Refrigerated and frozen foods earned several honors in theNational Restaurant Association's (NRA) first annual "Food & Beverage Product Innovations Awards" contest. NRA officials said the new program recognizes "progressive food and beverage products that will make a significant impact in the restaurant industry."

“Our independent panel of judges, who represent a broad variety of both commercial and non-commercial industry segments, selected these 13 products based on the forward-thinking approach to food and beverages demonstrated by their creators,” said C.W. Craig Reed, NRA's 2011 convention chair and director of food and beverage for the Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs, Colo.

“These truly innovative products will help drive customer satisfaction and profitability for restaurant and foodservice operators nationwide," added Reed. "As the largest restaurant and hospitality trade show in the United States, the NRA Show offers the perfect forum to explore trends and find new products to enhance menus in the nation’s nearly one million restaurants.”

NRA says it will showcase recipients in the F&B Product Innovations Gallery (booth 7129) at the 2011 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show at Chicago’s McCormick Place on May 21-24.

NRA said award recipients were selected for their significant advancements and innovations in ingredients, preparation, processing, and packaging.

Food & Beverage Product Innovations Award recipients include:

ConAgra Foodservice, Omaha, Neb. / The Max Fit for Kids Plus Whole Grain Stuffed Crust Pizza
ConAgra says this frozen pizza features all-natural, whole wheat flour. The pizza is 51 percent whole grain, and meets new National School Lunch standards, including lower sodium. It comes in two varieties: Cheese and Turkey Pepperoni.

Epicurean Butter, Federal Heights, Colo. / Spreadable Roasted Garlic Herb Butter
Judges said this chef-created, versatile spread is "delicious, convenient and consistent enough to scale up for large operations." The product uses all-natural, premium ingredients blended with Grade AA butter.

Fermin & Wagshal's, Washington, D.C. /  Ibérico de Bellota Heritage Pork
Fermin, La Alberca, Spain, says this pork comes from free-range, 100-percent pure Iberian pigs in Western Spain, which feed on acorns and herbs, resulting in a meat infused with a buttery, nutty flavor.  This Spanish favorite is now available to U.S. operations through Bellota Importers and Wagshal's.

La Brea Bakery, Van Nuys, Calif. / Telera Roll
La Brea says the quest for a nationally distributed Telera roll - the only kind that can be used to create an authentic Mexican Torta sandwich - is finally over. This par-baked all-natural, hearth-baked roll has a light golden crust and soft interior.

Lamb Weston, (a brand of ConAgra Foods), Tri-Cities, Wash., /  Sweet Things Mini Tater Puffs®
Lamb Weston says these unique and flavorful puffs are made from on-trend sweet potatoes are perfectly sized for enjoyment in any meal occasion. Crispy outside and tender inside, they are great for dipping–plus they offer versatile preparation, including conventional baking.

Sinco Inc., Italy, / Hand-stretched Wood-fired Pizza Crusts
Company officials say these par-baked, artisan pizza crusts are made with all-natural, premium ingredients and hand-rolled so that no two are exactly alike. Now operators can offer pre-made pizza crusts that look like they were hand-crafted on-premise.

NRA said it will present awards to all corporate winners at the NRA Show's "World Culinary Showcase" on Saturday, May 21, at McCormick Place in Chicago.