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KRAVE Launches the KRAVE Stick

On the heels of the KRAVE Bar launch in December, KRAVE continues to elevate the protein snack space with the launch of its newest line of meat snacks: the KRAVE Stick. The KRAVE Stick will hit retail shelves this month in three unique flavors: Spicy Red Pepper Pork with Black Beans, Rosemary Lemon Turkey with White Beans and Sesame Garlic Beef with Sweet Potato.

Krave stickWith the brand’s Wine Country roots in mind, the KRAVE Stick was thoughtfully crafted with the prestigious Culinary Institue of America’s consulting group in Napa Valley to create a unique twist on the traditional meat stick. Layered with unexpected ingredients like whole beans or sweet potatoes, the KRAVE Stick is an evolution of the typical meat snack that provides consumers with a good source of protein and less fat than the leading sticks on the market.

“Meat sticks have been around for a while and there’s no shortage of competition in that area; however, the KRAVE Stick combinations that we created with the Culinary Institute of America’s consulting group have an unexpected twist that has yet to be seen,” said Shane Chambers, General Manager at KRAVE. “We are confident that these better-for-you sticks are going to continue to deliver the delicious fuel that our consumers have come to expect from KRAVE, and we look forward to continuing to disrupt the category with elevated meat snack options.”

The KRAVE Stick will retail for $1.79.

Driveline Retail Hires Ken Drish, Ed Kovatch

Driveline Retail, a provider of large-scale retail services and technology, has appointed two industry professionals with significant experience in driving growth for retailers and manufacturers.

The company has appointed Ken Drish as Executive Vice President, Business Development, and Ed Kovatch as Vice President, Business Development. Drish will report directly to Randy Wilson, Driveline’s CEO, and will be responsible for delivering a portfolio of retail solutions that drive real value for its current and future client base of retailers and manufacturers.

“I’m excited to join this talented team at Driveline and I look forward to leveraging my skill set and experience to help deliver real value to our clients, and to also develop lasting partnerships with our current and prospective clients,” says Drish. “At Driveline, retail execution is a core strategic focus of our company, not an obligation as part of a traditional sales agency agreement.” An industry veteran of 25 years, Drish’s extensive experience includes roles at Acosta Sales & Marketing, SPAR Group, and most recently, CROSSMARK, where he was Vice President, Business Development for CROSSMARK’s Walmart division.

Kovatch brings nearly 30 years of experience in sales, business development, and operations across a wide array of categories and channels. He has held senior-level positions at Foster Grant, CROSSMARK, and most recently, Chief Sales Officer at Planorama, a SaaS provider of image recognition technology for the retail environment.

Wicked Joe Organic Coffees Celebrates New Look

Wicked Joe Organic Coffees, the family-owned, 100 percent organic certified, Fair Trade™ coffee roastery known for its single origin varietals and blends such as “Wicked French,” has rolled out new packaging after more than 12 years in business.

Wicked Joe coffee imageThe Wicked Joe product line – available at retail stores all over New England and in more than 1,500 grocery retailers nationwide as well as online – previously featured a black bag with a red and green coffee cup logo. Wicked Joe Organic Coffees now sports a cleaner, more modern look, including black and chrome brand elements and an array of accent colors indicating the individual blend, flavor or bean’s origin.

The company has grown and refined its operations significantly over the last decade, including increasing sales by 25 percent and growing capacity by 67 percent in 2016 alone. Owners Bob and Carmen Garver wanted a design that would more accurately reflect the roastery’s progress and focus on quality and professionalism.

“We are very excited about where we are with the business right now, and we think a fresh new look captures that feeling,” said Carmen Garver. “We worked collaboratively with our staff and explored many possibilities, and ultimately we wanted to communicate a vintage feel that could translate in today’s market.”

The colorful, lively nature of the new bags aims to stand out on retail shelves among dozens of competitors. Along with their ever-growing team of coffee experts, the Garvers have spent more than two decades – long before the Maine roastery opened – traveling the world in search of the highest quality coffee bean. From the beginning, the company has had a razor-sharp focus on quality, in addition to a commitment to community, farmers and the cooperative partners at bean origin.

“We are constantly evolving,” added Bob Garver. “Our close relationships with the farmers that grow our beans provide so many opportunities for sustainable business practices, education and above all else, inspiration for the next cup of joe.”
Wicked Joe’s new packaging is available in stores now. Visit www.wickedjoe.com for more information.

Larry’s Market: Surviving and Thriving on the Power of Lunch

By Lorrie Baumann

Photo by Uriah Carpenter

Photo by Uriah Carpenter

When Larry Ehlers started working at his local grocery store in Brown Deer, Wisconsin after his return from World War II, it was the kind of neighborhood grocery that sold everything that the neighborhood families really needed from day to day in about 3,000 square feet of selling space. Then times changed, local roads gave way to superhighways, the small village of Brown Deer became a suburb of Milwaukee, and big box stores entered into the grocery marketplace.

Larry’s Market changed with the times by evolving into a specialty grocer. Its produce and meat departments have been eliminated in favor of prepared foods that cater to the lunchtime needs of the workers employed in the nearby office buildings, a highly regarded specialty cheese market makes the store a destination for tourists looking for the best of Wisconsin cheeses, and a busy catering department now provides more than half the store’s revenue.

“It’s an old, old grocery store, but it’s a charming building,” said Patty Peterson, the Manager of Larry’s Market and the daughter of Larry himself. “We’re not on the highway. We’re on the byway…. We don’t have a thousand people walking in front of our store each day.”

After his return from the war, Larry Ehlers worked for the store for years before he finally bought it in 1970. His son, Steve Ehlers, bought the store from him in the late 1980s, and Steve’s wife became the owner upon Steve’s death in 2016.

Around 1971, Peterson’s parents had become fans of French cheeses after their introduction to them at a Summer Fancy Food Show. After tasting some of those cheeses at the show, Larry placed an order. A few days after the cheese was delivered to the store, it was gone, sold to upscale customers who’d learned to appreciate traditional French cheeses during their travels overseas. Larry continued ordering. “Of course my father is the consummate salesman. He can still sell like nobody’s business,” Peterson said. “He still comes in three days a week.”

Steve carried on that romance with French cheeses as he traveled in Europe in the 1970s for his own version of the Grand Tour once made by Victorian gentlemen to broaden their horizons as they started out on their lives as independent adults. “He loved France,” Peterson said.

i-54V7VWv-XLSteve and his father decided to start carrying artisanal American cheeses in the store after Mike Gingrich of Uplands Cheese won the American Cheese Society’s Best of Show Award for Pleasant Ridge Reserve, and today, the cheese counter with its 200 to 300 cheeses in it is a destination for travelers who come to Larry’s Market just to buy their cheese.

Most of the business rung up by the store’s 15 full and regular part-time employees, though, comes either at lunchtime or through the store’s catering business. The regular Friday grill-out events are also huge draws that bring 250 to 300 people into the store over the course of a couple of hours.

All told, the deli and catering departments represent about 60 to 70 percent of the business today. “We do a lot of corporate catering, so on any given day, we’ll have five people out delivering, and we can do 400 to 500 people for lunch, just catering,” Peterson said.

The typical lunchtime purchase for the 100 to 150 people who usually come in then is about $12 to $15, although customers will frequently spend $40 to $50 at a time if they’re also buying groceries and cheese. Among the most popular offerings are killer brownies, Wisconsin artisan cheeses and fresh soups, including the turkey chili that’s a particular favorite among Larry’s regulars. “We sell a ton of soup, summer and winter,” Peterson said. “Our local health inspector comes in for lunch quite often.”

JNB Salsas Finding Fans Across the Globe

By Lorrie Baumann

Barry Moore is known as “The Salsa Guy,” co-Founder of JNB Specialty Foods and the “B” in JNB, the company he cofounded with his son, Jason, in 2011 after his retirement from the U.S. Postal Service. “After I retired, I rode my motorcycle for six months and golfed. And then winter came,” he says.

JNBOnce the winter sent his motorcycle to its space in the garage, Moore decided to pick up the threads on an idea he’d been weaving with his son, a talented chef, Barry had been been making the Bruschetta from an old family recipe and serving to friends and family during the holidays. “Jason developed the Apple Corn salsa a year or two before the business started,” Moore says. “He cooked it when he was going to watch a football game with his friends. His friends all raved about it, and we decided that when I’d retired, we’d do the Bruschetta and the Apple Corn Salsa.”

The two launched their business with 24 cases of product that they took to a local Women’s Expo, where it became an instant hit. “We went there on Friday night, but on Sunday, we had three bottles of salsa left, and that was it,” Moore says. “At that very first event, we were approached by a grocery store that wanted to sell the products. They actually had someone at the show who tried it.”

From there, the JNB’s product line has grown to six products, now including Pineapple Salsa, Habanero Salsa, Red Pepper Salsa and Cranberry Chutney as well as the original Bruschetta and Apple Corn Salsa. “The products are all natural, gluten-free,” Moore says. “This is something that we developed ourselves. We didn’t copy it from anybody. We developed all these products ourselves, and we had a lot of fun doing it.”

“The Cranberry Chutney was because customers asked for something sweet,” he continues. “The Habanero was because customers asked for heat. The Pineapple was because customers asked for sweet heat.”

Although JNB is still selling product at local events, where Moore enjoys the social contact, the products are also sold in about 140 to 150 stores, including sales in China that have come about through trade missions sponsored by the state of New York. Those started about a year and a half ago, when New York asked him if he’d be interested in going on a trade trip to China if the state paid a portion of his expenses for the trip. “I went to Beijing, went to a free trade zone, and got some interest there,” he says. “In one week in China, I got some contacts and some distributors.”

That was in September, 2015, and then around the beginning of 2016, New York asked him if he’d be interested in another trip to a Chinese food show. “I said, ‘I guess I’ll do it,’ and so I went to Chengdu,” Moore says.

In the U.S., the JNB Specialty Foods Salsas retail for about $4.29 to $5.30 or so, depending on the market. “In a specialty market, they sell very well at $8 to $9,” Moore says. “It’s a wonderful product. The Cranberry Chutney is good over soft cheese or mixed with mayo for a turkey sandwich. Or you can use it straight as a dipping sauce for pork or chicken.”

“If you like pork or beef, the salsas will pair well,” he adds. “The Apple Corn Salsa makes a great stuffing for a pork shoulder.”
For more information, call 607.267.5874 or email barry@jnbfoods.com.

Gran Festa Italian Cheese Spreads from Bertozzi

bertozzi editphoto1Bertozzi Corporation of America’s Gran Festa line of Italian cheese spreads are artisanally crafted from high-quality whey, freshly ground spices and vegetables. They come in three varieties: Garlic & Herb, Pink Peppercorn and Sweet Chili.

Packaged in 8-ounce cups, a 2-tablespoon serving contains about 40 calories, 3.5 grams of fat and 1.5 grams of protein. The gluten-free, preservative-free spreads have a light and airy texture and mouthfeel with a rich, creamy flavor profile.

Gran Festa is imported from the Bertozzi Creamery, an Italian family-owned dairy established in 1901.

Barney Butter Appoints Vice President of Marketing

Barney Butter has hired Mark Olivieri as the company’s new Vice President of Marketing. Olivieri brings his past marketing experience for several national food brands to his new role in orchestrating strategies for the growing California-based company. That work includes his most recent position as marketing director of sports nutrition for The Nature’s Bounty Company, as well as past executive marketing roles for PepsiCo – Frito Lay, Hain Celestial and Pepperidge Farm.

Olivieri’s work in meeting the demands of major food brands, along with his passion for fostering the growth of emerging natural foods stars, grants him a unique position from which to help nurture Barney Butter’s next growth stage. “Mark’s past leadership of product innovation, brand development, and consumer marketing represents the full chain of brand evolution we’ve engineered to make Barney Butter the perfect fit for our core customers,” says Dawn Kelley, Barney Butter’s President and CEO. “We’re sure that experience, coupled with Mark’s insight on the unique value of our all-natural products, will make him a key player in our continued growth.”

Olivieri has definite ideas on how to spur Barney Butter’s increasing share of the national $449 million specialty nut butter market. “Barney Butter has a huge advantage with peanut-allergy consumers, but the protocols we use in our peanut-free facility are really just another reflection of a company-wide obsession for putting a product into our customers’ hands that they can trust,” Olivieri says. “I’m excited to be part of a team working to sharpen that vision for our brand.”

Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board Names Suzanne Fanning VP, National Product Communications

The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) has named Suzanne Fanning its new Vice President, National Product Communications.

Fanning, immediate past president of The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), has achieved record level results in sales, public relations, social media and consumer/influencer engagement for several global brands, including Spectrum Brands and Fiskars. Her innovative social business strategies have been featured in Advertising Age Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes Magazine, Entrepreneur and on the cover of PR Week, as well as in many best selling marketing books. Most recently, The Chicago Tribune featured her in its business section, and Forbes identified her as “one of social media’s top movers and shakers.”

“Suzanne comes to WMMB with a wealth of communications knowledge and experience that will help us expand the number of people across the country with whom we share the Wisconsin dairy message,” said Patrick Geoghegan, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at WMMB. “We are excited to welcome her to our team.”

In her new role, Fanning will work with national media and develop programs for influencers, bloggers, retailers and culinary experts to drive awareness and conversations about Wisconsin cheese to keep it in the news, on the menu and in stores. She will manage the websites, the publications, and events and serve as a national spokesperson for Wisconsin’s dairy promotion organization.

For information about Wisconsin Cheese, visit EatWisconsinCheese.com or connect with the company on Facebook and Twitter.

A Serious Foodie Delivers a World of Peppers

By Lorrie Baumann

Jim Pachence takes peppers more seriously than most. He’s the entrepreneur behind Serious Foodie, which offers a line of cooking and finishing sauces that feature fusion flavors, most of which celebrate the flavors of peppers grown around the world. His idea was to focus on the unique flavors of the peppers, rather than relying solely on their burn.

Pachence, who has a Ph.D. in biophysics, started Serious Foodie in 2015 after a 40-year career as a serial entrepreneur in the medical devices industry, followed by culinary training in the U.S. and Europe. He and his family then worked for a few years to develop recipes based on the peppers and flavors he’d discovered during his world travels.

“I started off as a very serious amateur cook,” he said. “While phasing out my biotech career, I wanted to do something around the culinary business. We had thought of wanting to do something in culinary art, and I had an interest in – not necessarily hot – peppers. I wanted to know why the world has so many peppers. Why and how do peppers taste different when they’re grown in different places?”

“Some chilies are very harsh and are bred simply to be hot, not to be flavorful, sometimes painful,” he continued. “We started to look at the opposite: What are the species that are bred to be flavorful? Why are there a thousand Mexican varietals?”

The answer to those questions, he decided, is that different varieties of peppers are cultivated around the world to complement the various flavors that typify their cuisines as a whole. For instance, the aji panca pepper from Peru is used in just about every Peruvian dish in one way or another, Pachence said. It’s used both fresh and dried, sometimes in a paste.

When it’s fresh, it has a sweet, slightly smoky, fruity flavor that inspired Pachence to experiment with how it could be used in sauces that would complement the vegetables and proteins that comprise the American culinary lexicon. “It’s slightly spicy, has multiple levels of flavor, is truly unique to the cooking of that country,” he said. “The taste is used everywhere. The Peruvians use it on their vegetables, so we played with that. Meaty fish, incorporated into a ceviche – those are some of the examples where we reflect how the sauce is used in the U.S. versus how it’s used in Peru. We made a Blood Orange and Aji Panca sauce, which reflects the bracing acidity that you see in the Peruvian dishes, but using our own fusion twist.”

BloodOrange_IMG_0683The Blood Orange and Aji Panca Cooking Sauce is one of seven different sauces in the line that started three years ago with Roasted Hatch Chile Cooking Sauce, which was the result of a friend’s invitation to visit him in New Mexico and take in the Hatch Chile Festival, an annual Labor Day weekend celebration of southern New Mexico’s most famous crop. “As I started to do my culinary experiences, I was interested in the local cuisines of semi-exotic places around the world,” Pachence says as he explains how a visit to a small-town harvest festival evolved into a family business that employs his son, Paul, as its marketing executive and his daughter Lisa as a part-time sales executive, with the occasional assistance of his wife, who’s still a practicing physician. “I wanted to teach my children what it meant to be an entrepreneur,” he said. “I’m just very strong on the entrepreneurial spirit and how that helps people around the community. It helps create jobs. It helps improve the local community. I like to connect the community – that whole idea of thinking globally but acting locally.”

“The science geek in me went about creating the sauces systematically, trying to find the flavors in the chile that would match with flavor profiles,” he said. He ordered himself a supply of Hatch chiles and started playing with different combinations of fruits and herbs with the peppers, and ended up with a blend of the peppers with passionfruit juice and herbs. “We created something that people really liked and wanted to buy,” he said.

From there, the line grew to seven different sauces targeted at consumers from 25 to 55 with discretionary income, who are really interested in both gourmet food and healthy eating, but who don’t necessarily have a lot of time to experiment with flavors in their own cooking. The sauces are all natural with no artificial preservatives or genetically modified organisms. They have low salt and low sugar. “We approach cooking as a holistic, healthy, flavor-packed experience,” he said. “We show people how you can make a gourmet meal without using a lot of fat that adds extraneous calories.”

The sauces are also gluten-free, and while a couple of them include anchovies, the others are vegan. They’re made in small test market batches at a commercial kitchen in St. Petersburg, Florida, and by a co-packer based in Albany, New York, who’s familiar with the demands of artisanal food production, according to Pachence. “We try to keep the flavor profile medium or lower, as far as the spiciness is concerned,” he said. “Most people can tolerate the sauce. We always say that you can always add hot back into it, but you can’t take it away.”

The sauces are currently sold in 150 stores around the country and perform best for medium-size gourmet shops that also have meat and cheese departments, Pachence said. “Almost every sauce we have has a personal travel experience associated with it,” he added. “We’d tasted something like this somewhere else that we wanted to recreate.”

Kroger and Murray’s Cheese Announce Merger

The Kroger Co. has purchased the equity of Murray’s Cheese, as well as its flagship location on Bleecker Street in New York City, to form a merger of the two companies.

“For cheese lovers and connoisseurs, it doesn’t get more authentic than Murray’s,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s Chairman and CEO. “Our customers are excited to buy the unique offerings of Murray’s Cheese right in our stores, and we’re excited to ensure this iconic cheese shop will remain a part of the Kroger family for many years to come.”

New York’s most iconic cheese shop, opened in 1940, Murray’s has been delivering the finest selection of cheese, meat and specialty food items to New Yorkers, chefs and cheese lovers nationwide through a robust online business. Since the two companies formed a unique partnership in 2008, Murray’s has offered the same fine foods and cheese expertise to the Kroger family of stores.

“When the Kroger and Murray’s relationship started in 2008, we wanted to figure out how to bring the finest cheese and charcuterie to more people,” said Daniel Hammer, Kroger’s Vice President of Culinary Development and Deli/Bakery Merchandising. “Today, we have more than 350 Murray’s Cheese shops in Kroger locations from coast to coast – and that is thanks to the incredible passion and commitment of the team at Murray’s to empower associates to share their love of cheese with customers. We look forward to learning from the very talented team at Murray’s and working together to grow the business and build the iconic Murray’s brand.”

Murray’s former Owner and President, Rob Kaufelt, will remain affiliated with the business as a strategic adviser. Nick Tranchina will continue to lead the Murray’s Cheese team in New York and will report to Daniel Hammer at Kroger.

“Rob’s dedication to his craft has placed Murray’s on the map among the culinary elite while also making specialty cheese more accessible to mainstream consumers,” said McMullen. “We look forward to Rob’s continued influence on the business, helping to tell the Murray’s Cheese story and building its brand.”

“It has been my honor and privilege to work with so many tremendous, talented people over the course of my 45-year career in food retail, especially the last 25 years at Murray’s here in New York City,” said Kaufelt. “When I set out on this journey, my goal was simply to run the best cheese shop in Greenwich Village. I’m proud that we’ve been able to maintain the spirit and service of a mom-and-pop neighborhood shop amidst our growth into the national market. I am pleased to pass the torch to our able staff, who will carry Murray’s into the future.”

Murray’s Cheese shops in Kroger stores replicate the same experience customers enjoy at its Greenwich Village flagship store. Each shop carries hundreds of cheeses, charcuterie, olives, crackers and specialty food items from all over the world. Murray’s is deeply involved with product selection, staff training and development, merchandising and promotions.

Other highlights of the special partnership between Murray’s Cheese and Kroger include:

  • In December 2016, Kroger and Murray’s Cheese opened their 350th store location in Bloomington, Indiana. At the time, Kaufelt said, “This is an exciting milestone for Murray’s and the specialty cheese industry. In 2008, we pioneered a store-within-a-store concept at a handful of Kroger stores. Between 2008 and 2012, we opened 38 stores, and in 2016 we opened nearly 100. This partnership has exceeded our wildest expectations.”
  • Murray’s staff has trained thousands of Cheese Mongers and Certified Cheese Professionals through its relationship with Kroger. Between the two companies, the American Cheese Society named as Certified Cheese Professionals 29 team members in 2016, 20 in 2015, and 13 in 2014.

Financial terms of the merger were not disclosed.

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