NEW YORK — The 65th Summer Fancy Food Show simmered with excitement during the Specialty Food Association (SFA) Front Burner Pitch Competition at the Jacob Javits Center. Hosted by the SFA Foodservice Council and presided over by chef Elizabeth Falkner, the competition saw three exhibitors pitch their foodservice-ready products to a panel of specialty food buyers. Wild Hibiscus Flower Company reigned supreme after the scores rolled in.
“We were very fortunate to win Front Burner for our Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup,” said Chris Muir, founder of Wild Hibiscus Flower Company. “Being a specialty product these days, you need to think of the versatility of your product and the consumer it serves.”
Wild Hibiscus Flower Company was a cocktail only company when they came to market. The American consumer wanted to know what else they could do with the product—they wanted more bang for their buck. The brand added a food component and their growth increased dramatically.
Small Axe Pepper and Olo & Company competed against Wild Hibiscus Flower Company.
“The Front Burner Foodservice Pitch Competition combines education with entertainment. Our members broaden their knowledge about foodservice purchasing requirements while enjoying a spirited, fun competition between brands,” said Phil Kafarakis, president of the SFA. “Having a respected chef like Elizabeth Falkner as our host, and this experienced panel judging the entries, made for a really exciting and competitive event.”
Judges tasted each product prior to the event, then listened to pitches from each entrant. Scores were assigned for innovation, quality, and chef-appeal for foodservice. This year’s judging panel included:
- Sean Buchanan, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Sustainable and Specialty Foods, New England Marketplace, Reinhart Foodservice
- Angela Flenoy, Director of Innovation & Strategy at Sysco
- Ken Toong, Executive Director, Amherst Auxiliary Enterprises, University of Massachusetts
As the champion, Wild Hibiscus Flower Company received a promotional prize package from the SFA, including an ad in Specialty Food Magazine, editorial coverage in Specialty Food News, and more.
The first-ever Front Burner Pitch Competition took place in January 2017 at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. Past winners include: Pacific Pickle Works, Mike’s Hot Honey, Hummustir, a take on deconstructed hummus, TBJ Gourmet Black Pepper Bacon Jam, and Tomato Achaar from Brooklyn Delhi.
About the Specialty Food Association
The Specialty Food Association is a thriving community of food artisans, importers, and entrepreneurs. Established in 1952 in New York, the not-for-profit trade association provides its 3,800 members in the U.S. and abroad with resources, knowledge and connections to champion and nurture their companies in an always-evolving marketplace. The Association owns and produces the Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows, and presents the sofi™ Awards honoring excellence in specialty food.