Wisconsin cheesemakers dominated the competition at the recent World Championship Cheese Contest, including taking home the top prize, 2016 World Champion, for Team Emmi Roth USA’s Roth® Grand Cru® Surchoix, a Wisconsin Original hard smear-ripened cheese. This marks the first time a cheese made in the U.S. has won the competition since 1988.
This year’s contest drew a record-breaking 2,955 entries from 23 countries, 31 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. Wisconsin captured 38 percent of all awards, winning 127 awards total, over 100 more than its closest competitor, California, with 25 awards and New York with 24 awards.
Wisconsin cheesemakers won 42 Best of Class awards, 37 second place, and 47 third place awards. This year’s contest marked the sixth consecutive World Championship in which Wisconsin has won more than 30 percent of all awards, claiming 37 percent in 2006, 30.8 percent in 2008, 31.3 percent in 2010, 37.8 percent in 2012 and 39 percent in 2014.
“This award reinforces what people around the world already know-our reputation for making some of the world’s greatest cheeses is well deserved,” said James Robson, CEO of Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB). “Exceptional milk from Wisconsin dairy farms becomes exceptional cheese in the hands of Wisconsin cheesemakers, and that is a hard combination to beat. We congratulate Team Emmi Roth USA on their win, and consider it a win for the entire state of Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin cheesemakers also swept 20 of 110 competition classes: Open Class: Shredded Cheese, Flavored & Unflavored; Prepared Cheese Foods; Mozzarella, Part Skim; Parmesan; Aged Asiago (over six months); Feta; Feta, Flavored; Havarti; Havarti, Flavored; String Cheese; String Cheese, Flavored; Brick, Meunster; Gouda, Flavored; Smear Ripened Hard Cheeses; Bandaged Cheddar, Mild to Medium; Bandaged Cheddar, Sharp to Aged; Cold Pack Cheese, Cheese Food; Cold Pack Cheese Spread; Pasteurized Process Cheeses; and Colby.
Two of Jasper Hill Farm‘s cheeses, Moses Sleeper and Winnimere, were awarded Best in Class awards, with Winnimere ultimately placing in the top 16, at the World Cheese Championships in Madison, Wisconsin. This year’s contest included 2,959 entries from 23 countries and 31 states.
In addition, two of Jasper Hill’s other cheeses, Harbison and Bayley Hazen Blue, placed in the top five in their categories, with scores of 98 or higher. Oma, made by von Trapp Farmstead and aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill, also placed fifth in its category.
More about the winning cheeses:
Moses Sleeper is an approachable and nuanced brie-style cheese. Beneath its thin, bloomy rind lies a gooey, milky core showing a complex array of flavors at peak ripeness: cauliflower, crème fraîche, and toasted nuts. The cheese’s historic namesake, Moses Sleeper, and his compatriot Constant Bliss, were Revolutionary War scouts killed while defending a blockhouse along the Northeast Kingdom’s legendary Bayley Hazen Military Road.
Winnimere is a take on Jura Mountain classics like Vacherin Mont d’Or or Fösterkäse. In keeping with this tradition, this decadent cheese is made only during winter months when Jasper Hill’s herd of Ayrshire cows are enjoying a rich ration of dry hay. Young cheeses are wrapped in strips of spruce cambium, the tree’s flexible inner bark layer, harvested from Jasper Hill Farm’s woodlands. During aging, the cheese is washed in a cultured salt brine to help even rind development. At peak ripeness, this cheese is spoonably soft and tastes of bacon, sweet cream, and spruce.
All of Jasper Hill’s award winning cheeses can be purchased where fine cheeses are sold, at Jasper Hill’s retail counter within the newly constructed Boston Public Market, or from Jasper Hill Farm’s online store.
Oregon-inspired culinary events, including a farmer’s market-style artisan food, beer and wine festival, will kick off with the Meet the Cheesemakers and Winemakers Dinner @ the Oregon Cheese Festival during the third weekend in March. For tickets go to http://oregoncheesemakersdinner.bpt.me/
To commence the festival, a sumptuous meal introducing guests to participating guild cheesemakers will be held Friday night at the Inn at the Commons in Medford, Oregon on March 18 from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. The dinner is held for the benefit of the non-profit 501 (c) (6) Oregon Cheesemakers Guild. Each course will spotlight a cheese made by one of the festival’s artisans, paired with a local wine or beer. Special guest include Gordon Edgar, the author of both “Cheesemonger: a Life on the Wedge” and his most recent book, “Cheddar: A Journey into the Heart of America’s Most Iconic Cheese.” Edgar is the Head Cheesemonger for the San Francisco Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, and has been a leader within the specialty cheese industry for more than 20 years. He is widely celebrated for his friendly, down-to-earth approach to the art and science of cheese. Lassa Skinner is also a special guest. She is co-founder and owner of the highly regarded cheese magazine Culture, now in its eighth year. In 1999 she started a cheese program at Tra Vigne restaurant, opened the Oxbow Cheese Merchant in downtown Napa, co-authored Cheese For Dummies (2012) – and started Culture magazine. Skinner is passionate about spreading the love of cheese across the US and beyond, teaching at venues across the country and overseas as well as partnering with chefs, wineries, breweries and all things food-centric.
Saturday, March 19 – Festival
At the festival on Saturday March 19 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., thousands of visitors will sample cow, goat and sheep cheese from Oregon creameries, including Pholia Farm, Ancient Heritage Dairy, Oregon State University, Ochoa Creamery, Tillamook County Creamery, Willamette Valley Cheese Co., Fern’s Edge Goat Dairy, Oak Leaf Creamery, Rivers Edge Chevre, Briar Rose Creamery, Face Rock Creamery, Portland Creamery, Rogue Creamery, and many others.The Oregon Cheese Festival will be open to the public Saturday, March 19 from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Rogue Creamery, 311 North Front St. (Hwy. 99), Central Point, Oregon. Held under two large tents, 15,000 square feet of space, at Rogue Creamery’s Central Point facility, the 12th annual festival will invite guests to shake hands with cheesemakers and other artisans. There will also be baby cows on site to showcase the beginnings of great milk producers. Activities will also be provided for children including games, activity sheets, coloring, face painting and more.”The farmer’s market format will present an interactive experience between makers and visitors, giving everyone an opportunity to talk about the product, the process and learn each individual cheesemaker’s story,” says David Gremmels, President of Rogue Creamery. “It’s a way to truly be connected with the source of the cheese being presented.”
Southern Oregon and other local culinary artisans and beverage providers who are expected to participate include Lillie Belle Farms, Gary West Meats, Applegate Valley Artisan Breads, Ledger David Cellars, South Stage Cellars, Serra Vineyards, Caprice Vineyards, Willamette Valley Vineyards, David Hill Winery, La Brasseur Vineyard, 30 Brix Winery, Wandering Aengus Ciders, Hot Lips Soda, Clear Creek Distillery, Bend Distillery, Wild River Brewing, Sierra Nevada Brewing and Rogue Ales. Samples and /or sales will be offered at each booth.
A $15 entry fee includes tastings and demonstrations; tickets purchased at the door will be $20. Entry tickets can be purchased in advance at http://oregoncheeseguild.org/event/12th-annual-oregon-cheese-festival/ . In addition, a $10 wine, beer and spirit tasting fee is available and includes a commemorative glass with the Oregon Cheese Guild logo. For more information contact the Oregon Cheese Guild website @ www.oregoncheeseguild.org, Rogue Creamery at 866.396.4704, or www.roguecreamery.com. The festival would not be possible without the generous support of the City of Central Point, the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council, and, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Rogue Ales, Culture Magazine, Travel Medford, Cheese Connoisseur Magazine, Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, Umpqua Bank, Haggen Northwest, Face Rock Creamery, Rogue Credit Union, and the members of the Oregon Cheese Guild.
GrandyOats, a Maine maker of organic cereals and snacks, is launching a line of certified gluten-free products from its dedicated gluten-free production area in its new 100 percent solar powered headquarters in Hiram, Maine. This spring, GrandyOats will launch its certified gluten-free line starting with 12 skus of bulk trail mixes and nuts followed by two packaged products. GrandyOats expects to launch more certified gluten-free products later in the year.
Specifically, GrandyOats trail mixes and roasted nuts including High Antioxidant Trail Mix, Garlic Herb Cashews, Maple Roasted Cashews, and Nori Sesame Cashews, will all be certified gluten-free. GrandyOats granola will be next to go gluten-free, with its popular Coconut + Fruit Granola earning the designation shortly thereafter, followed by organic oatmeal and other products.
“Gluten-free will be a strong focus for us throughout 2016 and into 2017,” said Aaron Anker, Chief Granola Officer, GrandyOats. “Our customers have been asking us for organic, certified gluten-free granola and snacks, and in our new designated gluten-free space we are happy we can deliver.”
Consumers are choosing gluten-free products for many reasons, including disease, sensitivity, allergy, and other health concerns. In addition, gluten-free consumers are seeking additional benefits, such as organic and GMO-free, that go beyond gluten-free. Value-added propositions including current low-sugar and savory culinary trends, factor in highly as well. Improving the quality and selection of gluten-free foods available in mainstream channels will help sales in the category grow nearly 1.5 times through 2019, according to market analysis by Packaged Facts.
Like all GrandyOats cereals and snacks, the new gluten-free products are certified organic, non-GMO, and made by hand in small batches by the GrandyOats family in their 100 percent solar powered bakery in rural Maine.
Organic Granola has long been the keystone product of the GrandyOats bakery. GrandyOats Coconut + Fruit Granola is a savory-sweet, organic granola with a hearty blend of organic oats, rich coconut flakes, fruit juice-sweetened dried cranberries, plump raisins, wild flower honey, coriander and sea salt. GrandyOats Coconut + Fruit Granola will be gluten-free in both bulk and packaged offerings.
GrandyOats never uses refined sugar or artificial ingredients in its recipes. Both new flavors are sweetened with real, wild flower honey and have organic apple juice sweetened fruit. Certified organic by Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) and certified Kosher, GrandyOats never uses products that contain antibiotics, synthetic hormones, toxic pesticides or GMOs. All GrandyOats organic granola is made with organic sunflower oil and does not use canola oil.
In November 2015, GrandyOats became the first net zero food production facility on the East Coast by constructing a state-of-the-art, 100 percent solar powered facility in rural Maine. The GrandyOats solar electric system will produce on average 95,622 kWh of clean, renewable electricity annually. It will offset over 145,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year, or the amount of miles equivalent to driving from Maine to San Francisco and back 25 times.
GrandyOats achieved 28 percent growth in 2015 producing 1.2 million pounds of organic granola, trail mix and roasted nuts and generating 5.3 million in sales. Also in 2015, GrandyOats expanded its food service presence in higher education cafeterias as the first independent, organic brand to be served at more than 75 colleges and universities from University of Maine at Orono to The State University of New York (SUNY) Buffalo. With the gluten-free product line, they hope to reach even more “real granolas.”
“We’ve been fortunate enough to grow slowly but steadily, while still making our products by hand in small batches in rural Maine,” continued Anker.
Consistent with its commitment to being net zero, GrandyOats will have a 100 percent solar-powered booth at Natural Products ExpoWest Conference in Anaheim, CA at booth #3313.
Certified organic by Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) and certified kosher, GrandyOats never uses products that contain antibiotics, synthetic hormones, toxic pesticides or GMOs. A wide range of GrandyOats organic cereals and snacks in a variety of sizes are available nationwide in natural food stores, food cooperatives, major grocery chains and online at www.grandyoats.com.
Genetic ID NA, Inc., in conjunction with CERT ID, announce the addition of gluten-free verification services to their portfolio of food safety and food quality testing and certification services. Gluten-free is one of the fastest-growing categories in the food and beverage market.
The gluten-free verification services are based on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) final ruling on the use of a gluten-free claim and are intended for products sold in North America. Services are risk-based and supported by a validated sampling and testing regimen. “We continue to identify value-added opportunities for our customers, and this program was specifically designed to provide the flexibility that the market demands,” said Dr. Heather Secrist, CEO of Genetic ID. “Companies can choose an individual service, such as testing, or adopt a comprehensive gluten-free certification and testing program where the CERT ID Gluten-free Trustmark can be applied to a product.”
“Our Gluten-free Product Certification Program is designed as an addendum to recognized system certifications such as organic, Non-GMO Project, and Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), said Rhonda Wellik, CEO of CERT ID. “This effectively allows companies to realize efficiencies and cost-savings when seeking product certification.”
The gluten-free verification services provide a third-party approach regarding label claims, and communicate a company’s commitment to producing safe, gluten-free products for consumers. The new services included in the Gluten-free Certification Program incorporate the rigor and reliability that Genetic ID and CERT ID’s customers have come to rely on.
For more information about Genetic ID and CERT ID, visit www.genetic-id.com and www.cert-id.com.
Meijer is investing more than $400 million in new and remodeled stores this year across its six-state footprint, Chief Executive Officer Hank Meijer said.
The investment includes the construction of nine new Meijer supercenters and 32 different remodel projects. While Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin will each welcome new Meijer supercenters later this year, dozens of other Meijer stores have begun or will soon begin remodel projects to further enhance the customer shopping experience.
“We are pleased to continue to grow and invest in the Midwest communities that have supported us for so long,” Hank Meijer said. “By keeping prices low and ensuring a great shopping environment, we are keeping our promise to our customers that we will provide the best one-stop shopping solution.”
The opening of each new Meijer store represents as many as 300 full- and part-time jobs. Since 2010, Meijer has opened 36 new stores, and remodeled dozens of others. This has resulted in the creation of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of tax revenue pumped into local communities. Meijer frequently works with local contractors when building and remodeling stores.
The new Meijer supercenters opening in 2016 include:
Round Lake Beach, Illinois
Flat Rock, Michigan
In addition to the new supercenters, Meijer is aggressively remodeling stores in key markets such as Detroit, Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. Southeastern Michigan alone will see 12 Meijer supercenters remodeled this year, while Indianapolis will have three remodel projects. Two Meijer supercenters in Fort Wayne will be included as well. The Meijer store in Burton, Michigan, one of the company’s oldest operating stores, will also be included in the project.
While the depth of the remodel varies based on several factors, these projects include a variety of specific store enhancements, including improved store layouts, expanded grocery, and health and beauty sections, as well as lighting, heating, refrigeration and parking lot improvements. Additionally, the introduction of newer technology in key areas during the remodel process will result in more energy-efficient stores.
“We will continue our process of slow, steady growth,” Hank Meijer said. “This plan has allowed us to remain focused on our customers and team members, while growing our business and ensuring we continue to innovate in the marketplace.”
Fry’s Food Stores announced it is expanding its presence in Arizona and plans to add seven new stores in 2016. Fry’s will invest $260 million in Arizona to build six new Marketplace Stores and to add one new store in Tucson along with multiple fuel centers at the properties. This funding also will be used to build additional fuel centers and complete expansion projects and remodels. The growth initiative will create more than 2,000 full- and part-time career opportunities that offer competitive pay, healthcare plans, retirement options, product discounts and other incentives.
“Fry’s is a company that is focused on smart, strategic growth and providing a highly-satisfied customer shopping experience,” says Steve McKinney, President of Fry’s Food Stores. “We’ve operated here since 1960. In that period, we’ve grown our footprint to 119 stores and 82 fuel centers. Fry’s successfully reached this point by closely monitoring the unique needs of this market and evolving to meet the requests of our customers.”
The new Tucson store will feature an adjacent fuel center, Starbucks Coffee Shop, salad bar, soup bar, sushi bar, made-to-order sandwiches, indoor patio and a pharmacy drive-up window and much more.
Power Parasol Provides Solar Shade for Shoppers at Two New Stores
In a move that will provide shaded parking, better lighted nighttime parking and clean renewable energy, Fry’s Food Stores will install the Power Parasol – a patented solar energy and shade technology – at two of its new Fry’s Marketplace stores. Shoppers who choose to frequent Lake Pleasant and Happy Valley in Peoria and North Valley Parkway in Phoenix will have an abundance of shaded parking.
Fry’s was the first retailer to install the Power Parasol in 2013 at its I-17 and Bell Rd. Marketplace Store in Phoenix. The pilot project proved to be a hit with customers and the store quickly realized a 20 percent savings on its electric bill.
“We pride ourselves on providing the best possible experience for our customers inside every Fry’s Food Store,” says McKinney. “Now, we have found a way to provide a better experience outside our stores. Plus it increases our ‘green efforts,’ which help to make our community a better place to live now and in the future.”
“We strive to make all of our stores as energy efficient as possible,” McKinney says. “Our division currently has 115 stores achieving the Energy Star rating. We plan for all our new stores to earn the Energy Star rating as well.”
By Greg Gonzales
One of several antagonists in the 1995 comedy “Tommy Boy,” Ray Zalinsky, goes from trusted face to villain in one telling line: “Truth is, I make car parts for the American working man because I’m a hell of a salesman and he doesn’t know any better.” B Corporations are the antithesis to that attitude. The certification is a stamp of approval for companies that pass rigorous standards of environmental impact, social missions, corporate transparency and employee satisfaction.
“If you’re not measuring impact in business, you’re already behind,” said Katie Holcomb, B Lab’s Director of Communications. “It’s become a more mainstream idea, and we’ve been painted as the next big thing.”
Since 2006, more than 1500 businesses in 22 countries have been certified as B Corporations by B Lab, which certifies each and every B Corp. B Lab’s community sees business as a force for good, and the future of business, said Holcomb. She also said the approval process is simple, but thorough.
The B Corp qualification process begins with a 150-question assessment. A passing score is 80 out of 200, and companies can work to improve the score, which is listed online. B Lab estimates that the questionnaire takes 90 minutes to complete, though some B Corp members joked that it’s closer to 90 hours.
“You really have to prove what you’re saying,” said Dana Ginsberg, Director of Marketing at Bare Snacks, a B Corp since 2013. She added that the assessment is rigorous and detailed, and that qualifying companies must back up their statements with documentation. It’s essentially an audit that proves the company’s claims are legit, and that there’s nothing to hide. There’s also a phone interview that applicants must complete.
Prospective B Corps must also prove that they take care of employees. Ethical Bean‘s Sales and Marketing person, Lauren Archibald, has worked for two B Corps, and said she considers B Lab as much a resource for companies as for job seekers. “When you’re coming in to work for a B Corp, you know they treat their employees well,” she said.
She also added that it’s about respecting customers, employees and the public, and being honest. “If people are asking questions and you can’t answer them, you probably have something to hide,” she said. “B Corp status opens you up, keeps you transparent and aligns your values.”
In addition to the rigorous certification process, companies commit to their cause by amending corporate bylaws to include social and environmental missions. That is, B Corps choose to make themselves legally beholden to work toward missions other than profit. And in states where Public Benefit Corporations (PBCs) can incorporate, B Corps must make the switch from corporate structures like Limited Liability or C Corporation within two years of certification. Companies in states and countries where PBCs cannot yet incorporate must make the switch within four years from the time legislation does pass. In doing so, B Corps become equally bound to shareholders, employees, social good and environmental impact, not just the former.
“We were able to integrate all the elements of our mission into our articles of incorporation,” said Mathieu Senard, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Alter Eco, a B Corp since 2009. “Legally binding, our product has to be organic and non-GMO.” He added that Alter Eco made the switch as soon as the possibly could, in 2013, right when the company’s home state of Delaware passed the legislation.
There’s also an annual fee, and companies must requalify every year. The cost is $5000 a year for companies making less than $20 million in annual sales, while companies that make more than $20 million pay $10,000. Members of what’s lovingly referred to as the “B Community” say the benefits are well worth the costs.
“This model works! It’s showing businesses that they can do good for people and the planet and also be comfortable and keep a healthy business,” said Senard. “It’s a way to show your impact and your mission, too. It’s one thing when you talk about your company and say you’re doing all these great things, but it’s more powerful when a third party certifies you and tells the whole world what you’re doing.” Companies can also add the B Corp seal to their websites and packaging to let everyone know they’re part of the B Community.
“Once you become a B Corp, you work with other B Corps,” said Ginsberg. She added that becoming a B Corp comes with a few discounts and a large number of important contacts. They can learn from each others’ example, or work with B Lab to improve.
B Lab’s online system enables businesses to increase their score year round. “You can modify and update that score anytime you want,” said Ginsberg. “It’s a free-flowing process that helps you track where you are and to get to higher standards. You can change your policies, recycle a different way, put in a greener refrigerator.”
And that’s one of the ways Bare Snacks improved upon its own score. The company asked employees what mattered to them, which included axing the break room paper plates and cups, getting an efficient refrigerator and replacing plastic water bottles with a faucet filter. In addition, the company raised its score by updating some of its HR policies. The result, said Ginsberg, was very positive employee response.
Alter Eco‘s score increased from 125 to 148 last year, and Senard attributes that improvement to the company’s acting on suggestions from B Lab. “What B Corp has helped us to do is put the spotlight on areas where we can improve,” he said. “B Lab didn’t force us to do it — we just saw we can be better, and we want to be better for our employees, too.”
Ginsberg said many food producers have been leaders in this movement. “It’s really going to help differentiate your brand for consumers,” she said. “People are getting more skeptical about the products they buy, and really want to support positive brands because, nowadays, on social media, people see brands they support reflecting their identities. They want their identity to align with their values, which is what B Corps are all about.”
Even though B Corp certification does appear advantageous to brands, Senard and other B Corp owners specifically pointed out that it’s hard to quantify the benefits. Ultimately, they said, it’s about making a better business and working toward a brighter future.
“Consumers care about the products they buy and how they were developed, how those companies produce and operate,” Ginsberg said. “Further, employees care about the companies they work for, and they want their employers to do that as well. I see this trend continuing to grow.”
“I hope we’re going to be a model for other companies to become that,” said Senard. “We hope to inspire the entrepreneurs of the future to start their companies like that, from day one, where the company has a mission to bring some good into this world.”
Interested parties can head to bcorporation.net to put their business to the test.
By Micah Cheek
“May third, we had a serious freeze. We lost about a quarter of the grapes,” says Steve Darland of The Darland Company. “One year we had a family of bears.” Darland’s farm is located in Monticello, New Mexico, a former ghost town just north of Truth Or Consequences. This arid environment, though sometimes unforgiving, is an ideal place to age balsamic vinegar. Darland personally inspects and prunes his grapevines throughout the growing season. Every grape counts; it will take 200 pounds of fruit and at least 12 years to make each bottle of Traditional Organic Balsamic of Monticello.
Grapes that make it to harvest are crushed and heated over a wood fire. After being reduced and fermented, the grape must is poured off into handmade barrels. These casks are crafted by Francesco Renzi, whose family has been making them in the same building for 500 years, long before balsamic vinegar was considered a viable mass market product. The grape will spend 12 years circulating through casks made of oak, chestnut, cherry, juniper, acacia and ash, drawing volatile compounds from each to develop its snappy, resinous flavor. Darland says, “Periods of intense work are followed by long periods of time where grapes are growing or vinegar is aging in its casks.”
Monticello is a hub for organic farmers, despite the spring frosts and animals. They all meet in Truth Or Consequences for a farmer’s market, which the Darlands helped start after their first grape harvest. The revenue for their first batch of balsamic was over a decade away, so other sources of income came from the farm. “A great way to fill the time is to grow unique, but potentially popular, healthy, delicious organic crops which thrive in this environment,” says Darland. The farm produced shishito peppers, pomegranates, and other organic products. “My wife, Jane, became the Johnny Appleseed of Sierra County by helping other growers choose, then order and plant the right fruit trees to survive and thrive in our climate – thousands of trees,” he adds.
The more you learn about Darland’s process, the farther removed it is from the balsamic vinegars readily available on shelves. These products, known as industrial vinegars, are generally aged for as little as hours or days before being thickened with sugar, molasses or mosto cotto, a sweet grape syrup. This thick and sweet vinegar is made to mimic the traditional balsamic flavor, because demand for the product has long ago outstripped supply. This demand has fueled a massive market for the sweetened balsamic. “It may be a polite fake, but with an estimated quarter billion dollars of annual US sales, it is a much, much better business than it is a gourmet food item,” says Darland. For him, these products do not even fit into the category of real balsamic vinegar. “The key thing for people to learn: when you read the ingredient list on the label and it has more than one, it is industrial balsamic. Like it or not.”
The Darlands devote their down time to travel. They conduct tastings at stores and restaurants to highlight the differences between their balsamic and the less expensive industrial alternatives. “We take nearly every opportunity to visit islands of foodies, wherever we can sample and talk about the real thing, since ours is the only American commercial balsamic and probably the only organic version in the world,” says Darland. Surprisingly, one of the most difficult groups to convince is chefs. “Chefs are challenged with being fashionable, and making a profit. In culinary school or other training, chefs are shown how to make faux balsamic,” says Darland. Many chefs will cook down inexpensive industrial vinegars with sugar to make a facsimile of a rich, aged balsamic to use for plate presentation. They end up with a sweet product that clings to the tongue, but has had all the subtle flavors and volatile compounds cooked out of it. “It’s a hoax on the menu. It makes everyone the fool – the wait help, the kitchen staff, the chef and the diner all get the wrong lesson without ever tasting balsamic.” says Darland. “There’s a cruel humor in it.”
While cost-conscious chefs are reticent to pick up a bottle of Monticello vinegar, Darland has had to turn away many retailers trying purchase his product. Producing a maximum of 1000 bottles per year makes relationships with retailers a delicate balancing act. Each new retailer thins out the number of bottles that go to all the rest. “We sell online and through very special retailers, and have to be judicious with supply. We sold everything we bottled last year, and we were down to just two bottles when the year ended,” says Darland. “So, we want retail allies with smart retail staff who we can rely on for sales. In turn they can rely on us for supply.” In addition to the 1000 4.5-ounce bottles, limited batches of one ounce bottles are released, as well as a condiment balsamic version made from the same grape must, but aged for less than 12 years.
When asked how he is planning on expanding, Darland states, “I’m not.” While some nationwide retailers have tried to bring Traditional Organic Balsamic of Monticello to their shelves, Darland doesn’t have enough stock, and more importantly, doesn’t like the way they do business. “If we had done that, we would have done it 23 years ago,” says Darland. “The retailers we have are really smart and really know what they’ve got.” Though making organic and artisan products is more involved, Darland steadfastly believes that small production of quality ingredients has a growing place in the market. “These days, everything is monetized. But with true balsamic, there is no short term fiscal shortcut. Rather than repeating the classics, people have settled for fakes. Still, there is room for real, and things made with great care,” says Darland. “Handcrafted, organic, small production is a lively segment for balsamic and many gourmet products.”
Global ID Group, Inc., a U.S.-based provider of integrated food safety and food quality services, announced today that Mario Battaglia has joined the company as managing director, international. Mr. Battaglia will oversee the company’s global certification business as well as its international offices in Brazil, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Global ID, through its CERT ID business units, is accredited across a broad range of Global Food Safety Industry (GFSI) certification standards, including British Retail Consortium, Safe Quality Foods Program, ISO 22000 and GlobalG.A.P. The company is also a global leader in the certification of sustainable and responsible agriculture under the ProTerra, Bonsucro and ISCC standards.
Battaglia joins Global ID having spent over 13 years within the testing, inspection & certification industry, most recently with SAI Global as director of global business development. Previously Battaglia held various national and international management positions within Philips. He will be based in the U.K., working out of the company’s CERT ID office in Sutton Coldfield.
Attendees of the March 10-12 Natural Products Expo West 2016 trade show in Anaheim, Calif. are invited to learn more about this and other developments at Global ID Group by visiting the company’s booth.