Seven Small Maine Brands Win Big at the Prestigious Good Food Awards
The 13th annual Good Food Awards had 2,000 entries for 2023. Seven of the 237 winning products across the United States are from Maine.
The Maine businesses were awarded for superior-tasting food and beverages and conscientious product and ingredient sourcing.
In a state primarily known for lobster, the award-winning products were anything but, ranging from beer and whiskey to a seaweed food topping, hot fudge, peanut butter cups, and fish stew.
2023 Good Food Awards
The awards take place each year to honor exceptional food produced in the United States. 2023 is its 13th year, and the awards moved from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon, for the first time.
The Good Food Awards, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, states, “It is our hope that by honoring producers nationwide, we will encourage food producers and small farmers in every pocket of the country.”
According to the Good Food Awards, more than 80% of the participating businesses are small companies with a yearly budget of less than $250,000 and less than $1 million in annual revenue.
The awards feature 18 categories that food producers can enter. Categories range from honey and elixirs to preserved fish and pickles. Beverage categories include beer, spirits, and coffee. Each company is allowed three entries except for coffee producers, which are allowed two. An $82 entry fee per product covers the Good Food Awards’ operating costs, including the blind tasting.
Judgment via Blind Taste Tests
The Good Food Awards select a special panel of judges from all areas of the United States for each category who have expertise in their particular industry. There are five U.S. regions for the judges to taste products from, all locally produced.
The judges range from chefs to grocers, food crafters, writers, and more, representing the breadth of the food community. Each category’s judges are publicized on the Good Food Awards website per category.
Products entered into the competition must be ready for sale and produced following regulations in certified facilities across all local, state, and federal levels.
Judges look for tasty, authentic, responsible food during a blind taste test. Scoring ensures the winning producers' taste and quality remain consistent. In addition, high scorers undergo a vetting interview to verify ingredient sources and production methods before final awards are decided. If a product achieves a top score and is vetted, they get an award in the category.
Where To Find the Winning Maine Food Products
The award-winners are entitled to place special square-shaped blue and gold “Good Food Awards” stickers on their prizewinning products. Travelers heading to the 23rd state, whether to key cities or for a Maine road trip, should stop at local grocery stores to look for the products, including high-end epicurean sellers.
Additionally, in the case of beverages, the winning creations can be tasted at the companies’ breweries and tasting rooms.
Maine’s Good Food Awards Winners
This year’s Maine winners run the gamut of food categories, embodying the diversity of food producers in the state. The Maine winners were in the “East Region” category of the five regions in the awards.
Hot Fudge Sauce by Dean’s Sweets in Portland
Dean’s Sweets takes home an award for producing one of the best sweet treats in the confections category. The company’s hot fudge sauce is made with a handful of high-quality ingredients that make it exceptionally delicious, including unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder, natural vanilla, locally-sourced butter from Casco Bay Creamery in Scarborough, Maine, and cream from Misty Brook Farm in Albion, Maine.
The company previously took home an award in the same category in 2020 for its Maine Sea Salt Caramel Sauce, which its website claims is “life-changing!”
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups by Ragged Coast Chocolates in Westbrook
Judges have given Ragged Coast Cholocate’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups a Good Foods Award in the confections category. The company’s website states that the sweet bites are “Hand-crafted from smooth, organic peanut butter, single-origin bittersweet chocolate, organic cane sugar, and a dash of Maine sea salt.”
Husband and wife team Kate and Steve Schaffer co-founded Ragged Coast Chocolates. They proudly use the best local ingredients in their creations, like fruits and herbs from Maine farmers. For their chocolate, they use single-origin, sustainably-grown chocolate from producers in Latin America.
Ragged Coast Chocolates is a repeat Good Food Awards winner. In addition, the following treats are also confections category award winners: Cassis de Résistance Truffles (2021), Maine Mint Truffle (2016), and Cassis de Resistance (2015). The latter two awards were received under the company’s previous name, “Black Dinah Chocolatiers.”
Little Whaleboat IPA by Maine Beer Company in Freeport
The food Maine may be best known for is its lobster, but what pairs well with a fresh lobster roll? Beer! Whether at a restaurant in Old Town Portland or sailing the Gulf of Maine in a windjammer, having a cold Maine beer in hand is the way to dive into the state’s beverage culture.
With an ever-growing craft beer scene, two of Maine’s bottling companies accept a Good Food Award for their brews.
Maine Beer Company wins for its Little Whaleboat IPA, with floral notes and mango, pineapple, grapefruit, and pine aromas. The beer name honors Little Whaleboat Islands, a cluster of three islands in Casco Bay that the beer company helped Maine Coast Heritage Trust purchase to maintain as a vital wildlife sanctuary.
The company is a part of the Independent Maine Brewer’s Association and a member of 1% for the Planet, a non-profit organization tackling environmental issues.
Blushing Star Beer and Old Port Oat Whiskey by Liquid Riot Bottling Company in Portland
Another company to take home Good Food Awards for its beverages is Liquid Riot Bottling Company, located in Portland’s Old Port. They so staunchly believe in everyone’s right to drink that they were inspired to name the 2013-founded company after the Chicago Lager Beer Riot and Portland Rum Riots in the mid-19th century.
Fast forward to 2023: their Blushing Star Beer takes home a Good Foods Award. The Foeder-aged Pilsner is made with Blushing Star peaches from Kelly Orchards in Sanborn, Maine. The brew is also a 2016 World Beer Cup gold medal winner.
Liquid Riot Bottling Company’s Old Port Oat Whiskey wins a Good Food Award this year in the spirits category. This grown-oats whiskey is a labor of love, “aged in American oak barrels for a minimum of four years.”
Maine Coast Monkfish Stew by Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association (MCFA) in Brunswick
Maine Coast Monkfish Stew earns a Good Foods Award in the fish category. The stew’s ingredients are monkfish, lobster stock, heavy cream, whole milk, butter, dry sherry, and vegetables, including red potatoes, celery, carrots, and onions. Several spices finish the recipe: paprika, parsley, salt, and cayenne pepper.
The MCFA is a non-profit organization that aims to support sustainable fishing in the Gulf of Maine. For example, local fishermen sustainably harvest the monkfish used in the stew. MCFA uses proceeds from the stew to support schools, food banks, and community groups addressing food insecurity.
Seaweed Sprinkle by Smithereen Farm in Pembroke
Smithereen Farm’s Seaweed Sprinkle is a Good Food Awards winner, also in the fish category. This “condiment,” as the company calls it, is made from all organic ingredients, including various types of seaweed and spices, some of which are grown on Smithereen Farm.
The company’s website states, “The farm is certified-organic by MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association) and protected by conservation easements put in place by Maine Coast Heritage Trust…”
In addition to the waterfront farm, where the team grows a range of fruits and vegetables and harvests seaweed, they host educational programs, including Greenhorns summer camp programming and AgriTourism classes.