Specialty Food Association 2021 Leadership Awards Announced

NEW YORK – The Specialty Food Association (SFA) is proud to announce the winners of the 2021 Leadership Awards. Honoring influential and innovative entrepreneurs who are transforming the specialty food industry, the awards are presented in three categories: Business Leadership, Citizenship, and Vision.

The winners of the ninth annual SFA Leadership Awards are:


Bri Warner, Atlantic Sea Farms: Through championing regenerative kelp aquaculture, introducing a new, nourishing, and sustainable food source to the U.S., and working with partner farmers to help create a more resilient and adaptive environment, Warner and her team have expanded the company to work with 24 partner farmers from Portland to Eastport, Maine, increased kelp supply by 20 times, and grown sales by 800%.

Desmond Tan, Burma, Inc.: In 1992, Tan bought a failing Burmese restaurant in San Francisco and has made Burmese food one of the most popular cuisines in the Bay Area. Tan decided to take the farm to table philosophy literally and went to Burma to buy Laphet directly from the source. He partnered with micro tea farmers living in the Shan State and whose families had been growing and fermenting tea leaves for hundreds of years.          


Bryon White, Yaupon Bros. American Tea: White has revived the American tea industry by growing and harvesting a native, naturally caffeinated plant species, Yaupon Holly. He also supports indigenous cultures which were the original consumers of Yaupon Holly Tea and has donated 15,000 meals to Feeding Florida during the pandemic.

Channy Laux, Angkor Cambodian Food: A refugee from Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Laux has introduced Khmer ingredients to the U.S. and works with local refugee farmers to source ingredients.  Angkor Food supports children’s education in Cambodia, and a women’s recovery center in San Francisco. 


Pierre Thiam & Phil Teverow, Yolélé: Yolélé was born of the realization that to cook West African food, you need West African ingredients. Those ingredients — like fonio, dawadawa, and selim pepper — were not available to most Americans. Thiam, a chef, and Teverow, a specialty food veteran, had a vision of bringing traditional West African ingredients to culinarily curious American shoppers, while providing income for smallholder farmers in one of the world’s most precarious places, the West African Sahel.

Linda Appel Lipsius, Teatulia: Appel Lipsius has led Teatulia Organic Teas to transform the tea industry by pioneering the garden-to-cup model. Teatulia’s 3,000-acre regenerative tea garden drives economic growth in Northern Bangladesh through a community co-operative. The co-op features a cattle-lending program, adult education, and organic farming jobs. Together these elements empower, educate, and provide resources to community members to reverse cycles of poverty.

To read more about the winners, click here.

“In a year of upheaval and uncertainty, these seven entrepreneurs embody the fortitude and creativity necessary to thrive in the specialty food industry,” said Bill Lynch, president of the SFA. “We are honored to recognize their contributions and celebrate their achievements within our community.”

Nominations were solicited from all in the specialty food industry and the winners were chosen  by members of the SFA’s Recognition Industry Working Group. The awards will be presented during the SFA’s Specialty Food LIVE!™ at a special ceremony on Tuesday, January 19 at 5 pm.

Press Registration
The Specialty Food LIVE! is a virtual, trade-only show held January 19-21. For more information, please click here.

About the Specialty Food Association
Founded in 1952 in New York City, the Specialty Food Association (SFA) is the leading trade association for the $158.4 billion specialty food industry. Representing makers, importers, entrepreneurs, retailers, distributors, and others in the trade, the SFA aims to champion, nurture and connect its members to deliver traditional and innovative new products to consumers that expand consumption of specialty foods. With more than 3,600 member companies, the Association helps its members through providing information, research, networking, business-building and education opportunities, and recognition programs that celebrate the industry. The SFA is known for hosting the Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows and presents the sofi™ Awards honoring excellence in specialty food. Learn more at specialtyfood.com