An Important Message From The SFA Board Of Directors

Specialty Food Association
Dear Fellow SFA Members,

There are a number of important updates we’d like to share with you focused on the harmful for-profit anti-SFA outside effort.

Update on the For-Profit Anti-SFA Effort

You may continue to receive communication about a harmful for-profit anti-SFA effort led by Daniel Dowe and Artisanal Cheese to dissolve the SFA and turn the organization into a private, for-profit entity, with the ability to sell off SFA’s assets at any time at his discretion. The lasting impact of this effort would be far-reaching and turn the organization from one focused on the needs of its members to one focused on the enrichment of a single party and not the benefit of members.  

Mr. Dowe and Artisanal Cheese are no longer part of the SFA. There were a number of actions taken by Mr. Dowe and Artisanal Cheese that the Board identified, and found, to be detrimental to the interests of the SFA and grounds for expulsion. This included actions taken during Mr. Dowe’s time as Chairman of the Board, a position he was removed from last summer, before his term expired, after an exhaustive review by an outside legal firm.

We understand that the aggressive tactics and misinformation that the effort has spread seek to have you sign a proxy in haste or without having all of the information.

You can revoke your proxy by sending an email to: and writing “I revoke the proxy given to Daniel Dowe/Artisanal Cheese."

Additionally, contrary to the anti-SFA effort’s claims:
  • This Board cares about what you have to say. We want to hear from you. Please feel free to email us directly at We regularly provide open opportunities for members to voice their opinions and concerns at speak ups and open member meetings at both shows. We take your feedback and questions seriously.
  • We represent everyone equally and promote all our members. The SFA represents all our members equally, regardless of business size. The Association’s mission is to promote our members, and we do so on a daily basis. Being a nonprofit association means promoting members equally, which is critical to serving the many successful small businesses we are proud to work with.
  • We have invested in Member Engagement & Member Development Teams. Please see the next section for updates.
  • Becoming a for-profit entity would negate our mission and could significantly increase costs for members. Changing the organization’s tax status to a for-profit organization could cost members more, as everything would be taxed, and the goal would be to seek a profit from you.
  • Our existing structure allows for lower booth fees. In part because of our tax-exempt and non-profit status (which the outside campaign is seeking to end), we are able to provide services to you at a lower cost that is far less than competitors offer. For example, another comparable tradeshow in the industry charges more than twice as much.The SFA has held prices steady for as long as possible, only increasing fees by a total of 3% from 2009-2019. This summer the SFA will increase booth prices $2.00/square foot – bringing fees to a reasonable $37.00/square foot, which is still less than half of competitors.
  • There is no increase to membership fees for Makers, Retailers, Distributors, and Alliance Members. Brokers are now general members and will pay as such.
  • We are engaging food influencers. We have established and invested in relationships with two prominent academic institutions (Rutgers & Cornell) to enhance member benefits related to the promotion of your products through our sofi Awards and to provide buyers a venue to further develop their supply-chain management skills via our Buyer Certification program.
  • We provide year-round opportunities to access buyers. We offer buyers a year-round resource through our Product Marketplace.

New Membership Team Hires, Responsibilities, and Resources
  • We have increased our investment in Membership Service, adding five full-time specialists to our Member Engagement & Member Development Teams. Two staff members were not sufficient to give you the additional support members have requested.
  • Each member will have a designated Member Service Specialist to work with on an on-going basis. This will help ensure continuity of support and foster a strong partnership between the Member Engagement & Member Development Teams and the member community.
  • As of February 3, we have a staffed Member Help Desk that you can call Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm Eastern Standard Time. When you call, you will reach someone trained to provide you with the support you need or the ability to connect you promptly with the appropriate subject matter expert within the SFA. You can reach the Help Desk at 646-878-0301.

Update on Financials
The SFA continues to operate with a strong financial profile while keeping fees and dues extremely low compared with competing organizations.

We have no debt.
The harmful for-profit anti-SFA effort has falsely reported $18M of liabilities. This effort is also misleading members regarding its willingness to assume such a financial liability in exchange for its ownership of the SFA. This is simply untrue.

The SFA has built up a healthy reserve of $64 million over decades to ensure the Association’s longevity. This includes $32 million in restricted operating reserves to align with corporate best practices and protect the SFA should there ever be an economic downturn that might affect the Shows.

The SFA had a $4 million budget deficit in 2019 and a projected $2 million budget deficit in 2020 as we make selective use of the reserves to fund the SFA’s Forward 2022 Strategic Plan. These initiatives, including those described below, are intended to benefit SFA members, and we remain committed to prudent fiscal management over the long term.

More than half of the current board is new this term, bringing fresh perspectives and challenging the old norms of doing business. We are all engaged in dynamic and meaningful conversations with members regarding the most effective uses for unrestricted funds and how the SFA can otherwise best serve the needs of all members.

A sampling of recent capital and operating investments funded from reserves include:
  • Creating PR opportunities for members at the show by matching companies with outlets for interviews on site;
  • Adding staff to the Membership Services and Events’ Experience teams;
  • Updating technology to modernize standards;
  • Expanding the SFA Headquarters to accommodate additional team members; and
  • Upgrading financial processes and systems upgrades.
Invitation to Join Working Groups
We welcome more members to work with us throughout the year. Our Industry Working Groups (IWG) are a great way to engage, and the nominating process will begin in earnest in March. The four IWGs are: Legislative & Regulatory; Preparedness/Education; Events; and Recognition.

IWGs play a critical role in helping the Board and staff identify key opportunities and ways to support members. If you are interested in joining one, please email

Re-Branding Strategy Update
Following an intensive three-year process, our new branding could be seen throughout the WFFS experience and received tremendous positive response from fellow members. We are sharing a few pictures so you can see for yourself! 

The strategic goals of the rebrand include:
  • Building the SFA as the authority for the industry;
  • Bringing valuable recognition to members;
  • Ensuring that the SFA stays relevant for the industry by continuing to attract quality buyers; and
  • Attracting millennials and other younger generations, which we feel is key to staying on top of innovation since they are the future of the industry.
The SFA invested $621,000 over three-years on this comprehensive rebranding that included strategic alignment and planning, design, and implementation of the new branding. You can find the branding across all media platforms, including the SFA website, Specialty Food magazine, social media channels, and the SFA’s emails. You could also see it in our trade dress at the Winter Show, including across banners and signage across the show and the SFA Member Hub service booth.  

It is noteworthy that this rebranding cost less than half of the prior rebrand undertaken from NASFT to the Specialty Food Association.  

We also want to note that the most recent rebranding expenditures were approved by the Board during the period when the leader of the for-profit anti-SFA effort, Mr. Dowe, served on the Board, including during his brief tenure as Chairman.    

Success of our Shows
Our shows continue to thrive!

We want to thank all the members who joined us in San Francisco for our most successful and largest Winter Fancy Food Show, featuring 1,447 Member Exhibitors – more than ever before. To those of you who could not make it, we hope to see you at an upcoming event.

Also of note, the attendee satisfaction score from the 2019 Summer Show was more than 80%. Since becoming a qualified business to business show, our buyer participation across the entire industry increased more than 10% and buyer satisfaction has been more than 80%.

We are grateful to have such a strong and diverse membership. It is our honor to represent you on the Board. As always, please reach out to us with any questions or thoughts to

Board of Directors
Specialty Food Association 

Trish Pohanka
BrandStorm Inc./Natierra

Becky Renfro Borbolla
Renfro Foods, Inc.

Charlie Apt
Sarabeth’s Kitchen
Vice Chair

Lori King
Board Financial Officer

Susan Eriksen
Char Crust, Inc.

Jill Giacomini Basch
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese

Julie Busha

Case Fischer
Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods, Inc.

David Gremmels
Rogue Creamery

Beth Haley
DPI Specialty Foods
Nona Lim
Nona Lim
Mark Kroencke
KeHE Distributors LLC

Emilio Mignucci
Di Bruno Bros.

Jon Pruden
Lee Zalben
Peanut Butter & Company
Posted by Denise Purcell on Feb 13, 2020 2:30 PM America/New_York