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SFA Ad Contest Winner Is Vanda Asapahu Of Ayara Thai Sauces

SFA Ad Contest Winner Is Vanda Asapahu Of Ayara Thai Sauces

Vanda Asapahu, founder of Ayara Thai Sauces, is the winner of the Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) second annual advertising contest for specialty food professionals to tell a compelling story about their passion for specialty food. Asapahu’s story was selected from 142 inspiring entries about family businesses, culinary breakthroughs, childhood memories, career changes and more.

The prize is a professional ad that will be part of the association’s national advertising and marketing campaign. The ad will be featured in leading specialty food trade magazines, online and at the Winter Fancy Food Show, which will take place Jan. 11-13 in San Francisco.

More than 12,000 votes were cast in the nonprofit trade association’s second annual “My Story, My Ad” contest. The 10 entries with the most votes went on to a final round of judging by a panel of advertising and specialty food professionals. The contest was open to members of the SFA.

 Vanda Asapahu
Vanda Asapahu

Ayara Thai Sauces was born out of requests from loyal fans of Asapahu’s family-owned restaurant, Ayara Thai Cuisine in Los Angeles, for takeout containers of its distinctive sauces. This company’s Ayara Thai Peanut Sauce was a finalist in the Specialty Food Association’s sofi Awards contest for the outstanding products of 2014.

“As our restaurant grew, visitors came to love not only the food we prepared, but also the sauces served with them,” says Asapahu. She adds that customers would return with “amazing stories of how they creatively used our sauces to impress their friends and share in the joy of cooking.”

The contest also included a People’s Choice Winner based on a popular vote. The trio of women behind Simply Panache, maker of Mango Mango mango preserves, emerged as winners. They are Tanecia Willis, Lakesha Brown-Renfro, a military spouse, and Nzinga Teule-Hekima, a family physician. The company is based in Hampton, Va. The prize is an iPad.

For all the winning entries, click here.

The contest spotlights the association’s brand for the industry, “Specialty Food. Craft. Care. Joy.” It is designed to highlight the people behind the small businesses that fuel the $88.3 billion specialty food industry and the innovative foods and beverages they create and bring to market.

“This year’s entries showed how much passion and care our members bring to their work,” said SFA President Ann Daw.

The panel of judges included Katherine Alford, SVP of culinary productions, Food Network; Tom Cook, executive creative director, York & Chapel; Tracy Nieporent, partner and director of marketing, Myriad Restaurant Group; Beth Snyder Bulik, freelance writer for Advertising Age; and Denise Purcell, editor of Specialty Food Media.

About the author


An 11-year employee of The Shelby Report who writes for and about food. In previous lives, she worked at a police department in Texas and an amusement park in Arkansas. She also was a newspaper publisher for more than a decade. Not sure which of those qualified her for this job.

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