The Good Food Awards 2014 is officially open for entries!
This year I’m honored to help pull together the Confections category ints its second year. As we had hoped and expected in 2013, the entries poured in from around the country — more than 200! This year we hope to get the word out even further to shed light on even more fabulous confectioners who place sourcing practices nearly on par with tastiness.
The Good Food Awards celebrates made-in-America craft food that embodies “tasty, authentic and responsible.”
How the Judging Worked in 2013
The goal of this post is to illuminate the judging process so that confectioners can evaluate what to enter, ensuring what you choose fits both the values of the Good Food Awards and explaining the vetting process as well.
Last year, our judges teamed up into groups to evaluate each type of candy, from fruit jellies to chocolate truffles, grouped by type and going from mildest to strongest in flavor, giving up to five points to appearance, five for texture and ten for overall flavor. The points were tallied, and, after a few NCAA-style rounds, we had a diverse array of winners, from fleur de sel caramels to black sesame brittle to huckleberry truffles.
Many delicious things from very talented candy makers that have won other accolades were not on the list, but it was exciting to see many new and unknown confectioners scoring highly in this totally blind tasting. Only three confections per region received the coveted award.
In a final review of candy on the short list of high scorers, the Good Food Awards team conducted thorough interviews of the makers, as it does in every category. They dig into:
- how the confectioners source each ingredients,
- where the ingredients are from, and
- in the case of non-local or non-U.S. produced ingredients whether they were organic or sourced directly from a producer whose practices were known.
Knowing that so many confectioners use conventional cane sugar and that cane sugar is not genetically modified, we decided that conventional cane sugar was totally acceptable. The idea isn’t to be unrealistic in the pursuit of “good.” But that’s when things get confusing and interesting.
The irony of food meeting these criteria is that the ingredients, and therefore the food, often totals up to a price that is out of reach from many consumers. Yet small food producers need to be able to sell and compete against cheaper alternatives, or business is simply not viable. This is the message that Michael Pollan has communicated so many times: We need to expect to pay more for food, and especially sustainably produced food.
So do I qualify?
Here are a couple of ways to project ahead to that time when you get the phone call that you’re on the short list for winning: you’ve passed the “tasty” bar with flying colors.
Imagine the awards team asking you about each ingredient. Where is the tea from that you use to flavor your truffle? If it isn’t organic, are you aware of the growing and processing conditions? Where is the cream from? If it’s from a larger producer, is the cream organic or at least guaranteed hormone free? Are the pretzels you include made with organic flour?
Consider your candy product strategy. Is local and / or organic and / or Fair Trade ingredients integral to your candy flavors? Does what you make revolve around celebrating local flavors? Do your fans dream and drool over those candies?
So many possibilities of natural alternatives to artificial abound these days, from glucose syrup (vs. corn) to freeze dried fruit powders for bright color and flavor ingredients.
We know it’s not easy. It’s not cheap. But it is thought provoking to consider! Watch this spot for an interview with a 2013 winner who adjusted her sourcing for a winning product.
The entry period is July 2014, and the time to send in samples is later in the summer.
If your confections don’t qualify, might you have time to re-consider your recipes and sourcing before late summer’s sample time?
Please feel free to contact me or the Good Food Awards team with any questions or for advice.
I am not a judge, am totally impartial and want to make sure our country’s awesome confectioners submit entries that reflect tasty, authentic and responsible — and are great candidates to win!