The International Foodservice Manufacturers Association announced the winners of the 2014 COEX Innovation Awards, which recognize regional and national chain companies that are "shaping the industry through innovation in culinary, operations, marketing and service," according to a news release.

This year's winners include:

Culver's, for the Marketing/Service, Regional Chain category. Culver's was nominated by Sargento Foods Inc. for "sparking creativity through an inclusive company culture and by listening to their customers, particularly through their Deliciousness Council panel, which gathers input from guests. Some say Culver's use of Twitter is hard to match. They also have a memorable and distinct marketing approach, leveraging the popularity of the company's owner, Craig Culver, and its Wisconsin roots."

Taco Bell, for the Culinary/Operations, National Chain category. Taco Bell was nominated by J.R. Simplot Company & Surlean Foods and recognized for being "a brand of firsts, always innovating and actively listening to its consumers to turn their 'wants' into tangible 'must haves.' In 2013, they continued to bring on trend flavors to the market with the introduction of two unique flavors of Doritos Locos Tacos, Cool Ranch and Fiery. The new flavors and other menu items added over the past year have helped same-store sales performances and the buzz continues to grow amongst consumers looking for something new."

The other two winners were Buffalo Wild Wings (nominated by Sargento Foods for the Marketing/Service, National Chain category) and Maggiano's Little Italy (nominated by Neil Jones Food Company for the Culinary/Operations, Regional Chain category).

IFMA members nominated dozens of national and regional chains, which were then voted on by IFMA members, including leading foodservice manufacturers and a wide variety of industry resources.

"The annual COEX Innovation Awards are a highlight of the Chain Operators Exchange, a long-standing event that connects foodservice operators with manufacturers," said Larry Oberkfell, president & CEO, IFMA. "We're proud to honor this year's winners, who demonstrate the importance of innovation by raising the bar for all chain operators in the industry today."

The four chains will receive the awards at IFMA's Chain Operators Exchange, March 2-5, 2014 at The Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, Nev.

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