By Zach Calvello
Hammond’s Candies has come a long way since Carl T. Hammond first founded the company in 1920 after leaving school to apprentice for a local candy maker. Today, Denver-based Hammond’s Candies is one of the best known confectioners in the country, renowned for its outstanding quality and dedication the craft of candy making. The company handcrafts all its confections in open kettles and small batches. All ingredients for its candies are sourced locally, and supplies are purchased from American companies.
Since welcoming Andy Schuman to the team as the President and CEO of Hammond’s Candies, the company has seen enormous growth. “When I first started with the company in 2007, we were primarily known as a Christmas confectioner. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to begin branching out,” says Schuman. “I wanted Hammond’s Candies to be known for everyday candies, not just for its holiday ones.”
With this in mind, the company began to expand its horizons in all areas of candy making, sales and distribution. Hammond’s Candies now delivers its candies throughout the nation. The company’s products are primarily found in “mom and pop” shops across the United States, but distribution expands far beyond this. “We are found in larger retailers as well, but because of how our products are crafted, it makes sense that smaller retailers like to carry our products,” said Schuman.
As Hammond’s has increased the scope of its distribution, the company has had to develop a precise distribution plan. To get ready for the holiday season, for example, Hammond’s Candies now prepares nearly a year in advance, ensuring that all orders are met with exceptional veracity.
Social media has been hugely important to Hammond’s as a tool for attracting business. The company regularly updates its Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts. Schuman says, “Pinterest has been a great place to show consumers what they can do with our candies.”
Hammond’s Candies enjoys keeping its social media sites entertaining and exciting, driving recurring visits from followers. Throughout the year, Hammond’s Candies holds polls on its Facebook page in order to get direct feedback from its fans. This is a method that Schumann finds particularly useful in determining new product direction, and he has employed social media in a number of ways, including recently seeking advice about names for his newly adopted dog. “It was exciting to see how many names we received from this poll,” he says. “We were getting names like Butterscotch, Cupcake, Taffy—just all sorts of fun ones.”
Plant tours have also been crucial in whetting consumers’ appetites for Hammond’s Candies. The company offers free tours throughout the year and attracts a wide audience. With more than 100,000 people coming through Hammond’s Candies facilities every year, the company has the opportunity to introduce new candies to the public and get immediate feedback. Schuman particularly enjoys these tours, saying, “I want people to see the hard work that goes into our creation process, and it’s an ideal way to see what’s working and what’s not.”
Hammond’s Candies has launched a line of cotton candy that is currently shipping out, and the company is readying its new Whoopie Pie Chocolate Bar for distribution starting in the next few months.
By Lucas Witman
For those living outside the Northeastern United States, it can be difficult to comprehend the importance of maple syrup to the region’s endemic food culture. In this area, sugar houses have operated for centuries, carefully harvesting the sap from sugar maple trees and transforming it into maple syrup, maple cream, granulated maple sugar and maple candy. Today, the products of these sugar houses are more popular than ever, with specialty food companies going out of their way to incorporate maple into their product lines. Keeping track of all of the maple products currently on the market is a formidable task, but maple maven Mary Hilton has made it her business to do just that. And if there is a maple product available anywhere in the United States, you are likely to find it on display at Hilton’s Potsdam, N.Y. shop Maple Run Emporium.
As a retail space, Maple Run Emporium offers a truly unique shopping experience. Not only does the store contain perhaps the largest selection of maple-related food products in the country, but the space also serves as a gallery for local artists, a kitchenware and home design store and a meeting place for area residents and Potsdam visitors. Since the store’s founding in 2010, Hilton has worked hard to create a welcoming retail space that showcases the best of what her region has to offer.
Hilton’s inspiration for the Maple Run Emporium concept originally evolved out of her admiration for the works of American philosophers Helen and Scott Nearing. The Nearings often wrote about harvesting sap and making maple syrup on their farm in Vermont. Hilton was always attracted to their romantic tales of horse-drawn sleighs and Victorian stone gardens. It was Hilton’s desire to experience the world that the Nearings described, combined with her lifelong love of everything maple, that ultimately led her to open the store.
“The shop is a culmination of everything I love. I love cooking. I love gardening. I love everything about the kitchen,” said Hilton. “Boiling sap from my maple trees to make products for the shop was part of the original idea, and now the plan is to do just that right here.”
Maple Run Emporium quickly became a fixture in Potsdam, a small college town in upstate New York with a population that is very in touch with local food culture. “People are really looking to come to a local shop. Everyone wants to come to a college town and go in and out of the quaint little shops,” said Hilton. “And people want to see things that are locally produced. Almost everything I have in the store is pretty much regional.” Today, Maple Run Emporium has become the place to go in Potsdam for those looking to take in the area’s regionally produced consumables and art.
When it comes to the gourmet offerings at Maple Run Emporium, the store offers just about every type of maple product that one could possibly imagine. Popular specialty food brands like Stonewall Kitchen, Robert Rothschild Farm, The French Farm and Gourmet du Village are all represented. The store offers maple-flavored cheeses such as locally produced Maple Cheddar with Bacon from Lowville Producers Dairy Cooperative. There is a vast selection of maple candy, including Chuao Chocolatier’s Maple Bacon Chocolate Bar and sweets from Hutchinson’s Candy, Saratoga Sweets and Das Lolli. The list of maple products goes on and on, encompassing pancake mixes, frozen desserts, meats, spices, teas, coffees, pickles, jellies, nut butters and more.
Of course, no emporium of maple would be complete without an impressive selection of maple syrups, and Hilton’s store is no exception, featuring two bookcases stocked with every variety of the sweet elixir. The shop owner divulged that she does have her own favorites, most notably the two “tonics” from Noble Handcrafted. She praised Tonic 1, a dark syrup aged in bourbon casks that she feels is particularly rich and flavorful. However, she also has a fondness for the company’s Tonic 2, which is infused with Egyptian chamomile and Tahitian vanilla bean.
In addition to the store’s wide specialty food selection, Maple Run Emporium also offers an equally impressive selection of housewares, including Wüsthof knives, Nordic Ware pancake griddles, Emile Henry pizza stones, Le Creuset batter bowls, Mauviel copper crepe pans and All-Clad cookware. The store’s maple wood products are also popular with customers, including Jonathan’s maple utensils and J.K. Adams cutting boards. Shoppers at Maple Run Emporium can also browse for kitchen gadgets, home textiles, bath products and gift items.
In the store’s relatively short lifespan, Hilton has made it a personal priority to turn Maple Run Emporium into an important part of the community. The store participates in many local events like Potsdam’s annual Summer Fest and First Saturday for college students. In addition, various community gatherings are hosted in the store. . “I do events because they are an opportunity to showcase the shop and attract new customers. They keep the shop active and vibrant,” said Hilton.
What ultimately gets customers in the door of Maple Run Emporium, however, is the delicious smell of maple constantly wafting out the front door, as well as Hilton’s contagious personal passion for maple. “I always loved the flavor of maple,” said Hilton. “It is very important to me.”
Few desserts are as timeless and quintessentially American as the frosty ice cream cone. However, with specialty food companies today crafting everything from riesling and poached pear sorbet to doppelbock bacon ale ice cream to ice pops infused with kiwi, avocado and spinach puree, it is clear that the world of frozen desserts has gone positively gourmet. Check out these companies putting their unique spins on American classics.
1. Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops. Forget your traditional frozen fruit bar. Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops are made with only three simple ingredients: fruit, water and a touch of organic cane sugar. They are all-natural, free of dairy, fat and gluten, non-GMO and have only 13-15 grams of sugar per serving. At just 60 calories, Chloe’s Pops are guilt-free fun on a stick.
2. Denali Flavors. Michigan-based Denali Flavors, Inc. is one of the leading inventors and marketers of specialty flavors for the ice cream industry, including its signature flavor: Moose Tracks®. Today, the product line consists of more than 30 flavors, including Caramel Caribou® (toffee ice cream with caramel) and Bear Claw® (dark chocolate with cashews).
3. Graeter’s. Artisan ice cream company Graeter’s is the only commercial enterprise to make all of its ice creams using a traditional small batch French pot process. The result is an irresistible creaminess. The company’s attention to detail even translates to the packaging process where nearly 20,000 pints are carefully packed by hand each day.
4. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. The team at sofi Award-winning Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams has truly elevated ice cream to an art form. The company’s product line incorporates a slew of unique ingredients, including rosemary, whiskey, lavender, goat cheese, sweet potatoes, cedarwood, cardamom and more. Jeni’s also offers signature sauces, ice cream sandwiches and gravels (crunch condiments).
5. Ruby Rocket’s. Ruby Rocket’s fruit and vegetable ice pops are a refreshing, all-natural snack. These healthy pops are gluten-free, dairy-free, and non-GMO. With less than 35 calories and 2 grams of sugar per pop, these treats are a healthier and delicious way to satisfy any summertime sweet tooth. Ruby Rocket’s are available in three delicious flavors.
6. Salt & Straw. Based in Portland, Ore., the team at Salt & Straw pride themselves on supporting their local community and celebrating Oregon in their flavors and ingredients. The company’s unique product line includes one-of-a-kind flavors such as Lumberjack Stack (blueberry pancakes with maple syrup), honey balsamic strawberry with cracked black pepper and Oregon pear with blue cheese.
7. Talenti Gelato & Sorbetto. Talenti® recently announced the launch of three delicious new gelato flavors that reinvent classic American desserts: caramel apple pie, fudge brownie and raspberries and cream. Talenti’s newest additions to its growing line of gelatos remind us that America’s favorite sweet treats are just as good enjoyed as delicious frozen desserts.
8. TEA•RRIFIC! ICE CREAM. The goal of TEA•RRIFIC! ICE CREAM is to craft the finest all-natural tea-infused ice creams using only the best ingredients sourced locally and from around the globe. The company keeps it simple, while delivering a distinctly delicious ice cream experience that is flavorful, creamy, finishes clean off the palate and leaves you wanting more.
9. Velvet Ice Cream. Family-owned and operated, Velvet produces more than five million gallons of ice cream every year from its Ohio headquarters. The company celebrates its 100th anniversary on May 1. Velvet honors old fashioned tradition with its classic ice cream products and flavors, such as Buckeye Classic, peach cobbler and Italian spumoni.
10. Yasso Greek Frozen Yogurt. Made with only natural ingredients, Yasso Greek Frozen Yogurt Bars feature real Greek yogurt, rBST-free milk and natural sweeteners, Yasso is a great low-calorie frozen treat filled with protein and containing little to no fat. Yasso currently offers bars in 11 delicious flavors, and products can be found at major grocery and club stores nationwide.
By Zach Calvello
Frozen desserts experienced a 28.2 percent increase in sales over the past two years, making this the third-highest category for growth within the larger specialty foods industry. This is according to The State of The Specialty Food Industry, an annual report from the Specialty Food Association. Louise Kramer, Public Relations Director for the Specialty Food Association, attributes this rise in the popularity of frozen desserts to the amount of innovation being displayed by those involved in creating new frozen desserts. “There are many new and interesting products being released in the category of frozen desserts, such as non-dairy desserts, vegetable pops, soy-based products and indulgent desserts,” said Kramer.
Jerry Hancock, founder and CEO of Sub Zero, and Scot Rubin, co-founder of Nitropod, not only share in the benefits of this growth within the larger frozen foods industry, but the pair are also both somewhat responsible for the innovative thinking that is stimulating the trend. This is because both Sub Zero and Nitropod make ice cream using a unique, specialized process that involves freezing ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Along with a small, select group of ice cream vanguards, including Iowa-based Blue Sky Creamery, Washington-based Flash Freeze Dreamery, California-based Smitten Ice Cream, Chicago-based iCream Café and a few others, Sub Zero and Nitropod have been working to transform the world of ice cream as we know it.
The process of flash freezing ice cream with liquid nitrogen results in a truly unique product. With a temperature of minus 321 degrees Fahrenheit, liquid nitrogen freezes ice cream mix in less than 15 seconds. Since this flash freezing process happens so quickly, milk molecules stay very small, and ice crystals do not have time to form. This results in the smoothest and creamiest ice cream possible. In addition, the process also preserves more of the natural nutrients in the finished product.
Neither Sub Zero nor Nitropod were the first to use liquid nitrogen to flash freeze ice cream. This honor belongs to culinary pioneer Theodore Gray. “Theodore Gray’s article made the possibilities known. However, our uniqueness lies in our process,” says Hancock. Instead of combining liquid nitrogen and ice cream mix in intervals, Sub Zero combines everything at the same time. This creates what Hancock calls “the lake effect,” allowing Sub Zero to cut each layer of ice cream, one by one, as it freezes.
Nitropod’s Rubin praises flash frozen ice cream for its particularly smooth and creamy consistency. He delivers liquid nitrogen ice cream to his loyal Los Angeles-based customer base in a specialized ice cream truck. Rubin believes liquid nitrogen is an important element that helps him to create a truly premium product, although he argues that it takes a deft touch to ultimately master the frozen dessert. “Liquid Nitrogen is great,” he says. “It makes for smoother and creamier ice cream. But it can’t be the only factor in making great ice cream.” Rubin counts Nitropod’s chef-inspired flavors and ingredients sourced from local artisans as two additional factors compelling his company’s success.
One of the benefits of freezing ice cream on the spot is that each customer has the option of including or excluding every element that makes up the final product. This sort of customization allows ice cream producers to cater individually to each customer’s dietary needs. “It starts with the milk, where we have low-fat, almond and non-dairy choices,” says Hancock. The company even lets customers bring in their own ingredients to add to the mix, making for a fun and individualized ice cream experience.
Rubin looks forward to eventually bringing liquid nitrogen-frozen ice cream to retailers. “Retailing is phase two of [Nitropod’s] plan,” he says. The ice cream entrepreneur thinks he will eventually be able do this without changing his company’s current flash freezing process. “There are those that love to watch the ice cream being made, and then there are those who just love it for the taste,” he says. “Sometimes there is a substantial wait time at Nitropod, so we want to be able to provide for people that just don’t have time for that.”
Still, despite how decadent the final product is, it is the science behind flash frozen ice cream’s production that is often the first thing to draw consumers to sample the product. And it is the science that ultimately inspires the team at Sub Zero to innovate the frozen desserts industry. “Science is the driving force behind our product,” says Hancock.
Click here for more companies who are blazing new trails in frozen desserts.
Kings Food Markets announced the hire of Paul Guarino, local executive chef and wine expert, as the Fine Wine and Spirits Manager in the Kings Ridgewood, N.J. store, which has added more than 600 wines, 250 liquors and a variety of local and craft beers to its offering.
In this role, Guarino will oversee the new Fine Wine and Spirits department, which was added to the Ridgewood location as part of an entire store refresh. The store celebrated the department’s grand opening on Friday, May 2.
“Paul is a great addition to our team,” said Judy Spires, President and CEO of Kings Food Markets. “He is going to make Ridgewood’s new wine and spirits department the ultimate destination for our shoppers, providing them with a unique opportunity to not only purchase their favorite specialty cheeses, ‘top of the catch’ seafood, fresh and organic produce, quality meats – as well as all of Kings’ other gourmet food offerings – but also select combinations of fine wines, spirits and local craft beers to pair with that food. Between the new offerings and Paul’s extensive knowledge, our shoppers in Ridgewood will now have the perfect resource for all their entertaining needs, whether that’s just dinner with the family or party for friends and neighbors.”
With over 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, Guarino has extensive knowledge to contribute from a diverse background. Guarino owned and managed the Beverage Barn in Northvale, N.J. for 10 years and is also a trained chef, having attended the Culinary Institute of America in 1995. He most recently spent 11 years as General Manager and Executive Chef at the Colonial Inn in Norwood, N.J.
MouCo’s Ashley is at it again! On March 20, Fort Collins, Colo’s favorite ash-covered cheese earned a silver medal at the 30th Biennial World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, Wis. Previously, the Ashley snagged a blue ribbon in the soft-ripened category at the American Cheese Society Conference both in August 2012 and August 2013.
MouCo Cheese Company is owned and operated by Birgit Halbreiter and Robert Poland in Fort Collins. The pair incorporated their company in November of 1999. Back then, their specialty was Camembert—a soft, buttery cheese with a mild nutty flavor. In the last several years, MouCo has introduced four additional varieties of cheese, including the award-winning Ashley in July of 2012. MouCo regulars can’t get enough of this creamy, mildly sweet cheese with its distinctive vegetable ash rind. Ashley’s sweet undertones are best complemented with a salad of bitter greens, a dollop of pepper jelly, or a glass of dry red wine.
Ashley starts the way all MouCo cheeses start: with fresh, local cow’s milk. The cheese curd is gently moved into forms that give the cheese its shape and size. Before the two-week aging process, a mixture of culture and edible vegetable ash is applied to the cheese to aid the development of Ashley’s special rind characteristics. The vegetable ash rind acts like a natural preservative, keeping the cheese extra creamy and mildly sweet. When it’s ready, this natural-rind cheese will be an ashy color with a slight white finish.
The World Championship Cheese Contest was founded in 1957 and is hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. This year, the event drew over 2,000 entries from 22 different countries; the entries were tasted and scored by 50 judges from all around the world. Ashley earned a silver medal in the open soft-ripened category, but she wasn’t the only one turning heads: MouCo’s ColoRouge, and PepBert both placed in the top ten in their respective categories at this year’s contest.
A new nationwide study from PLMA for the first time casts significant light on the grocery shopping patterns of the Millennials, the 100 million Americans born between 1980 and 2000.
Millennials represent a multi-trillion dollar marketing opportunity. By 2016, they will become the country’s most powerful consumer bloc and, over time, will become the most economically impactful generation in U.S. history, outspending even the Baby Boomer generation. They already account for $1.3 trillion in overall direct annual spending and it is predicted they will buy $60 billion in consumer packaged goods over the next decade. But little is known of their shopping mindset and grocery retailers have generally ignored them.
Millennials like to describe themselves as unique in their attitudes and how they conduct their lives. While that may well be true in terms of their overwhelming use of smart phones, social networks and the internet, the first wide-ranging study of Millennials who identify themselves as primary grocery shoppers for their household reveals that, when it comes to buying food and non-food necessities, value is the key to their purchasing behavior.
According to the PLMA study, Millennials shop for groceries often and widely, and supermarkets are the most popular choice. Lead factors in what they choose to buy include previous experience with the product, their shopping list and coupons. Seven in ten belong to a loyalty program. In choosing a store or product, they seek out affordability, value and lowest price. They are also regular purchasers of store brands, think highly of the products, and give them high marks vs. national brands.
The PLMA study was conducted by Surveylab, a leading online opinion consultant. It consisted of more than sixty questions aimed at determining what moves Millennials. Completing the survey were nearly 1,600 men and women from 18 to 33 years old who identified themselves as the primary grocery shopper for their household.
Further highlights from the study include:
Millennials overwhelmingly see their generation as different from previous ones and are optimistic about their future. But many express resignation about their status. Half say their generation is financially less well off than previous ones and one in five say their life is worse than that of their parents. They expect big changes in the future: Half believe say stores will look nothing like they do now and a third believe many of today’s national brands will no longer be around.
Brand loyalty is not a major pull for Millennials. When a national brand they wish to buy is not available at the shelf, four in ten choose the store brand, one third pick a different national brand and one in eight look elsewhere for the national brand they initially wanted.
Millennials are universally familiar with store brands and buy them regularly. Almost four in ten said they buy store brands frequently, the highest rate offered in the study. Seventy-one percent said value is the main reason they purchase the store brand product as opposed to the national brand. Product quality improvements and a good prior experience will drive their future store brand purchase.
“Millennials have revolutionized the way we communicate,” says Brian Sharoff, PLMA President. “They have created a world of ‘likes’ and ‘friends’ larger than all television audiences combined. But who are they? For those who run supermarkets, drug chains and mass merchandisers, they are still enigmatic. Hopefully, this study will help clarify how they shop and what they want.”
To request a free copy of PLMA’s new consumer research study, “The Millennials Are Coming,” email email@example.com
Hammond’s Candies has taken a legendary fairground and circus treat and made it simple to enjoy anytime. Hammond’s Cotton Candy stays melt-in-your-mouth fresh in the company’s signature, award-winning packaging, making it easy to grab from store shelves. Each package includes three unique, distinct flavors — banana, cherry and blue raspberry – carrying on Hammond’s tradition of applying a modern twist to a nostalgic candy.
“Everyone loves cotton candy and we thought it was about time to make it available without a ticket to the circus,” said Andrew Schuman, Hammond’s President and CEO. “The flavors are rich and fun and it’s all wrapped up in great-looking packages. We think it’s just the right amount of reinvention of a classic.”
A Denver staple since 1920, Hammond’s is renowned for its beautiful, high quality and inventive candies that pay homage to tradition, but wake up taste buds with fun flavors and formulas. Hammond’s Cotton Candy joins a diverse selection of candies that includes the classic Mitchell Sweet (caramel-wrapped marshmallows), award-winners such as the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Chocolate Bar and the company’s signature stunning, hand-pulled lollipops and candy canes. All are available inHammond’s award-winning packaging that showcases the “specialness” of candy. Hammond’s Cotton Candy is packaged in 3-ounce bags (about three paper cones-worth) with a suggested retail price of $1.99 to $2.99.
Hungry for more? Visit Hammond’s in May at the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago to try all of Hammond’s new products including not only cotton candy, but new flavors of brittles and chocolates bars, too. More information is available atwww.hammondscandies.com, or by calling 1-800-CANDY-99 (1-800-226-3999). Follow Hammond’s Candies on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/hammondscandies and now on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/hammondscandies/.
There’s more than just a new location for the 12th edition of the World Tea Expo (#WorldTeaExpo). A new World Tea Awards (#TeaAwards) dinner and ceremony will be held on the historic Queen Mary ship, recognizing some of the best in the global tea industry, May 30 at 7 pm. The Expo’s Best New Products will be revealed, along with a number of community-voted award categories. The evening also features plenty of “red carpet” photo and social media opportunities, tea celebrities and tea infusions prepared by BKON. All of which are among the many highlights of the three-day World Tea Expo, the leading tradeshow and conference focused 100 percent on premium teas and related products, with fresh ideas, new trends and distribution channels. The Expo takes place May 29 – 31 in Long Beach, Calif. at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, and is co-located with the annual Healthy Beverage Expo (#HealthyBevExpo). Details are at WorldTeaExpo.com and HealthyBeverageExpo.com.
“The World Tea Awards is expected to sell out to a room of 300+ tea industry influencers from around the globe,” says George Jage, director of The Beverage Group, a division of F+W Media, organizer of World Tea Expo and Healthy Beverage Expo. “Our maiden World Tea Awards on the Queen Mary will certainly be a night of industry-wide celebration and fun.”
Gail Gastelu, publisher of The Tea House Times, who’s hosting the World Tea Awards along with Jage, says, “The World Tea Awards is a tremendous opportunity to recognize and show appreciation to the industry overall, get dressed up and celebrate what makes our community so special. And it is with great excitement that George and I prepare to host this inaugural event, an enjoyable evening in which we can all celebrate together — infusing tea and tea cocktails and blending in a bit of glamour.”
The evening’s formal seated dinner will be followed by an entertaining World Tea Awards ceremony, culminating in the presentation of the Cha Jing Lifetime Achievement Award to Devan Shah, the creator and owner of International Tea Importers and Chado Tea Rooms. The Cha Jing Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes and celebrates individuals who have made considerable contributions to the growth, innovation and education of the specialty tea industry throughout their lifetime.
“We’ve been looking to create this event for years, and with our move to Long Beach, the Queen Mary provides the perfect setting for a black-tie affair,” adds Jage. “Our longer term plans are to build the awards around recognizing retailers and businesses on the front lines of the tea revolution. We will expand this significantly in future years, but this first one is not to be missed. I still have people come up to me and proudly say they were at our first expo, and I’m sure this micro-event will attain the same passion as our trade show.”
Finalists of the World Tea Awards
For the 2014 World Tea Awards, thousands of nominations were collected through a survey process. The list of finalists, in each category, is listed below, and all can be found at WorldTeaExpo.com. Only registered delegates of the 2014 World Tea Expo are eligible to vote. Voting instructions will be communicated via email to registered delegates. Voting ends May 19.
A video announcement about the 2014 World Tea Award nominees may be viewed here http://bit.ly/PX9YRx, or search “World Tea Awards” on YouTube.
The former Malpica residence, a 19th century mansion in Manzanares (Ciudad Real, Spain) is to house the world’s first museum dedicated exclusively to one of Spain’s gastronomic treasures: Manchego cheese. According to Ignacio Barco, President of the Manchego Cheese Designation of Origin, and the latest generation in a long dynasty of master cheese-makers, “This initiative started out with the aim of safeguarding the tremendous gastronomic and cultural heritage that this cheese represents. We want to make sure that we never lose the expertise and tradition that make Manchego cheese such a unique and inimitable product. The best way of preserving this heritage is to spread the word so consumers know how to appreciate the real thing and reject any imitations.”
His cheese factory, which was founded at the same time as the Regulating Council in 1840, is one of the leading producers of artisan Manchego cheese and even produces its own milk. It shares this reverence for tradition with all the other cheese factories under the umbrella of the Designation of Origin.
With a production output of over 26 million pounds of cheese per year and growth of 20 percent in the last five, the devotion the D.O. cheese-makers feel for the genuine values of their tradition is quite impressive.
According to Barco, “As an artisan cheese-maker, I’m often saddened by the public’s general ignorance about our product.” This lack of information is even more evident among international consumers. “The Americans, who are real Manchego cheese lovers, are less familiar than Europeans with the Designation of Origin system. For this reason, companies that do not belong to the DO take advantage of the reputation of Manchego cheese to introduce imitations to the U.S. market which have absolutely nothing to do with the genuine article.”
But how do you differentiate an authentic Manchego cheese from a fake? “It’s very simple,” says Barco. “Every cheese certified by the Regulating Council of the DO Manchego Cheese has a double label. Firstly there’s the identifying label on the outside of the cheese, and secondly, there’s an exclusive serial number engraved in the cheese itself; these guarantee that each piece is unique.”
A characteristic flavor that visitors to the world’s first museum devoted exclusively to Manchego cheese will be able to appreciate, not only within the walls of the former Malpica mansion itself but also outside them, in the local taverns and restaurants. Manchego cheese never ceases to delight thanks to its countless culinary facets and uses.
“As the new generation of Manchego cheese-makers, we have the obligation to continue communicating and expressing who we are, what we do, the tradition we represent and the flavor of our cheeses, all of which have given us national and international renown. We need to be out there making sure that our legacy will endure,” Barco says.