Specialty Food Association has created a Hall of Fame for the specialty food industry. The Hall’s Mission is to “honor individuals whose accomplishments, impact, contributions, innovations, and successes within the specialty food industry deserve praise and recognition.”
At this year's Winter Fancy Food show 46 individuals, who have pioneered and built the specialty food industry, were inducted into the2016 Hall of Fame.
An additional 38 individuals are being inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Summer Fancy Food Show in June, 2016. For just a list of the names of this year's inductees click here.
The Specialty Food Association congratulates the following inductees:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Lorie Alexander, Koppers Chocolate Specialty Co. Inc.
Lorie Alexander has had a love affair with Koppers Chocolate and the specialty food trade her whole life. As a young girl, Lorie escaped Nazi Germany with her parents, who founded Koppers Chocolate in Greenwich Village in 1937. At 18, Lorie married Harold Alexander, a returning War hero. Soon Harold and Lorie took over the reins of Koppers, and were a founding member of the Specialty Food Association. For nearly 80 years, Koppers has produced the most treasured panned chocolates.
Charles Apt, Ciao Bella Gelato
Starting in 1993, Charlie Apt and Ciao Bella began disrupting the super premium ice cream category by introducing unique flavors in a gelato and sorbet format. Ciao Bella relied upon chefs to inspire intense flavors with savory ingredients and dense consistency that were cutting edge. The Apprentice and Oprah, just to name a few, sought out Ciao Bella for ice cream and sorbet beyond compare.
Pamela Barefoot, Blue Crab Bay
Pamela Barefoot founded Blue Crab Bay in 1985. A year later, Pam proposed a Virginia Pavilion at the Fancy Food Show. She served on the SFA Board for eight years. Named Virginia’s Small Business Person and SBA’s Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur, she also received UVA’s Resilience Award. She is a passionate advocate for small business and tourism. Her Bloody Mary mixers, coastal peanuts and seafood seasonings continue to receive national acclaim.
Rick Bayless, Frontera Foods Inc.
Rick Bayless is the chef and and owner of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, XOCO, XOCO Bistro, Le?a Brava and Cruz Blanca Cervecería. He is also the co-owner of Frontera Foods, a popular line of salsas, cooking sauces and organic chips. He has authored nine cookbooks, and is the host of the PBS series, “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” Rick is the winner of “Top Chef Masters” and has also been honored with seven James Beard Awards.
Ray Berry, The Fresh Market
Ray Berry founded The Fresh Market in 1982, a specialty food retailer currently operating 168 stores in 27 states. He led the family-owned company as Chairman until a public offering in 2010 and remained as Chairman through 2015. In 2016, Ray joined with his son Brett and the private equity firm Apollo to take The Fresh Market private.
After World War II, Milton moved to California and started his own business as a specialty food broker and importer, promoting English tea, Dutch chocolate and French cookies. Milton loved to sell and his loyalty and reliability to customers helped him grow from a one-man operation to a 13-person sales force spanning 13 western states. He retired in 1978 and dedicated the next 20 years to creative travel adventures, including China, Russia, South America, Australia and freight ship journeys.
Dianne has been a leader since her start at Surdyk’s Cheese Shop in Minneapolis in 1983. She subsequently opened the food hall at Dayton Hudson Department Stores, then brought specialty foods to Grand Union. The next step was director of sales for Dean & Deluca, introducing customers to Balsamic Vinegar and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. In 1990, Dianne started her brokerage company working with manufacturers and importers of natural, organic and specialty foods.
Leslie Carr, The Hecht Company
Having gained much experience as the Candy and Gourmet Foods Buyer for Gertz (Allied Stores, NY) and Strawbridge & Clothier (Philadelphia, PA), Leslie Carr was invited to work with Al Bluestein, president of the Hecht Company in Washington, DC as they began their planned expansion program. Les was highly respected and very well-liked among his colleagues, customers and suppliers. Les was instrumental in the growth of industry suppliers that still prosper today. In 1981, Les utilized all his expertise and opened up his own candy store in the Harbor Place Festival Marketplace. The Bon Bon Tree was one of the original businesses in the newly revitalized Baltimore Inner Harbor. He specialized in gourmet jelly beans and fudge, which tourists from around the world came to enjoy and rely on his specialty confections.
Laura Chenel, Laura Chenel’s Chevre Inc.
After learning to make artisanal goat cheese in France in 1979, Laura founded the first French style goat cheese company in America. Years of consumer and trade education and promotion increased demand and helped her company grow. American goat cheese producers multiplied and goat cheese became a staple. In 2006, Laura Chenel’s Chevre, Inc. was purchased by a French-owned cheese company, Laiteries H. Triballat.
Paul Cipolla, Plocky’s Fine Snacks
In 1988, Paul and his partner, with a lot of ideas and an instinct for the next big thing, founded Plocky’s Fine Snacks from scratch. Today Plocky’s ships “natural snacks for today’s consumer” nationwide and across the globe. Under Paul’s direction, Plocky’s has been on the cutting edge of innovative snacks, winning awards from the Specialty Food Association, Diabetic Living Magazine, Sweets and Snacks Association and SIAL Innovation Shanghai China.
Victor Cohen and Nancy Cohen, Eddie’s of Roland Park
Victor Cohen immigrated to Baltimore from Russia as a child, and his first job was in the grocery business. He opened his first Roland Park grocery in 1944, offering specialty food products of premium quality and emphasizing innovation and service. Nancy Cohen, his daughter, joined the business in 1981, opened a second, larger store in 1992, which underwent an extensive remodel in 2015. She runs the business today.
Darrell F. Corti, Corti Brothers
A second generation Californian, Darrell is an internationally known wine and food expert. He has been a force in the development and growth of the California wine industry, and a leader in advocating wider use of Italian varieties of grapes in California. As an owner of Corti Brothers in Sacramento, Darrell brought the finest foods and wines to the market. He is widely consulted for his opinions on food, including olive oil and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale.
Derryck E. Cox, International Trade Promotion Ltd.
Derryck’s involvement in the specialty food trade began in 1980 as Jamaica’s Chief Trade Commissioner when he identified this market segment for Caribbean processed food exporters. In 1985, seeing an opportunity for a popular Jamaican product, he challenged companies to develop the product for the export market. And, "Jamaican Jerk" seasoning and marinade was launched at that year’s Summer Fancy Food Show. The rest is history.
Joseph Dattoli, Perugina USA
Joseph has been in the food industry for over 45 years. Seventeen of those years were with Perugina Brands of America, most of that time as CEO. Joseph also served as a Director of the Specialty Food Association and was a member of the Italian Trade Association. He has owned two restaurants in New Jersey over the last 10 years and currently owns Il Forno , in Branchburg N.J.
Michael Di Camillo, Di Camillo Bakery
In 1920, the Di Camillo Family opened a bakery in Niagara Falls, NY. It continues to this day. In 1979, Michael Di Camillo, a grandson of the founders, packaged the Biscotti Di Vino and began selling them in New York City to Bloomingdale’s, Zabars, and Dean & Deluca. This set in motion “The Biscotti Decades” of the 1980s & 90s--and a new type of cookie entered the lexicon of American food.
Alex is an accredited Chef with formal training in the U.S., Germany and Switzerland. His first foray into specialty foods was Terra Chips, which he created with co-founder, Dana Sinkler. The inspiration came from their efforts as caterer’s in the tri-state area. Alex followed his success at Terra with his second brand; Alexia Foods. His latest endeavor is Julian’s Recipe, a specialty brand heavily influenced by his international experience.
Margaret Eckert, German Agricultural Marketing Board - CMA
As Director of Trade Relations for German Agricultural Marketing Board-CMA, Margaret assisted German companies in complying with U.S. regulations and was responsible for CMA's North American trade show participation. Margaret also served as Secretary General of the EU Liaison Committee in the U.S., which met regularly with SFA. She is now President of Eurofoods Regulatory Advisors.
Paul Farber, De Medici Imports
Paul owned and operated De Medici Imports from 1987 to 2007, a period in which specialty foods experienced a surge in trade and consumer interest and growth. Known particularly for highest quality ingredients produced by European artisans, DeMedici was the first to introduce genuine Tuscan olive oil to America and market it nationally.
In 1964, Chuck began his career as a food and candy buyer for the iconic department store - Marshall Field’s. He became a partner with Ed Hanson in1967, creating a brokerage firm called Hanson-Faso Associates covering several of the Midwestern states, representing some of the premier names in the industry. Fifty years later, the Company has grown from two people to over 93 employees.
George G. Gellert, Atalanta Corporation
After completing Cornell in 1963 and military service in 1966, George joined Atalanta, an importer of canned meats and cheese with annual net sales of $81 million. Today, George has grown the enterprise into the largest family owned food importer in North America, with thousands of products and annual sales in excess of $1 billion. George attributes much of his success to the three generations of the Gellert Family who work with him at Atalanta.
Paul Germann, McCann’s Irish Oatmeal
As Vice President of Sales for Richter Brothers, Paul Germann and many other team members grew the company to one of the premium importers in the industry. In 1987, he started a national sales and marketing company and pioneered the development of McCann's Irish Oatmeal. In addition, he also represented Josef Manner, a leading wafer manufacturer from Austria.
Seth Goldman, Honest Tea, Inc.
Seth co-founded Honest Tea out of his Bethesda, MD home in 1998 with his Yale professor Barry Nalebuff. They painstakingly built a brand based on less sweet recipes, organic ingredients, and Fair Trade certification. In 2011, The Coca-Cola Company purchased Honest Tea, and helped democratize and globalize the brand. Seth now serves as Executive Chairman of Beyond Meat.
Arlen Gould, Dolefam Corporation
Since 1972, Arlen has been a specialty food pioneer. He has headed the launch of many trend setting specialty food products including “Natural Candy”, the first Extra Virgin Olive Oil in grocery and Caesar Cardini Salad Dressings His marketing made the Caesar Salad a staple in both foodservice and grocery. He was a partner in Dolefam Corp and a Director of the NFDA.
Laurie Groezinger Cummins, Alexian Pate
Laurie Groezinger Cummins is the owner of Alexian Pate, the charcuterie producer well known for making hormone-and-antibiotic-free pate, and for pioneering the individual pate slice package that transformed a marginalized service deli product to a "must have" grab-and-go item for both special occasions and casual dining. Laurie served as Co-Chair of the SFA Diversity Council for eight years.
Gary is the fourth generation CEO and chocolate maker at the business his great-grandfather Etienne started in 1868 with a few bags of cocoa beans on the San Francisco waterfront that now produces some of the world’s most sophisticated chocolate. Under his guidance, Guittard Chocolate continues to thrive, pushing innovations in product, industry and sustainability with a family of longtime employees while nurturing the fifth generation.
Ed Hanson, Hanson-Faso Associates
Ed started his career in the gourmet food/candy industry at Marshall Field’s, where he was partly responsible for getting Frango Mints on the map. In 1967, Ed left Marshall Field’s and started his own brokerage company covering the Midwest states. Soon Chuck Faso joined, forming Hanson-Faso Associates. After more than 50 years in the industry, Ed retired at the age of 77.
Marian Harris, Partners, a tasteful choice company
Since the launch of her first restaurant in 1972, innovative spirit and dedication have made Marian a pioneer. Prompted by the lack of high quality crackers available for her restaurant’s homemade soups and salads, Marian developed her trend-setting cracker recipe using real butter, fresh garlic, and herbs. Marian’s first-of-their-kind Partners Crackers took off in 1992 and over the past 23 years have become a sofi award winning, nationally recognized business.
Dave’s career in specialty foods began in 1965 when he was asked to develop a specialty food program that would be successful in a supermarket environment. He later opened a free standing s supermarket specialty food & wine store called Someplace Special. It became the “go to” place in the DC area for fine wines & high quality meats, produce and grocery products.
Ronald Johnson, Encore Specialty Foods LLC
In 1978, Ronald created an importing company focused on food products from France, named France America, Inc. In 1987, he formed Gourmet America, Inc. to market a line focused on Mediterranean foods, especially naturally cured olives from France and Greece. In 2004, Encore Specialty Foods, LLC was formed to introduce new brands and new products from the Mediterranean for foodservice and retail distribution. His son, Jeremy, and daughter, Hanley, have joined the business.
After working for New York publishers including Time-Life Magazines and Reader’s Digest, Constantine and his family moved to Biddeford, ME. He opened an international advertising and marketing agency serving specialty food clients such as Twinings Tea, Otto Roth and Citterio. In the 1990s, Constantine was the force who built attendance at the Fancy Food Shows through creative and effective marketing programs.
Art joined NFDA in 1984 after a long career in logistics, consulting and warehouse management. In 17 years as Managing Director, he successfully increased membership, organized dozens of semiannual trade shows, and furthered food industry education and outreach through numerous published articles and personal presentations. Art retired in 2001 when NFDA merged with NASFT/SFA.
Ettienne Leibman, Leibman’s Wine & Fine Foods
Originally from South Africa, Ettienne Leibman and her husband Ralph opened Rebel Liquors in 1979, primarily selling beer, wine and liquor. In order to meet their customers’ needs, she took a seminar in gift baskets at the Fancy Food Show and soon she added specialty foods, party trays, catering and a deli. For 37 years, Ettienne has been exceeding her customer’s needs.
Daniel Lubetzky, KIND
Daniel is the founder and CEO of KIND, one of America’s fastest growing healthy food companies. He is also the founder of PeaceWorks Foods, a business that fosters cooperative specialty food ventures among neighbors in conflict regions since 1994. In 2015, Daniel was appointed Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship by the White House. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Do the KIND Thing.
Bob has experienced 44 years of establishing and overseeing a whole grain natural foods business. He founded Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods in Portland, OR in 1978 and now the business reaches to 80 countries. Bob began sharing the profits with employees 26 years ago. His generosity culminated six years ago when he gave the company to his employees through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).
Chat Jr. and Camilla Nielsen, Nielsen-Massey
Following in the footsteps of his father, Chatfield Nielsen Sr., Chat Jr. turned Nielsen-Massey into Pure Vanilla Specialists. Under his leadership, Nielsen-Massey introduced its first product for the specialty retail market and became a leading producer of pure vanilla. Camilla oversaw incredible leaps forward, including opening Nielsen-Massey’s manufacturing facility in the Netherlands, and introducing several revolutionary products. Camilla was a founder of The Nielsen-Massey Foundation in 2009 to assist disadvantaged children and adults with education and leadership development, especially in the field of culinary arts.
Jack Porter, KeHE
Jack began his career at KeHE shortly after graduating college, spending a 35-year career there. He was instrumental in KeHE's growth, going from a Chicago- based Distributor, to a North American Distributor. Jack served on the Specialty Food Association Board for eight years, while also chairing the Distributor Committee. Recently retired, he will remain active in the Industry.
Returning from WWII, Ransom went from selling hand-cut cheeses and meats at local fairs, to building an empire of specialty food stores, one sample at a time. Hickory Farms grew explosively in the early years, thanks to what was then a novelty: free samples. By the time he sold it in 1980, Hickory Farms was a $164 million-a-year specialty food business, with outlets in every state but Mississippi.
Edward T. Sajous, NASFT/SFA
Under the leadership of Sajous, the NASFT became the frontrunner for the future with the first committee on Legislation, focus on quality over quantity, programs for action, focus on Retail Services, Seminars, expansion, days of change and experimentation and exploration in the industry. He successfully led the Association for a decade.
Jay Salomon, Jaret International
Jay joined Jaret International in 1951, and several years later he and two partners purchased the company. Under his leadership, the company ushered in Lindt Chocolate, Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids, Grille Toast and many other specialties into the American market. The confectionary division was sold in 1996 and the Food Division was retained until his retirement in 2000.
Ronald Schmitz, Telefood Magazine
Ronald Schmitz was active when NASFT/SFA was getting organized in the early ‘50’s. Telefood was the leading trade publication and also served as a co-operative system, allowing registered Telefood specialty retailers to take gift basket orders at their location for delivery throughout the country. Ron’s magazine was the major communication vehicle for the industry.
Bob Sickles, Sickles Market
Bob Sickles, third generation owner of Sickles Market in Little Silver, NJ, knows food literally from farm-to-table. He farmed the very property where his market stands today like his ancestors, dating back to a 1665 King’s Land Grant. Bob transformed the century-old Sickles Market from a seasonal food stand to an award-winning specialty food store and garden center.
Dana Sinkler, Jr., Terra Chips
Dana is an accredited CIA graduate and accomplished Chef. He co-founded Terra Chips with Alex Dzieduszycki in 1990, and the business was sold to The Hain Celestial Group in 1998. Dana has been involved with two different restaurant concepts over the past 15 years; Just Fresh and Hubeed’s Tenders & Wings located in the southeastern U.S. Dana rejoined Alex in 2014 as VP, R&D at Julian’s Recipe.
Marty has been in the specialty food industry all his life; first in his family’s kosher food distributorship, Stein Food Products, which brought kosher food into supermarkets all over the Northeast as early as 1950. Marty was a founding member of the Kosher Food Distributors Association and served on SFA’s Kosher Committee.
Greg Steltenpohl, Califia Farms
Under Greg’s visionary leadership, Califia Farms has become one of the fastest-growing natural beverage brands, the top natural coffee drinks brand and “Brand of the Year”, all by revolutionizing and plant-powering the dairy case with premium, delicious almond milks, juices and coffees. At Califia, Greg continues environmental sustainability ideals that he pioneered as founder/CEO of Odwalla and Adina for Life.
Luciano Todaro, Todaro Bros.
Luciano literally grew up in the importing business, which was started by his father and uncles in 1917. A decade later, the decision to showcase these authentic Italian products through retailing became the force of the business and the store, Todaro Salumeria e Enoteca still exists today, 100 years later! In 1978, Luciano created another independent importing/distributing business called BelCanto Fancy Foods.
Wurzel served as President of Loft Candy Company from 1957 to 1964. In 1964, he founded Calico Cottage, which has become the world's largest supplier of in-store fudge making equipment and ingredients. He was President of Retail Confectioners International, and the Association of Manufacturers of Confectionery & Chocolate and served as Mayor of the Village of Sands Point for 22 years.