By Lorrie Baumann
Thirty three years ago, the goal of American Spoon founders Justin Rashid and Larry Forgione was to make the best preserves in America using Michigan fruits. The goal is the same today, Rashid says.
American Spoon is based in Petoskey, Michigan, a summer resort area with a remarkable microclimate that stretches along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, which buffers the extremes of temperature to make a growing season that allows local farmers to grow most of America’s crop of tart cherries as well as Haven peaches and, since the 1920s, a good share of America’s cultivated blueberries.
Rashid spent the summers of his childhood in the area and it was then that he learned to appreciate the local fruits. As he grew up, he learned to forage for wild mushrooms and fruits from the 30,000 acres of state forest lands that surrounded his parents’ summer cabin. “Any excuse to be out there in the woods,” he says. “It was what I loved to do, and I had a passion for it.”
He met Chef Larry Forgione, a pioneer in the farm to table movement when Forgione was looking for sources for wonderful ingredients to use in his restaurant menus and started supplying him with wild mushrooms and fruits. It wasn’t long before Forgione paid him a visit to see for himself where the wonderful produce that Rashid was supplying had originated. Once he saw the bounty available in Michigan, Forgione knew he wanted more of it in his restaurants. “He asked if I could provide fruit preserves for the River Cafe,” Rashid says. “We were both young, you know. I said, ‘I’m sure I could make preserves.’”
The two of them together founded American Spoon, which was incorporated in 1982. The name refers to the spoonability of the preserves, which are more suited to scooping onto bread or a cheese with a spoon rather than spreading them with a knife. Forgione developed the recipes, Rashid sourced the fruit, and together they set up a kitchen equipped with traditional copper kettles and wooden paddles.
Today, American Spoon still makes its preserves in small batches the old-fashioned, labor-intensive way and sells about 85 percent of what the company makes directly to consumers in six retail stores, all located in destination resort towns along Lake Michigan. “We have developed a very significant direct mail and Internet business, so some of the same customers who discover us when they’re on vacation here in the summer become year-round customers at Spoon.com,” Rashid says.
American Spoon draws summer tourists from the small-town sidewalks of the resort towns into its shops with a sampling table where visitors can try everything the company makes. “The wonderful thing about our small towns here is that they’ve been around a long time, so they have small-scale, human-scale, walkable downtowns,” Rashid says. “People taste and they buy, and very often they buy a case. It’s like going to a vineyard and tasting the wine and going away with a case.”
“A company of ours is not supposed to be able to survive based on quality, quantity and price. You have to justify your existence by producing products that spoil people,” he says. “We have one chance, when they open that jar and taste it, to create a relationship. We’re not selling food as fuel. We’re selling it to people who use it to entertain, for gifts, to celebrate.”
After 33 years in business, Rashid says that running American Spoon is still a lot of fun. These days, his son Noah Marshall-Rashid does all the marketing and runs many of the business details while Rashid himself is more involved in the production side of things. “I don’t suppose it would be as much fun if it were not that I have Noah here, who does most of the heavy lifting, so to speak,” he says. “We have a great time meeting our customers in our stores, talking with them about food, sharing recipes with them…. The food business can be very rewarding because everybody eats, and it makes people happy.”
One of the nation’s top wine brands has partnered with award-winning Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle to make this holiday season all the more merry. Starting November 1, Robert Mondavi Private Selection wine bottles will be adorned with a coupon offering consumers $1.50 off a 4-ounce or larger bag of Brownie Brittle with purchase, through December 31 at stores nationwide including retailers like Walmart, CVS, Safeway and Albertson’s. In states that do not allow a required wine purchase for coupon, a $2 mail-in rebate will be offered instead.
“Die-hard Brownie Brittle fans already know how well our snack pairs with wine—now we’re making it official with our Robert Mondavi Private Selection partnership,” said Founder Sheila G. Mains. “The partnership is perfectly timed with the release of our holiday flavors: Chocolate Chip with Snowflake Drizzle, Mint Chocolate Chip with Dark Drizzle and Salted Carmel with Dark Drizzle, also hitting shelves this season.”
The wine pairing experts at Robert Mondavi Private Selection recommend pairing their Cabernet Sauvignon with Salted Caramel Brownie Brittle, and Heritage Red with Chocolate Chip Brownie Brittle.
Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle is available in tens of thousands of stores across the globe, including Target, Walmart, Kroger, and Safeway. Brownie Brittle has also been flying high as a snack on United and Alaskan Airlines flights.
Italian Foods Corporation’s La Piana shelf stable gourmet stuffed pastas in new recyclable plastic packaging have now arrived in the U.S. for both the original three flavors and two additional flavors in an 8-ounce size.
The new 8-ounce package has a matte finish and elegant design of soft grey and yellow. A clear window allows consumers to view the pasta, said Francesca Lapiana-Krause, General Manager. The new packaging is a more minimalist design eliminating a box that previously held a clear cellophane bag of pasta. In addition to reducing the amount of packaging, it allows more efficient shipping, Lapiana-Krause said. The bags are designed with a squared bottom for a neat display on the shelf. They are available through Haddon House Food Products of Medford, New Jersey.
Flavors in the 8-ounce size include Tortellini with Cheese, Mezzaluna with Basil Pesto, Ravioli with Squash, and the two new flavors, Mezzaluna with Gorgonzola and Tortellini with Sundried Tomato and Oregano. The stuffed pastas are one of Italian Foods Corporation’s best sellers. They are imported from the Lombardy region and shelf stable for 15 months with a suggested retail price of $4.99. They also are packaged in 1-pound boxes, which have a suggested retail price of $6.19 to $7.19.
Litehouse® Foods is expanding its top-selling Opadipity Greek Yogurt Dip line with three new flavor-packed options. Spicy Asiago Artichoke, Greek Olive and Cinnamon Swirl flavors give consumers even more ways to make the holidays stress-free and tasty by serving the low-calorie creaminess of Greek yogurt.
Since launching Opadipity in 2014, the dip quickly became a category leader. The Litehouse brand is responsible for fueling 56 percent of the veggie dip category growth in the U.S. in just the last few weeks.
“The retail and consumer response to Opadipity has been amazing, and we are proud to continue to innovate with these latest flavor offerings,” said Camille Balfanz, Brand Manager, Litehouse Foods. “These new dips continue to deliver on the promise of extraordinary everyday fun, giving consumers more better-for-you snack options that are not only convenient, but can be used in so many inspirational and delicious ways.”
The new Opadipity Greek Yogurt dip flavors provide a thick, creamy consistency that fans love with fewer calories than traditional dips. They are also gluten-free with no preservatives or MSG. The three new flavors each stand on their own as instant crowd pleasers:
The three new Opadipty Greek Yogurt Dips are available at retail locations nationwide starting in October with a suggested retail price of $3.99 for a 12-ounce tub.
Warm and cozy comfort food for everyone! As the weather begins to cool, it seems natural to gravitate toward home cooking and comfort foods. Don’t want to make a lot of food when there are only two of you? Wind & Willow’s Table for 2 line solves that problem with soup, pastas, and desserts perfectly portioned for two.
Warm Apple Crisp Mix is a fall favorite. Just add butter and apple slices. A couple of minutes of prep and 40 minutes to bake. The Chocolate Lava Cake is another amazing dessert in the line. Both retail for $5.50 each.
Every item also happens to be gluten free. Wind & Willow has bridged the gap between gluten free and comfort food. Perfectly portioned for two, so delicious, no artificial colors, flavor or preservatives, and gluten free.
By Amber Gallegos
When it comes to Millennials and coffee, there is a definite trend towards specialty coffee. As a generation coming of age in the era of Starbucks, the group leans more towards espresso-based beverages than the grocery store coffees preferred by older generations. They are also more likely to drink coffee away from the home than other generations. What this means for the coffee industry is yet to be seen, experts say, but in the meantime, manufacturers of coffee brewers are taking varied approaches to potentially serve the large population of Millennials.
The Pew Research Center defines Millennials as adults that are ages 18 to 34 in 2015. The 2015 National Coffee Drinking Trends Report (NCDT) from the National Coffee Association, finds that at-home coffee consumption is directly related to age. Younger consumer are more likely to consume coffee out-of-home than older consumers, 45 to 46 percent among those aged 18 to 39, versus 18-35 percent of those aged over 40.
“Millennials are a unique consumer demographic for our industry as they tend to come to specialty coffee much earlier than their older counterparts,” says Heather Ward, Research Analyst for the Specialty Coffee Association of America. “In part, because they grew up in a world where a specialty coffee shop was available to them on every street corner. Historically coffee consumption skewed older, but that was likely due to the fact that coffee consumption meant a brewed cup of commercial coffee made in the home, while Millennials typically first experience specialty coffee in the retail environment where there are more specialty options available to them. It will be important that coffee companies understand the new entry point for these consumers, and how to engage them through their specialty coffee journey.”
The NCDT report surveyed 2,800 adult respondents online and found that daily consumption of specialty coffee was 35 percent among ages 18 to 24 and 36 percent among ages 25 to 39. Among ages 40 to 59 the percent was 30, and dropped down to 23 percent for those over the age of 60. The survey allowed respondents to identify whether they considered the coffee they consumed as specialty or not. Overall coffee consumption among ages 25 to 39 increased to 62 percent in 2014, up from 42 percent in 2000, according to the NCA.
“For the younger generation the espresso-based beverage are oftentimes their kind of gateway into coffee. A lot of the reason behind that is because that’s where you’ll find it’s less about the coffee and more about the milk and the sugar,” says Mark DiDomenico, Director of Client Solutions at Datassential, who helped present the NCDT findings this year and who previously served as Director of Insights for Sara Lee. “Cappuccinos are much more creamy to begin with and much more about the milk than it is about the espresso. So it’s a little bit easier path for them to build that coffee habit around, versus just drinking regular coffee even if you did put cream and sugar in it – it’s still less exciting, if you will, than say a caramel macchiato. It’s really about flavor and sweetness.”
The NCDT data also finds that espresso-based beverages are significantly more popular among those 18-39. There appears to be sustained, if not growing, strength among all under 40, particularly those 18-24. Conversely, an overall decline in non-gourmet coffee consumption is more pronounced among those 18-24.
Companies coming out with home coffee machines certainly hope that they can capture consumer interest by appealing to them with appliances that meet their love of specialty coffee and convenience. Capresso’s On-on-Go Personal Coffee Maker is a compact brewer that brews from ground coffee or soft pods into a 16-ounce stainless steel travel mug and retails for $49.99.
“We found that Millennials were especially drawn to the On-on-Go Personal Coffee Maker during our product testing and development. They liked the small, compact size and the fact that it brews directly into a travel mug. This eliminates the hassle and waste of brewing a pot of coffee and then pouring it into your travel mug, plus there are fewer dishes to wash,” says April Strogen, Capresso Director of Marketing. “Millennials drink more coffee and are more sophisticated in their coffee tastes, so they appreciate a quality product at an affordable price. A key benefit of the On-the-Go is that, unlike many other smaller units, it brews at the ideal temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Millennials also tend to be more concerned about the environmental impact of their coffee brewing choices. They know that pod and capsule systems involve unnecessary packaging and waste. The On-the-Go comes with a reusable permanent filter for brewing ground coffee, and it can also accommodate soft pods, which are more environmentally friendly.”
From the new OXO On[TM] line of small electrics, the Barista Brain 9-Cup Coffee Brewing System retails for $199.99 and aims to give users more precise control through an intelligent microprocessor that offers precision temperature control, a timed water pump, and the option of brewing a single serving rather than an entire pot. All these controls seek to provide the same hand-crafted coffee in-home that Millennials are so crazy about getting at coffee shops.
“When it comes to coffee, it’s all about brew time and brew temperature,” says Claire Ashley, OXO Kitchen Electrics Senior Product Manager. “Our 9-Cup Coffee Maker has a thoroughly thought brew cycle to ensure optimal extraction and excellent coffee. We wanted to offer the same quality of coffee for a single serve (one mug or two cups). At OXO, we care about convenience; we cannot ignore those mornings when we are rushed but need just one mug before running out of the house. We developed a specific single serve brew cycle that takes into account the smaller amount of coffee in the brew basket for optimal extraction. You will see the water going over the grounds and pausing. This is intentional. We are controlling brew time and temperature for you.”
Indeed, brewing time and water temperature are important components for properly preparing a cup of specialty coffee to its full potential, as well as important factors for the espresso-based beverages that Millennials gravitate towards. Machines like BUNN’s trifecta MB may have a high price point, $599.99 in this case, but offers consumers who are truly passionate about coffee an option to make their coffee at home just they way they like it. BUNN applies its experience in the commercial realm to the trifecta MB so that users can control the turbulence cycle and infusion time, essential factors in extracting the flavor notes of the coffee bean rather than the flavor derived from the roasting process. The machine is particularly suited to single-origin coffees.
“The person that’s buying this machine is very engaged in where they’re getting their coffee beans, is very particular about where they’re going to be sourced and how they’re roasted, and being able to craft their personalized cup,” says Nathan Leitner, Product Manager of Home Products for BUNN. “With the control knobs for the infusion cycle and turbulence time, you can really dial in your specific tastes, so it’s that person that really wants to be able to experiment with coffee …. There’s so many ways to mess up a cup of coffee, so we really want to ensure that if you use our equipment that we can guarantee you’re going to have the best result in the cup.”
“It will be interesting to watch going forward as Millennials transition into the older generations. Right now most of them are working age adults and that’s when we start to see, or we think we’ll see, change in their consumption habits,” says DiDomenico. “That’s when a lot of them move away from those sugary cappuccinos, espresso-based beverages, and pick up a regular coffee habit, so we’ll see if that actually happens or if they keep that habit of getting the espresso-based beverages. I think we’re in a bit of a transition so we can maybe in the coming years see where that trend goes.”
By Micah Cheek
If you haven’t tried sumac before, the flavor can be hard to pin down. The dried and crushed fruit of the sumac plant is described as tart but not sour, and a combination of lemon, tart cherry, and earthy flavors. “We have people that come in saying ‘Oh I just tried this food, it was sour and so good, it was lemony and complicated…’ and we just stand there until they finish and say, ‘Yeah, that was sumac in there,’” says Anne Milneck, Owner of Red Stick Spice Company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sumac is a top seller at Red Stick Spice Company partly because Lebanese and Greek restaurants are popular elements of Baton Rouge’s culinary scene, says Milneck, who has begun seeing more interest in sumac as more Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants open and customers try to replicate dishes at home.
Traditionally, sumac has been used in a wide variety of Middle Eastern dishes. Salads, roasted meats, bread and rice can all be liberally sprinkled with sumac for an acidic tang. “You can use it with any platter. [It has] a delicious taste, at the same time it’s appealing to the eye,” says Safa Najjar Merheb, author of “The Pure Taste of Lebanon From Safa’s Kitchen.”
A classic pairing is sumac with lamb. The gamey richness of lamb is cut by sumac’s tartness. Milneck notes that the spice will perform the same on any gamey meats, such as duck or venison. Sumac can also be used with flavors that traditionally play nicely with lemon, as reflected in a Turkish fish stew with sumac. The spice can be used as a dry rub on chicken.
Sumac is also a popular addition to mild sides. “I’ve also heard about sumac on more bland vegetables like cauliflower,” says Milneck. “Some people are doing cauliflower rice and then using sumac in there, which is not so off the wall, because sumac is also used on rice pilaf.” Merheb suggests mixing the spice into stuffing for grape leaves, eggplant and squash.
Dukkah, an Egyptian condiment that includes crushed nuts, coriander and cumin, and the spice blend za’atar both depend on sumac. Za’atar is a popular condiment in Arabic cuisine, with wildly varying recipes that all contain sumac, thyme, and sesame seeds. Manakeesh, a traditional Lebanese snack, is made by spreading a paste of za’atar and olive oil onto pita dough before baking.
International Seafood Ventures, one of the largest suppliers of king crab to the U.S. retail market, has formed a strategic alliance with Frequentz Inc. to strengthen its supply chain transparency efforts. The crab industry has been under heightened scrutiny due to the increased reporting of illegally caught seafood entering the U.S. market. The presidential task force assigned to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing has also identified the king crab imports industry as a clear and present offender. While many companies are trying to distance themselves from the negative publicity, International Seafood Ventures is taking the issue on full steam ahead.
“We enlisted the help of Frequentz and their traceability solution to demonstrate without a doubt to our customers that our king crab is legitimately caught,” says Stuart Kozloff, International Seafood Ventures President. “It is important for our customers to know we take a responsible approach to our seafood sourcing, and Frequentz’s traceability solution provides that extra layer of assurance, not only for our king crab, but our whole Asian, Arctic and Aqua Chef Line of products. In today’s market we need to be responsive to our customers’ requests and by enlisting Frequentz’s assistance, we feel we can accomplish the important goal of confirming our sustainability claims to these strategic alliance customers.”
With close to 90 percent of all seafood sold in the U.S. coming from imports, supply chain transparency is the only way to assure consumers that what they are being sold isn’t a wild fish tale. Frequentz’s technology also has applications beyond seafood, as consumer demands are driving supply chains to be more forthcoming. Consumers want to have enough information to make a responsible buying decision, whether that is based on sustainability of the species or some other driving factor. Frequentz assists these industries by offering comprehensive traceability, serialization and information management technologies that promote intelligent analytics and consumer safety.