After years of avoiding the question of what “natural” means on a food label, the federal Food and Drug Administration has been prodded into action by citizen petitions. The agency has received three petitions asking that it define the term “natural” as it is used on food labels and another petition asking the agency to prohibit the use of the turn. Federal courts have also been asking the FDA to make a determination whether food products containing ingredients produced using genetic engineering or foods containing high fructose corn syrup may be labeled as “natural,” according to the agency.
Those requests have prompted the FDA to ask members of the public to provide information and to offer comments on what they think “natural” means — or ought to mean — when it’s used on food labels as it explores the use of the term. Historically, the FDA has considered the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food. However, this policy was not intended to address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides, nor did it explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods, such as thermal technologies, pasteurization, or irradiation. The FDA also did not consider whether the term “natural” should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.
Specifically, the FDA asks for information and public comment on questions such as:
The FDA is accepting public comments beginning on November 12, 2015. To electronically submit comments to the docket, visit http://www.regulations.gov and type FDA-2014-N-1207 in the search box.
The brewers at Samuel Adams have announced the limited release of highly-coveted Samuel Adams Utopias, a beer unlike any other. Only the ninth batch brewed since the first release in 2002, this year’s Utopias, like previous vintages, was brewed in small batches using traditional methods, blended with previous vintages going as far back as 1992, then finished in the Barrel Room at the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery.
“Sam Adams Utopias is the lunatic fringe of extreme beer. The recipe stretches the limits of the brewing process, flavor complexity, and as a by-product, alcohol content. While barrel aging is now a mainstay of a thriving craft beer community, we have been experimenting with barrel aging for nearly 25 years and this year’s batch is made from a library of barrels, some of which go as far back as 1992. This is an other-worldly beer that’s just as radical today as it was in 1992 and I am excited for drinkers to sip and savor it,” said Founder and Brewer Jim Koch.
About Samuel Adams Utopias
For beer fanatics, Samuel Adams Utopias has become one of the most sought-after beers on earth. Meant to be savored like a fine cognac or port, Utopias is a rich, uncarbonated extreme beer known for its extraordinary flavor profile. Utopias has aromas of wood, toffee, cocoa, raisin and maple, which hint at its distinctive flavors, which range from hints of molasses, earthy wood, dates, and light smoke to nuts and toffee.
With each new batch of Utopias, the brewers at Sam Adams push for a complex flavor profile, and during this process have created brews with alcohol levels reaching over 30 percent ABV; this year’s beer is 28 percent ABV and is best enjoyed as a two ounce pour in a snifter glass at room temperature. While some of the barrels have reached over 30 percent alcohol, the brewers blend down because the goal is to craft complex flavors, not an extreme alcohol percentage.
About the Barrel-Aging Process
For the 2015 Utopias, the Sam Adams brewers used a variety of malts for the brewing process and during fermentation used several strains of yeast, including one traditionally reserved for champagne. The beer was then blended with Utopias vintages from previous years including some that have been aging for more than 20 years in the Barrel Room. Aging the beer over a longer period of time accentuates the beer’s distinct vanilla notes and creates aromas of ginger and cinnamon. Some of this aged beer is over 20 years old, old enough to drink itself.
About the Brewing Process
Utopias is brewed using traditional methods. The brewers begin with a blend of two-row Caramel and Munich malts that imparts a rich, deep amber color. Noble hops – Hallertau Mittelfrueh, Spalt Spalter and Tettnang Tettnanger – are also added to lend complexity and balance. During fermentation, several yeast strains are used, including one normally reserved for champagne which the brewers call a “ninja yeast.” This fresh beer is then blended with a variety of different barrel-aged beers and “finished” in a variety of barrels to impart additional complexity and flavor.
About the Finishing Barrel Process
This release of Samuel Adams Utopias also uses a blend of beer finished in a variety of barrels. “Finishing” is a creative way for the brewers to impart additional flavor from a variety of barrels before the beer is bottled. This final step of finishing the beer lasts several months before the beer is bottled and imparts flavors ranging from fruit like cherry and raisin to chocolate, leather and oak. The multi-step and lengthy process results in flavors reminiscent of a rich vintage Port, fine Cognac, or aged Sherry, while feeling surprisingly light on the palate.
New this year, the brewers used White Carcavelos wine barrels to finish the beer, in addition to barrels that once housed cognac, Armagnac, ruby port, sweet Madeira, and Buffalo Trace Bourbon. White Carcavelos wine barrels help to amplify the dried fruit and oak flavors of this year’s Utopias. Carcavelos wines are blended and fortified like a port, are off dry and topaz colored with nutty aromas and flavors. Carcavelos comes from a small region of Portugal and the barrels are very rare, which made the Sam Adams brewers all the more excited to experiment with them as finishing barrels.
Where to find Utopias:
The first batch of Utopias bottles can be found in the hands of Samuel Adams employees. Since Utopias was first released, each bottle number corresponds with when each employee was hired, making Founder and Brewer Jim Koch number 1 and Brewer Dean Gianocostas number 2. For all other beer lovers, fewer than approximately 10,000 bottles of Samuel Adams Utopias can be found at select specialty beer and liquor stores for a suggested retail price of $199 per bottle. Price varies by market.
A $4.8 million renovation of Albertsons Culinary Kitchens & Technical Center is now complete. The project, which was in development before the Albertsons-Safeway merger was announced, came to fruition this month in a 33,000-square-foot facility in Dublin, California, near the company’sPleasanton corporate campus.
“Our company is passionate about running really great stores, and key to that is providing our customers with the products they want, just as Joe Albertson did when he opened his first store 76 years ago,” said Shane Sampson, Chief Marketing and Merchandising Officer. “As grocers, we love challenging our culinary team to come up with new Own Brands products that keep pace with the changing tastes and preferences of customers in every neighborhood we serve. Our Culinary Kitchens & Technical Center helps make that happen across all of our stores.”
The Culinary Kitchens & Technical Center is a state-of-the-art facility that enables the company’s stores like Albertsons, Safeway, Jewel-Osco, Vons and Carrs to provide customers with products developed to their tastes. The facility has sophisticated capabilities in culinary development and food technology, with a special focus on fresh selections in service deli, meat, seafood, produce, and bakery departments. In addition to its staff of 70 culinary specialists, the facility also contains equipment to replicate manufacturing plant, store and home kitchen environments.
Affinity Beverage Group, Inc., a publicly traded company, announced that it has acquired a majority interest in Village Tea Company Distribution, Inc. Village Tea, headquartered in National Harbor, Maryland, is the owner of the Village Tea Company brand of premium loose leaf teas and tea accessories. Village Tea Company sources high-quality, unique teas that are blended to create distinct flavor combinations which are packaged in a variety of creative and earth-friendly ways for wholesale and retail sales. The brand has been sold in several major retailers in North America including Vitamin Shoppe®, Whole Foods® Markets, Winners®, HomeSense®, Akins/Chamberlin® Natural Foods Markets and many other independent specialty and grocery store retailers. Village Tea Company products are also available through e-commerce retailers such as Amazon, the company’s own website, www.villageteaco.com and other online retailers. Village Tea Company also recently acquired distribution rights for Pura Organic Agave sweeteners, which will be available at select U.S. retailers in the coming weeks.
Affinity CEO Janon Costley will remain in his role as CEO of Village Tea Company Distribution, Inc., while Affinity advisory board member and Village Tea Company founder, Martin Ekechukwu will continue in his role as Brand Manager and President. “Acquiring Village Tea Company was at the forefront of our thought process when we decided to build a health and wellness lifestyle brand building and acquisition platform with Affinity Beverage Group. We have learned some important lessons over the past couple of years while trying to find the proper platform to grow Village Tea Company, so it was extremely important to us that we put the company into the best situation that would allow us to have full control of our strategic growth strategy that will enable us to maximize the tremendous potential of the brand and its distribution platform. We feel that Village Tea Company is poised for exponential growth over the course of the next several years, and Affinity gives us the best opportunity to fulfill those expectations,” Costley said.
With the increased emphasis on health and wellness in the U.S. tea market, the $6 billion global tea industry has seen exponential growth over the past five years with the ever-increasing popularity of gourmet and boutique tea brands and retail outlets accounting for nearly 35 percent of the global tea market, the Village Tea Company is properly positioned for exponential growth over the course of the next several years. Over the past year, Village Tea Company has created a platform that will enable it to increase its sales footprint in existing channels of distribution in health and wellness specialty and grocery stores and e-commerce but also to increase its presence in mainstream grocery, clubs, mass and drug store chains as well as into hospitality, food service and restaurants.
Village Tea Company is no longer just about tea, as it is also using its unique positioning in the marketplace to create a distribution platform to introduce other complementary health and wellness lifestyle brands and products. As it looks toward the future, the company will continue to seek opportunities to leverage its product development team and distribution experience as well as the resources of its trade partners to explore various brand extension opportunities into new categories such as tea accessories, K-cups, various tea based products, retail, co-branded tea infused nutritional beverages and strategic distribution opportunities.
By Lorrie Baumann
Sweet Earth Natural Foods, which makes award winning, all natural plant-based foods, is on a mission to persuade more Americans that plant-based foods can be an affordable, convenient and delicious way to eat less meat. “Our food is plant based, but not just for vegetarians and vegans – everyone wants to eat more vegetables and whole grains,” said Sweet Earth Natural Foods CEO Kelly Swette. “We want mainstream customers who are trying to eat less meat because they recognize it has a negative effect on their health and the environment. Plant-based foods are simply more sustainable.”
Sweet Earth offers a range of heat-and-eat products made with plant-based meat alternatives that consumers will recognize as options for multiple day parts, starting with breakfast. They include burritos, veggie burgers, seed based energy bars and the company’s newest products, Farmstand Flaxbread Breakfast Sandwiches, which respond to the breakfast-food-all-day trend that fast food restaurants are embracing enthusiastically. “It’s nice for people to have a delicious portable option that doesn’t require a spoon. And, that portability is what makes breakfast all day work,” Swette said.
“Breakfast sandwiches are also for people who want comfort convenient foods without compromising flavor,” she added. “We see that as one of the areas where we have been particularly innovative.”
The Farmstead Flaxbread Breakfast Sandwiches come in the kind of range you’d expect from a line of breakfast sandwiches, except that a plant-based meat alternative has replaced the sausage, bacon or ham you’d find in a conventional breakfast sandwich. One variety comes with cage free eggs, sharp cheddar and meatless Benevolent Bacon™ on a bun made with whole wheat, oat bran and flaxseed. This variety provides 14.5 grams of whole grains, 22 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Other varieties are similar, and there’s even a vegan version in which meatless Harmless Ham™, a spicy chickpea patty and a sun-dried tomato spread are sandwiched on the bun. Each variety is packaged as a two-pack that retails for $4.49. Swette notes, “We have a version that’s vegan, but we also have egg sandwiches too. We’ve chosen mainstream flavors like ham and Swiss, bacon and Cheddar that people love. We know that people are interested in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, but we also think they are increasingly looking for clean proteins, free of preservatives, hormones and antibiotics.”
Sweet Earth’s burrito line also hits the mark on portability and convenience. There’s a line that’s designed around breakfast flavors and a range that’s based on food truck-type fusions of international flavors. The Peruvian Burrito, for instance, is filled with black beans, red quinoa, sweet potato, goat cheese, roasted corn and spirulina, while the Santa Cruz is filled with a classic Southwest blend of pinto beans, Monterey Jack cheese, oregano and a tangy salsa.
Sweet Earth’s products are, in general, not for the consumer who’s avoiding gluten. “That really isn’t our point of view,” Swette said. “We are more focused on what we put into the product: real vegetables, whole grains, and the natural consequences are more fiber, vitamins and inherently healthy food.”
Sweet Earth Natural Foods products are distributed by UNFI and are available in Whole Foods, Target, Kroger and other retailers nationwide.
Rogue Creamery is a 2016 Good Food Awards finalist for Flora Nelle and Rogue River Blue cheeses. The Good Food Awards represents truly good food and honors companies who have a reputation for making tasty, authentic and socially responsible products. The competition featured 1,937 entries and showcased regional flavors from across the USA. Rogue Creamery distinguished itself, receiving top scores from the 215 judges and passing a rigorous vetting to confirm that it met the Good Food Awards standards; these standards include environmentally sound agricultural practices, good animal husbandry, transparency, and responsible supply chain relationships.
Flora Nelle: This organic, natural- rinded, blue is set with calf rennet, has a crumbly, yet creamy texture, and combines savory, tropical, and sweet cream flavors. The result is a robust and piquant blue with subtle hints of blueberry and a rind that enhances the spicy-nutty and intensely blue flavors that truly capture the Rogue Valley Terroir.
Rogue River Blue: Made annually, starting on the autumnal equinox, this cheese is produced at the turn of the season and is made with richer, late-season milk. This blue, finished with pear-brandy soaked grape leaves, has a decidedly complex flavor that reflects the unique seasonal influences of the Rogue River Valley.
Rogue Creamery is joined by two other Oregon Cheese Guild cheesemakers: Ancient Heritage Dairy and Goldin Artisan Goat Cheese, who have also been chosen as Finalists and are helping Oregon lead the way toward creating a vibrant, delicious and sustainable food system.
The Merman Law Firm in Houston, Texas is investigating cases related to the Class I of beef products from All American Meats, Inc. issued after the United States Department of Agriculture discovered that 167,427 pounds of their products containing ground beef could be contaminated with Escherichia Coli (E. coli) O157: H7. Class I recalls are classified as recalls where a health hazard exists that is likely to cause adverse health consequences or death among those who use a particular product.
The recall, which announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service on October 30th, was prompted after a routine round of testing revealed that certain beef products, which could be traced back to All American Meats, Inc., were potentially contaminated with this form of bacteria. The contaminated products produced just two weeks earlier and shipped to various retail locations throughout the country.
E. coli is a type of naturally-occurring bacteria found in both the intestines of animals and humans, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When this bacteria found outside of the intestinal tract, however, it can cause those exposed to it to become very ill. For example, depending on the particular strain of E. coli, this bacteria can cause urinary tract infections, diarrhea, respiratory complications, and other illness that in some cases, can be fatal.
One common health problem caused by exposure to E. coli known is a hemolytic uremic syndrome. While people of any age can experience adverse symptoms from this condition, it typically results in the most hazardous complications in children and older adults. A person with HUS may bruise easily, find that his or her urine output decreases and have an unusually pale appearance.
Although the contaminated beef from this recent recall has the potential to harm many throughout the country, no confirmed reports of adverse reactions to the contaminated beef have been made at this point. However, FSIS as well as All American Meats, Inc., are concerned that consumers may still have some of this contaminated meat in their freezers. Both organizations strongly encourage all consumers who might have purchased this contaminated beef to refrain from consuming it and either throw it away or return it to the location where they bought it.
Serving five generations of Washingtonians, Wagshal’s Family of Fine Foods is thrilled to announce the expansion of its original Massachusetts Avenue flagship location and the opening of its full service restaurant. By adjoining to a neighboring space at the Spring Valley shopping center, the legendary delicatessen has enlarged its square footage from 1650 to 2800 square feet, and has opened a full service family style dining area.
The newly added addition conveys the delicatessen’s original 1930s architecture from top to bottom including a replication of its original diamond texture ceiling and restoration of original hardwood flooring from 1938. The expansion provides customers more room to shop for a greater selection of specialty food items and provides an additional counter for ordering the freshly prepared carry-out foods that Wagshal’s is renown for serving.
And now, there is seating. The full service restaurant can be accessed through the historic delicatessen as well as from the Yuma Street side entrance. A four season retractable glass enclosure was used to create the dining space which also provides customers al fresco dining during beautiful weather.
Customers may continue to carry-out prepared food or may now choose to sit down and order off the new restaurant’s menu. Now there is a greater selection items available for dine in or carry-out. New at Wagshal’s:
Since 1990, Wagshal’s has been in the caring hands of Bill Fuchs and his family.This year marks Wagshal’s 90th anniversary. To honor this milestone, Fuchs says, “We have brought Wagshal’s back to its original roots of being a community gathering spot like it once was; that was before Mr. Wagshal got rid of the restaurant’s seating.” Fuchs tells a quick story of history behind Washington’s beloved deli, stating, “Years ago, Sam Wagshal got rid of the seats one day because he could not find reliable help.”
Today, at Wagshal’s there are some very long time employees, including Marie Duval, who just celebrated 40 years with the company. Fuchs remarks, “We have been very fortunate to have people like Maria as part of the Wagshal’s family helping to make Wagshal’s what it is today, and we have been very fortunate to have served so many customers in our community over the years.”
Now Wagshal’s can provide the community with even more. Proudly, Fuchs adds, “After all these years, Wagshal’s customers can sit and gather once again.”
Wagshal’s original founder, Sam Wagshal, opened his doors in 1925 to provide quality sandwiches to his community. Unbeknownst to the restaurateur, 90 years later his namesake delicatessen would not only remain intact, still serving quality sandwiches to the local community, but would become a Washington, D.C. landmark steeped in rich history, while still family owned and operated. Fuchs bought the business from Sam’s son Ben and his wife Lilian with one promise; that he would keep the delicatessen true to its roots and keep the doors open to provide quality food for the neighborhood. Fuchs has kept his word, not only keeping Wagshal’s entrenched within the community, but has also extended the reach of the Wagshal’s brand to a national level with its award winning imports division’s products that are receiving national recognition.
The love of food and neighborhood are the common denominators behind Bill Fuchs and his vision for his rapidly expanding Spring Valley food empire. Under his leadership, today the Wagshal’s Family of Fine Foods company portfolio includes the original historic delicatessen with its recent expansion and new restaurant, the newly opened Pittmasters Back Ally BBQ, Wagshal’s On New Mexico, Wagshal’s Imports, Wagshal’s Old World Market & Butcher Shop, Wagshal’s Bakery, Spring Valley Catering, Spring Valley Frozen Meals and other off-premise food outlets.
Blue Sky Family Farms, presented by Egg Innovations, the nation’s largest producer of 100 percent free range and pasture raised eggs, announced the arrival of Blue Sky Family Farms eggs to the Whole Foods Market Mid-Atlantic Division. The three new offerings of Blue Sky Family Farms’ Free Range Non-GMO Brown, Organic and Pasture Raised Organic eggs are available in Whole Foods Market stores in Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey (Marlton, Princeton and Cherry Hill),Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington D.C.
Blue Sky Family Farms’ eggs are currently available at more than 550 finer grocery and natural stores throughout the Midwest. The expansion into Whole Foods Market Mid-Atlantic Division represents the more than 100 years of success of the family-owned operation. Egg Innovations’ 2015 growth includes completing 33 new barns, a new $5 million organic, non-GMO feed mill, and construction on a new processing plant that allows for future expansions in 2016 and beyond.
“We’re excited to have Blue Sky Family Farms in Whole Foods Market in the Mid-Atlantic area to meet the demand for better eggs and more ethical treatment of chickens,” said John Brunnquell, Founder and President of Egg Innovations and Blue Sky Family Farms. “For more than 25 years, Egg Innovations has provided enhanced value specialty eggs, and we are eager to expand to this new area with a great partner in Whole Foods Market.”
With its tag line, “Ethical Eggs for the Humane Race,” Blue Sky Family Farms holds to the highest Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) “Certified Humane” standards for free range and pasture raised eggs.
Back to Nature Foods Company has appointed Daniel Anglemyer as Chief Marketing Officer, effective November 2015. In this role, Anglemyer will be responsible for the strategic development, planning and execution of Back to Nature and SnackWell’s marketing initiatives. Under his leadership, Back to Nature Foods Company’s marketing, research and development, and quality assurance departments will work collaboratively to strengthen both the Back to Nature and SnackWell’s brands and ensure they are well-positioned to experience continued growth as the company expands product offerings and product categories.
Anglemyer brings nearly 20 years of brand and marketing experience to his new role at Back to Nature Foods Company. Prior to joining the company, Anglemyer was Director of Sales Planning and Strategy at Mondelez International’s Nabisco Snacks Division. In this role he institutionalized commercial communication processes throughout North America benefiting Nabisco’s new product launches. He also directed all facets of Mondelez’s portfolio of biscuit brands in channels and multipacks.
“Dan is a seasoned marketing executive whose leadership skills, expertise and proven track record will play a key role in accelerating our marketing efforts and helping us continue to grow the Back to Nature brand,” said Vincent Fantegrossi, President and Chief Executive Officer, Back to Nature Foods Company.
Anglemyer has been brand manager and brand director for numerous cookie and cracker brands, including Back to Nature from 2008 through 2010. During this time, he engineered a strategic, non-traditional revitalization of the Back to Nature brand.
“I am super excited to join Back to Nature and look forward to creating a world-class brand which disrupts conventional food companies by meeting evolving consumer needs better, faster, and more completely than anyone in the marketplace,” Anglemyer said. “A small group that’s committed can do amazing things, and that can be seen from the work the present team has done.”