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Grant to Georgia Organics to Support Farm to School Program

The James M. Cox Foundation has made a $250,000 grant to Georgia Organics in support of the organization’s Farm to School (F2S) program. F2S is a nationwide movement that connects schools and local farms to serve healthy meals in school cafeterias, improve student nutrition and promote farm or gardening educational opportunities.

Georgia Organics founded the state’s first F2S program in 2007 and has since implemented the program in 30 school districts. The organization currently has a three-year fundraising campaign that will deepen the existing F2S programs with an anticipated impact on 900,000 students statewide.

“It is an exciting time to be a part of the Farm to School movement,” said Alex Taylor, Cox Enterprises Executive Vice President and great-grandson of company Founder James M. Cox. “These programs not only bring healthy food to our children, they also teach them about how to grow healthy food and that is a powerful investment in the future.”

The F2S program increases children’s exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as provides positive economic benefits. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, agribusiness is the state’s leading industry and contributes $71.1 billion to Georgia’s economy. However, much of what Georgia grows is sent out of state. The F2S program allows farmers to sell closer to home and introduce children to Georgia’s rich agricultural heritage.

“A successful Farm to School program depends on many partners, and the James M. Cox Foundation is playing an important role in our expansion,” said Georgia Organics’ Executive Director Alice Rolls. “Farm to School has a great story to tell through offering fresh, healthy foods, lifetime learning experiences, school gardens, recycling techniques, composting, farm visits and more. By participating in these programs, Georgia’s students have the opportunity to experience history and achieve a healthier future.”

Cox Enterprises is a long-time partner of Georgia Organics through its national sustainability program, Cox Conserves.

Zola Fruits of the World Announces New Distribution at Top Retailers

Zola® Fruits of the World™ has expanded distribution of its coconut waters and acai juices into Kroger, Winn-Dixie, BI-LO, subsidiaries of Bi-Lo Holdings, Boston and NY Stop & Shop, Giant Food, Giant Food Stores and Sprouts locations. This expansion secures placement for Zola in 2,600 additional grocery and natural food stores and deepens its distribution footprint into key Northeast, Southeast, Pacific Northwest and West Coast markets across the country.  The company attributes this significant momentum to Zola’s commitment to high-quality, great tasting products, positive consumer reactions to the brand’s successful line extensions and a focused produce department strategy.

Zola is the fastest growing coconut water brand in both conventional grocery and natural foods channels.  Recently, sales of Zola Coconut Water surpassed Naked Coconut Water, securing the #4 position in the conventional grocery channel.  “We are ready to build on our momentum with new distribution in major grocery chains and the second largest natural food retailer in the country,” said Founder and CEO Chris Cuvelier.  The company will launch products in Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Southern California, Texas, Florida, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts with dedicated merchandising teams to support the accounts and build the Zola brand in these new markets.  In addition to this expansion, Whole Foods Market has recently expanded its offering of Zola products in its Southern Pacific division.  “At Zola, we listen to our consumers to create the very best products and partner with our retailers to deliver strong in-store programs that drive sales.  We look forward to executing our growth plan for a successful 2015 and commit to delivering exciting new products to meet our consumer’s needs,” says Cuvelier.

New England-Based Stonyfield Returns as Official Organic Yogurt Sponsor of Boston Marathon

 Stonyfield is the official yogurt of the 119th Boston Marathon, fueling the runners and crowd in its native New England. A celebrator of healthy foods and healthy families, Stonyfield selected several inspirational bloggers who are moms and runners to form the 2015 Team Stonyfield. As part of their participation, the bloggers and Stonyfield will run in support of Girls on the Run, a national program that inspires third- through eighth-grade girls to be healthy and confident using a running curriculum.

“Girls on the Run envisions a world where all girls know and can activate their limitless potential, said Suzanna McCloskey,” Girls on the Run representative. “During the program, girls learn critical skills to navigate their lives with joy and confidence. And by completing the 5k that concludes the program, they experience, firsthand, that big things are possible when you keep moving forward!”

Run Like a Mother founder Megan Searfoss is serving as coach of Team Stonyfield, providing training guides, diet tips, and more, all available on the Stonyfield blog. Author of “See Mom Run,” a 5k training guide for busy moms, Megan has raced in over 20 marathons, including three Boston Marathons, and operates the Run Like a Mother 5k race series comprised of 10 events nationwide. Megan’s unique training plan emphasizes running for specific amounts of time instead of distance, making it easy for moms to schedule training sessions around work and family.

The bloggers comprising Team Stonyfield include mom runners from across the country, including women from as far as Utah, as well as local New Englanders. Team Stonyfield members include Angela Bekkala of Happy Fit MamaJill Whitaker of Jill Will RunTina Haupert of Carrots N CakeRachel Steffen of Running RachelLaura Peifer of Mommy Run Fast, and Bethany Meyer of Another Mother Runner.

Food’s Role in Movies Celebrated with First Screen-to-Table Awards

Just in time for the Oscars, the First Annual Screen-to-Table(SM) Awards will be presented on Thursday, February 19 to celebrate the delicious ways food was depicted in the most popular films of 2014.

Food and film enthusiasts can tune in live to the saucy awards ceremony produced by BakeSpace.com and part of the weekly KitchenParty culinary talk show series Hangout on Google+. The special awards episode will stream live at 8 p.m. EST / 5 p.m. PST on Google+ and YouTube. Links to each site where it will be streamed can be accessed at http://screentotable.com.

Over the past year, food has played a starring role in films such as “Chef” and “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” as well as a supporting role adding narrative flavor to Oscar contenders including “The Imitation Game,” “Boyhood” and “The Theory of Everything.” The many ways food was used in the films of 2014 helped spawn amusing Screen-to-Table award categories such as:

Most Dysfunctional Family Dinner
Most Delectable Comfort Food
Most Obsessive-Compulsive Plating/Food Presentation
Most Mouthwatering Cuisine
Most Uninhibited Table Manners

The awards will be presented by KitchenParty co-hosts Babette Pepaj (founder, BakeSpace.com) and Rene Lynch (writer/editor, Los Angeles Times). Pepaj and Lynch will be joined by guest commentators Brett Erlich (pop culture contributor, ABC News/host, YouTube’s “Pop Trigger”) and Lee Farber (writer/co-executive producer, E!’s “The Soup”).

“Even films without an obvious food tie-in are often filled with wonderful culinary moments,” said Pepaj. “From father and son sharing s’mores in ‘Boyhood’ to arch rivals setting aside differences to savor the perfect omelet in ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey,’ such scenes enrich storylines and inspire home cooks to explore new cuisines.”

To mark the awards, BakeSpace is also releasing the “First Annual Screen-to-Table Cookbook” (app and ebook) filled with recipes inspired by the award winners. Sample recipes include “Coming-of-Age S’mores” (from “Boyhood”), “Black Hole Coffee” (from “The Theory of Everything”) and “Walk a Thousand Miles Oatmeal” (from “Wild”).

The new cookbook will be available for free download starting Thursday, February 19 as an ebook on BakeSpace.com and as an iPad app via the Apple App Store (download BakeSpace’s free Cookbook Café app  and search “Screen-to-Table”).

Over the years, movies have depicted food in all sorts of ways. Sometimes it’s the foundation of the story, as in “Julie & Julia” (2009) and last year’s “Chef” and “The Hundred-Foot Journey.” In such films, recipes come to life as food is itself a central character. In other films, food plays a scrumptious supporting role helping add zest to the storyline. It’s difficult to forget the kitchen scenes in “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas,” Jack Nicolson’s side order of toast in “Five Easy Pieces” and the challenge of scoring the perfect little burger in “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.” An expansive list of memorable food-inspired films is posted on IMDB.

Daniel Bruni Named Chief Information Officer for Sprouts Farmers Market

Sprouts Farmers Market, Inc. has hired Daniel Bruni as Chief Information Officer. Bruni will be responsible for spearheading all information technology efforts to support company objectives.

Bruni brings to Sprouts 25 years of extensive information technology and executive hands-on expertise in the retail, distribution and financial services industries, most recently serving as the Vice President of IT for Dollar General. Previously, Bruni was the Senior Vice President and CIO for Harris Teeter, Inc. and the Vice President and CIO for Brother Gourmet Coffees, Inc. Bruni holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a MBA in IT Executive Management from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

“We’re excited to welcome Dan to the Sprouts team and our innovative, entrepreneurial culture,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Doug Sanders. “Dan’s leadership in a variety of information technology functions from retail systems to technology infrastructure will be extremely valuable as we continue to grow and innovate to better serve our guests.”

 

Mondelez International Acquires Enjoy Life Foods

Mondelēz International today announced the acquisition of Enjoy Life Foods, a private U.S. snacking company and the market-leading brand in the fast-growing “free from” segment. Enjoy Life offers more than 40 great-tasting products, including cookies, chocolate, snack bars, and savory snacks that are allergy-friendly and glutenfree.

Enjoy Life’s products are free from the eight most common allergens – wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish and shellfish – which together account for about 90 percent of all food allergies. “As we focus on continuing to drive growth in snacking, the acquisition of Enjoy Life Foods is a great strategic fit for us,” said Mark Clouse, Chief Growth Officer at Mondelēz International. “The Enjoy Life brand expands our portfolio into faster growing, on-trend, ‘better for-you’ areas and provides an excellent platform to make these delicious offerings available to consumers with ‘free-from’ needs or simply looking for healthy-lifestyle options, both in the United States and beyond.”

The $12 billion “free-from” market in the United States is large and growing at strong double-digit rates, driven by an increasing incidence of food allergies and food intolerances as well as consumers adopting “free from” as a healthy-lifestyle option. “Enjoy Life offers an excellent brand promise that’s trusted by their loyal and engaged consumers,” Clouse said. “We’re excited about the extraordinary potential of this business and the entrepreneurial team leading it. We have a great opportunity to share our expertise, learn from their experience and work to accelerate Enjoy Life’s growth in this exciting consumer space.”

“We’re thrilled! As we combine our great brand, market leadership and passion for our consumers with the global resources, scale and marketing expertise of Mondelēz International, I’m confident this relationship will enable us to reach even greater heights,” said Scott Mandell, CEO and Founder of Enjoy Life Foods. Mandell and other members of the Enjoy Life leadership team will continue to lead the company. Mondelēz International will operate Enjoy Life Foods as a separate, wholly owned subsidiary to continue to nurture its entrepreneurial spirit, but will provide back-office support and access to its global resources.

The transaction was a simultaneous sign-and-close deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Food Lion Names Rhonda Mauldin 2014 Store Manager of the Year

Food Lion has named Rhonda Mauldin its 2014 Store Manager of the Year. Mauldin, who is the Store Manager of the Food Lion located at 1004 W. Georgia Road in Simpsonville, S.C., was selected from a group of more than 1,100 store managers across the company.

“I really don’t think of myself as an exceptional store manager; however, what I do think of as exceptional is my team,” Mauldin said after receiving the award Wednesday. “They really are the reason I’m here today, and I’m honored to accept this award on their behalf.”

Food LionMauldin was honored at an annual event at Food Lion’s headquarters in Salisbury, North Carolina, which was attended by her family and colleagues. This is not the first time Food Lion or the grocery store industry has lauded Mauldin for her outstanding leadership skills. She received store manager excellence awards for her work both with Bloom and Food Lion stores in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014. In addition, Mauldin received Progressive Grocer’s Top Women in Grocery award for the Store Manager category in 2014.

“Our store managers are the face of Food Lion to our customers,” said Meg Ham, President of Food Lion. “Rhonda personifies this every day by running a great store, teaching and training associates, mentoring future leaders and caring for our customers and her community through outstanding service.  Her store is always one of the top stores in donating meals and time for her local food bank. She is an exceptional leader, has developed an outstanding team, and is so deserving of this honor. We’re proud to have her as part of the Food Lion team.”

Mauldin has worked in the grocery store industry for nearly 30 years. She joined Food Lion in February 2006 as a Dry Assistant Manager in Anderson, South Carolina. Six months later, she was promoted to Store Manager and moved to Seneca, South Carolina, to serve as the store manager at this location. Because of her sharp skills of transforming businesses into high-performing stores, she was later transferred to the Simpsonville, South Carolina, store location in 2007.

To honor Mauldin and her exemplary community service, the company will donate $2,000 in Mauldin’s name to her store’s local feeding agency, Harvest Hope Food Bank, in Greenville, South Carolina. Mauldin and her team support this food bank with food donations and volunteerism throughout the year.

In addition to Mauldin being selected as Food Lion’s Store Manager of the Year, three Store Managers were recognized for exceptional leadership. The 2014 Division Store Manager Excellence Award recipients include: Paul Goodnight, Store Manager at 2458 SW Cary Parkway in Cary, North Carolina; James Felix, Store Manager at 12100 Central Ave., in Mitchellville, Maryland; and Kevin Foy, Store Manager at 1304 W. Vernon Ave., in Kinston North Carolina.

Food Lion will donate $1,000 to each of the feeding agencies served by these stores in honor of the division winners. Food Lion’s Store Manager Excellence Awards recognize and honor exceptional store managers who enrich the lives of Food Lion’s customers, associates and the communities the company serves, successfully lead its business, and support and inspire others.

 

 

Unified Grocers’ Springfield Logo and Packaging Honored

Unified Grocers’ new Springfield logo and packaging has been named a winner in the 2015 American Package Design Awards sponsored by Graphic Design USA magazine.

SF ButterUnified teamed up with San Francisco-based Murray Brand Communications to redesign and refresh the Springfield packaging, make it relevant to today’s consumers and to attract new shoppers to the brand. After conducting extensive consumer research, the Murray Brand team designed a new brandmark and packaging system for the Springfield portfolio of more than 800 SKUs.

The new packaging was designed to support the brand’s core essence of neighborly, trusted quality and to provide shoppers a consistent, eye-catching look throughout the store. It also includes “Facts Up Front” icons developed by the Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association to help consumers easily recognize food attributes and benefits such as fat free, low sodium and low cholesterol. The Springfield brand has been in existence since 1947.

“We have a terrific partnership with Murray Brand,” said JoAnn Murdock, Executive Director, Marketing, Unified Grocers. “We’ve been impressed by their extensive, research-based approach and outstanding creativity and design execution throughout the entire Springfield brand refresh process. They truly understand marketing and successfully used shopper insights to achieve these award-winning results.”

Springfield Fam Veg-Fruit“Winning this prestigious design competition, which is judged by branding, design and packaging experts, validates that the new Springfield brand and packaging is beautiful work,” said R.J. Murray, Principal, Murray Brand Communications, Inc. “It reflects our strong collaborative effort with Unified Grocers and their packaging production partner, Western Family, and allowed us to develop fresh and exciting designs which resonate with shoppers and ultimately drive sales.”

For more than five decades, Graphic Design USA has hosted design competitions that spotlight areas of excellence and opportunity for creative professionals. The competition celebrates “well-designed graphics and the power of design to advance the brand promise and forge an emotional connection with the buyer.” About 2,000 entries were submitted to this year’s competition.

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage: Wading into the Mainstream

By Lorrie Baumann

NaturalGrocers1-NHNatural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage opened its 92nd store in Tucson, Arizona, in January. Another new store opened in Wichita, Kansas, on February 24. Altogether, 18 Natural Grocers stores are planned to open in fiscal year 2015.

The current crop of openings reflects a combination of a growing food and nutrition movement in the United States and an ambitious goal of growing the store base at a 20 percent compound rate over each of the five years, after taking the company public in July 2012, said Kemper Isely, Natural Grocers’ Co-President.

Twenty-one stores are scheduled to open in the 2016 fiscal year, with 24 slated for the following year. “We planned on expanding our geographic footprint west of the Mississippi. Any state west of the Mississippi would be a possible target,” Isely said.

The founding principles established by Margaret and Philip Isely when they established Vitamin Cottage, the precursor of Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, in Colorado in 1955, are that the stores are committed to providing nutrition education, to quality, to everyday affordable pricing, to their communities and to their employees. This is according to Patty Moore, one of the chain’s Regional Nutrition Coaches. Vitamin Cottage eventually evolved into Natural Grocers, the name by which consumers generally know the brand. Though the company is now publicly owned, the Isely family is still involved in its day-to-day management and maintains a controlling interest in its ownership.

Natural Grocers’ basic mission to change lives by offering free nutrition education and healthful products that support good nutrition has not changed. What has changed over that time is a growing mainstream acceptance of what used to be called “health food” and recent growing concern about American childhood obesity rates as well as an epidemic of diabetes and other nutrition-related illnesses.

PhotographerIn keeping with its principles, all produce sold in the chain is 100 percent USDA Certified Organic, and the company prefers to buy local products when possible. “We have a commitment to that, which is pretty unique for a chain of our size,” Isely said. “We also support organic producers over local producers. If there aren’t organic sources in an area, we won’t sell conventionally-produced produce in our stores.”

Meats in the stores come from humanely treated animals that were raised without antibiotics, except when needed to treat an actual illness, and without growth promoters or feed containing animal byproducts. Dairy products come from animals raised on pasture rather than in barns. “The cows or goats or sheep that produce the milk have to be on pasture for a minimum of 120 days,” Isely said. “They have to get the majority of their nutrition from forage, so that we’re not stocking products that come from barn-raised animals.”

Providing those products across a rapidly growing geographic area has presented no particular distribution-chain challenges, because the chain is partnered with UNFI, which, so far, has been able to supply every new store, Isely said. “Most of the product is either manufacturer- or distributor-direct to stores, so there haven’t been challenges,” he said. “That isn’t a big issue.”

Before a new product can go onto the shelves at Natural Grocers, it is reviewed by the corporate purchasing staff, which requires third-party documentation that the product meets the company’s quality standards. Approval can take up to three months, and Natural Grocers will not sell any product that contains artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives or harmful trans fats.

The company supported GMO-labeling ballot issues in Oregon and Colorado. “We support GMO labeling for products. We don’t support lawsuits if people inadvertently don’t mention GMOs that they don’t know are in their products. We think that consumers have a right to know if there are GMO-containing foods in the products they purchase,” Isely said. The company adopted a no-disposable-bag policy in 2009 and estimates that since that time, the policy has kept 100 million bags out of landfills.

Every store in the chain has a position available for a credentialed nutrition coach, whose services are free to the community, and newer stores offer regular free cooking and nutrition education classes in demonstration kitchens. The free classes offered in the store cover topics such as maintaining blood sugar stability, heart health, bone health, food quality and gluten-free living, Moore said.

A few of the older stores, such as the Vitamin Cottage founded in 1955, do not have demonstration kitchens, so they do not offer cooking classes, but all offer advice and coaching to guide consumers about nutrition choices, whether they are following special diets such as gluten-free, Paleo, vegetarian/vegan, low-glycemic or if they heard something on television on which they want to follow up. “What we like to do is educate people about the various ways there are to eat. Eating whole foods and eating foods that are natural to your diet is a good way to eat. We don’t try to say that everyone should eat Paleo or vegetarian or high-carb. Everyone doesn’t want to eat the same way,” Isely said. “Our people will talk to them about whatever sort of diet they want to have, and it isn’t necessarily one type of diet they should have. Lean meat and vegetables seems to be preferable for good health, but if someone wants to eat differently from that, that’s fine, and we’ll talk to them about that also.”

Natural Grocers currently employs more than 2,000 people, with 85 percent of them full-time. Full-time employees get health insurance and paid personal time off, while a 401(k) plan and employee discount is available to all employees. For every hour an employee works in the store, he or she also gets 75 cents in “Vitamin Bucks,” which are a store credit in addition to the employee discount.

“We’re foodies. We do carry supplements, but food is first,” Moore said. “People are taking back control of their food. They want to be food citizens.”

 

Star Kay White Celebrates 125 Years

Founded in 1890, Star Kay White, Inc., is celebrating its 125th anniversary on Valentine’s Day, 2015. Owned and operated by the Katzenstein family for five generations, their primary focus has always been making the top-quality ice cream flavor ingredients that America has grown to love, such as vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, peppermint stick, marshmallow, graham cracker, and an old favorite, rum raisin.

Making ice cream is a unique, complicated, and expensive endeavor, and so is the manufacture of the flavors used in the process. Making caramels, fudge, fruit sauces, “variegates” (swirls), bases, extracts, and candies is an equally specialized and exacting process. High quality vanilla extract demands procurement of the world’s finest vanilla beans, with the actual process of making the extract taking over a month. The secrets of Star Kay White’s Gold Star Vanilla Extract have literally been handed down, father to son, for five generations.

Star Extract Works began making and selling ice cream flavors at the southern tip of Manhattan in the same location where the World Trade Center North Tower stood. Lower Manhattan has always been a congested area, and needing more space, Star Kay White followed the New York Yankees and moved to the Bronx in 1928. Eventually, the confines of the city proper caused the company to move again to suburban Rockland County in 1984. As of 2015, Star Kay White maintains four buildings on a 10-acre campus, employing more than 100 people and manufacturing over 40 million pounds of product per year.

Americans have always commemorated happy times with their favorite ice cream. That sentiment is exactly why some mom and pop shops and ice cream companies now owned by multinational corporations have consistently purchased their ice cream flavors from Star Kay White – some continuously for over a hundred years. The best names in ice cream still come to Star Kay White for the craft touch, the family feel, and the extra hustle for which Star Kay White is renowned. American business has always been very competitive and many of Star Kay White’s rivals have come and gone. Few companies can match Star Kay White’s heritage or the expertise that comes with honing a skill for a very long time.

So the next time you find yourself in front of a freezer looking at a pint of ice cream, or waiting in line for a hand-dipped cone at the beach, know that for 125 years, there is this undeniable truth about ice cream: it is American, it is classic, and it is made from old-fashioned hard work. And while you won’t find this name on the package, there’s a very good chance that you are enjoying Star Kay White’s flavors on your taste buds and bringing that smile to your face!

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