Good Food Award Winners – What it Takes
We are proud to announce that we are, once again, Good Food Award winners! Our dark chocolate hot fudge sauce won the prize in the “Confections” category for 2023. This newest award-winner pairs beautifully with our previous champion: the Maine sea salt caramel sauce, which took the prize in 2020.
It’s quite a process to win a Good Food Award, from entering the contest to the eventual hoped-for victorious announcement. So, we thought it might be fun to give a glimpse behind the scenes to describe what it takes.
The Good Food Foundation
The Good Food Foundation is the mastermind behind the awards. The Foundation deserve all kinds of credit for marrying the two concepts of exceptional flavor and the highest environmental and social accountability. It was their vision, starting back in 2010, that launched this movement. The Good Food competition is one of the most competitive in the country. Each year, the products are of finer quality and the sustainability with which the products are made continues to grow.
The entry period starts June 1 and goes through the end of the month. We can submit up to four products. Because we are particularly fond of our dark chocolate hot fudge sauce and our Maine sea salt caramel sauce, these are the two products we chose to enter. For each entry, there is a cost per item of $105, used to defray expenses for judging, logistics, and storage.
The entry form includes detailed questions about ingredients as well as our process in sourcing them. There are also questions about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in our workplace, part of the Foundation’s social criteria.
For starters, the products must be made in the US and contain no preservatives. In addition, ingredients are GMO free and grown without herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizer. These farming practices support healthy soil and regenerative agriculture and promote care for water conservation and recycling. Local ingredients are always encouraged in order to further cut down on energy use for transportation and to promote job creation close to home.
Clearly the farming of cacao takes place well outside the borders of Maine. But the standards we hold ourselves to, and that the Foundation requires, are yet one more important reminder that what we do in Maine affects farmers all around the world. The chocolate we purchase can support sustainable agriculture in West Africa, Centra and South America, Asia, and beyond. Thanks to the Good Food Foundation, the “Good” in the food means that the product and the people are equally front and center.
Once we’ve entered our products online, we wait to hear if we’ve passed the entry process. If yes, if our ingredients meet the standards, then in late September, we send samples of the product(s). The samples are sent in unmarked and unbranded packaging, so that the judges can taste our chocolate “blind.”
The timing for shipping the chocolate is key. We want our product to be as fresh as possible for the judges, so we don’t want to send it too early. And we certainly don’t want to miss the deadline by sending it too late. Plus, chocolate and warm weather, even in September, can be tricky. We weigh the timing on this very carefully.
Waiting Some More
After we send in samples, we wait some more. This is actually the hardest part of the process, as you can imagine.
As we wait (patiently) at home, judges all over the country receive our samples. The Good Food Foundation recruits an expert panel of judges, each a specialist in one of the thirteen categories. There are over 2,000 entries from all 50 states. In the Confections category alone, there were hundreds. Can you imagine tasting hundreds of bites of chocolate? After the judging comes more follow-up questions. The Foundation calls and/or writes each farm or business on our list of vendors, verifying our sources and tracking down every detail for quality and sustainability.
Making it to the Finalist List
Then in late October, we finally receive word if we’ve made it to the finalists list. Of the over 2,000 entries, the judges selected 359 finalists this past year. It is thrilling to open that email and see our names as one of twelve finalists in Maine. We know there’s more to come and we haven’t won yet, but this is a moment to celebrate. We made it this far. The Good Food Foundation releases the names of the finalists to the press on November 1.
Finally, the Winners are Announced
With a Good Food Finalist distinction already secured, we try to turn our attention to the November and December holidays. As busy as we are during those months, we are aware on some level that the wait continues. We feel both excited at the prospect of a win and nervous at the real chance of an almost-win. Since we’ve come this far, we’re hopeful that the scores we’ve received from the judges and the follow-up investigations have all worked in our favor.
Finally, in early January, the wait is over. The Good Food Foundation email falls into our inbox. We jump to look at it and also first take a deep breath to brace for whatever it might say.
And there it is – elation.
The Good Food Award judges have chosen our product. Narrowed from the hundreds of entries, first down to the twelve in the finalists round, and now as winners, we see that we are one of seven in Maine.
Sworn to Secrecy
We are not allowed to tell even our dearest friends about this exciting news. It’s hard to keep the information a secret, but we know we must. The public announcement of the winners will not take place until the award event itself – in Portland, Oregon in April. Of course, we continue to make plans: for travel to the event, for promotion of our products, and for what to wear to the award ceremony, the most important decision of all.
It’s a long, exciting, and worthwhile process. The Good Food Foundation has and will continue to make an important impact on individual food producers like us and the larger food industry as a whole. The Foundation has, by design, brought together two worlds: exceptionally GOOD tasting food and extraordinary GOOD care of our environment.
Sitting at the awards ceremony, we are surrounded by other small businesses dedicated to producing the highest quality products and striving towards Earth-sustaining practices. These businesses work hard just as we do. They care just as we do. They sacrifice profit (often) for the GOOD just as we do. And they take pride in the product and the process just as we do. It’s a rare thing, to be surrounded by such a community, and we are so proud to belong to it.