Boulder-based natural candy brand, JJ’s Sweets, has been honored with a 2016 Good Food Award in the confections category for the Coconut Palm Sugar variant of its popular coconut milk caramels, Cocomels. Company founder and CEO JJ Rademaekers traveled to San Francisco to receive the award at a ceremony Friday evening.
The Coconut Palm Sugar Cocomel was selected among 1,937 entries in a Blind Tasting with 203 judges held in September. The highest scoring entries were submitted to a rigorous vetting process to verify they met the sustainability and social responsibility criteria to win a Good Food Award – with more than two dozen ultimately disqualified.
“This year’s winners represent the forefront of American craft food, making products that are delicious, respectful of the environment, and connected to communities and cultural traditions,” Good Food Award representatives explained in a press release.
As the originator of the coconut milk caramel and other unique candies, JJ’s Sweets is recognized as an innovator in the candy industry. The winning Cocomel, sweetened exclusively with organic coconut palm sugar and organic brown rice syrup, pushed this innovation to a new level.
“As a company, we are mindful of what we put into our bodies, so we wanted to make a candy with the most wholesome, cleanest ingredients possible,” said head candy maker Luis Bustillos. “Palm sugar has a lower glycemic index than cane sugar, and other added health benefits, so it seemed like the perfect sweetener to experiment with.”
In addition to being a more wholesome and creative sweetener, coconut palm sugar is recognized by many as a particularly sustainable ingredient.
Unlike the more seasonal sugar cane, palm sugar — which is derived from watery sap collected from palm tree flower buds — can be harvested all year. This gives an economic incentive for farmers to maintain their trees, which are often clear-cut to produce palm oil. Additionally, experts say, trees can produce sap for about 20 years with relatively small input of resources like water and fuel.
“We are always trying to push the boundaries of traditional candy making by incorporating unique and sustainable ingredients, like coconut palm sugar,” Rademaekers said. “Being recognized by the Good Food Awards for this effort is a true honor.”