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    Arielle Feger
    The Specialty Food Association is continuing its weekly webinar series to support and educate the specialty food industry. Webinars are held live with recorded versions available for download in the specialtyfood.com Learning Center. Webinars are free for SFA members and $19 for non-members.
    Here are highlights from some of the latest webinars:
    In The CARES Act’s ERTC: Retaining More Cash for Employers Who Retain Their Employees, Jeffrey Tate, tax partner at Arent Fox LLP, discussed the Employee Retention Tax Credit, which provides fully refundable tax credits to employers affected by COVID-19 business disruptions. Jeff walked through the ins and outs of the ERTC, addressing how SFA members can obtain immediate and substantial benefits from the ERTC, enabling them to maintain focus on delivering innovative products in the specialty food space.
    In Co-Packing Agreements: The Key Elements, attorney Jeni Lamb Rogers discussed the basic elements of a co-packing agreement, including confidentiality, intellectual property, setting expectations, food safety, and recall responsibility.
    Peter Guyer, CEO and founder, and Bob Jones, vice president of international sales, at Athena Marketing spoke about Increasing Your Sales in High-Growth Export Markets in this sponsored webinar. The speakers went over what you need to do to become export-ready, how to use data to make smarter export decisions, the importance of website localization and social media, and much more.
    Visit the Learning Center to download these and many other webinars in the series.

    Arielle Feger
    As a member in good standing, you’re entitled to use the SFA logo on your website and/or in your marketing materials and packaging. 

    Promoting your affiliation with the SFA notifies those visiting your website or seeing your marketing or packaging materials that you are a business sharing our common passion to Shape the Future of Food.
    The SFA logo was updated about a year ago. The pandemic threw a lot of plans into disarray – including our full logo roll-out, slated for the 2020 Summer Fancy Food Show. With that show canceled, you might have missed our re-branding news.

    If you’re already using the SFA logo on your materials, check to see that you are indeed using the new branding. If you’re not yet using our logo, jump on in! 

    Use these links for helpful tips:
    SFA Logo: What Not to Do
    Logo Variations: What to Use

    Downloadable versions for your use can be found online. You will need to log onto the membership section of our website to access the logos.

    Arielle Feger
    The Specialty Food Association is continuing both its Ask the Experts and Rise to the COVID-19 challenge webinar series as the pandemic continues to impact the specialty food industry. Webinars are held weekly with recorded versions available for download in the specialtyfood.com Learning Center. Webinars are free for SFA members and $19 for non-members.
    Here are highlights from some of the latest webinars:
    In Tackling Your E-Commerce Trifecta, Lou Nicolaides, president of Ludwig Marketing & Sales, shared best practices to help you launch, optimize, and grow on today’s key online e-commerce platforms: Amazon, Walmart Marketplace, and your company website.
    PPP Forgiveness is not granted automatically. It is the borrower’s responsibility to submit the correct form with the accurate calculation and information with all required documentation to your PPP lenders. In PPP Forgiveness: Round Two Update, Man-Li Lin, economic development specialist, Small Business Administration, spoke about PPP Forgiveness if you have received the first PPP or will be applying for the PPP2 First Draw PPP/Second Draw loans.
    Consumers have become increasingly interested in the environmental, health, and social implications of the foods they buy. In Launching a Sustainable Food Brand: Combing Business and Impact, Linda Appel Lipsius, co-founder Teatulia Organic Teas, as she explains the “why” and “why nots” behind launching a sustainable food brand.
    The coronavirus has shaken up all segments of the specialty food industry – where people are eating, how they are cooking, what new ingredients they are using, and the powerful social consciousness driving brand choices. In Talking Trends in ’21, SFA Trendspotter Panel members Melanie Bartelme, global food analyst, Mintel, and Jonathan Deutsch Ph.D., CHE, CRC, professor, Drexel University and director, Drexel Food Lab, discussed the reverberations of these changes and the trends that will dominate 2021 and beyond.
    Visit the Learning Center to download these and many other webinars in the series.

    Russell Kolody
    2021 sofi Awards 
    Welcome to the 2021 sofi Awards! 
    Some important dates to remember: 
    Online entries ($95 per entry) for the 2021 Awards begin on March 1 and will remain open until March 31. 
    Product entries will be accepted at Rutgers Food Innovation Center from March 1 until April 8. 
    Judging for the 2021 sofi Awards will begin on April 12 and run through May 7. 
    Key member and product eligibility rules to keep in mind: 
    You must be a member in good standing of the Specialty Food Association.  2021 membership dues must be paid in full.  Entries in the New Product category must have been introduced to the U.S. market after March 1, 2020 and before October 1, 2020.  Products competing in all categories must be selling in the U.S. market no later than October 1, 2020; (for a minimum of six months).  All product entries must be ready for sale. Mock-ups and products still in R&D phase will not be accepted.   
    If you’ve been on the sofi website recently (https://www.specialtyfood.com/awards/sofi/) , you may have noticed that we’ve made a few significant changes this year. In an effort to keep the program competitive and a sofi win even more prestigious, we have eliminated the Bronze statue from this year’s awards. Entries in the general categories will now be vying for Gold and Silver Awards and as always, there will be a New Product Award for each general category as well. 
    As the judging criteria for general entries differs somewhat from that of New Product entries, the 2021 sofi Awards will be introducing a second Product of the Year Award for New Products!  In addition to a Product of the Year Award being presented to the product scoring the highest in the general categories,  this second Product of the Year Award will be given to the highest scoring new product. 
    You may remember there being a postponement last year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  Not this year…The SFA has partnered with Rutgers Food Innovation Center for logistics management and judging, bringing additional depth in food industry expertise to the competition.  The entire process will be housed at Rutgers FIC, assuring there will be no postponement this year.  As they say, the show must go on! 
    If you have any additional questions or need further assistance, please reach out to us at sofiawards@specialtyfood.com  

    Denise Purcell
    The Specialty Food Association’s January Specialty Food Live! virtual marketplace event showcased more that 10,000 new products and created nearly 16,000 connections between makers and buyers over four days, as well as featured 13 sessions to inform about the latest research insights, trends, and innovations; recognize leadership; and provide industry roundtable discussions.
    Here are some takeaways from the information-packed sessions. 
    “An act of kindness of strangers may not solve every problem we have, but it gives us hope and that’s a lot and the impact of the kindness will affect future generations. I’m feeling blessed that Angkor Cambodian is able to give back.”
    Channy Laux, CEO of Angkor Cambodian Food, who survived the Cambodian genocide and labor camps before coming to the U.S., on winning an SFA 2021 Leadership Award for Citizenship. Read more.
    “How are you able to react faster to trends that change? You have to have more options. I think you’ll see a lot of bigger retailers broaden their supplier base to have more options.”
    Greg Sarley, SVP of merchandising revenue at Harry & David, on identifying the right supply chain partners, and having backups for issues that arise. Full session.
    “Finding out what ‘real’ meant was the biggest project. We made it our mission to define what that actually meant, and we recognized how important it is to know where your food really comes from.”
    Dan Wise, founder and CEO of ready-to-eat meal delivery service RealEats America Inc., on working to improve the food system. Full session.
    “People who are saying restaurants are dead and everyone is going to cook at home are giving consumers way too much credit. We love to travel and love to eat and can’t unlearn those behaviors.”
    Jonathan Deutsch, professor of culinary arts and science at Drexel University and director of the Drexel Food Core Lab, on the balance of cooking at home trends post-COVID. Full session.
    “A lot of people are looking for more transparency in their food. We try to make it easy for people to know what type of systems they are supporting.”
    Alita Kelly, founder of South East Market, which emphasizes sourcing local farms and businesses that are led by women and minorities, as well as those that are actively supporting environmental sustainability. Full session.
    “Quantifying the impact [a company] is having may be something that continues to emerge as a differentiating point.”
    Melanie Bartelme, global food analyst for Mintel,  on the trend of companies showing how the money from their ethical business practices are supporting communities. Full session.
    You can download full sessions from Specialty Food Live where the links are provided. Sessions are free for SFA members and $19 for non-members.

    Laura Lozada
    Calling All SFA Members!
    First, let me introduce myself … I’m Laura Lozada and I recently joined an already vibrant and service-minded group of membership staffers at SFA as the VP of Membership. 
    I might be a new face to some of you, but I’ve been around the SFA block a few times. I’ve been happily employed here for 20+ years providing member services and support activities; usually found behind the scenes, running events, education and way back when – finance. Now, I’ve shifted efforts to focus more specifically on the heart of our organization – you guys, the members!  And I couldn’t be happier.
    That’s why I couldn’t let this moment slip past without giving a Community Hub shout out and call for nominations for the next group of intrepid members willing to volunteer time and help govern the SFA.
    Want to join us as a volunteer leader... Act now!
    Sounds like an infomercial, right?  “ACT NOW!”  But seriously, we need to hear from you via the nomination form online by the end of this month if you want to be a volunteer and be considered for any of the four exciting opportunities we have.  This opportunity is open to all members in good standing (this means dues paid!)  Speaking of dues – we are abuzz at SFA about your positive response to the most recent member benefits, including Specialty Food Live!, Infinite Aisle, and the Virtual Tasting Experience. And we rely heavily on member dues to fund program development just like this. 
    Back to volunteering. You may have noticed that we’ve changed the process some in recent history, so we now hold elections annually. This means you have this opportunity for one solid month a year to get your name into the running to volunteer as someone to tackle a position on the Association or Foundation Board of Directors or the Association Committees and Industry Work Groups. 
    You can find out more about each of these opportunities as well and submit your own nomination online here.  Even if this isn’t the year for you, keep us in mind if you want to do it next year and you can expect the exact same process each year moving forward.
    We are here if you have questions throughout the application process. We’ve been tweaking that too – and hope to have made it easier as well.  Let us know how we are doing or ask questions at volunteer@specialtyfood.com Deadline to submit a nomination is February 28, 2021

    Arielle Feger
    The Specialty Food Association is continuing both its Ask the Experts and Rise to the COVID-19 challenge webinar series as the pandemic continues to impact the specialty food industry. Webinars are held weekly with recorded versions available for download in the specialtyfood.com Learning Center. Webinars are free for SFA members and $19 for non-members.
    Here are highlights from some of the latest webinars:
    Every retailer has faced challenges during the pandemic. In Culture Will Carry Us Through, Matt Caputo of Caputo’s in Salt Lake City shared how the retailer has adapted while supporting artisanal brands and preserving the elements that made it succeed in the first place—culture, crew, and community.
    The pandemic may still be here, but so is the Small Business Administration. In Relief During COVID-19: SBA Programs that Can Help, Peter Fehnel, supervisory economic development specialist & veteran business outreach officer, summarized SBA’s activity over the past nine months and provided an update on current activities including the Economic Injury Disaster Loans and the Paycheck Protection Program.
    PPP Forgiveness is not granted automatically; it is the borrower’s responsibility to submit the required paperwork to PPP lenders. In this webinar about PPP Forgiveness Application and EIDL Reconsideration Requests, Man-Li Lin, economic development specialist at SBA’s New York District Office, shared information about qualifications and instructions for PPP Forgiveness Forms, and the documents you’ll need to submit and maintain.
    With a shrinking center store, SKU rationalization, and space increasingly at a premium in perishable categories, getting item acceptance and making it to the shelf is becoming more difficult than ever before. Case Pack Optimization: A Hidden Growth Opportunity takes fresh look at the Specialty Food Association study on case pack optimization. Jim Wisner of Wisner Marketing, who authored the original study, shared new market dynamics that make this issue more important than ever before.
    Buyers want to do business with certified women- and minority-owned businesses. During this webinar, Demystifying Certification, LaKesha White, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and Constance Jones, National Minority Supplier Development Council, shared valuable information about their organizations, the certifications they offer, and certification criteria and process.
    Visit the Learning Center to download these and many other webinars in the series.

    Denise Purcell
    The winter issue of Specialty Food magazine is typically where we look at the trends expected to influence the industry for the next 12 months, be it flavors and ingredients, or developments in how and where consumers are shopping.
    Unfortunately, waves of COVID-19 are still rampant and sticking close to home will continue for the foreseeable future. The pandemic has caused major shifts in food preparation and consumption, evident in most of the trends we discuss in this issue.
    Several of the SFA Trendspotter panel’s picks for the top trends of 2021 revolve around COVID-19 and its implications. The new normal means preparing meals and snacks at home, often as the whole family continues to navigate school and work under the same roof day after day. Not only are many center-store pantry categories experiencing the COVID boom but experimentation and engagement in food prep may be one of the few bright spots of this bleak time.
    Excitement and discovery consumers once found in restaurants or through travel has been curtailed because of lockdowns and economic concerns. The home kitchen is the new place to seek out ingredients and recipes that will stave off meal monotony. Restaurant-quality condiments, cooking sauces, and cocktail mixes are in demand as are ingredients that will bring global flavors to everyday dishes. According to Acosta data in our feature, Pandemic Trends Carry Into 2021, sales of premium and super-premium packaged foods are up across households of varying income levels as consumers look to replace some of their restaurant dining at home. On top of that, several products are coming to market that are selling whimsy, from maple syrup with edible glitter to hot chocolate bombs, adding what the Trendspotters’ dubbed “eatertainment” to mealtime.
    In fact, food has been a point of connection throughout these long months. Social media has become part entertainment, part resource with everything from Zoom dinner parties, to Instagram quarantine-meal shots, to YouTube breadmaking lessons. This is true across age groups: Emerging platforms like Twitch, a live video streaming service, and TikTok, a short-form video sharing app, both skew toward Gen Z and younger, and food-related videos are surging in both. Case in point: Chile Gushers, something I only know about because my 11-year-old niece saw it on TikTok and informed me it was a trend we should write about. You can read more in Trends & Happenings but in short, these chile candies are a take on traditional Mexican confections that are finding new life in the U.S. thanks to a post gone viral.
    As we head into 2021, it’s looking very much like a significant number of consumers will continue to cook at home, at least until restrictions on restaurant operations have ended. Products that keep meals interesting, video and recipe content, and meal kits sold at retail or by restaurants depending on off-premise sales can all help them have some fun while doing so. 

    Arielle Feger
    The Specialty Food Association is continuing both its Ask the Experts and Rise to the COVID-19 challenge webinar series as the pandemic continues to impact the specialty food industry. Webinars are held weekly with recorded versions available for download in the specialtyfood.com Learning Center. Webinars are free for SFA members and $19 for non-members. 

    Here are highlights from some of the latest webinars: 

    The continuing coronavirus pandemic keeping record number of people close to home, growing social awareness affecting purchasing decisions, and a maturing Gen Z population, are driving the food trends that will dominate in the new year, says the Specialty Food Association Trendspotter panel. In Top Food Trends for 2021, Trendspotters Wendy Robinson, senior buyer, Market Hall Foods, and Clara Park, corporate chef of Culinary Innovations for Chelten House Brands, and Denise Purcell, SFA’s director of content, discussed the top trend predictions for 2021.

    Consistently delicious products create brand loyalty. In Own Your Flavor Profile: Get the Specs Straight, product quality expert Nancy Jo Seaton explained the importance of clear product specifications to guarantee consistent quality. This webinar also highlighted the importance of holistic descriptions and clear communication with co-manufacturers.

    With the massive growth of DTC and Amazon combined with the growth of click and collect and delivery on the retail side of our business, you need to figure out your digital spend. How can you efficiently find your consumer when, where, and how they want to buy your product? Steve Gaither, CMO at CA Fortune explained how in Understanding Shoppable Content: DTC, Amazon, Click & Brick, and Brick & Mortar.

    Building a successful Amazon business can feel like a full-time job. In Keys to Successful Sales on Amazon with Brand Force Digital, former grocery Amazon vendor manager, Clint George of Brand Focus Digital, provided strategies that can help propel an Amazon business to the next level. George shared how to create attractive Amazon listings, use Amazon Advertising to increase your ROAS, and much more.

    Visit the Learning Center to download these and many other webinars in the series.

    Denise Purcell
    The continuing coronavirus pandemic keeping record number of people close to home, growing social awareness affecting purchasing decisions, and a maturing Gen Z population, are driving the food trends that will dominate in the new year, says the Specialty Food Association Trendspotter panel. This group of retailers, chefs, food writers and educators, and market analysts, has weighed in on the top trends for the next 12 months. Here's some of what you can expect to see:

    Eating/Cooking at Home. The reality of at-home meal preparation and consumption will stay with us in 2021, but has also brought about several subtrends. "At-home eating will be the name of the game in 2021,” says Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, global food analyst at Mintel and member of the Trendspotter Panel. “We will see consumers looking to brighten and enliven the monotony of preparing so many meals in a row."
    Restaurant Food in the Home Kitchen. With economic concerns not easing and the potential for more lockdowns during the upcoming winter, consumers are looking to replicate restaurant experiences in the home kitchen. We’ll see more restaurant-quality condiments, cooking sauces, and cocktail mixes, say the Trendspotters. Examples include smoked watermelon salt for use on fruits and vegetables; a sauce that combined the seven toppings of the classic Chicago Hot Dog into one condiment; sliced Calabrian chiles; and cocktail mixes like a smoked maple old-fashioned syrup for at-home bartending.
    Twists on Classics. Reimagining traditional recipes and products will keep consumers from becoming bored with their meals and snacks in the coming year. Examples include products like vodka and tomato ketchup, a twist on vodka sauce; aged cheddar granola; everything bagel broccoli bites; sheep’s milk chocolate; mint-flavored pasta; and beetroot-flavored drinking chocolate powder.
    Eatertainment. The events of 2020 left no one unscathed. “These are serious times and with some areas still experiencing closures in theaters, stadiums, concert halls, and other entertainment venues, we are looking to have fun at home,” says Trendspotter Jonathan Deutsch of The Drexel Food Lab at Drexel University. Novelty products are bringing some whimsy and entertainment to the home kitchen. Trendspotters point to maple syrup with edible glitter; pretzel bread mix; a unicorn s'mores skillet kit; hot chocolate on a stick; edible spoons in sweet and savory flavors; and reusable lunch box packaging with llamas and unicorns.
    Values-Based Buying. Consumers are becoming more conscious shoppers when choosing which brands to support with their food dollars. They are seeking out companies owned by women, Black people, people of color, B Corps, sustainability-focused brands, and those with ethical labor practices. "For me, 2020 highlighted topics amongst all brands: cultural appropriation, community impact, ethical practices. More than ever, brands are focused on these three categories and trying to align their messaging with this,” says Chef Tu David Phu, a Trendspotter Panel member. “Movements like #metoo and #blacklivesmatter have empowered consumers to voice their opinions on what they expect from their favorite brands. This pivot/shift is mainly due to Generation Z coming into the consumer marketplace as adults. Food brands need to shift now as this new demographic is taking over the marketplace."
    Global Travels at Home. With consumers sticking closer to home, global flavors offer culinary adventure in lieu of traveling, especially from less-familiar countries and regions. "I'm seeing more prominence and appreciation of regional ingredients from parts of the world often overlooked—specifically, an interest in West African ingredients and cuisine,” says Dawn Padmore, vice president of culinary marketing and events, Karlitz and Company. Products and flavors from Scandinavia, Cambodia, and Senegal are trending with ingredients like sea buckthorn; Cambodian chile pastes; fonio, an ancient grain from Senegal that continues to gain attention; Caribbean and Latin-American flavored pre-made beans; and spices that focus specifically on herbs or plants native to regions such as West Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.
    Functional Ingredients. The pandemic also has put health concerns front and center and they will seek functional ingredients and benefits in their foods and beverages. Products that boost immunity and manage stress will particularly be in demand. Examples include functional ghees to promote women’s health, restful sleep, and cardiovascular health; fermented honey sauce; and prebiotic-laced snacks for digestive health with reported immunity-boosting functionality. “These have been huge for years, the difference is the hot functional ingredients change every couple of years. Right now mushroom powders (reishii, lions mane, etc.) are still rising, turmeric is already mainstream (golden lattes), CBD is huge—and deserves its own category,” says Andrew Freeman, founder of af&co./co-founder of Carbonate.
    Plant-Based Continuing Revolution. More a movement than a trend, plant-based earns a spot on this year’s list for its burgeoning growth during COVID-19 and for new formats that continue to transform the food and beverage market. During surge shopping in the spring, plant-based enjoyed a boost in most categories, especially milk and other dairy and meat alternatives. According to the SFA’s State of the Specialty Food Industry report, 2020-2021 Edition, the segment has huge runway for growth, increasing 10-20 percent annually through 2024. New products and applications include meatless mixes for at-home cooking; dairy-free queso made with aquafaba; cashew cheesy sauce; plant-based tzatziki; oat milk chocolate; and cactus-based tortilla chips. Trendspotter Chris Styler, culinary producer/product development chef and head of Freelance Food, LLC, also observes trends in “the rebranding of foods as 'plant-based' including beverages; more options for plant-based foods including plant-based protein to use for chili, soups, tomato sauce.”
    Less Sugar and Natural Sugar. Tied to attention to health, consumers are counterbalancing their desires to treat themselves with products that offer low sugar or natural sugar, or sugar alternatives.  “We will continue to see a decline in the levels of sugar in foods and drinks and an increase in the availability and popularity of alternative sweeteners like monk fruit, keto-friendly sugars and coconut sugar,” says Clara Park, corporate chef of Culinary Innovation for Chelten House Products. Trendspotters noted hot sauces sweetened with peaches; jams that relied on natural sugars from carrots and jaggery, a cane sugar consumed in Asia; traditional Carolina BBQ sauce in a sugar-free variety; and a proliferation of sauces sweetened with dates.
    Halva. Following consumers’ growing interest over the past few years in tahini sauce, then black sesame flavoring ice creams and lattes, halva is re-emerging in the spotlight. This 3000-year-old, sesame seed-based Middle Eastern confection was touted in 2020 by Ruth Reichl as good-for-you candy, thanks to its abundance of iron. Product examples include halva butter made from sesame paste to spread on toast, crackers, or in ice cream, and shelf-stable halva slices in flavors like toasted coconut and triple chocolate. Naturally vegan, halva also has plant-based appeal.

    Read more and see a full list of the 2020 SFA Trendspotters.
    Download a recording of a recent webinar on the 2021 Trends.

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