Affinity Beverage Group, Inc., a publicly traded company, announced that it has acquired a majority interest in Village Tea Company Distribution, Inc. Village Tea, headquartered in National Harbor, Maryland, is the owner of the Village Tea Company brand of premium loose leaf teas and tea accessories. Village Tea Company sources high-quality, unique teas that are blended to create distinct flavor combinations which are packaged in a variety of creative and earth-friendly ways for wholesale and retail sales. The brand has been sold in several major retailers in North America including Vitamin Shoppe®, Whole Foods® Markets, Winners®, HomeSense®, Akins/Chamberlin® Natural Foods Markets and many other independent specialty and grocery store retailers. Village Tea Company products are also available through e-commerce retailers such as Amazon, the company’s own website, www.villageteaco.com and other online retailers. Village Tea Company also recently acquired distribution rights for Pura Organic Agave sweeteners, which will be available at select U.S. retailers in the coming weeks.
Affinity CEO Janon Costley will remain in his role as CEO of Village Tea Company Distribution, Inc., while Affinity advisory board member and Village Tea Company founder, Martin Ekechukwu will continue in his role as Brand Manager and President. “Acquiring Village Tea Company was at the forefront of our thought process when we decided to build a health and wellness lifestyle brand building and acquisition platform with Affinity Beverage Group. We have learned some important lessons over the past couple of years while trying to find the proper platform to grow Village Tea Company, so it was extremely important to us that we put the company into the best situation that would allow us to have full control of our strategic growth strategy that will enable us to maximize the tremendous potential of the brand and its distribution platform. We feel that Village Tea Company is poised for exponential growth over the course of the next several years, and Affinity gives us the best opportunity to fulfill those expectations,” Costley said.
With the increased emphasis on health and wellness in the U.S. tea market, the $6 billion global tea industry has seen exponential growth over the past five years with the ever-increasing popularity of gourmet and boutique tea brands and retail outlets accounting for nearly 35 percent of the global tea market, the Village Tea Company is properly positioned for exponential growth over the course of the next several years. Over the past year, Village Tea Company has created a platform that will enable it to increase its sales footprint in existing channels of distribution in health and wellness specialty and grocery stores and e-commerce but also to increase its presence in mainstream grocery, clubs, mass and drug store chains as well as into hospitality, food service and restaurants.
Village Tea Company is no longer just about tea, as it is also using its unique positioning in the marketplace to create a distribution platform to introduce other complementary health and wellness lifestyle brands and products. As it looks toward the future, the company will continue to seek opportunities to leverage its product development team and distribution experience as well as the resources of its trade partners to explore various brand extension opportunities into new categories such as tea accessories, K-cups, various tea based products, retail, co-branded tea infused nutritional beverages and strategic distribution opportunities.
By Lorrie Baumann
Sweet Earth Natural Foods, which makes award winning, all natural plant-based foods, is on a mission to persuade more Americans that plant-based foods can be an affordable, convenient and delicious way to eat less meat. “Our food is plant based, but not just for vegetarians and vegans – everyone wants to eat more vegetables and whole grains,” said Sweet Earth Natural Foods CEO Kelly Swette. “We want mainstream customers who are trying to eat less meat because they recognize it has a negative effect on their health and the environment. Plant-based foods are simply more sustainable.”
Sweet Earth offers a range of heat-and-eat products made with plant-based meat alternatives that consumers will recognize as options for multiple day parts, starting with breakfast. They include burritos, veggie burgers, seed based energy bars and the company’s newest products, Farmstand Flaxbread Breakfast Sandwiches, which respond to the breakfast-food-all-day trend that fast food restaurants are embracing enthusiastically. “It’s nice for people to have a delicious portable option that doesn’t require a spoon. And, that portability is what makes breakfast all day work,” Swette said.
“Breakfast sandwiches are also for people who want comfort convenient foods without compromising flavor,” she added. “We see that as one of the areas where we have been particularly innovative.”
The Farmstead Flaxbread Breakfast Sandwiches come in the kind of range you’d expect from a line of breakfast sandwiches, except that a plant-based meat alternative has replaced the sausage, bacon or ham you’d find in a conventional breakfast sandwich. One variety comes with cage free eggs, sharp cheddar and meatless Benevolent Bacon™ on a bun made with whole wheat, oat bran and flaxseed. This variety provides 14.5 grams of whole grains, 22 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Other varieties are similar, and there’s even a vegan version in which meatless Harmless Ham™, a spicy chickpea patty and a sun-dried tomato spread are sandwiched on the bun. Each variety is packaged as a two-pack that retails for $4.49. Swette notes, “We have a version that’s vegan, but we also have egg sandwiches too. We’ve chosen mainstream flavors like ham and Swiss, bacon and Cheddar that people love. We know that people are interested in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, but we also think they are increasingly looking for clean proteins, free of preservatives, hormones and antibiotics.”
Sweet Earth’s burrito line also hits the mark on portability and convenience. There’s a line that’s designed around breakfast flavors and a range that’s based on food truck-type fusions of international flavors. The Peruvian Burrito, for instance, is filled with black beans, red quinoa, sweet potato, goat cheese, roasted corn and spirulina, while the Santa Cruz is filled with a classic Southwest blend of pinto beans, Monterey Jack cheese, oregano and a tangy salsa.
Sweet Earth’s products are, in general, not for the consumer who’s avoiding gluten. “That really isn’t our point of view,” Swette said. “We are more focused on what we put into the product: real vegetables, whole grains, and the natural consequences are more fiber, vitamins and inherently healthy food.”
Sweet Earth Natural Foods products are distributed by UNFI and are available in Whole Foods, Target, Kroger and other retailers nationwide.
Rogue Creamery is a 2016 Good Food Awards finalist for Flora Nelle and Rogue River Blue cheeses. The Good Food Awards represents truly good food and honors companies who have a reputation for making tasty, authentic and socially responsible products. The competition featured 1,937 entries and showcased regional flavors from across the USA. Rogue Creamery distinguished itself, receiving top scores from the 215 judges and passing a rigorous vetting to confirm that it met the Good Food Awards standards; these standards include environmentally sound agricultural practices, good animal husbandry, transparency, and responsible supply chain relationships.
Flora Nelle: This organic, natural- rinded, blue is set with calf rennet, has a crumbly, yet creamy texture, and combines savory, tropical, and sweet cream flavors. The result is a robust and piquant blue with subtle hints of blueberry and a rind that enhances the spicy-nutty and intensely blue flavors that truly capture the Rogue Valley Terroir.
Rogue River Blue: Made annually, starting on the autumnal equinox, this cheese is produced at the turn of the season and is made with richer, late-season milk. This blue, finished with pear-brandy soaked grape leaves, has a decidedly complex flavor that reflects the unique seasonal influences of the Rogue River Valley.
Rogue Creamery is joined by two other Oregon Cheese Guild cheesemakers: Ancient Heritage Dairy and Goldin Artisan Goat Cheese, who have also been chosen as Finalists and are helping Oregon lead the way toward creating a vibrant, delicious and sustainable food system.
The Merman Law Firm in Houston, Texas is investigating cases related to the Class I of beef products from All American Meats, Inc. issued after the United States Department of Agriculture discovered that 167,427 pounds of their products containing ground beef could be contaminated with Escherichia Coli (E. coli) O157: H7. Class I recalls are classified as recalls where a health hazard exists that is likely to cause adverse health consequences or death among those who use a particular product.
The recall, which announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service on October 30th, was prompted after a routine round of testing revealed that certain beef products, which could be traced back to All American Meats, Inc., were potentially contaminated with this form of bacteria. The contaminated products produced just two weeks earlier and shipped to various retail locations throughout the country.
E. coli is a type of naturally-occurring bacteria found in both the intestines of animals and humans, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When this bacteria found outside of the intestinal tract, however, it can cause those exposed to it to become very ill. For example, depending on the particular strain of E. coli, this bacteria can cause urinary tract infections, diarrhea, respiratory complications, and other illness that in some cases, can be fatal.
One common health problem caused by exposure to E. coli known is a hemolytic uremic syndrome. While people of any age can experience adverse symptoms from this condition, it typically results in the most hazardous complications in children and older adults. A person with HUS may bruise easily, find that his or her urine output decreases and have an unusually pale appearance.
Although the contaminated beef from this recent recall has the potential to harm many throughout the country, no confirmed reports of adverse reactions to the contaminated beef have been made at this point. However, FSIS as well as All American Meats, Inc., are concerned that consumers may still have some of this contaminated meat in their freezers. Both organizations strongly encourage all consumers who might have purchased this contaminated beef to refrain from consuming it and either throw it away or return it to the location where they bought it.
Serving five generations of Washingtonians, Wagshal’s Family of Fine Foods is thrilled to announce the expansion of its original Massachusetts Avenue flagship location and the opening of its full service restaurant. By adjoining to a neighboring space at the Spring Valley shopping center, the legendary delicatessen has enlarged its square footage from 1650 to 2800 square feet, and has opened a full service family style dining area.
The newly added addition conveys the delicatessen’s original 1930s architecture from top to bottom including a replication of its original diamond texture ceiling and restoration of original hardwood flooring from 1938. The expansion provides customers more room to shop for a greater selection of specialty food items and provides an additional counter for ordering the freshly prepared carry-out foods that Wagshal’s is renown for serving.
And now, there is seating. The full service restaurant can be accessed through the historic delicatessen as well as from the Yuma Street side entrance. A four season retractable glass enclosure was used to create the dining space which also provides customers al fresco dining during beautiful weather.
Customers may continue to carry-out prepared food or may now choose to sit down and order off the new restaurant’s menu. Now there is a greater selection items available for dine in or carry-out. New at Wagshal’s:
Since 1990, Wagshal’s has been in the caring hands of Bill Fuchs and his family.This year marks Wagshal’s 90th anniversary. To honor this milestone, Fuchs says, “We have brought Wagshal’s back to its original roots of being a community gathering spot like it once was; that was before Mr. Wagshal got rid of the restaurant’s seating.” Fuchs tells a quick story of history behind Washington’s beloved deli, stating, “Years ago, Sam Wagshal got rid of the seats one day because he could not find reliable help.”
Today, at Wagshal’s there are some very long time employees, including Marie Duval, who just celebrated 40 years with the company. Fuchs remarks, “We have been very fortunate to have people like Maria as part of the Wagshal’s family helping to make Wagshal’s what it is today, and we have been very fortunate to have served so many customers in our community over the years.”
Now Wagshal’s can provide the community with even more. Proudly, Fuchs adds, “After all these years, Wagshal’s customers can sit and gather once again.”
Wagshal’s original founder, Sam Wagshal, opened his doors in 1925 to provide quality sandwiches to his community. Unbeknownst to the restaurateur, 90 years later his namesake delicatessen would not only remain intact, still serving quality sandwiches to the local community, but would become a Washington, D.C. landmark steeped in rich history, while still family owned and operated. Fuchs bought the business from Sam’s son Ben and his wife Lilian with one promise; that he would keep the delicatessen true to its roots and keep the doors open to provide quality food for the neighborhood. Fuchs has kept his word, not only keeping Wagshal’s entrenched within the community, but has also extended the reach of the Wagshal’s brand to a national level with its award winning imports division’s products that are receiving national recognition.
The love of food and neighborhood are the common denominators behind Bill Fuchs and his vision for his rapidly expanding Spring Valley food empire. Under his leadership, today the Wagshal’s Family of Fine Foods company portfolio includes the original historic delicatessen with its recent expansion and new restaurant, the newly opened Pittmasters Back Ally BBQ, Wagshal’s On New Mexico, Wagshal’s Imports, Wagshal’s Old World Market & Butcher Shop, Wagshal’s Bakery, Spring Valley Catering, Spring Valley Frozen Meals and other off-premise food outlets.
Blue Sky Family Farms, presented by Egg Innovations, the nation’s largest producer of 100 percent free range and pasture raised eggs, announced the arrival of Blue Sky Family Farms eggs to the Whole Foods Market Mid-Atlantic Division. The three new offerings of Blue Sky Family Farms’ Free Range Non-GMO Brown, Organic and Pasture Raised Organic eggs are available in Whole Foods Market stores in Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey (Marlton, Princeton and Cherry Hill),Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington D.C.
Blue Sky Family Farms’ eggs are currently available at more than 550 finer grocery and natural stores throughout the Midwest. The expansion into Whole Foods Market Mid-Atlantic Division represents the more than 100 years of success of the family-owned operation. Egg Innovations’ 2015 growth includes completing 33 new barns, a new $5 million organic, non-GMO feed mill, and construction on a new processing plant that allows for future expansions in 2016 and beyond.
“We’re excited to have Blue Sky Family Farms in Whole Foods Market in the Mid-Atlantic area to meet the demand for better eggs and more ethical treatment of chickens,” said John Brunnquell, Founder and President of Egg Innovations and Blue Sky Family Farms. “For more than 25 years, Egg Innovations has provided enhanced value specialty eggs, and we are eager to expand to this new area with a great partner in Whole Foods Market.”
With its tag line, “Ethical Eggs for the Humane Race,” Blue Sky Family Farms holds to the highest Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) “Certified Humane” standards for free range and pasture raised eggs.
Back to Nature Foods Company has appointed Daniel Anglemyer as Chief Marketing Officer, effective November 2015. In this role, Anglemyer will be responsible for the strategic development, planning and execution of Back to Nature and SnackWell’s marketing initiatives. Under his leadership, Back to Nature Foods Company’s marketing, research and development, and quality assurance departments will work collaboratively to strengthen both the Back to Nature and SnackWell’s brands and ensure they are well-positioned to experience continued growth as the company expands product offerings and product categories.
Anglemyer brings nearly 20 years of brand and marketing experience to his new role at Back to Nature Foods Company. Prior to joining the company, Anglemyer was Director of Sales Planning and Strategy at Mondelez International’s Nabisco Snacks Division. In this role he institutionalized commercial communication processes throughout North America benefiting Nabisco’s new product launches. He also directed all facets of Mondelez’s portfolio of biscuit brands in channels and multipacks.
“Dan is a seasoned marketing executive whose leadership skills, expertise and proven track record will play a key role in accelerating our marketing efforts and helping us continue to grow the Back to Nature brand,” said Vincent Fantegrossi, President and Chief Executive Officer, Back to Nature Foods Company.
Anglemyer has been brand manager and brand director for numerous cookie and cracker brands, including Back to Nature from 2008 through 2010. During this time, he engineered a strategic, non-traditional revitalization of the Back to Nature brand.
“I am super excited to join Back to Nature and look forward to creating a world-class brand which disrupts conventional food companies by meeting evolving consumer needs better, faster, and more completely than anyone in the marketplace,” Anglemyer said. “A small group that’s committed can do amazing things, and that can be seen from the work the present team has done.”
Meijer is once again announcing aggressive pricing on turkeys that are expected to lead the Midwest in low-price Thanksgiving turkeys.
“A Thanksgiving meal isn’t complete without the turkey, and with these great prices, Meijer wants to ensure that our customers can provide their families with the best holiday experience,” said Jerry Suter, Vice President of Meat and Seafood. “Not only is Meijer able to deliver a delicious meal to our customers, but we’re able to do so at a tremendous value.”
For the second consecutive year, when a Meijer customer spends $20, their purchase of any fresh or frozen turkey – regardless of brand or size – will be 50 percent off. The discount on frozen turkeys is going on now through Thanksgiving Day, while the discount on fresh turkeys will begin Nov. 15 and run through Thanksgiving Day.
Since 1992, Partners, A Tasteful Choice Company, has been making wholesome and delicious crackers made exclusively with high quality ingredients. One of the company’s top selling lines is Partners Artisan Hors D’Oeuvre Crackers. Approximately 2 inches by 3 inches in size, these hearty crisp crackers are excellent for pairing with toppings and spreads and are often used when creating elegant party platters.
Partners Artisan Hors D’Oeuvre Crackers are available in a variety of flavors, including customer favorites Roasted Garlic & Rosemary and Olive Oil & Sea Salt and the most recent addition to the line, Everything & More.
The Roasted Garlic & Rosemary crackers combine freshly roasted garlic, made by hand at Partners, with a sprinkle of rosemary to create the mild garlic taste that customers crave. Try pairing these crackers with goat cheese and fig jam for a delectable flavor combination.
The Olive Oil & Sea Salt crackers are seasoned with the perfect amount of sea salt, making them an excellent platform for every topping, from hummus to the most extravagant cheeses.
The Everything & More crackers consist of a touch of olive oil, a blend of organic whole grains: stone ground wheat, dark rye, sprouted wheat, amaranth, and quinoa; six different types of seeds: chia, poppy, white sesame, black sesame, flax, and caraway; along with freshly roasted garlic and onion. These crackers truly are Everything & More!
Partners Artisan Hors D’Oeuvre Crackers are packaged in cellophane trays in approximately five ounce cartons, six cartons per case. The cartons feature two front facing sides, allowing for both vertical or horizontal display. As with all Partners products, these hearty crackers are non-GMO, certified kosher, and do not contain any artificial flavorings or preservatives.
By Carlos Velasquez
The judges at this year’s sofi Awards were apparently very impressed by the beef products offered for judging by Lone Mountain Wagyu LLC, awarding the company a sofi and two Finalist statues at the 2015 Summer Fancy Food Show. Lone Mountain Wagyu beef products are made from 100 percent fullblood wagyu beef. Wagyu refers the breed of Japanese cattle that are genetically predisposed to intense marbling and to a high percentage of unsaturated fat.
The cattle that produce the beef in the Lone Mountain Wagyu products are raised on a New Mexico ranch owned by Robert Estrin and his wife Mary Lloyd Estrin. The ranch has been in Mary’s family since her parents bought it in 1965. After they passed away, Robert and Mary took over the ranch, which was running a conventional Angus herd. But after Robert tasted some Wagyu beef at a restaurant, he decided to convert the herd to wagyu operation. “He just fell in love and decided that was the direction to take the ranch,” said Nellie Stadtherr, Marketing Specialist for Lone Mountain Wagyu.
He traveled to Japan to learn more about wagyu cattle and how they are bred and managed in Japan. By 2008, Estrin had converted the ranch into a 100 percent wagyu operation. “His passion for authentic wagyu beef has supported the value of the brand, which is around raising the cattle in the most humane and traditional methods to produce the best quality beef possible,” Stadtherr said.
The cattle are fed a mixture of grasses supplemented with grain feed, which is critical to develop the marbling that wagyu is so famous for. At about 1 year of age, they’re transferred to a Certified Humane feedlot where they’re fed a blend of grains specifically developed for wagyu beef until they’re harvested at 28 to 32 months. The long stay at the feedlot allows the cattle to gain weight in a natural, slow process, according to Stadtherr. “They’re not rushed to gain weight to slaughter, so they develop a more delicate marbling.”
In 2010 the ranch began offering its products direct to consumers on its website and started a restaurant program as well. A product line sold through specialty meat shops and gourmet retailers was launched in January 2015 at the Winter Fancy Food Show with the Lone Mountain Wagyu 100% Fullblood Wagyu Beef Summer Sausage that won a sofi Award at this summer’s Fancy Food Show along with the 100% Fullblood Wagyu Beef Sausage Links and 100% Fullblood Wagyu Beef Jerky that were named sofi Finalists this year. Both sausages are the first and only 100 percent fullblood wagyu sausages on the market, Stadtherr said. The products appeal not just to the very affluent but also to other consumers who appreciate the gourmet quality of the product or who prefer to eat all-natural humanely raised beef that they can be sure contains no antibiotics and no hormones, she added.