Bernie Pacyniak

I’m not sure whether many of you have heard about the Good Food awards, much less participated in the competition. However, I do know that Sweet & Healthy readers are some of the most knowledgeable folks in the confectionery industry, so I’m betting many of you are at least somewhat familiar with the concept.

Established by Seedling Projects in 2010, the Good Food awards were formed to recognize and support the sustainable food movement in the United States.

Led by Sarah Weiner and Dominic Phillips, Seedling Projects brought together a group of food producers, food writers, farmers and chefs to establish criteria for a broad range of “good foods” — everything from beer, charcuterie, cheese, pickles, preserves, spirits, and, of course, one of the best good foods there is, chocolate.

This year, they’ve expanded the category to include confections. Now mind you, because Weiner and Phillips believe in promoting socially and environmentally responsible food producers, the criteria for participation don’t work for everyone. Indeed, they are not meant to. What the Good Food awards are designed to do is recognize sustainable food production and superior taste — parameters that have often been separated in past competitions.

For example, those seeking to enter into the chocolate category must submit entries that are bean- or chocolate liquor-to-bar produced. The chocolates must also be free of artificial and GMO ingredients. In addition, the chocolate makers should have some kind of relationship with the cocoa farmers as well as understand what cocoa sustainability means.

This year, the committee chairpersons involved with the chocolate awards, Good Food Concierge Susie Wyshak and chocolate buyer/merchandise manager David Salowich from Bittersweet Café, decided to expand the Good Food awards categories to include confections.

Wyshak, who I met while touring Germany last year as part of the Sűsswaren Express tour of confectionery companies (see Candy Industry’s February 2012 issue), has always had a close connection to chocolate.

Her MBA thesis focused on consumer attitudes toward giving chocolate as a gift. She also was instrumental in getting Fair Trade chocolate introduced in the United States. Oh, did I mention she also saved candy wrappers as a youngster. Now that’s chocolate gravitas.

Anyway, Wyshak’s excited about the confections category, which as one would expect, follow similar guidelines as in chocolate. Thus, no artificial or GMO ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup, locally and certified organic dairy, eggs or meat, and locally sourced or farm-direct, Fair Trade or organic flavors and inclusions.

There are five subcategories: bars with inclusions; caramels; brittles, toffee, and nuts; candies, fruit, and pate de fruit; and bon bons. And, as Wyshak points out, although the aim of the awards is to highlight artisan confectioners, it’s not limited to small operators. As long as a company meets the criteria, midsized and larger organizations can participate.

“Our goal is to see if we can get entries from all 50 states,” she says.

All winners are honored at a gala awards ceremony with famed restaurateur and American culinary pioneer Alice Waters in San Francisco on Friday evening, Jan. 18, the weekend before the Winter Fancy Food Show.

Last year’s winners in the chocolate category included both well-recognized chocolate makers and several newcomers, including Amano Artisan Chocolate, Dandelion Chocolate, Escazu Artisan Chocolate, Fresco Chocolate, Lillie Belle Farms, Patric Chocolate, Rogue Chocolatier and Theo Chocolate.

The call for entries kicks off Sunday, August 5. And it costs only $50. The Good Food awards. A good idea, and a good time to enter.