Big Picture Farm's Lucas Farrell and Louisa Conrad with sofi Awards host Alex Guarnaschelli (center)

It’s the year of the caramel. The sofi Awards bestowed two goat’s milk caramel companies with the top honors of the night: Fat Toad Farm for Outstanding Product Line with its Farmstead Goat’s Milk Caramel, and Big Picture Farm’s Raspberry Rhubarb Goat Milk Caramels for Outstanding New Product.

The event celebrated 33 winners in all across 32 categories (with a tie in the Outstanding Cooking, Dipping, or Finishing Sauce category) at a red-carpet event last night.

Caramel stole the spotlight in two other categories: Confection, Big Picture Farm’s second win of the night (for its Goat Milk Chai Caramels), and Dessert Sauce, Topping, or Syrup, won by Coop’s MicroCreamery with its Salted Caramel Sauce.

[Related: Beyond Salt: Specialty Caramel Innovations]

The event featured a prerecorded keynote video with Food Network personality Ted Allen, who spoke of the growth of specialty foods and a vibrant food scene beyond major cities.

“Today you can get great food in Columbus, Ohio,” said the “Chopped” host of his hometown, and more broadly about much of smaller-town America. “It’s happening in every city in the U.S.”

“Chopped” regular Alex Guarnaschelli presented the winners, comparing the event with the Academy Awards and commenting throughout the night about her love of the products being recognized.

Other winners of the night reflected broader rising industry trends. Lone Mountain Wagyu won Outstanding Appetizer, Antipasto, or Hors d 'Oeuvres with its 100% Fullblood Wagyu Beef Summer Sausage, a nod to the rise of meat- and protein-forward products; Cold Beverage was awarded to Owl’s Brew White and Vine drink mixer; and the Cooking, Dipping, or Finishing Sauce category recognized two internationally inspired products: cHarissa’s Authentic Moroccan Seasoning and Kitchens of Africa’s Zanzibar.

Ted Allen donated his speaking fee of $30,000 to City Harvest, which collects and distributes surplus foods to soup kitchens and other locations around New York City serving the food insecure.

Prior to the sofi Awards ceremony, the Specialty Food Association honored 115 inductees into its Hall of Fame, including seven recipients of its Lifetime Achievement Awards.

The Lifetime Achievement Awards were created to acknowledge the special actions of individuals who helped to pioneer specialty foods in the U.S., explained Shawn McBride, chairwoman of the Association's Board of Directors.

The recipients were: Edith Friedland, the first woman to lead the Association as Board chair; John Roberts, leader of the Association from 1989–2006; Giorgio Deluca, Joel Dean, and Jack Ceglic, founders of Dean and Deluca; Alfred Lepore, a groundbreaking Italian foods importer and producer under the iconic Ferrara brand; and Steve Reich, who championed specialty foods as gifts through his company Charlotte Charles.

Several of the honorees, or their family members, spoke about starting out in the specialty food business without realizing the scope their impact would one day have on the way Americans consume and think about food. Accepting on behalf of her mother, Friedland's daughter, Lisa, noted, "We were always going to, at, or coming from a [Fancy Food] Show. This was a huge part of our lives, but I didn't realize at the time how big it was what we were doing."

Ceglic, accepting for himself and on behalf of his partners, noted, "We picked Metro shelving because we couldn't afford a carpenter. We borrowed money from my mother and made her our first cashier. We named it Dean and Deluca and the rest was history."

Stewart Reich, accepting for his father along with his brother David, told the other inductees and Hall of Famers they changed the way America eats. "As far as I'm concerned, you are giants," he said.

Reich added that his father would have embraced holding both the Lifetime Achievements and sofis on the same evening. "The idea that you honor your past while looking to you future would have appealed to him."

Read more about the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award winners.