And the winner is…

Those four words can make you hold your breath if you are waiting to hear your name announced. Award programs are part of our lives from the classroom to the boardroom. It doesn’t matter if the award is based on votes or a solid metric, being in the running is good, but winning is great!

Awards for excellence can be found as far back as the ancient Greek Olympic Games, where the award was a crown of wild olive leaves that distinguished the winners. Regardless of the size or shape of the trophy, being recognized sets you apart from the crowd.

In today’s world, a quick internet search brings up hundreds of business award programs, many of which are unique to the food or beverage industry, and specifically to women or companies that place a targeted focus on advancing women’s careers. 

Because the majority of management level and above positions are held by men, women-specific award programs play an important role in highlighting women at all career levels. By doing so, women have yet another tool to break the glass ceiling and fix the “broken rung” that prevents women from reaching the top.

In addition to aiding with career advancement award programs, both external and internal, are high on the motivation spectrum. A study by the Cicero Group and the O.C. Tanner Institute found that 37% of respondents said that recognition was “the most important thing [their] manager or company does (or could do) that would cause them to produce great work.”

Drivers of great work
Source: The Cicero Group


Executive coach Joel Garfinkle says: “Public recognition does more than just give an ‘attaboy’ or ‘attagirl.’ It does more than highlight their accomplishment, recognize their value, or even make them feel good. Public recognition adds to the ‘expert’ status of your business leaders. It gives them increased visibility, increased credibility, and perhaps even head-of-the-line promotion chances.”

Do you know someone who deserves recognition? If so, take the time to nominate them for an applicable award. To get you started here are several top programs that are ideal to recognize women in the food and beverage industry. 

IWIM – Influential Women in Manufacturing

Founded in late 2017 by Erin Hallstrom, Alexis Gajewski, and Christine LaFave Grace, the IWIM program recognizes women in manufacturing, STEM roles, and industrial production who are making waves, shattering glass ceilings, and effecting positive growth not only for themselves, but their departments and their companies. 

“We honor women in all segments of manufacturing who have advocated for and/or helped to effect change for women in manufacturing careers,” Hallstrom said. “In 2020, we’ll be honoring 20 women from among those nominated.” 

The deadline to nominate a woman for 2020 has been extended to April 10. More information and the nomination form is available here.

The awards will be presented during a ceremony in fall of this year and the honorees will be profiled in an e-book published by the program’s sponsor, Putman Media.

Winner Snapshot

Kate Rome, president of Rome Grinding Solutions 

Rome, one of the 2019 honorees, has been an integral part of her family’s manufacturing company since 1995, starting part-time at the age of 16. In 1997, she joined the company full-time, working alongside her father in various roles including purchasing, accounting, and general management. In 2002, she bought her first piece of the company and in doing so joined her mother and grandmother to build on the fact that since 1990 the business has been majority women-owned. In 2008, she was promoted to vice president and in 2014, she rose to president, taking full control of the day-to-day operations. 

For the full slate of the 2019 winners, download the e-book

Women Behind the Wine

Sometimes awards go a step further to give women a tighter hold on the ladder to success. From winemaker to export manager, women leaders in the winemaking industry are working to empower and support those who will follow in their footsteps. As part of this initiative, through its foundation, Women of the Vine & Spirits (WOTVS), an organization dedicated to advancing and empowering women in the wine, beer, and spirits industries worldwide provides annual scholarships and awards to deserving applicants interested in continuing their professional development and education for careers within these sectors. 

This year, the nonprofit will award scholarships to qualified applicants across four categories, with an additional four scholarships made possible through the “Women Behind the Wine Educational Fund” supported by Patron Donor E. & J. Gallo Winery. Those scholarship categories include Master Sommelier, Masters of Wine, Elizabeth Smyth Student, and Fuel Your Dreams.

“Education is instrumental to creating change within any industry, which is why our organization is committed to providing qualified applicants with the funds needed to continue learning and, ultimately, help advance their careers,” said Founder & CEO of Women of the Vine & SpiritsDeborah Brenner. “We are thrilled to be joining forces with our generous donors to help continue our larger mission of not only advancing women in the industry, but diversifying the talent pipeline across the board.”

In 2019, the Women of the Vine & Spirits Foundation awarded more than $134,000 to 44 recipients. This year’s scholarship amounts will range between $300 to $10,000, and the number of recipients within each category will be determined based on the total number of qualified applicants. Applications are now being accepted online and the deadline for submission is June 30. Scholarship recipients will be awarded on September 10.

Winner snapshot 

Mariya Kovacheva – Master Sommelier Scholarship Award 

While grape growing and winemaking were a part of Mariya Kovacheva’s family life, it wasn’t until she moved to the USA that her passion for wine truly took flight. She came to America to pursue her dream of graduating from a solid MBA Program. She began working in restaurants while applying to business school and acquired valuable experience, learning from some of the “industry’s best.” The U.S. wine industry fascinated her and she dived into the world of wine. Soon after, she began taking wine exams and landed her first sommelier job. Within five years, she managed to achieve wine certifications as the Advanced Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers and a Diploma from the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust. Soon after, she made her vision come true and completed her MBA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Today, Kovacheva is the Pernod Ricard’s Wine Brand Account Manager South US. Furthermore, she has just accomplished the prestigious Master Sommelier title. Kovacheva is a firm believer in Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “The future belongs to those that believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

FPSA’s Women’s Alliance Network Red Circle Honors

The Food Processing Suppliers Association (FPSA) Women’s Alliance Network launched the Red Circle Honors program in 2019 to recognize women and companies that have had a positive impact on women’s careers and gender balance in the food and beverage industry. The honors were presented at the FPSA Women’s Alliance Network Breakfast during PROCESS EXPO last year in Chicago.

“We are proud of our Women’s Alliance Network and the wonderful work they are doing to inspire women in the industry and are excited they have introduced this important honors program to recognize the great work that is being done,” said David Seckman, President and CEO of FPSA.

Four Red Circle Honors acknowledged an industry Rising Star; a woman who has brought Innovation and Inspiration to the industry; a woman who has modeled Career Excellence as a leader, motivator, and mentor; and a company that exhibits Achievement in Developing & Promoting Women. It is anticipated that the honors will be presented every other year during PROCESS EXPO. Watch the FPSA website for information on future program details.

Winner Snapshot

Nancy Corriveau, Blentech Corporation – Career Excellence 

In 1986. immediately after graduating from high school, Corriveau started working in the manufacturing business that evolved into Blentech Corporation. At that time, the company had eight employees. Now, with 90 employees, Corriveau is the Director of Operations. She climbed through the ranks from parts sales to accounting, and into operations management and service oversight. Although her accomplishments are numerous, her highest impact accomplishment was developing the infrastructure needed to help Blentech scale its operations. During her continuing career, Blentech’s sales climbed from around $1 million annually to in excess of $22 million. Corriveau is a role model to young women in the food processing industry and she advises that it can be an exciting and rewarding career. She reminds her colleagues that each one can make a global impact to bring process and equipment solutions that deliver safe, economical, nutritious, and good-tasting foods to the world. 

Women lead the 2020 SFA awards

The Specialty Food Association (SFA) has been ​presenting Leadership Awards since 2013 at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco to individuals who exemplify the best within the industry. In 2020, for the first time ever, all three winners were women.

“This year’s winners are rightly deserved,” said Ron Tanner, SFA’s Philanthropy, Government & Industry Relations vice president. “All three women come from diverse backgrounds and skillsets and their efforts to better the food industry and the world of food do not go unnoticed. ​They have built successful companies that reflect the tradition and innovation that is the hallmark of the industry.” 

The SFA recognizes its Leadership Award winners for going above and beyond by creating positive social, economic, and/or environmental impact through innovation and vision in three categories: Business Leadership, Citizenship, and Vision. 

“We have definitely noticed an increase in women​-led companies, which is a great reflection of how the specialty food industry is growing and evolving,” said Ron Tanner, VP, Philanthropy, Government & Industry Relations at the Specialty Food Association. “The specialty food industry in and of itself is diverse, and therefore our membership and this year’s winners are a reflection of that.”  

Watch the SFA website for 2021 award entry information.

Winner Snapshot

Natalie Shmulik, CEO of The Hatchery, Chicago – Vision Award

Shmulik has always known she wanted a career in the food industry. After graduating from Toronto’s York University, Shmulik owned and ran a breakfast and lunch franchise in Toronto called Sunset Grill, while also working at supermarket chain Longo’s demo program and culinary school. In 2013, she received a Masters’ degree in gastronomy from Boston University then moved to Chicago. In Chicago, Shmulik became a consultant for The Hatchery before being named CEO in 2018. As CEO, she opened a $34 million, 67,000-square-foot facility that features dozens of state-of-the-art kitchens, business planning services, event spaces, and classrooms.

Empowering Women in Industry

As part of its mission to empower, connect and educate women, Empowering Women in Industry presents multiple awards in categories that include Leadership in STEM, Engineer of the Year, and Industry Advocacy at its annual conference each fall. 

“For many of us, we learned to navigate a male-dominated industry without female role models,” said Charli K. Matthews, the organization’s founder and CEO. “We want to use our network to share experience and expertise, to help women do this more efficiently.” 

Through the award program, Empowering Women in Industry seeks to promote women who are succeeding in their careers because their examples make them good ambassadors for all women currently working in the industry, and for younger women looking to start their careers. Nominations for the 2020 awards are due May 30.

Winner Snapshot

“We brought women together from water / wastewater, oil and gas, HVAC, construction, and in positions within manufacturing, engineering, sales & marketing, media and education, as well as entrepreneurs, tradeswomen, and operators,” Matthews said. “These women are the role models needed to build our future workforce – learning from and recognizing these leading ladies across industries makes a difference in effecting change.”

Watch the 2019 awards presentation and feel the excitement. You never know. This year your name might come after “And the winner is….”

Do you have or know of an award or recognition program that is currently taking nominations? If so, please send a press release to: [email protected].