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Product Qualification FAQs

What is product qualification?

Beginning in 2020 new companies applying for SFA membership are now required to submit their product(s) for an evaluation process in order to participate in the SFA Tier 2 Member Benefit programs.


What SFA Tier 2 Member Benefit programs require product qualification?

At this time, product-focused programs and events include exhibiting at the Fancy Food Shows and other domestic and international events (i.e., NGA, SIAL, ANUGA), applying to sofi Awards program, and visibility in the Product Marketplace on specialtyfood.com.


What does the evaluation entail?

In partnership with Rutgers Food Innovation Center, SFA has developed definitions for specialty foods within major food categories. A sensory evaluation will be conducted as a portion of the criteria to determine if the product submitted meets the standard for a specialty food and therefore, can be included in the Specialty Food Association.

Products will be scored on several attributes, including packaging, labeling, ingredients, product appearance, taste and overall quality.

The SFA Product Qualification Committee (a committee of specialty food peers) will provide the final decisions on each product evaluated and scored by Rutgers.*

*Note, SFA Board of Directors reserves the right to override any decisions at their discretion at any time and will review submissions throughout the year.


How long does the process take?

Please note that this process takes a minimum of 2 weeks from the time your products are received to the time you are notified by us whether your products have been approved.


Should I send in more than one product?

Members only need to submit one (1) product from the brand they represent.


What is the fee for the Product Qualification process?

The submission cost is $130.


When can I submit my product(s) for Qualification?

Once your SFA Tier 1 membership has been approved.


What are the requirements for Product Qualification?

Products must be selling in the US marketplace for a minimum of six (6) months. Only Food and Beverage products designed for human consumption are eligible. ?Pet food, foods containing CBD or THC, non-food items and nutritional/health supplements (a product taken orally that contains one or more ingredients, such as vitamins or amino acids that are intended to supplement one's diet and are not considered food) are not eligible for Product Qualification.


If my product does not get qualified can I resubmit it?

Yes. ?You will have one additional opportunity to resubmit your product for qualification if rejected by FIC. ?You will need to address the criteria of your product as put forth by Rutgers FIC.


What if the Product Qualification Committee does not recommend my product for Tier 2 Membership?

You may submit another product within your portfolio that you believe better meets the criteria for Specialty Food or resubmit this product once some of the requested changes have been made.


Where do I send my products for qualification?

Ship product samples WITH PRINTED INVOICE to:
ATTN: ?MARTHA LEMCKE – SFA PQ
RUTGERS FOOD INNOVATION CENTER
450 East Broad Street, Bridgeton, NJ 08302-2849


How much product should I send for the evaluation process?

Enough product should be sent for 15 small tasting samples.


How do I ship my product?

  • We strongly advise you to use a reliable shipping service that you can track such as FedEx or UPS.?
  • Clearly mark the exterior of the box: FOR PRODUCT QUALIFICATION and whether it is PERISHABLE,?Keep FROZEN or Keep REFRIGERATED ?
  • All frozen products must be shipped?with dry ice. ??
  • All refrigerated products must be shipped with frozen ice packs.?
  • All products must be shipped Monday through Friday only. Rutgers Food Innovation Center is closed on weekends and holidays; therefore, no deliveries can be accepted.?
  • Due to the high volume of products received, SFA/Rutgers will not have the capacity to track your shipment.


What happens if my product is thawed or damaged?

The Specialty Food Association/Rutgers are not responsible for any products that are lost, damaged or spoiled during shipment. It is your responsibility to ensure that your product arrives qualification ready.?

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