Winners of the 2014 Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation (SOFI) awards can attest to the fact that American food creativity is alive and well across our land. While Portland and Brooklyn might get more national press, SOFI awardees span from sea to shining sea. Like Waitsfield, Vt. (Tonewood; SOFI silver – new product); Kula, Hawaii (Maui Fruit Jewels; SOFI gold – confections); Nashville, Tenn. (Olive & Sinclair; SOFI gold – chocolate); Austin, Texas (Sticky Toffee Company; SOFI gold – cookie); Dallas, (Hail Merry; SOFI silver – snack food); and Chicago (Simple Squares; SOFI silver – snack food).
Another interesting fact is that of the ten confoundedly outstanding companies profiled in this review, most of their founders are millennials; that is, born between the early 1980s and early 2000s. Marketers have long recognized millennials as an influential consumer group, reshaping our culture and use of social technology. Yet millennials also suffer from relatively high unemployment or underemployment, a consequence of the current jobless recovery. The Pew Research Center estimated that their rate of employment has slipped to 63 percent in 2012 from 70 percent in 2007. The paucity of employment opportunities has motivated some millennials to get entrepreneurial, according to Entrepreneur magazine. Or, as the Director of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality David Grusky says rather brutally in the article, “The implication is that this is a good time to be a capitalist, bad time for workers.”