By Greg Gonzales
Not all condiments were created equal. Consumers increasingly seek alternatives to condiment cornerstones high in sodium or high-fructose corn syrup, or that fail to meet their specific health and diet needs. Producers have responded directly by releasing products that meet individual consumer needs, and some naturally healthy condiments need no alteration.
Of course, a healthy condiment isn’t necessarily the same item for everyone. “It’s more complex than most people think,” said Chrissy Weiss, a nutrition expert who serves as Director of Marketing and Communications at Culinary Collective. “We all are following different diets. Some have health issues, some are athletes, so it depends on someone’s needs individually. … Make sure the product falls in line with your own health goals.” Those goals might include non-GMO products, gluten-free, no high-fructose corn syrup, low sugar, low sodium or vegan.
There’s a condiment for every consumer need. Annie’s, Portland and Sir Kensington’s ketchups do away with fillers like corn syrup and artificial colors, and the organic tomatoes they use contain more nutrients and antioxidants than their non-organic counterparts. The Not Ketchup brand adds a paleo-friendly option to the mix with its fruit ketchups, available in specialty flavors like Blueberry White Pepper and Tangerine Hatch Chile. The winner of the free-from badge contest might have to go to Primal Kitchen for its take on mayonnaise, made with avocado oil. This gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, canola-free, non-GMO spread made with cage-free eggs is packed with healthy fats and is paleo-friendly. Hampton Creek’s spread, Just Mayo, is also Non-GMO Project Verified, but brings mayo back to the vegan crowd by taking the eggs out entirely — in four specialty flavors, too. And consumers who want flavorful ribs without the sugar rush might try Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Sensuous Slathering Sauce. It’s a gluten-free and all-natural take on the tangy-sweet stuff, with only 154mg of sodium and 5 grams of sugar per serving. It’s not alone on the shelf, either. Tessemae’s All Natural BBQ Sauce contains only 2 grams of sugar and 125mg of sodium. It’s also gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and paleo-friendly.
“People are reading more ingredient labels these days to see if it’s just simple,” said Weiss. “Used to be a long time ago, we wanted everything fat free.” But these days, consumers know good fats are essential to a healthy diet, and can even lower cholesterol. Culinary Collective’s gluten-free Matiz Catalan All I Oli Garlic Spread, made from sunflower oil, garlic, lemon juice and salt, is high in good fats but dairy-free, low in sodium and sugar. Salsas, guacamole, hot sauces and low-sugar chutneys also make nutritious additions to healthy meals.
“A lot of people believe traditional foods made from scratch, made from high-quality ingredients, can be helpful,” said Weiss, adding that this attitude has been a given in the specialty food industry from the get-go. “We’ll be part of the solution, not the problem.… There’s a lot of products out there that are, honestly, just junk. They don’t add anything to consumers’ diets, and producers are starting to wake up to that. We’ll definitely see this continue.”
By Lorrie Baumann
Silicon Valley technocrat Gregg Kelley had a nice little career going for himself in 2006. He’d taken two dot-coms public and settled into a consulting career in which he could choose the clients he wanted to advise on how to succeed the way he had. He ditched it all when the owners of California Olive Ranch came to him and said they’d learned how to make a good product and wanted his help to scale up their operation to compete in the national market. Eight years later, he has no regrets.
“It was just the right time. The owners of the company had learned what they needed to learn and were looking for a CFO [chief financial officer]. I was interested in their approach to the industry,” he said. “I really liked the people who owned the company, liked the opportunity. It checked that box for me. I took a pretty significant pay cut to join the company. It was a leap of faith. It was right place, right people, right time.”
“It’s been a great opportunity. A change of direction. I wanted to lead a life where I could look at myself in the mirror,” he adds. “There were two things I wanted to do: be a good husband and a good father and have a positive impact on the world. I get to do that now…. Those are the simple rules to live my life by.”
Kelley is now California Olive Ranch’s Chief Executive Officer, and the company has been registering sales growth rates of 30 to 50 percent per year for a compound annual growth rate exceeding 45 percent over the past eight years. California Olive Ranch has become the U.S.’s largest domestic olive oil producer: in terms of consumer sales, it’s the #4 brand in the grocery channel, the #1 brand in the specialty/gourmet channel and the #3 brand in the natural channel, according to SPINS. With just under 15,000 acres planted with olive trees now, Kelley is actively looking for another 3,000 more acres to plant this year to feed rapidly growing consumer demand for extra virgin olive oils from California.
A few factors have combined to drive that growth, according to Kelley. Americans are becoming more aware of the virtues of high-quality olive oils, and improved technology has allowed California Olive Ranch to provide a better product at an accessible price point. “California has had an olive industry for hundreds of years, but it stayed small until technology got better. The ability to hit a price point that makes it accessible is what accelerates that learning curve,” Kelley said. “You break this barrier of accessibility for a larger number of people. California has made the norm become a much higher quality product. The American consumer, time and time again, has a proven preference for higher-quality products. Wine was an example of that. We’re seeing it in cheese, in chocolate…. We are participating in the same evolution.”
Kelley is determined to propel Americans along the learning curve by putting the taste of California Olive Ranch oil on as many tongues as possible. He says that letting people smell the aroma of a freshly opened bottle of good extra virgin olive oil and then letting them taste the oil and feel the warmth of it in their throats is all it takes to inspire them to want that experience again, especially if they can have it for a price premium of just a few dollars a bottle. “What makes us different is the ability to provide a much higher quality experience regularly,” he said. “The vast majority of the oil we produce would win awards around the world.”
“Great olive oils add to the experience of a good meal,” he said. “That was the ‘Aha!’ for me that was the final hook that got me involved in the industry and got me into California Olive Ranch.”
By Lorrie Baumann
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said February 25 that he’s optimistic about America’s farm economy. “It’s easy to look at things in a pessimistic view because of softening commodity prices and decreasing farm income, but I don’t share that pessimistic view,” he said.
Vilsack was speaking at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, which is intended as a discussion of novel and innovative ways to expand opportunity and provide support for America’s farming families. He noted that among his reasons for optimism is that the unemployment rate is falling in rural America, and rural America’s poverty rate is also falling. “We’ve lent a hand in making sure that rural America continues to thrive,” he said.
Vilsack’s sunny outlook is in dramatic contrast to the more dismal forecast offered by the department’s Economic Research Service, which is forecasting a $9.6 billion drop in cash receipts for the country’s farm sector. ‘The expected drop in 2016 cash receipts is led by declines in nearly all major animal/product categories (including dairy, meat animals, and poultry/eggs), as well as vegetables and melons,” according to the USDA’s farm income forecast for 2016. Those drops in farm income are driven by falling commodity prices that reflect higher production. While farmers have tightened their belts on expenses, commodity prices are falling faster, which means that farmers are likely to have to borrow more money to stay in business, according to USDA Agricultural Economist Ryan Kuhns. Farmers will also offset some of the decline in their revenues through federal subsidies, which are dependent on commodity prices. Direct government farm program payments are forecast to rise by 31.4 percent in 2016 to $13.9 billion, according to the USDA.
Strong export sales of American agricultural commodities over the past seven years as well as increased numbers of acres enrolled in conservation programs are bright spots for American agriculture, Vilsack said. He added that the USDA has invested to provide additional jobs in rural America so that more jobs will be available to farmers who need off-farm income to keep their family farms afloat. “Because of the investments and hard work of folks in rural America, I’m optimistic about the welfare of farm communities,” he said. “I’m extraordinarily optimistic about he future because I see the potential for expanded exports.”
He noted that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which would reduce or eliminate tariffs on American exports to member countries – which can be as high as 700 percent for American agricultural products – would provide extra opportunities in countries with which the U.S. does almost half of its trade and which have expanding middle classes. “They are expanding middle classes and they are interested in our agricultural products – our quality is the best, and our safety is the best,” Vilsack said. “Our expanding efficiency will keep us competitive on the world market.” Through expanded trade with countries like Japan and China, TPP can increase annual net farm income by $4.4 billion, compared to not approving the pact, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
American farmers are growing more efficient and more productive, and 95 percent of the world’s consumers of products, services and goods living outside the U.S., said Vilsack, who noted that there’s an opportunity cost to delays in approving TPP because American food producers are missing out on those new markets in the meantime. Vilsack noted that the Cuban market presents an opportunity for American food exporters. “We should be dominating the Cuban market. There’s tremendous demand in Cuba, which imports about 80 percent of what they need to feed their people. We have the logistics capability to dominate that market.” He added that before that can happen, the U.S. will need to lift its current embargo against Cuba. That embargo currently forbids the USDA to use any of its programs for Cuban trade.
By Lorrie Baumann
Merchandising your store’s brand as well as your products can go a long way towards making your store a destination, according to Beekman 1802 Founders Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell. The duo operates a retail store in their hometown of Sharon Springs, New York, as well as an online store, seasonal popup stores and the farm that supplies nearly everything they eat as well as ingredients for some of the products in their Beekman 1802 line of food, personal care and home décor products. The Beekman 1802 line has been called the fastest-growing lifestyle brand in the country, with food products in Williams-Sonoma and Anthropologie and home décor products in stores around the country. “A lot of lifestyle brands say they’re storytellers. Our brand is actually our life,” Kilmer-Purcell said in January during a presentation at the Las Vegas Winter Market.
The pair started their business as a way to pay off a million-dollar mortgage on the farm they bought in 2006, just before losing their New York jobs during the Recession. Beekman 1802 was originally just going to be an online business, but when business grew to the point at which they could no longer package and ship all their orders in the hallway at their house, they found an abandoned hotel building in Sharon Springs to use as a warehouse. It had an 8-foot by 12-foot room in it that they thought they could use as a retail shop. “That’s how our very first shop, 1802 Mercantile, happened,” Ridge said. “In a town of 547 people three and a half hours north of New York City, there’s not a lot of foot traffic.” The two of them decided to take cues from L.L. Bean and Stonewall Kitchen, both of which operate retail stores. “If you’re anywhere within two hours of them, you make a detour,” Ridge said.
That’s part of the reason for merchandising to tell a story about your store – it helps to make your store, not your products, the destination. “What we try to do throughout the store – and this is a trick we took from Disney. You know how when you’re in Disney, there are all these signs of Mickey that you just kind of happen on. Not everyone is going to notice it, but to the people who do notice it, it means everything,” Ridge said. “The whole philosophy of our brand is where the city meets the country. What we think is the future of retail is to make the store a gathering place for people to get a whole experience of retail. You really do have to offer that sense of theater, of discovery, to the people who come into the store.… If you can give them the moments of delight every time they come into the store, they’re going to keep coming into the store to see what you’re going to do next.”
Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell take an intensely seasonal approach to merchandising their store. Displays are themed for each of the four seasons plus the holiday season, and themes are decided and content is planned a year in advance. For instance, one winter the theme was “Cozy,” and all of the displays and featured products were organized around that theme. “Gardening” was a theme for one season, and “The Alchemy of Christmas” was a theme for one holiday season. Last year the theme was Christmas at Beekman Place, which was where Auntie Mame lived,” said Ridge. To make the Christmas tree, they found antique trunks and stacked them into the shape of a Christmas tree. To make the ornaments, they found old luggage tags online, copied them and hung them on the “tree.” We never spend a lot of money making any kind of display,” Ridge said. “It’s just about the creative energy that you put into putting it together.”
As they build displays, they make sure that their Beekman 1802 brand is included. “Think about your story and tell that story when you display the product,” Ridge said. “When they walk up to the display, they should get most of the story just from the display.”
That kind of storytelling approach to merchandising not only helps bring customers into the store and keep them there longer, it gives them a reason to take out their cell phones and photograph the display to post on their social media, Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell said. When that happens, you want your brand to be included in those photos.
“You can make a buying trip an opportunity to create content. ‘Joanne is at the show curating products for you.’ Give them a teaser about how you’re creating what will be in the store in three months,” Ridge said. “It takes so little time. You just have to think about what you want to present to your customer.”
This story was originally published in the April 2016 issue of Kitchenware News.
The Kroger Co. announced a strategic partnership with Lucky’s Market, a specialty grocery store chain focused on natural, organic and locally-grown products. Kroger has made a meaningful investment in Lucky’s, which will significantly accelerate Lucky’s Market’s growth in new and existing markets. The financial terms of the transaction, which closed on April 1, were not disclosed.
This strategic partnership is designed to further enhance the best products, practices and techniques Lucky’s Market has to offer. These strengths, combined with Kroger’s scale and experience, will in turn create benefits for customers and help Lucky’s Market grow over time. This alliance also demonstrates Kroger’s deep ongoing commitment to providing customers with affordable fresh organic and natural foods as a part of its “Customer 1st” strategy. Kroger’s affiliate Main & Vine also recently launched a community-focused grocery store concept in Gig Harbor, Washington, that mixes local, specialty and everyday products, all at affordable prices.
Founded in 2003 and based near Boulder, Colorado, Lucky’s Market and its affiliates employ more than 1,800 associates and operate 17 stores in 13 states throughout the Midwest and Southeast United States. Lucky’s “Organic for the 99%” store format emphasizes its expansive selection of natural and organic food, including fresh produce, meat and seafood, prepared foods and baked goods, as well as wine and beer and personal care goods. With stores averaging approximately 30,000 square feet, Lucky’s layout resembles an indoor farmers market, with “garage door” entrances, field bins, barrels and wooden crates. Its culinary department showcases great-tasting, restaurant-quality prepared foods made from recipes that include those developed by Chief Executive Officer and former chef Bo Sharon and his wife Trish. Through its “L” private label, Lucky’s provides a broad range of grocery items at great value that have no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, and 10 percent of profits from its private label are reinvested in the communities it serves.
Marin French Cheese’s Triple Crème Brie with Black Truffles took the coveted Best of Class Award for flavored soft-ripened cheese at the World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, Wisconsin, March 7-9, 2016.
Made with fresh cow’s milk and cream from neighboring Marin County dairies, Triple Crème Brie specked with Black Truffles lends itself to an irresistibly earthy aroma of mushrooms balanced with sweet cream, each year earning high distinctions in regional, national and international contests alike.
Other honors conferred to the Marin French team of dedicated cheesemakers during this recent competition include third place in the soft-ripened category for Petite Supreme, a high butterfat, extra-crème cheese with an aroma of sweet milk, and fourth place for Traditional Brie in the brie category.
Equally impressive, Sonoma-based sister company, Laura Chenel’s, received accolades once again this year for its creamy, fluffy-textured Original Chabis fresh goat cheese, garnering third place in the Soft Goat Milk Cheese category. The Orange Blossom Honey Log won its first award at the event, placing third in the Flavored Soft Goat Milk Cheese with Sweet Condiments category, while the Chabis Garlic took a fourth place prize in Soft Goat Milk Cheese category. Laura Chenel’s Original Buchette was recognized with a fifth place award.
“Each year we are impressed by the increasing level of competition at this highly regarded competition,” says General Manager Philippe Chevrollier. “We are very proud of our cheesemaking teams at both Marin French and Laura Chenel’s for being such strong contenders where ingenuity, skill and know-how are key,” he adds.
The World Championship Cheese Contest, established in 1957, is organized by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. This year, the organization saw a record 2,955 entries from 23 countries and 31 states. For a full list of awards go to http://wccc.myentries.org/contest/results?event=59 .
Riviana Foods Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Ebro Foods, S.A., has announced that its leading rice brands: Minute®, Carolina®, Mahatma®, Success®, Blue Ribbon®, Comet®, Adolphus®, Gourmet House® and RiceSelect® have earned the Non‐GMO Project Verification on its rice products. This verification is yet another way Riviana is demonstrating its commitment to providing consumers with up-to-date product information and responding to consumer-driven trends.
“Consumers want to know not just what’s in their food but also where it comes from,” said Paul Galvani, Senior Vice President of Marketing of Riviana. “In the future, companies will succeed by having full ingredient transparency, allowing consumers to make informed choices. Brands that are silent on the issue run a risk of losing consumer trust. We are proud to be leading the way in the rice category earning Non-GMO Project Verification,” said Galvani.
Over 175 rice products from Minute, Carolina, Mahatma, Success, Blue Ribbon, Comet, Adolphus, Gourmet House and RiceSelect will carry the new verification seal on the front of the packages, where it is easy to spot. Riviana rice products bearing the Non-GMO Project Verified logo began appearing on grocery shelves across the country in 2016.
As the battle for share of stomach rages on, the retail foodservice industry continues to grow. An updated study released by Technomic—the 2015 “Retailer Meal Solutions (RMS) Consumer Trend Report” —finds that consumers are purchasing RMS more often; 84 percent now purchase RMS at least once a month compared to just 79 percent in 2012. This increase is largely driven by younger consumers aged 18–34, who are increasingly reliant on foodservice in general.
Six weeks is all it takes to make a significant difference in the life of a hungry child, according to a new report from No Kid Hungry. A new study by an independent evaluation firm shows that No Kid Hungry’s Cooking Matters program – a six-week cooking, shopping and nutrition course for low-income families – has a powerful and sustained impact. Families report shopping smarter, eating healthier, and preparing more meals at home even six months after completing the course. What’s more – they no longer regularly worry that their food might run out each month.
The study’s key findings include:
For many low-income families, cooking feels impossible due to time constraints, the perceived expense of healthy foods, and/or the lack of know-how to cook nutritious, tasty meals. No Kid Hungry’s Cooking Matters teaches participants to stretch their food budget, use nutritional information to make healthier choices, and cook delicious, affordable meals for the family.
“[I’m now] walking into the vegetable department and actually looking instead of saying ‘I’m not going to touch that,” said one participant from Maine. “There are a lot of good things out there.”
Since the program was founded in 1993, No Kid Hungry has empowered 369,000 families with cooking and shopping skills through Cooking Matters. In 2016 alone, the goal is to reach over 80,000 families nationally.
“Today, one in five children in the United States doesn’t have the food they need to grow and thrive. Cooking Matters is changing that statistic for families across the country,” said Billy Shore, Founder and CEO, Share Our Strength. “A recent long-term analysis of the program shows it has a powerful and sustainable impact, teaching families how to cook and shop for healthy food on a budget. This type of food resource management is an important component of reducing hunger and food insecurity.”
Research was conducted by the independent health systems research organization Altarum Institute, and looked at 1,600+ study participants, including families taking a Cooking Matters course and a comparison group of families who did not take the course, from April 2014 to March 2015. They were surveyed before the course began, and three and six months after it finished.