty food stores and remainder for food service, conventional grocery, gift shops and catering businesses. Foods are organized in 33 categories with a record 2,326 sofi entries this year. About 40 percent are manufactured abroad.

Click here for complete list of sofi Award winners. A list of 2011 Gold Awards follows:

Appetizer, Antipasto, Salsa or Dip – Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse – Dave's Bacon

Baked Good, Baking Ingredient or Cereal – Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Inc. – Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste

Cheese or Dairy Product – Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company – Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese

Chocolate – Vosges Haut-Chocolat – Black Salt Caramel Bar

Classic – Savannah Bee Company – Tupelo Flute

Cold Beverage – Brands of Britain – Fever-Tree Ginger Ale

Condiment – The Gracious Gourmet – Spiced Sour Cherry Spread

Confection — TIE 

  • Bequet Confections – Bequet® Butterscotch Caramel 
  • Theo Chocolate – Ghost Chili Caramels 

Cookie – Tate's Bake Shop – Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Cookie

Cooking Sauce or Flavor Enhancer – Stonewall Kitchen – Roasted Peach Whiskey Sauce

Cracker – Kitchen Table Bakers – Sesame Parmesan Crisps

Dessert or Dessert Topping – Ciao Bella Gelato Company – Belgian Chocolate S'mores Gelato

Diet and Lifestyle Product – Nueske's Applewood Smoked Meats – Nueske's Wild Cherrywood Smoked Uncured Bacon

Food Gift Tea Forte – Teas for the Heart

Frozen Savory – Dufour Pastry Kitchens – Mushroom Truffle Risotto Phyllo Flower

Hot Beverage – Chuao Chocolatier – Spicy Maya Hot Chocolate

Innovation in Packaging Design or Function Ajiri Tea Company – Ajiri Tea: Kenyan Black Tea

Jam, Preserve, Honey or Nut Butter – Braswell Food Company – Braswell's Select Balsamic Sweet Onion Jam

Meat, Pate or Seafood – FERMIN USA –Fermin Iberico Dry Cured Ham

New Product – GarLic it! – Private Reserve Caramelized Garlic Finish

Non-Food Specialty Item Culinary Papers – PaperChef Culinary Parchment Cooking Bags

Oil – Culinary Collective – Castillo de Canena Family Reserve Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pasta Sauce – La Pasta, Inc. – Marinara Sauce

Pasta, Rice or Grain – Nuovo Pasta Productions, Ltd. – Spinach, Portabella & Gruyere Ravioli

Perishable Foodservice Product – Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. – Lobster Risotto on the Half Shell

Pet Product – DOGSWELL® – VEGGIE LIFE VITALITY Chicken & Sweet Potato

Product Line – Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. – Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. Retail Product Line

Salad Dressing – Chaparral Gardens – Blackberry Balsamic

Shelf-Stable Foodservice Product – TIE

  • Dulcet Cuisine – Mild Indian Curry Ketchup 
  • Kitchen Table Bakers – Aged Parmesan Crisps 

Snack Food – Anette's Chocolates – Chili Lime Tequila Tortilla Brittle

Soup, Stew, Bean or Chili – Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. – Orr's Island Oyster Stew

USDA Certified Organic Product – Plum Daisy – Colorado Mountain Organic Mixed Berry Jam

Vinegar – South African Consulate General – Rozendal Botanical Vinegars – Rozendal Hibiscus Vinegar.

A national panel of specialty food experts narrowed the field to 125 Silver Finalists in five days of judging at NASFT offices in New York City. In the past two days, more than 200 buyers at the Summer Fancy Food Show tasted and evaluated the finalist products and cast votes to select the gold winners. The results were tabulated by an outside accounting firm.

"A sofi Gold Award is a seal of excellence that is widely recognized by discerning retailers and restaurateurs around the world," says Ann Daw, president of the NASFT. "This year's winners stand out as great examples of the creativity and commitment to quality that are the foundation of the specialty food industry."