What is product qualification?

Companies applying for SFA Tier 2 membership are required to submit a product for an evaluation process.

At this time, benefits for Tier 2 members include exhibiting at the in person Fancy Food Shows and applying to be in the sofi Awards™ competition.

What does the evaluation entail?

In partnership with Rutgers Food Innovation Center (FIC), SFA has developed definitions for specialty foods within major food categories. A sensory evaluation will be conducted at Rutgers FIC of submitted products to determine if they meet the standard for a specialty food and can be included in our membership. Products will be scored on several attributes, including:

  • Appearance
  • Ingredients
  • Labeling
  • Packaging
  • Product Appearance
  • Overall Quality
  • Taste

How long does the process take?

This process takes a minimum of two weeks from the time a product is received to the time you are notified whether you have been approved.

Should I send in more than one product?

No. Members are asked to only submit one product that best represents their line. Please send enough product to Rutgers FIC for five small tasting samples.

What are the requirements for product qualification?

Products must have been selling in the U.S. marketplace for a minimum of six months. Only food and beverage products designed for human consumption are eligible.

NOT ELIGIBLE: Pet food, foods containing CBD or THC, non-food items, and nutritional/health supplements (such as vitamins or amino acids that are intended to supplement one's diet and are not considered food).

What is the fee for the product qualification process?

There is a one-time, $150 non-refundable evaluation fee.

When can I submit my product for qualification?

After your SFA Tier 1 membership has been approved, you will receive a letter from us with detailed steps, including the appropriate Rutgers FIC shipping address, to submit your product for the evaluation.

If my product does not get qualified, can I re-submit for Tier 2 status?

Yes. You may submit another product within your portfolio that you believe better meets the criteria or resubmit the original product once any requested changes have been made.


  1. Ensure you have been approved for SFA Tier 1 membership and your membership is active
  2. Confirm that your product is eligible for the qualification process (products must have been for sale in the U.S. marketplace for a minimum of six months. Only food and beverage products designed for human consumption are eligible)
  3. Complete the online product qualification submission form and submit your payment. The link to do this will be in your Tier 1 Welcome Letter.
  4. Print the invoice generated at the end of the application/payment and INCLUDE IT WITH YOUR PRODUCT SHIPMENT. If the invoice is not included, your product will not be evaluated. The shipping address for Rutgers FIC is included in this invoice.
  5. We strongly advise you to use a reliable shipping service that you can track such as FedEx or UPS.
  6. Due to the high volume of products received, SFA/Rutgers FIC will not have the capacity to track your shipment.
  7. The Specialty Food Association/Rutgers FIC 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.

When Shipping:

  • Clearly mark the exterior of the box: FOR PRODUCT QUALIFICATION and note 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 to arrive Monday through Friday only. Rutgers Food Innovation Center is closed on weekends and holidays; therefore, no deliveries can be accepted