By any measure, it is truly a golden era for food in the United States, and particularly with regards to the specialty foods industry. A niche that hardly existed 50 years ago, specialty foods sales have achieved a record high of $109 billion, accounting for nearly 15 percent of all retail food sales in the U.S. While it may now seem to have been inevitable that a nation with a populace as diverse, large and steadily growing as that in America would embrace the development of an increasingly abundant variety of food products and cuisines, it nonetheless took some visionaries to recognize the potential for the growth in this area and to cultivate the means of delivering such a bounty to what has become an ever expanding marketplace.

Thus it is apropos that as part of the SOFI Awards, the red-carpet honors dedicated to excellence in specialty foods, the Specialty Food Association will be citing a number of pioneers who helped create the industry with Lifetime Achievement Awards. The eight awardees are:


Giorgio DeLuca, Joel Dean and Jack Ceglic; Dean and DeLuca – Co-founders of Dean & DeLuca, which specializes in specialty food, their enterprise in the 1970s and 1980s created a global brand that encouraged thousands of retailers to expand into specialty foods.

Edith Friedland, EFCO Imports – The first woman to lead the Specialty Food Association/NASFT, her firm EFCO introduced European beers, Swiss health foods and South American hearts of palm to the U.S.

Alfred Lepore, Ferrara Foods – Both in the realm of importing foods from Italy and by fostering production of Italian products in the U.S., he has increased the presence and prominence of Italian specialty foods here.

Steve Reich, Charlotte Charles – Innovators in the area of developing specialty food as a gift item, with regards both to servicing and cultivating a mass market, and through involvement with packing, manufacturing and distribution of food gift items.

John Roberts, Specialty Food Association/NASFT – Having led the Specialty Food Association/NASFT for17 years, he acquired for the Association the Fancy Food trade show brand from a management company, and has developed pacesetting media products and educational programs for all levels of expertise in the industry.


The Lifetime Achievement honorees were selected by a committee from the Specialty Food Association’s inaugural Hall of Fame, comprised of 114 food innovators inducted in January 2015. The awards ceremony will take place on June 29, 2015 from 5-7 PM at the Javits Center, as part of the Summer Fancy Foods Show, which will extend from June 28-30; the ceremony is open to all show attendees, and there will be a party afterwards featuring tastings from foods items nominated for the SOFI awards. Established in 1952, the Specialty Food Association (formerly the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc., or NASFT) is a not-for-profit trade organization which provides its 3,000 members in the U.S. and abroad – a dynamic community of food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs – with the tools, information and resources to champion and develop their businesses with regards to the market. More information can be found at www.specialtyfood.com.