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Hass Avocado Board Announces New Board Members

The Hass Avocado Board (HAB) has announced its new executive committee and slate of board members for 2017 as appointed by Secretary of Agriculture (USDA) Tom Vilsack.

The board will work to support the mission of HAB’s five-year strategic plan: being the catalyst of collective efforts toward market expansion in the U.S. The plan’s six strategic priorities include: building demand, nutrition research and affairs, supply and demand data collection, and quality as well as two new initiatives – sustainability and industry engagement. Sustainability efforts will concentrate on bringing together a healthy public, planet and profitable avocado stakeholder; while industry engagement will encourage growers, exporters, handlers, importers and industry associations that supply the U.S. to support the new vision and successfully execute the board’s strategic plan.

Executive committee positions have been assigned to: Chairman re-elect Chris Henry, importer; Vice Chairman re-elect Bob Schaar, producer; Treasurer Laurie Luschei, producer; and Secretary Javier Medina, importer.

“We are committed to advancing our priorities to meet HAB’s vision of becoming the number one consumed fruit in America,” said Chairman Chris Henry. “We are confident that we have the right people and plan in place to ensure growth goals are met.

Three members and three additional alternates were chosen to serve in the positions. Appointed board members include Keith Barnard, importer; Salvador Dominquez, producer; and Linda Mullins, producer. New alternate positions include Ohannes Karaoghlanian, producer; Patrick Lucy, importer; and Jim Swoboda, producer.

“We look forward to continuing to build on the tremendous success of our outgoing officers and board members,” said Emiliano Escobedo, Executive Director of the Hass Avocado Board. “With our five-year strategic plan established, we are highly motivated and excited about the future of our industry.”

HAB thanks the outgoing board members for their service and commitment to advancing the industry’s priorities. Special thanks go to Rick Greenwood, chair of corporate governance committee, which developed and implemented guidelines with the purpose of making board membership more attractive, enhancing board effectiveness and adhering to best practices; Sebastian Bulnes, nutrition liaison, who served as the link between the board and HAB on nutrition research and related affairs; and Ohannes Karaoghlanian for his unwavering contributions to the finance committee.

HAB is also grateful for the efforts of this year’s outgoing alternates that include Custodio Aguilar, producer; Faye Hall, producer; and Jimmy Lotufo, importer.

KIND Celebrates Extraordinary Individuals with Foundation Grants

The KIND Foundation – a 501(c)3 charity started by KIND Healthy Snacks – has named the winners of its philanthropic program, KIND People. Through the program, the Foundation is awarding $1.1MM to seven people who are championing inclusivity and serving as beacons of empathy in communities nationwide.

The KIND People winners are addressing a range of societal issues – from infusing humanity and healing into Ohio’s prison system to providing clean water to Michigan families. Every day, these exemplars are working to ensure that all people – even the least understood and the most vulnerable – experience touches of humanity and have the opportunity to improve their lives.

“These remarkable human beings capture the spirit we need to elevate and the values that make America great, including kindness, respect and the conviction that we can make a positive difference in each other’s lives,” says Daniel Lubetzky, Founder and CEO of KIND and President of The KIND Foundation. “Most notably, these KIND People show us how to take steps toward understanding those who seem different, but deep down share our humanity.”

Since the program’s kickoff last January, nearly 5,000 stories of unsung heroes were submitted. Dana Rosenberg, Director of The KIND Foundation, says, “The response to the program reaffirmed our belief that good work is being done every day, and the extraordinary people leading this work deserve recognition and support. By showcasing their stories, we hope to encourage people everywhere to discover the kindness inside of themselves and take action in their own lives.”

Six KIND People winners will receive a $100,000 prize, and one grand prize winner, Doniece Sandoval, will receive a $500,000 prize. Sandoval’s organization, Lava Mae, stemmed from an idea that many thought was impossible — turning retired transportation buses into showers and toilets on wheels. Her pioneering approach has prompted advocates across the globe to devise innovative solutions to homelessness.

Unlike other programs, each KIND People awardee is given full discretion on how to deploy the funds, meaning they could use some or all for personal needs or interests. Sandoval, however, is allocating 100 percent of her prize to scaling Lava Mae’s services, launching an open source toolkit so that other communities can follow suit, and innovating new pilot programs. She says, “Since Lava Mae began, we’ve received more than 1,200 requests to replicate our services from across the U.S. and around the world. Now, with The KIND Foundation’s support, we’ll be able to help cities everywhere deliver hygiene and dignity for their homeless neighbors.”

In addition to Sandoval, the Foundation will award the following people:

Jo Dee Davis

When Davis started volunteering at an Ohio prison 16 years ago, she never imagined it would become her community. Her organization, Healing Broken Circles, helps bring the voice of those affected into the conversation about incarceration, and its programs create a place for learning and self-discovery so that inmates can start life anew – inside and outside of prison.

Lam Ho

An advocate for the underserved, Ho has dedicated his life to ensuring that people understand their rights and gain access to the legal services they deserve.  He works 100 hours per week at Community Activism Law Alliance (CALA), bringing energy, purpose, and personal experience to his clients’ cases so that he can fight alongside them and make their voices heard.

Monica Lewis-Patrick

Lewis-Patrick’s sense of justice and belief in her ability to enact change has united a community in the fight for water rights. It started after she learned that Detroit had cut off the water of a building occupied by mothers and senior citizens. She co-founded We the People of Detroit, a grassroots organization that gives low-income families access to water; provides education on water issues; and mobilizes people to take action.

Sandra Goldberg

After beating breast cancer, Goldberg started A Silver Lining Foundation to help others access the resources once at her disposal.  Today, she provides funding for the entire spectrum of breast health testing (screenings through biopsy) as well as educational workshops to uninsured and underinsured women. Her ability to merge humanity with healthcare puts thousands of patients at ease.

Phyllis Shaughnessy

75-year-old Shaughnessy, nicknamed “the lunch lady,” is an unstoppable force, feeding and uniting a community. Her tireless energy and generous spirit will help deliver an estimated 20,000 food packages this year to families in Copalis Beach, Washington, and surrounding areas. She not only delivers nutrition, but also gives hundreds of families something – and someone – to rely on every week.

Jodi Rae Ingstad

Known as a “joyologist,” Ingstad’s commitment to kindness extends past her day job at an elderly home. Whether materially or emotionally, she selflessly serves North Dakota’s most vulnerable – including the homeless, elderly, and families in need. Those whose lives she has touched describe her heart as one of action.

Largest Winter Fancy Food Show Ever Opens Registration

The Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco is shaping up to be the largest in its 42-year history, with more of the latest specialty foods and beverages to discover than ever before. The show takes place January 22-24, 2017 at Moscone Center.

218,000 square feet – almost four football fields – of exhibit halls will overflow with thousands of new products from across the country – California to Texas to Maine – as well as from 30 countries. California will boast the biggest show presence with over 330 companies represented.

Registration is now open at fancyfoodshows.com.

As the largest marketplace devoted exclusively to specialty foods and beverages on the West Coast, the show is the place to be for buyers from top names in retailing and restaurants. Attendees spot trends, find new foods, and make new connections.

“Specialty food sales are exploding right now,” says Phil Kafarakis, President of the Specialty Food Association, which owns and produces the Winter Fancy Food Show. “We’re seeing millennials and men emerging as key consumer groups, foodservice sales are experiencing impressive increases, while online shopping and retail serve as key consumer sales channels. People are very interested in high quality, great tasting food and specialty foods offer both.”

Show highlights include a full range of educational programming focused on smart growth and innovation targeted to all levels of the specialty food industry from newcomers to established manufacturers.

Other show highlights include:

  • Specialty Food Association’s fifth annual Leadership Awards Ceremony
    Sunday, January 22, 2017, 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.
  • What’s New, What’s Hot showcase with hundreds of on-trend products
  • “New Brands on the Shelf” area featuring up-and-coming producers who are Specialty Food Association Member Candidates.
  • Incubator Alley where new specialty food stars will display their products at the earliest stage.
  • Major food donation at show’s end to Feed the Hungry.

Terra’s Kitchen Meal Delivery Service Caters to the Health-Conscious But Busy

By Lorrie Baumann

Terra’s Kitchen is one of those meal kit delivery services that have been springing up all over the country, and while it’s only just over a year old, it’s taking off nationally by offering convenience, freshness and flexibility to busy individuals with a wide range of dietary requirements and concerns about the environmental sustainability of their choices. “We know that there are many different ways to eat in a healthy manner,” said Michael McDevitt, the company’s CEO. “We’re meeting the needs of many different types of consumers.”

McDevitt started the business just 19 months ago. “I got the news that I was becoming a father, and I wanted to do everything I could do to reinvent the childhood I had growing around the table, which seemed to have fallen off,” he said. “People are just so busy today.”

“We exist to connect family and friends back around the dinner table. That’s why we are here,” he continued.

The company has four pillars to its brand: health, talk, balance and convenience. Recipes for the meals are developed as a cooperation between the company’s Creative Culinary Director, Libbie Summers, and its Director of Nutrition, Dr. Lisa Davis, PhD, PA-C, CNS, to ensure that they’re both tasty and nutritious, and variety is a key, with more than 40 seasonal offerings on the company’s website at any given time. Customers can filter the menu offerings according to several dietary regimes so that the choices they’re offered meet their own needs, whether that’s Paleo, vegetarian, gluten-free or just generally nutrition-conscious. Most of the meal choices are priced between $10 and $15 per serving.

Ingredients for the meals are prechopped and packaged for shipment in a reusable vessel that the consumer unpacks at home and then puts back outside for pickup the next day by the same service that delivered it. The vessel is delivered back to Terra’s Kitchen, where it’s sanitized and reused. There’s no outer box or gel packs to make the kind of excessive packaging waste that many critics of meal delivery services have pointed out as a conflict with environmental sustainability. Individual ingredient items, organic or non-GMO when possible, are packaged in recyclable plastic containers – 4-inch by 4-inch plastic boxes of the kind that consumers are used to seeing as packaging for deli salads in their supermarkets. Consumers may recycle the plastic containers either by returning them to the vessel to be delivered back to Terra’s Kitchen or putting them into their own municipal collection, or they often find other ways to use the containers, McDevitt said. The minimal packaging drops the amount of packaging waste for a Terra’s Kitchen delivery to about 8 ounces per week, or about 25 pounds per year, which compares to about 450 pounds a year for some of the company’s competitors.

Along with every meal, as part of the company’s brand pillars, the customer gets a table talk topic that’s designed to spark conversation. Topics range from light-hearted philosophical questions to nutrition information about the actual meal the consumer is eating. “We do what we can to spark conversations around the table,” McDevitt said. “We have a lot of fun helping table talk.”

The company’s focus on balance and convenience means that every meal offered can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. McDevitt says this reflects that the company is conscious of the time and effort needed to prepare a healthy meal and aware that its customers are looking for help managing both their time and their nutrition. “Everybody knows how they should be eating, but it’s very difficult to take those steps,” McDevitt said. “We take the majority of the prep work out of the meal by sending everybody pre-cut ingredients.”

Terra’s Kitchen ships from both the East and West Coasts to cover the entire nation. Subscribers order weekly meal deliveries for up to four or five weeks. They can to go back and alter their choices ahead of each shipping date, and they can choose the days of the week on which they’d like their shipments to arrive. “The benefit is that you can do all of your meal planning for a month in a 10-minute sitting,” McDevitt said.

The average customer is likely to order two or three dinners and two or three grab-and-go items to pack for office lunches. Terra’s Kitchen does not yet offer traditional breakfast items. The company requires a minimum $65 order for each shipment. “You’re signing up for meals to come in the container, which comes in a weekly basis, but you can skip weeks and only have it come on the weeks that you want it,” McDevitt said. “We are very much aware of our clientele. The most typical consumer is a busy, two-income family with young children, both working, both very busy. We’re also having tremendous success in the empty nester market as well, those people who have time on their hands and are just looking for a more convenient way to gather around the table together for dinner – other than going out to dinner.”

He added that, “It started for the purpose of helping families getting together around the table, and we’re having tremendous success with that.”

Rastelli Foods Group Caters to Both Consumers and Other Retailers

By Lorrie Baumann

As both a retailer and a wholesale meat processor, Rastelli Foods Group is in prime position to observe how the American grocery landscape is evolving. Rastelli Foods Group supplies meat in the wholesale market to grocers and meal kit delivery services up and down the East Coast of the U.S., provides meat for U.S. military installations overseas, ships directly to consumers across the U.S. and operates two New Jersey specialty grocery stores, a 6,000-square foot store originally opened in Deptford as Rastelli’s Meat Stop and then remodeled and reopened five years ago as Rastelli Market Fresh and a new 40,000 square-foot specialty grocer in Marlton.

Ray Rastelli, III is the company’s Vice President and son of the Founder who started Rastelli Meat Stop about 40 years ago and grew it into one of the premier meat suppliers on the East Coast. His father, also Ray Rastelli, is still very active in the business and likely to be recognized by the QVC shoppers who see him pitching fresh and frozen meats four to six times a week on their televisions. The QVC sales are part of a direct-to-consumer mail-order operation that delivers 50,000 to 60,000 packages, mainly fresh and frozen meat and seafood products, both to those QVC shoppers and to customers who come directly to the company’s website. “We started our e-commerce platform in 2009,” Rastelli says. “For the first few years, we sold a few thousand packages a month. Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen a significant, significant increase.”

From this vantage point, Ray Rastelli, 33, is seeing a trend that’s corroborated by marketing researchers. U.S. government figures document that about half of Americans’ food dollars are now spend on food prepared in restaurants, and even when Americans eat at home, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing the same kind of cooking that their grandmothers did. “The biggest thing I see that’s really changing in the past two years is the evolution of the at-home delivery companies,” Rastelli said. “Some of the retailers we work with are trying to come out with their own version of that – meal kits right at the front of the store. Those companies are definitely taking market share.” According to market research firm Packaged Facts, there are now more than 150 meal delivery kit services operating in the U.S. and over the past few years, these businesses have raised more than $650 million in venture capital. Most of these meal kit delivery services are targeting young professionals and families with children who live in urban areas.

Americans between the ages of 25 and 55 are increasingly comfortable ordering their food online, and and cooking it at home, often in the form of meals that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. Women now spend less than an hour a day on food preparation and cleanup, while men still spend an average of less than half an hour a day working in the kitchen, according to 2015 statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Rastelli says his company’s online customers tend to be foodies who care about the quality of the food they’re getting. “They’re definitely people who are really engaged in food, not people who are just looking to put something on the plate,” he said.

He says they’re increasingly likely to see organic and all-natural foods as healthier options. “Five years ago, organic and all-natural would be one one hundredth of the business,” he said. “These days, it’s between 30 to 45 percent of the product we manufacture.”

Rastelli, who started work sweeping floors in his father’s business when he was 10 years old, then became a regular employee on the night shift while he was a sophomore in high school, now sees these trends playing out in the company’s two retail stores. The original Rastelli Market Fresh was converted from a 6,000-foot Rastelli’s Meat Stop store five years ago. Designed as a kind of hybrid between Whole Foods and the previous store, but with a lot of prepared options, the business at the new store inspired the company to expand with a second, bigger location in Marlton, New Jersey, about a half-hour drive from Philadelphia.

The new Rastelli Market Fresh is more of a prepared food store with a pantry of specialty items than a full-service grocer, with almost half of its business professional customers stopping in to eat in the store rather than purchase a basket of food to take home and cook. The store includes several made-to-order restaurant-type concepts – there’s no hot-line buffet – including a pizza stand, sushi restaurant, a taqueria and a Craftwich sandwich shop. Customers order from any of the concepts and the store’s deli counter from a self-service kiosk that prints out a ticket for the customer, who waits only about 2-1/2 to 3 minutes for a meal that’s made from scratch. “It’s set the world on fire in that area,” Rastelli said. “It’s been beyond our expectations.”

Of the 20,000 customers a week who come through the store and check out with an average $38 purchase, fully 9,000 to 10,000 of them came to eat at the 150-seat cafe/lounge or to pick up a single meal to take home with them. According to research reported by the Washington Post in 2015, less than 60 percent of suppers served at home in 2014 were actually cooked at home, and although that trend stalled a bit during the recession, Americans began picking up takeout again as the economy improved.

The single most popular concept in the Marlton Rastelli Market Fresh store is a create-a-plate offering in which customers select a protein from several choices that might include a chicken breast, a filet mignon, a grilled salmon portion and a lamb chop and then add two sides from a menu of 10 selections to put together a total customized meal priced at $8.99. The concept has lines of customers waiting every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Rastelli said. “We package it up for them and off they go.”

The retail stores also act as a product development lab for products offered by the company’s online and wholesale operations. For instance, recipes for pre-marinated steaks and chicken breasts, which are extremely popular items, are pilot-tested in the retail stores, where Rastelli and other family members will spend time on the weekends talking to customers about whether they like what they’re eating. If not, the recipe goes back for more work until there’s general agreement that the company has a really good product before it’s mass-marketed to Rastelli’s online customers and to other grocery retailers. “We’re finding that grocery stores are just shifting to what people are looking for. “People still have to eat,” Rastelli said. “We try to cater to business professionals who are in a jam and trying to get dinner for their families because they worked late.”

New Study Assesses Potential Impacts of Geographical Indications for Cheeses

By Lorrie Baumann

A new study highlights the cost for American cheesemakers and the entire dairy industry if European rules restricting the use of the “feta” and “parmesan” names were to be enforced in the United States as well. The only real good news in the report is that although small and medium-sized firms would be significantly pressured by lower cheese prices, they might be able to survive by marketing their niche and specialty cheeses. The report was funded by the Consortium for Common Food Names, a dairy industry group.

According to Informa Economics IEG, a market research firm specializing in the agriculture industry, the adoption of rules prohibiting American companies from using the “feta” and “parmesan” names would diminish demand for American-made cheeses now sold under those names, and the negative impacts could also affect American-made cheeses labeled Asiago, Gorgonzola, Romano, Havarti, Neufchatel, Fontina and Muenster. Eventually, those restrictions could also affect Brie, Mozzarella, Ricotta, Camembert, Gouda, Raclette, Edam, Provolone, Burrata, Emmentaler and even Cheddar cheeses.

Under European Union regulations, only cheesemakers in the specific geographic area in which certain cheeses originated are allowed to use names that have been ruled as geographic indicators. At present, there are 250 cheeses that have been granted such protection in the EU or are in the process of acquiring it. If U.S. cheese manufacturers were forced to adhere to these regulations, they’d likely be required to suspend use of names that have commonly been used in the U.S. for decades. The report suggests that the only U.S. cheeses that we can assume will never be affected by such restrictions are those sold as blue cheese, Monterey Jack, Baby Jack, Brick, Swiss, Colby, Baby Swiss and processed cheeses like Velveeta or Kraft Singles.
If these restrictions were to be imposed in the U.S. the immediate impact might be to reduce consumption of U.S.-produced cheeses by 578 million pounds, or 5 percent of total U.S. cheese consumption in 2015. At current market prices, that would be worth about $2.3 billion. Delayed impacts would be even greater, with consumption of U.S.-produced cheeses possibly falling by a projected 1.71 billion pounds.

Those drops in demand for American cheeses would have a significant effect on the U.S. dairy industry as a whole, with the possible effect that milk prices to the dairy farmers could fall by significantly over a 10-year period. That would put some dairy farmers out of business and reduce the size of the nation’s dairy cow herd. “The lower dairy prices do boost domestic consumption of other dairy products, and it does increase exports, but not nearly enough to offset the drop in cheese consumption,” according to the report.

Overall, the consumer reaction if the only mozzarella cheese they could find in their supermarket was imported from Italy and their cheddar could only come from Britain would trigger a sharp contraction in the U.S. dairy industry. The report predicts that dairy farm revenue could fall by 5.5 percent to 12.7 percent over three years, leading to revenue losses of $5.8 billion to $13.2 billion.

Natural Grocers Grand Opening on December 14 in Ogden, Utah

Natural Grocers will open a new Ogden, Utah store on Wednesday, December 14. The new 18,000 square foot store will open at 8 a.m. and is located at 270 12th Street. This will be the company’s sixth store in the state of Utah. Natural Grocers also plans to open a South Jordan store in early 2017.

Schweid & Sons to Open New Beef Processing Plant

Schweid & Sons, a family-owned, fourth-generation ground beef purveyor supplying premier food service and retail operations across the nation, will be opening a new, cutting-edge ground beef processing facility in College Park, Georgia in early 2017, in response to the increased consumer demand for Schweid & Sons’ products.

“We are thrilled to announce the opening of a Schweid & Sons ground beef processing facility in the Atlanta area,” said Jamie Schweid, President. “The facility represents a major milestone for Schweid & Sons. We are thrilled at the growth that we have experienced over the last year, and look forward to continuing to provide the best-tasting, highest-quality burgers to food service and retail operations around the U.S.”

The new, 66,000 square foot facility will utilize state of the art equipment to produce high-quality fresh and frozen products; cut down transportation time for customers located in the South, South Central and lower Midwest regions of the United States; and ensure fresher product on a quicker timeline. Schweid & Sons expects to start shipping from this facility in early 2017.

McCormick Announces Acquisition of Enrico Giotti SpA

McCormick & Company, Incorporated has agreed to acquire 100 percent of the shares of Enrico Giotti SpA (Giotti), an Italian flavor manufacturer located in Florence, Italy.

Giotti is well known in the industry for its innovative beverage, sweet, savory and dairy flavor applications. Annual sales are approximately 53 million Euro (56 million U.S. dollars).

The acquisition of Giotti expands the breadth of value-added products for McCormick’s industrial segment including additional expertise in flavoring health and nutrition products. McCormick plans to acquire the business for a cash payment of approximately 120 million Euros (127 million U.S. dollars), subject to certain closing adjustments.

Lawrence E. Kurzius, President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, “The acquisition of Giotti is another important step in the execution of our growth strategy. McCormick is a leading flavor supplier to packaged food companies and multi-national restaurants, and this acquisition expands the breadth of our value-added flavor solutions in Europe with strong and innovative R&D capabilities. With this acquisition, we add greater scale to our already substantial industrial segment business in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.”

Rogue Creamery Wins Silver Twice at World Cheese Awards

rogue-creameryRogue Creamery’s Echo Mountain Blue and Mount Mazama were both awarded silver medals at the 29th Annual World Cheese Awards in San Sebastian, Spain. The World Cheese Awards is the largest and most respected competition of its type in the world. There were 260 judges who gathered to taste and score more than 3,000 cheeses from 31 different countries this week. “It’s wonderful to be in a place to share the message of giving thanks at the holiday tables of the families and friends of cheese lovers from this international audience. It’s a great recognition to have our passion and sustainable practices reinforced at the World Cheese Awards, as Echo Mountain is ranked once again among the world’s finest blue cheeses,” said David Gremmels, Rogue Creamery Cheesemaker and President.

This was the seventh time in the last 10 years that Rogue’ Creamery’s Echo Mountain Blue has been honored with a medal in the mixed milk category at the World Cheese Awards for placing among the top three cheeses in the world, including a gold medal in Dublin in 2008.The remarkable taste of this award-winning blue reflects a montage of rich flavors made from the combination of this unique regional blend of grass-based, hormone free cow and goat’s milk.

The flavor is clear, crisp, brilliant and complex with its subtle hint of goat’s milk. Brightly hued veins traverse the body of this cheese, infusing it with a bold, earthy flavor. It has a semi-soft texture with a silky- smooth mouth feel and tangy finish.

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