By Richard Thompson
Nomoo Cookies has a line of non-dairy cookies on the market for customers who want their sweets, but can’t have – or don’t want – the milk. The company’s brand of snacks use kosher, dairy-free ingredients that the entire family can enjoy. Nomoo Cookies has added new varieties like pineapple and raspberry to traditional favorites such as chocolate chip. While certain cookies may still contain soy, eggs, wheat and nuts, the entire product line is free from any dairy product, making it perfect for those with dairy allergies, are lactose intolerant or looking to keep a kosher diet, according to Gretchen Dossa, General Manager of Nomoo Cookie Company.
Dossa spent years relying on kosher certifications to find safe products for her daughter who suffered a severe dairy-allergy – since those certifications indicated the presence of dairy – to make dairy free, kosher meals. David Bader, who co-founded Nomoo Cookies, spent years making cookies for his family and friends, but noticed many who were following kosher diets unable to enjoy his chocolate cookies. After sharing their frustrations on the lack of non-dairy products available, Bader and Dossa partnered to create Nomoo Cookies.
The company’s kosher-certified, dairy-free line of cookies are all natural and made without preservatives, hydrogenated trans fats or artificial flavors. Offered for retail in single and double packs, as well as by the dozen to consumers, The Nomoo Cookie Company strives to use local ingredients to make snacks that are as close to home baked cookies as possible.
“We are looking for flavors that are fun and interesting for everyone,” says Dossa.
While Big Chipper, with its Belgian chocolate chips, oatmeal and touch of caramel, and Oat-rageous, made with sweet dates, tangy orange zest and rich molasses, offer customers a non-dairy take on traditional staples, new varieties offer a wider range of exotic tastes.
The company’s Almond-Oy is loaded with wholesome almonds, chunks of dark chocolate and shredded coconut, while the Ginger Slap Cookie, a delicious snack that delivers a zing of crystallized ginger, won the Best New Baked Good Award at Kosher Fest in 2014.
In addition to the company’s main line of cookies, each year Nomoo Cookies makes a limited edition cookie that incorporates dried fruit inclusions. Last year, the popular Just Peachy cookie made waves with its soft color and great taste and has been succeeded this year with the Flying Hawaiian with Pineapple, which is made with chewy coconut and bits of pineapple. Currently, the company is working on a new spice cookie that can be considered a non-dairy snickerdoodle, a vanilla-bean sugar cookie made with dried vanilla bean and bean paste and a few vegan cookies.
“Our Flying Hawaiian with Pineapple has gotten a lot of praise,” says Dossa, “Right now, we’re working on getting local raspberries on top of our sugar cookies; that will probably be coming out in a couple of months…When we make cookies, we want people to think they’re really good even if they don’t need to avoid dairy,”
By Lorrie Baumann
In 1865, Samuel L. Clemens was living in San Francisco, writing articles for newspapers and wondering if he had any shot at a career as a humorist. He was also apparently drinking quite a lot, which means that there actually is some chance that he tasted the Breakfast Cheese made by Jefferson Thompson, who founded his west Marin County dairy farm that year. He sold the cheese he made in the creamery that would eventually become known as Marin French Cheese to San Francisco saloons who sold it to their customers.
No, Marin French Cheese’s official history doesn’t document any consumption by the writer who’s best known today as Mark Twain, but there’s no way to prove it didn’t happen, after all. What we do know is that Thompson launched his Thompson Brothers Creamery in 1865 on a 700-acre dairy ranch that’s now known as Hicks Valley Ranch near Petaluma, California. He sent his Thompson cheese by horse and wagon and then by boat to San Francisco’s saloons, where dock workers began calling it “Breakfast Cheese.”
Thompson’s two sons, Jeff Thompson, Junior and Rudolph Thompson, took over the creamery in the early 20th century, and Jeff, Jr. traveled to Connecticut to learn to make European styles such as Camembert, Brie and Neufchatel. He branded his French-style cheese Rouge et Noir, French for “Red and Black.”
In the 1990s, Marin French Cheese was acquired by cattle rancher and real estate developer Jim Boyce, who modernized the cheese plant and expanded distribution of the Marin French cheeses. In 2005, Marin French Cheese achieved distinction as the first U.S. company to be awarded Gold in a European competition for Triple Crème Brie, besting the French in that category. The 2014 World Cheese Awards in London honored Marin French Triple Crème Brie cheeses with three out of four awards in the soft-ripened category, awarding a Super Gold to a new cheese, Supreme. Following that win, the company’s legacy cheese, Petite Breakfast, was selected as a winner in the 2015 Good Food Awards, recognizing authentic and responsibly produced food.
After Boyce’s untimely death in 2010, Marin French Cheese was acquired by The Rians Group of France, which has since modernized the creamery with state-of-the-art equipment and aging rooms, new packaging with redesigned labels and an expansion of the retail shop on the creamery property. This year, Marin French Cheese is celebrating its 150th anniversary with a year-long schedule of celebratory events that pay tribute to the company that is the longest continuously operating cheese company in the United States.
Rians, a French company that specializes in farmstead cheeses with European AOC and AOP identities, bought Marin French Cheese with the knowledge that the company operates in a very environmentally conscious community and saw a fit that matched Rians’ environmental ethics and respect for the places in which its cheeses are created, said Eva Guilmo, Quality and Food Safety Manager for both Marin French Cheese and Laura Chenel’s Chevre, which was acquired by Rians in 2006. “Rians Group is built on having many small creameries that have terroir and a close relationship with their environment,” she said.
Like Laura Chenel’s Chevre, where Rians built a new creamery from the ground up that incorporates modern technology to save both energy and water, Marin French Cheese is adapting its operations to modernize and to save water, said Miguel Da Conceicao, Site Manager for Laura Chenel’s Chevre. He arrived in California three years ago after transferring from a Rians goat cheese plant in France. “Every year we are doing things. That’s why in three years, we have saved 30 to 35 percent of the water compared to what we used when we started this plant [at Laura Chenel’s Chevre],” he said. “We haven’t waited until California was in crisis to start doing things.”
“Proactivity is the word, always, and we want to stick to that,” Guilmo added
Marin French Cheese gets its water from natural ponds on the property that are fed from snowmelt and rain, although it hasn’t snowed here since 1990. “Each year, after the winter, we look at our ponds and we manage from that,” said Amelie Curis, Site Manager for Marin French Cheese. “I think it will be okay for this year. We should be okay for the next two years.”
As it modernizes its operations, the company is working closely with the federal Food and Drug Administration as well as state regulators, Guilmo said. “We’re working on the design of the machines to ensure that they comply with the rules and even go beyond them in terms of standards of cleanliness and food safety. The dairy inspector comes every three months and we discuss the requirements for the dairy industry,” she said. “With the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA is moving from a system of management of corrective actions to a system of anticipation of the risks with the implementation of prerequisite programs which are good practices to run a food manufacturing plant. They’re asking more about control points and trends management before serious problems arise and require the manufacturer to issue a recall. We’re moving from a corrective era to a proactive era in food safety.”
Industry self-policing is also helping to ensure that consumers are getting the safe cheese they want, she said, noting that the large retailers have begun asking their suppliers to provide products that meet consumer demands, such as dairy products made without the use of rBST, the bovine growth hormone that increases milk production when injected into dairy cows. “The use of rbST was approved as safe by the FDA. The FDA found that there is no significant difference between milk derived from rbST-treated and non-rbST treated cows, but the distributors want rBST-free milk. The same thing is happening with GMOs,” she said. “Consumers are always pulling us forward before the government does. By the time the government acts, we’ve heard about it, and it’s already being discussed, which is a big advantage.”
By Lorrie Baumann
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking for comments and data about the safety of cheese made from unpasteurized milk with a view to regulating more carefully how cheesemakers produce raw milk cheeses. “We are taking this action in light of scientific data on potential health risks associated with consumption of cheese made from unpasteurized milk,” according to an FDA notice published on August 3.
The public has until November 2 to submit either electronic or hard-copy comments and scientific data and information to the FDA. Electronic comments should be submitted to http://www.regulations.gov with reference to Docket Number FDA-2015-N-2596.
The FDA is relying on a 2012 review of outbreaks of foodborne illness that occurred in the U.S. between 1993 and 2006 that pointed a finger directly at cheese, and to cheeses made from unpasteurized milk in particular. According to that study by scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the review included 121 outbreaks of foodborne illness involving dairy products between 1993 and 2006, and among these, 73 (60 percent) involved nonpasteurized milk and resulted in 1,571 cases of illness and two deaths. Out of the 65 outbreaks involving cheese, 27 involved cheese made from raw milk, a figure that’s particularly significant since less than 1 percent of the dairy products consumed in the U.S. during the time period were made from unpasteurized milk, according to the FDA. The 38 outbreaks involving cheese made from pasteurized milk resulted in 744 illnesses and 1 death, while the 27 involving cheese made from raw milk resulted in 641 illnesses and two deaths.
According to the 2012 study, all of the illnesses involving nonpasteurized dairy products were caused by bacteria, although a number of species of bacteria were involved, including Campylobacter species, Salmonella species, E. coli, Brucella species and Shigella species. Three of them were caused by Listeria. That suggests that the contamination more likely came from the dairy environment than from the humans who handled the milk, who’d have been more likely to pass along viruses than bacteria.
The FDA notes in its call for data that cheeses made from unpasteurized milk are required by federal regulations to be aged, typically for 60 days or more. This was presumed to reduce the risk that disease-causing bacteria would still be alive in the cheese when it was eaten, but recent research has shown that the 60-day aging period for soft ripened cheeses might actually increase the risk that the cheese will cause listeriosis, the infection caused by Listeria, by giving more time for the bacteria to multiply. It is not legal in the United States to sell soft ripened cheeses made from unpasteurized milk outside the state in which they were made, but such cheeses can be made and sold in states that permit sales of unpasteurized dairy products.
Dr. Catherine Donnelly, a Professor of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont, is among those who agrees that the FDA should take another look at whether the 60-day aging period for raw milk cheeses does more harm than good in the case of soft ripened cheeses. “The 60-day aging rule should not be applied to a soft-ripened cheese,” she said. The rule makes sense in the case of hard cheeses made from raw milk, she said. “As cheese ages, the pH goes down and the moisture declines, and you’re creating that inhospitable environment [for harmful bacteria].” But in the case of soft cheeses such as a brie or Camembert, the surface molds that are essential to creating the cheeses produce amine products that raise the pH of the cheese, creating an environment in which bacteria can thrive, she said. “Mature ripened Camembert has a pH about 7 [which is neutral]. As the pH goes up, you start getting conditions that allow the growth of Listeria. That’s why in cheeses like brie and Camembert, you get very high levels. The FDA should never have applied the 60-day aging rule to a soft-ripened cheese, but it’s part of our Code of Federal Regulations. That’s not a very good rule from a safety standpoint.” The good news for cheesemakers, however, is that FDA’s soft cheese risk assessment shows that if every batch of raw milk soft ripened cheese is tested for Listeria, the risk is actually lower than that for soft ripened cheese made from pasteurized milk. Donnelly also points out that Food Standards Australia New Zealand conducted a 2009 Risk Assessment of raw milk cheese, which concluded that “Campylobacter spp. [species] were found to be a negligible risk in both raw milk extra hard and Swiss-type cheeses. The presence of Campylobacter spp. was not assessed in raw milk Cheddar, blue, Feta or Camembert cheeses. However, Campylobacter spp. are unlikely to grow in milk or cheese, as their growth requires reduced oxygen tension and temperatures between 32 – 45°C and they do not survive well under slightly acidic conditions, or in the presence of greater than 2 percent salt.”
There’s little question that soft cheeses made from raw milk are potentially more dangerous than hard cheeses made from raw milk. Studies indicate that the risk of illnesses may be orders of magnitude higher for unpasteurized dairy products than for those that have been pasteurized. “In France, you can’t legally sell Camembert beyond 55 days. Why? Because it’s too dangerous,” Donnelly said. She’s concerned that the FDA might now decide that no cheeses should be made from raw milk even though the harder cheeses are much safer. “I’ve studied listeria for a long, long time. I share the concern about the growing incidence of listeria in elderly and susceptible population. Soft cheese is just one category of products that the FDA has determined to be a risk,” she said. “I am just concerned that this might carry over to other varieties of cheese made from raw milk that have been shown to be very microbiologically safe – things like the harder cheeses made from raw milk.”
She points to a 2014 study conducted by scientists affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that distinguishes the types of cheeses involved in 90 outbreaks caused by cheese between 1998 and 2011.While 38 of the outbreaks (42 percent) were caused by cheese made from unpasteurized milk, 44 (49 percent) were caused by cheese made from pasteurized milk. Queso fresco was the most common cause of the outbreaks, including 18 due to cheese made from unpasteurized milk and one due to pasteurized cheese. An additional seven outbreaks reported an unspecified type of soft Mexican-style cheese. “Homemade” cheese was the second most common type reported for the outbreaks due to raw milk cheeses.
The soft unaged cheeses imported from Mexico were responsible for 13 outbreaks – more than a third of all outbreaks associated with cheese during the period. Nine of those were caused by Listeria. In five outbreaks, all due to cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, the cheese was produced or sold illegally. Commercial importation from Mexico of cheese made from unpasteurized milk is illegal unless the cheese has met FDA aging standards, although travelers are allowed to bring in limited amounts of raw milk cheeses for personal use. However, these raw milk cheeses imported for personal use are often illegally sold once they’re in the United States.
The 2014 study concluded that “In addition to using pasteurized milk, soft-cheese-making facilities need to ensure strict sanitation and microbiologic monitoring. Labeling of cheese should include whether the milk used to make it was pasteurized or unpasteurized, whether the cheese was aged and for how long, and the license number of the production facility.” The report adds that, “Efforts to reduce production and sale of illegally manufactured cheeses as well as continued binational collaborations are needed to address the issue of illegal cheese importation.”
“This is where the real risk lies” stated Donnelly.
Haggen now plans to exit from the Pacific Southwest market and realign its operations around 37 core stores and one stand-alone pharmacy in the Pacific Northwest as part of the Chapter 11 process.
As part of its previously announced plan to right-size the company, Sagent Advisors, LLC has been actively working to explore market interest for its store locations in California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Nevada.
Haggen is asking the bankruptcy court for approval to conduct store closing sales. All employees of the non-core stores and the Pacific Southwest support office will receive 60 day notice of the pending store and office closures. During this process, all stores will remain open. Employees will continue to receive their pay and benefits through the normal course of business as previously approved by the court.
Haggen is supportive of employees securing work elsewhere and is continuing to work with Albertson’s in its request for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to waive the restriction in the FTC order which restricts the hiring of Haggen employees. Because this is a modification of an order entered by the FTC, the waiver will require commission approval, which the FTC staff is seeking to obtain on an expedited basis. This has been a priority for Haggen management to ensure its employees can take advantage of every opportunity available to them.
Mars, Incorporated has opened a Global Food Safety Center near Beijing, China. The company calls the center a first-of-its-kind facility for pre-competitive research and training that aims to raise global food safety standards through collaboration. Convening governments, academics, regulators and industry peers, the Mars Global Food Safety Center is intended to drive global focus on addressing the challenge of food safety, leading to better access, availability and nutrition, as well as reduced food waste and an increase in overall quality of life.
Building on decades of research, the Mars Global Food Safety Center is a $15 million investment in Mars’ ongoing commitment to working with world-leading experts to ensure the safety and security of food for generations of families. In 2014, Mars and the University of California-Davis jointly established the Innovation Institute for Food & Health, fostering a new type of public-private partnership that catalyzes much needed innovation at the intersection of food, agricultural and health.
Grant Reid, President and CEO of Mars, Incorporated, stated: “Food safety is a global issue that concerns us all—business, governments, academics and the world’s population. Working together across all disciplines is the only way we can truly advance efforts at scale, with the ultimate goal of increasing access to safe nutrition for billions of people around the world.”
With an emphasis on pre-competitive research and collaborative solutions, the Mars Global Food Safety Center will leverage insights and expertise from over 60 Mars partnerships dedicated to innovative, sustainable and responsible food safety practices. The World Food Programme (WFP), the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA), and the IBM/Mars Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain are among the many organizations Mars is partnering with to try to solve the challenge of feeding a global population expected to grow to nine billion by 2050.
David Crean, Vice President, Corporate Research and Development, at Mars Incorporated, commented: “Unlike an R&D or innovation center focused on product development and improvement, the Mars Global Food Safety Center is a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to advancing food safety research through collaboration and the pre-competitive sharing of information. We firmly believe that in order to ensure generations of families have access to safe and nutritious food, we must work together to evolve food safety management programs and create robust, sustainable supply chains.”
Located just north of Beijing in Huairou, China, the Mars Global Food Safety Center will employ approximately 30 employees working on food safety research and training, plus a variety of sabbatical positions open to academic and regulatory researchers. Mars selected the location not only because of China’s significant role in the global marketplace, but also to leverage the intensive scientific focus the region is bringing to food supply and safety issues today. The facility will house analytical chemistry and microbiology laboratories, interactive training laboratories and a conference auditorium to enhance knowledge sharing. Through scientific forums and media platforms and events, the Mars Global Food Safety Center will promote the findings of its work in order to help advance others’ research efforts.
Recent research from the University of California, San Diego and Johns Hopkins University suggests cooking with spices and herbs could close the 1,000 mg gap between the amount of sodium Americans consume on a daily basis, and the amount recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The study was funded by the McCormick Science Institute, the independent research arm of McCormick & Company Incorporated (NYSE: MKC), a global leader in flavor.
In the study, entitled “Effects of a behavioral intervention that emphasizes spices and herbs on adherence to recommended sodium intake,” researchers taught adults to flavor their food with spices and herbs instead of salt. At the end of the trial, the intervention group, who had tools including spices and herbs as well as cooking demonstrations, were able to reduce sodium intake by an average of 956.8 mg/day – which is about 1/3 of the average sodium adults consume each day.
Dr. Cheryl Anderson, lead researcher and author of this study, as well as Associate Professor, University of California, San Diego, was also a member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The committee’s report emphasized a continued concern over high intake of sodium in the American diet. On average, American adults consume 3,300 mg of sodium a day, which is 1,000 mg more than the 2,300 mg/d recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other health authorities.
“This study demonstrates that a multi-faceted behavioral program including spices and herbs for meal preparation is effective in reducing daily sodium intake,” Anderson said. “Teaching consumers to prepare food using spices and herbs with reduced salt is a positive solution that supports a higher quality diet while still enjoying great tasting food.”
“Cutting back on sodium is a message Americans have been hearing for many years,” said Dr. Hamed Faridi, McCormick’s Chief Science Officer. “One of the main concerns with reducing salt content is that often times it impacts flavor, which makes eating less satisfying. Thankfully, adding spices and herbs can easily solve that problem.”
Rhythm® Superfoods, which makes plant-based superfood snacks, has named Terry Meyer as its new Vice President of Sales.
“We are thrilled to have Terry join our team and are confident that his extensive knowledge of the food industry across all channels of trade will help to further develop Rhythm Superfoods and guide our brand to new heights,” said Scott Jensen, CEO of Rhythm Superfoods. “We are growing rapidly and look forward to Terry leading our sales strategies.”
Meyer brings more than 20 years of sales, operations and management experience to Rhythm Superfoods. Meyer has previously worked at brands such as Unilever-Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream; Naked Juice, where he led the rapid expansion of the brand into double-digit growth; Good Health Natural Foods, Inc., where he positioned the brand as a leader in innovation with healthier oils and vegetable-based nutrition in salty snacks; and Podponics.
“I am honored and excited by the opportunity to work with the team at Rhythm Superfoods,” said Meyer. “The brand’s current position in the market sets the stage for continued success, and I am excited to be a part of it.”
Meyer will manage the company’s sales team and strategy for continued growth, both with existing product lines and with future plant-based snack innovations.
Litehouse Foods has named Brent Carr to the executive role of Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing. In his new role, Carr will report directly to President and CEO Jim Frank and lead the company’s fast-paced growth in the dressings, dips, cheese and herbs categories.
A graduate of Boise State University with a degree in marketing, Carr is a 30-year industry veteran who spent the first 15 years of his career at consumer packaged goods giant, Colgate-Palmolive. He then expanded his skill set with deep experience in the produce industry, working at Fresh Express for 10 years leading its national account teams. Carr joined Litehouse in 2009 to help build the value-added channel and was promoted to Vice President of sales in 2012.
“Brent has been instrumental in helping our brand achieve year-over-year double digit growth in our category, creating deep relationships with our customers and working cross-functionally at Litehouse to achieve outstanding results,” Frank said. “He is widely respected in the produce business, and we are proud to have him lead our sales and marketing teams.”
Carr lives in Idaho with his wife Lorri. He has four children and a granddaughter. “My focus in this new role will be to align our sales and marketing teams and strive to strengthen our cross-functional relationships with our customers in each channel,” he said. “Litehouse is a fast-growing brand, and I am excited to work with our team to continue to build category-leadership and innovation.”
AmericasMart® Atlanta has announced the winners of its annual Best of Atlanta awards celebrating the top gourmet food products in its permanent and temporary collections. The awards were adjudicated during The Atlanta Gourmet Market, September 16-18, 2015.
Winners were designated based on taste, overall appeal and packaging/presentation as selected by industry experts Malika Bowling, President of the Association of Food Bloggers and author of the “Food Lovers’ Guide to Atlanta,” “Food Blogging 101” and The Atlanta Restaurant Blog; Chef Andrew Isabella, Executive Chef of BeetleCat (opening November 2015); and Chef Martin Smetana, Head Chef of Classic Fare Catering.
The winners include:
In addition to top gourmet products, excellence in visual design was celebrated by the Atlanta Fall Gift & Home Furnishings Market® and The Atlanta Gourmet Market® Best of Show award, presented to Never Lose Hope Designs.