It’s party time at the Organic Trade Association. For 10. Straight. Days. And everyone’s invited.
September is “Organic Month,” and OTA and its member companies are teaming up with other leading organic influencers to throw “Organic-Palooza,” a first-ever 10-day social media festival that gets going on September 8 to celebrate the benefits of organic, clear up confusion about what organic really stands for, and share how and why consumers should incorporate more organic – whether it’s organic food or organic fiber – into their lives.
From affordability issues – how your family can create an at-home organic menu without breaking the budget – to the trustworthiness of organic – an explanation of the strict regulations and standards that go into growing and making every single organic product – the blitz, delivered by OTA and some 50 strategic partners, will delve into the biggest issues surrounding organic, bust a few myths, and provide an unprecedented and free-wheeling exchange of ideas and views and knowledge between top organic experts and just normal folks.
“We are very excited to be engaging our members and the public in such a creative and accessible way to answer questions about organic,” said Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO of OTA. “Each day we’ll be focusing on one key organic topic in order to spark conversation and share as much knowledge as we can between organic news watchers and newsmakers, and ultimately to help consumers make the best choices for their families.”
Using the #OrganicFestival hashtag on its social media channels (Facebook facebook.com/OrganicTrade, Twitter twitter.com/organictrade, Pinterest pinterest.com/organictrade), daily themes include nutrition, the latest trends in organic, organic standards and the meaning of the organic seal, affordability, organic’s role in mitigating global warming, a look at the latest research on organic, and more. Through recipes, meal-planning tips, and updates on organic fiber, consumers will be shown how to make organic a regular part of their lives.
Special sessions will feature organic thought leaders including top food and nutrition writers and bloggers, organic policy and agricultural experts, and OTA members sharing their perspectives on policy, regulatory, and real-life concerns being faced by the organic community. The public will be introduced to the organic visionaries who have helped make the organic industry the robust part of the American food and fiber sector that it is today.
A five-day Twitter party will be wrapped into the festival, with each party zeroing in on a specific organic focus and co-hosted by an expert in the subject. One of the parties will be a “myth-busting” session to debunk common myths and misinformation about organic, co-hosted by “Coach” Mark Smallwood, head of the Rodale Institute and an internationally recognized organic expert, and Dr. Jessica Shade, Lead Scientist for The Organic Center. Another will be on GMOs in our food supply with host Matt Dillon, an advocate and recognized expert in organic seed systems and agricultural policy and programs manager at Clif Bar. Dr. Alan Greene, a kids’ health expert devoted to giving answers to parents’ real questions will co-host a session on what organic means for kids. Finally, eco-fashion pioneer Marci Zaroff will co-host a party on organic textiles, clarifying the importance of driving sustainability by choosing organic—beyond food.
Each Twitter party will be sponsored by OTA members who are offering dozens of prizes to festival participants ranging from organic snacks and sauces to a basket of organic linen. Randomly selected Facebook fans sharing news about the festival with their friends will be awarded daily prizes donated by OTA member companies, as will selected Pinterest followers who repin the campaign image.
The Kroger Co. has announced that 13 Kroger associates and 4 Murray’s Cheese associates have been named Certified Cheese Professionals™ by the American Cheese Society.
All 17 have joined the ranks of an elite group of individuals who have passed the Certified Cheese Professional™ Exam. The exam was created by the American Cheese Society to promote the large and comprehensive world of cheeses and encourage food industry professionals to master the knowledge. Before taking the exam in Sacramento this summer, the associates participated in a rigorous three-month training course led by Amanda Parker, Director of Kroger Programs at Murray’s Cheese. Parker has also been tapped to co-chair the American Cheese Society’s annual conference in 2015.
“This is only the third year of this certification program, but it is already bringing the cheese profession to a whole new level,” said Rob Kaufelt, Owner and President of Murray’s Cheese. “After studying everything from milk chemistry to aging techniques to pairing and serving cheeses, these mongers are now even better equipped to educate and delight our customers.”
“We are proud of our associates for working so hard to earn this important recognition, which reflects their commitment to gourmet cheese craft,” said Margaret McClure, Kroger’s Vice President of Deli/Bakery. “Kroger’s unique partnership with Murray’s Cheese continues to inspire our associates to share their passion for cheese with our customers every day.”
Through an exclusive partnership with New York City’s Murray’s Cheese, the Kroger family of stores features more than 140 Murray’s counters in stores from coast to coast. Featuring more than 175 cheeses and specialty goods from all over the world, the Murray’s counters are staffed by associates who have been trained by the Murray’s experts in New York.
Tim Omer will join Emmi Roth USA as President and Managing Director effective September 15, 2014. Omer brings more than 25 years of specialty cheese industry experience to his new role, having previously served as the CEO and President of DCI Cheese Company, which was sold to Saputo in 2011.
In announcing the appointment of Omer, Matthias Kunz, Chairman of the Board of Emmi Roth USA, stated that, “As a true insider to domestic and imported specialty cheeses, Tim brings a deep and thorough knowledge that will be instrumental in helping our company continue to grow. We view this appointment as a sign of our commitment to being one of the leading companies in our industry.”
As President and Managing Director, Omer will help underpin Emmi Roth USA’s position as an artisanal-centered, cheese-driven organization. “I am excited to start a new challenge with one of the finest cheese companies in the world, and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to lead a group of passionate team members that are committed to the highest quality products and service,” said Omer.
Omer received his bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Wisconsin-Steven’s Point and MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 2004, Omer was the recipient of the Ernst and Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award for Wisconsin.
Bissinger’s announced today that Carla Ravarino is joining the firm, serving as Director of Sales, East Region. Ravarino has over 20 years experience in business development, portfolio management, sales and operations.
A veteran in both the food and specialty retailer industries, Ravarino was most recently National Account Executive at Starbucks Coffee Company in Seattle, Washington. She played a key management role in developing, opening and managing more than 500 locations in the Foodservice and Licensed Stores divisions throughout the country. She also served in multiple roles with specialty retailer Neiman-Marcus in corporate buying, store management and sales.
“I am pleased to be a part of such a committed, industry-revered company and being surrounded by people very passionate about the art of crafting fine chocolate,” said Ravarino. “Growing up in St. Louis, I have an innate affinity for the Bissinger’s brand and high-quality confections.” Ravarino comes from a long linage of food retailers as well. Her family’s former pasta company business originated in 1901 and was committed to brand recognition, quality products and service excellence in the industry.
Ravarino will be responsible for wholesale sales efforts, working with the Bissinger’s Broker Network and key customers in the East region to grow the brand. “We feel very fortunate to have her on our team,” said Jeff Tillery, Vice President of Sales and Business Development. “She is a natural fit for the company, has a strong background working with brokers and is well-versed in overseeing multiple territories.”
Earlier this month, Bissinger’s moved into its new headquarters facility, combining multiple operations under one roof — a beautiful, historic 220,000 square-foot building that underwent $15 million in renovations. The additional space allows for new, state-of-the-art equipment, private tours, special event space and ensures it keeps up with strong growth in both the retail and wholesale sectors. “It’s a transformative time at Bissinger’s,” said President and CEO Tim Fogerty. “The new facility allows us to continue our commitment to sourcing the finest ingredients and providing unique and sophisticated flavor combinations—while staying true to our long-standing legacy.”
Backed by centuries of confectionery excellence, the company traces its roots back to 17th Century France when King Louis XIV granted the company the title of “Confiseur Imperial” for confectionery excellence. Sourcing the finest all natural, sustainable ingredients is the company’s central focus. Bissinger’s is the recipient of numerous sofi™ Awards and may be found at the larger national stores such as Whole Foods Market, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales as well as the high-end boutique retailers like local Straub’s and Draeger’s Markets across the country.
By Lorrie Baumann
Every small business starts with the founder’s dream, but that’s usually a metaphor for the inspiration that moves a person to action. But when MIG Soap CEO and Founder Jaime Cross says her company started with a dream, she means it literally.
The dream occurred on October 5, 2010. “I had a dream one night and woke up and told my husband, ‘I think I’m supposed to start a soap company,’” she says. “I saw myself pouring oils, and I saw this whole process in my dream, and I saw the letters MIG come up out of the soap. Everything was so clear I knew there was substance there.”
The dream seemed a custom fit for Cross who has had a longstanding passion for herbalism and natural products. She’d been thinking over business ideas for a while, and the dream pointed her in a definite direction. Cross responded with a year of research and development reading every book and medical journal she could find on skin care, resulting in her brand of luxury skin care products which have been on the market for the past three years.
Every product in the MIG line is multifunctional, and the collections are comprised of products for primary or complementary use– a boost for busy people without a lot of time, energy or space to pamper themselves and particularly valuable for business travelers who must either fit their entire skin care regimen into a one-quart plastic bag or trust an airline not to lose it en route. “You can buy one or two products and cover your entire regimen,” Cross says. “What I want people to know about us is that we are a high performance, affordable luxury body care company with each product formulated and packaged with our no-compromise ingredient list, and we handcraft everything in small batches. For instance, our body butter moisture stick is poured into a convenient twist tube. Use it right before you exit the shower while your skin is still wet, pat dry, and you won’t need lotion for the rest of the day. Our Sleep Balm is very effective for promoting relaxation. The calming scrub boost – launching at Expo East – is a combination of colloidal oat, bentonite and a number of other rich ingredients that you can add a few times a week to your favorite cleanser for an infused, soothing and exfoliating cleanse. Beyond product, we invite you to take a moment with MIG to recharge and reboot so you can go after your dreams with Moxie.”
At Natural Products Expo East, Cross is introducing her line of luxury soap and body butters, her men’s grooming product line, her Apothecary collection (which includes the Sleep Balm and the Breathe Vapor Balm) and new boost products. “The boosts are a great way for busy people to enhance their current skin care regimen with powerful antioxidants, soothing extracts and essential components for healthier looking skin without having to replace their favorite products,” she says. Other MIG products will be launching over the next six months.
For further information, stop by and visit with Jaime Cross in booth # 8614 at Natural Products Expo East. After the show, you can email info@MIGSoap.com to reach her as well.
Tyson Foods, Inc. has completed its merger with The Hillshire Brands Company, a transaction that positions Tyson Foods as a clear leader in the prepared foods business. In connection with the merger, shares of Hillshire Brands common stock will be delisted and cease trading on the New York Stock Exchange and Chicago Stock Exchange before the opening of the respective markets on August 29, 2014.
The combination of Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands creates a single company with more than $40 billion in annual sales and a portfolio that includes recognized brands such as Tyson(R), Wright(R), Jimmy Dean(R), Ball Park(R), State Fair(R) and Hillshire Farm(R).
“As of today, Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands are officially together in one great company,” said Tyson Foods CEO Donnie Smith. “Part of our strategic growth plan has been to shift toward higher-margin prepared and branded foods. This transaction gives us a portfolio of complementary, proven brands as a new springboard and accomplishes in a short time what would have taken us years to build on our own.”
The integration of the two companies is currently expected to generate synergy savings of $225 million in fiscal 2015 and more than $500 million by fiscal 2017.
Teams of people from Tyson and Hillshire have been working on integration plans since July to help make sure the combined company gets off to a good start.
“During this process, I’ve had a chance get to know many people on the Hillshire Brands team and the great work they’re doing, and I’m more convinced than ever that the future of our combined companies is bright,” Smith said. “As excited as I am about our new brands, I’m equally excited about the combined talent of the two companies.”
A new leadership team has been selected and includes a mix of existing senior leaders from Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands.
Andy Callahan, former president of Hillshire’s retail business, will manage all retail consumer brands, including the legacy Hillshire consumer brands (such as Jimmy Dean(R), Ball Park(R), Hillshire Farm(R) and Sara Lee(R)), Tyson’s consumer brands (such as Tyson(R) frozen, value-added poultry and Wright(R) Brand bacon) and Hillshire’s Gourmet Food Group.
Sally Grimes, former chief innovation officer and president of Hillshire’s Gourmet Food Group, will lead Tyson’s innovation (including research and development), sales and global brand strategy teams to support all products sold through retail channels and to maximize global growth of our consumer brands.
Donnie King, former president-Prepared Foods, Customer and Consumer Solutions for Tyson Foods, will oversee Tyson’s legacy poultry, fresh meats and non-branded prepared foods businesses as well as the combined Tyson Foods and Hillshire foodservice businesses. Those reporting to him will include Steve Stouffer who will lead fresh meats; Noel White who will lead poultry; Wes Morris who will lead prepared foods operations; and Tom Hayes, currently chief supply chain officer for Hillshire Brands, who will lead the combined Tyson and Hillshire foodservice businesses.
Those continuing to report to Donnie Smith will include David Van Bebber, who leads the Tyson legal team; Sara Lilygren, who leads corporate affairs; Dennis Leatherby, who continues as the company’s chief financial officer; Hal Carper, who heads strategy and new ventures; Mike Roetzel, who oversees operations services; and Russell Tooley, who heads the company’s business process and continuous improvement practice.
Ken Kimbro, who has led Tyson Foods’ human resources functions since 2001, will be transitioning into retirement. He will be replaced by Mary Oleksiuk, former chief human resources officer for Hillshire Brands.
Malik Sadiq, senior vice president-Asia Pacific, will oversee Tyson International on an interim basis. He takes the place of James Young who will be transitioning to Tyson’s Cobb-Vantress breeding stock subsidiary in the coming months.
“This is an awesome team and they’re prepared to make this integration process smooth and efficient while we continue to exceed the expectations of our customers and consumers,” Smith said.
Sean Connolly, former president and chief executive officer of Hillshire Brands, has chosen to pursue other interests, but will consult during the integration process.
Hip Chick Farms, a fast-growing provider of convenient, natural and organic, artisan Chicken Fingers, Chicken Meatballs and Chicken Wings produced from humanely raised and sustainably farmed ingredients, debuts all-new, freezer-friendly packaging for its popular line of frozen chicken products.
The new packaging replaces the original tubs with stackable rectangular cubes that offer more product information, including images of the product and bright, new graphics. Hip Chick Farms products are available in five varieties:
• Baked and Seasoned Chicken Wings & Drummettes, 10-ounce package
• Breaded Chicken Fingers, 8-ounce package
• Baked Chicken Meatballs, 10-ounce package
• Gluten-free Chicken Nuggets, 8-ounce package
• Organic Baked Chicken Fingers, 8-ounce package
All Hip Chick Farms products are made from humanely-raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free Mary’s Free Range Chicken. All five varieties are fully cooked, ready to heat and eat for maximum convenience. Product is contained in an interior plastic bag to ensure freshness.
“Our new packaging makes Hip Chick Farms products easier for retailers to display, and easier for consumers to find,” said Serafina Palandech, President and Co-founder of Hip Chick Farms. “The colorful graphics and product images let consumers know exactly what they are getting, while the conventional shape helps retailers stack and display the products more efficiently in their freezer cases.”
The new package was designed by McDill Associates of Soquel, California, which provides packaging, marketing and design solutions for a wide variety of food brands, among other clients. “The design challenge was to create a package that conveyed the fun, convenience and quality of Hip Chick Farms products, while meeting retailers’ demands for package efficiency,” said President and Creative Director Melissa McDill. “In this case, it was better to think inside the box, and really make it pop with fresh graphics and vibrant colors.”
Founded in 2011, Hip Chick Farms sources local, sustainably-produced ingredients to make nutritious, natural and organic and ultra-convenient entrees targeted to time-challenged families. Sourced from humanely-raised, free-range chicken without added hormones or antibiotics, artificial preservatives or fillers, its five products are made fresh in small, artisan batches, then flash frozen to preserve taste and offer superior texture. Hip Chick Farms products are available at more than 250 natural and specialty grocery stores on the West Coast. For more information, visit www.hipchickfarms.com.
Your customers count on you to deliver specialty foods that meet their nutritional requirements while satisfying their taste buds. Wixon offers a variety of gluten-free gourmet seasonings and dry mixes that extend your product line to suit the needs of this growing market segment.
Wixon’s three core levels of service ensure your products exceed expectations, from innovative concepts through efficient production to professional packaging. From sourcing to handling and testing, Wixon takes the necessary measures to ensure the highest quality gluten-free products without compromising on taste. Gluten-free raw materials are sourced from qualified vendor partners, who provide a gluten-free Statement of Assurance. Wixon’s segregated blending suites and operations handling avoid cross-contamination. Blends are tested to confirm gluten-free status and validate Wixon’s gluten-free procedures. Gluten-free raw materials and ingredients are also stored in segregated areas. In addition to rigorous finished product testing, Wixon is GFSI Certified to FSSC 22000, the premier, globally-recognized model of food safety.
Trust Wixon to make gluten-free worry-free.
For more information, visit the company online at www.wixon.com or call 800.841.5304.
Dave’s Gourmet has created a cookie butter that is so delicious, it makes almost anything taste just like grandma’s homemade oatmeal cookies – fresh from the oven. This all-natural spread is crafted from wholesome ingredients, giving it a mouthwatering flavor. Real oats mixed with the sweetness of brown sugar and the spice of cinnamon take everyone back to their childhoods.
Dave’s Gourmet’s Oatmeal Cookie Butter tastes just like oatmeal cookies, so you can give your toast, apple slices, cupcakes and virtually any other foods a comforting taste of home. You can even add this wonderful spread to your milkshakes and cheesecakes for added decadence. The thick creamy consistency makes it easy to spread on just about anything.
It is no surprise that you can also bake with Dave’s Gourmet’s Cookie Butter, using it to make crunchy Oatmeal Cookie Crisps. Dave’s Gourmet Oatmeal Cookie Butter is truly spreadable goodness.
Dave’s Gourmet Oatmeal Cookie Butter was a 2014 sofi™ finalist. For more information, contact Dave’s Gourmet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read about more sofi award winners here.
By Lucas Witman
Few of us have the opportunity to stop for lunch at Spago to get a taste of Wolfgang Puck’s celebrated seasonal new American cuisine. And unless you are lucky enough to score an invite to one of her barn parties, you are almost certain never to have Ina Garten serve you a meal. However, with more and more celebrity chefs today crafting their own signature heat-and-serve product lines, the good news is that we can taste what these chefs have to offer simply by opening the freezer case at our local grocery store.
Today, it is in fact difficult to think of a well-known chef that does not offer his or her cuisine in a prepared heat-and-serve package. Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa line of Sauté Dinners features fancy dishes like beef bourguignon and pasta carbonara, but in a form that can be ready in minutes. Wolfgang Puck is undoubtedly one of the most famous chefs in the world, and now you can enjoy his signature tortilla soup or Tuscan thin crust pizza in the comfort of your own home. From the Iron Chef line of frozen meals to Guy Fieri’s frozen burgers and appetizers to Giada De Laurentiis’ pasta mixes and jarred sauces, celebrity chefs are showing up in grocery stores in a big way.
One celebrated chef that recently made his debut in grocery store frozen foods sections is restaurateur and television personality Emeril Lagasse. Lagasse’s new line of frozen snacks debuted this spring at Walmart stores in the southwestern United States with plans to expand soon to additional regions and retailers. The line includes four chef-inspired snacks: Chicken & BBQ sauce BAM™ Bites, Jalapeño Wontons with Bacon, Chili Cheese Mini Dogs and Pulled Pork BAM Bites.
The Emeril frozen snacks line is produced by Montreal-based Plats du Chef Foods. Dana McCauley, Vice President of Marketing for Plats du Chef recounts the difficult process of developing a grocery store heat-and-serve product line alongside one of the most beloved American culinary institutions.
“We work very closely with [Lagasse]. What usually happens is we propose some ideas to him, or he has an idea, and we say our machines could do it this way. We send him samples. He tastes them and gets back to us with his tweaks. He makes sure he has tasted them and everything meets his standards,” said McCauley. “Often we would send him something and he would respond and say this is good, but we need to kick this up a notch. It has to be something that will make people say, ‘Hey, this is kicked up!’”
According to McCauley, Lagasse and other chefs are being drawn to the frozen heat-and-serve marketplace, because of the increasing quality that it is possible to achieve in these products. “I think that there are a lot of reasons why chefs get involved in the grocery business. And frozen really appeals to chefs because a lot of the shelf-stable items don’t appeal to chefs’ need for fresh flavors,” said McCauley. “I think frozen is particularly appealing to chefs, because when you reheat it, it tastes like you just made it – if it was made well.”
For chefs that are actively involved in building their brand presence through media and restaurants, a high-quality prepared foods line can be another element to creating that successful brand. According to McCauley, showing up in the grocery store can be a particularly effective way for a chef like Lagasse to build his brand, because it literally brings the chef into the consumer’s home. “I think it does help them because if you’re on TV, and you have a book in someone’s library that’s awesome, but if you can be on their dinner table or their breakfast table, then all of the sudden you’re not an occasional part of someone’s life. You’re part of their life on a daily basis,” she said.
Of course building one’s brand through a heat-and-serve food line is a double-edged sword. If the consumer is unimpressed with what comes out of the package, the result could be general disenchantment with the person whose picture is on the box. “By putting a chef’s name and picture on a product, it is saying that this is something that nobody else is doing, and it’s unique, or it is just so much better than everything else out there,” said McCauley. “It better be awesome.”
According to McCauley, celebrity chef-branded heat-and-serve foods not only benefit the chef himself; these products can also have a genuinely positive impact on the retailers that carry them. This is because, when it comes to marketing many packaged (and especially, frozen) foods, there can be a disconnect with the consumer who does not have the ability to touch, smell and, often, see the product inside. If the product has the name of a chef like Emeril Lagasse on it, the customer already has an affinity for it and is more likely to be drawn to purchasing it.
“In the freezer section, [the chef’s name is] even more important,” said McCauley. “Most consumers haven’t had a 100 percent good experience with frozen food. It’s time to kick frozen food up a notch.”