By Lucas Witman
Few adults are without fond childhood memories of summertime soda pops and icy cold root beer floats. Even all grown up, it is difficult to imagine enjoying a plate of barbecue without a frosty soft drink on the side. And when hosting a group of adults, it is likely that soda is finding its way into some of your favorite summertime cocktails. Yet, despite the ubiquity of bubbly beverages, soft drinks are undoubtedly a guilty pleasure—something to be splurged on and perhaps regretted later. Craft soda companies are attempting to change this, however, introducing gourmet sparkling beverages to U.S. consumers that offer tastier, more wholesome alternatives to the grocery store 12-pack staples.
When it comes to today’s soda marketplace, more and more companies are reaching out to adult consumers with products and flavors specifically designed to appeal to their unique grown-up palates. “I think palates are changing, and people want better solutions,” said Carleton Johnson, founder of Joia All Natural Soda. “I think all of us have been trained now by Starbucks and these premium coffee houses to expect something better with more taste and more complexity.”
“We’re not diet. We’re not positioned as ‘zero’ in any way,” said Steve Hersh, President of GuS Grown-Up Soda. “We’re really more about taste. The less sweet taste is designed to appeal to a grown-up who’s outgrown Nehi or Hawaiian Punch.”
There are a number of ways that companies like Joia and GuS are designing sodas that appeal especially to adults. Perhaps the most significant change that gourmet soda companies are introducing to their products to make them more attractive to this demographic is making them slightly less sweet. GuS’ recipes involve 40 percent less sugar and calories than what goes into a traditional soda, and Joia sodas contain as little as 15 grams of sugar per serving, compared to 40 or more in mainstream sodas.
In addition to creating slightly drier beverages, gourmet soda companies are also endeavoring to make their products with more natural ingredients. “High-fructose corn syrup, high sugar and full-calorie beverages and even diet sodas are on the downslide, but people still like bubbles, especially during dining occasions,” said Hersh. “I don’t think people are saying that carbonation is bad. It’s just the ingredients in mainstream sodas that are the no-no.” For this reason, GuS chooses to eschew artificial ingredients in its products, flavoring its sodas with real juice, natural extracts and pure cane sugar.
One craft soda company that has broken new ground in producing a beverage made entirely from the natural ingredients so popular among 21st century American consumers is Spindrift. All Spindrift sodas and seltzers are made with fresh, raw, unpasteurized juice combined with sparkling water and cane sugar. “There’s a lot of natural sodas out there, but what we learned is that nobody has done anything with fresh juice,” said Shelly Haygood, Vice President of Sales and Business Development for Spindrift. “By using a fresh juice, the taste is just so much brighter, and just the idea of fresh comes through. Really, everyone who tries it is excited, because it’s something different.”
By focusing on making a product with juice, squeezed from freshly harvested, regionally grown produce, Spindrift is able to capitalize on another consumer trend, popular among modern consumers: the push for seasonality. Perhaps a first in the industry, Spindrift recently debuted a seasonal pomegranate flavor, produced from fruit harvested on a small California farm. The soda was available on the West Coast only for a short time while the pomegranates were in season.
Joia All Natural Soda has found its own unique way to appeal to modern bubbly beverage enthusiasts, creating a product line that creatively combines fruit, herb and spice flavors in ways not erstwhile seen in the soda aisle. “Our point of difference is we are a fruit, herb, spice company, so it’s grapefruit-chamomile-cardamom, blackberry-pomegranate-ginger, lime-hibiscus-clove,” said Johnson. “Because of the fruit and herb/spice combinations, they’re less sweet. It’s all natural, so they’ve just got a nice, much fresher, cleaner taste. They’re a little more complex. We talk about layers of fresh flavor.”
GuS Grown-Up Soda has taken a different approach in crafting its products, opting to appeal to adults’ nostalgic affection for classic American flavors like cola, root beer and ginger ale. “It’s enough of a broad range that we’re not trying to create really esoteric flavors that are maybe not as approachable and that you’d need to educate someone about,” said Hersh. “One doesn’t need to be educated about cola, root beer, ginger ale or lemon soda. For the most part, ours is an adult-oriented, natural twist on everyday soda flavors.”
One thing that unites Joia, GuS and Spindrift is the companies’ collective appreciation for cocktails. Each company offers a number of suggestions for how best to use its products in mixing up the perfect drink. GuS, for example, recommends combining its Meyer lemon soda with rum and mint to prepare its spin on the classic mojito: the GuS-ito. One can also mix GuS ginger ale with sake and lime to make a NaGuSake. Spindrift advocates mixing its low-calorie seltzers with vodka to create the perfect skinny cocktail. And Joia offers a diverse array of products that mix perfectly with everything from vodka to gin to rum to tequila.
With craft sodas growing increasingly popular among today’s consumers, more and more restaurants are now offering their clientele the option of these lower calorie, all-natural artisan sparkling drinks. According to Hersh, his company’s products are particularly good for pairing with food, as they are not particularly heavy on sugar and thus do not overwhelm the palate. Today, GuS sodas are available in restaurants around the country, including a number of famed American eateries such as The French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon Bakery.
Haygood similarly argues that her company’s products are a perfect addition to any restaurant menu. For her, the care that goes into crafting Spindrift products more accurately reflects the care that restaurants put into their menus. “Where we’re doing really well, and where our focus has been, is fast casual restaurants or where people eat lunch,” she said. “We go in and we see that there is incredible care taken with ingredients for salads, sandwiches, beautiful breads. And then at the end there’s a beverage that doesn’t really match. I go in and I say we make our beverages like you make your food, and there’s this instant connection.”
For gourmet soda companies, making specialty sparkling beverages is truly a craft in the most essential definition of the word. Just as innovative food companies have transformed the landscapes of beer, ice cream and chocolate, taking the products to a truly gourmet level, craft soda companies are doing the same with soda. “With craft beers and other craft types of things, people are looking for more complex flavors,” said Johnson. “You see herbs and spices going on in ice creams and crackers and all sorts of stuff. I think people’s palates are just becoming more and more complex.”
Arena Cheese’s Spring Green Colby won Best of Class at the 2014 World Championship Cheese Contest. Team Arena, led by Cheesemaker Bill Hanson, will be proud to accept the medal and blue ribbon at the awards banquet to recognize this team’s continual striving for excellence. “We are honored to be recognized as the best among so many fine cheesemakers who make Colby. We’ve been making authentic Colby cheese traditionally for over 15 years,” stated Bill Hanson, a Wisconsin cheesemaker for over 25 years. The World Championship Cheese Contest is the largest technical evaluation of cheese and butter in the world. This year, 2,615 entries from 22 countries were entered into 90 categories.
The story of Colby Cheese is one of American ingenuity and abundance of quality ingredients. In 1885, a cheesemaker by the name of Joseph P. Steinwand in the Wisconsin town of Colby was working on a cow’s milk Cheddar cheese in his creamery. He experimented by washing his curds in cold water. This slight change in the cheese making process created a new cheese that was like Cheddar but creamier, softer and with a milder, more buttery flavor…the cheese we now enjoy as Colby.
Spring Green Colby cheese, crafted in Arena, Wisc. by Arena Cheese, garnered another high honor by being re-certified for an additional year under the BRC Global Food Standards guidelines with an A rating, the highest possible, as part of the Global Food Safety initiative. ”As retailers and consumers are demanding more safety in the food we eat, Arena Cheese is proud to be working at the very highest standards and for being acknowledged for this effort,” says Cheesemaker Bill Hanson.
Arena has earned 13 national awards since 2002 and took home an award this year for Fresh Cheddar Curds in addition to the Best in Class award earned by the Spring Green Colby. In total, 257 cheese companies entered 1,794 different products for judging.
Arena Cheese is one of Wisconsin’s oldest cheese plants. This creamery is located in the Wisconsin River Valley within the lush, green rolling hills of the Spring Green area, made famous by visionary architect, Frank Lloyd Wright as well as by Arena’s delicious cheeses. Arena Cheese also makes deli horn mild Gouda, a natural hardwood Smoked Gouda and longhorn and deli horns of Colby/Jack.
The Natural Products Association (NPA), a non-profit trade organization dedicated to the natural products industry, today announced that Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., will be its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Fabricant has worked as the Director of the Division of Dietary Supplement Programs at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the past three years, and prior to that was Vice President of global government and scientific affairs for NPA, including serving as Active CEO for several months in 2009.
NPA is the largest and oldest organization representing the entire natural products industry, with more than 2,000 members in all 50 states and internationally, accounting for over 10,000 retail, manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution locations of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids.
“We couldn’t be more pleased that Dr. Fabricant will be returning to NPA. His service to this association in the past, coupled with the invaluable experience he has gathered at FDA, make him the perfect choice to lead our association in this era of growth,” said NPA President Roxanne Green. “He knows the industry as well, if not better, than anyone. NPA is committed to ensuring that the public knows what is truly natural, that our members understand the complex rules and regulations governing our industry, and that policymakers get the facts. As the foremost industry expert on natural products and dietary supplement issues, Dr. Fabricant will help us achieve those goals.”
“NPA is the leading association in the industry, and my top priority is ensuring NPA remains the premiere organization for advocacy and regulatory engagement. NPA is made up of leaders, and we are going to dedicate ourselves to strengthening that leadership position through hard work and membership growth. Now is the time to take our productivity to the next level, and that is precisely what we will do,” said Fabricant.
Fabricant has published extensively and is internationally recognized both for his regulatory and governmental public health expertise and natural products research. He is a sought after speaker, regular guest on national news programs and has testified before Congress. He was awarded the FDA Commissioners Award for his service on several different initiatives. His service at FDA required him to direct agency policy, public affairs and regulatory action regarding regulation of the $32+ billion (USD) dietary supplement industry, a commodity used by over 180 million Americans daily.
The Specialty Food Association has notified Canada Enterprises LLC, the creator of Jin+Ja, that Dragon Fruit Jin + Ja is a 2014 sofi™ Awards finalist for Outstanding Cold Beverage. There were 2,025 entries across all 30 Awards in Part 1.
Gold Winners will be determined in a special tasting by 200+ buyers at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City on Sunday, June 29 and Monday, June 30. Gold Winners will be announced that Monday, June 30, at a red-carpet ceremony hosted by noted chef Dominique Ansel.
Coming off a successful exposition of its newest gluten-free pizza at Natural Products Expo West in March, Sonoma Flatbreads by Donatos® is continuing to rise. The emerging new brand will exhibit at the Gluten & Allergen Free (GFAF) Expo in Schaumburg, Ill., on April 12-13, 2014. The Gluten & Allergen Free Expo, which attracts more than 20,000 gluten-free and allergen-free consumers each year, is hosting the first iteration of its six-city tour this year in the Chicago area. The expo features presenters who are experts in the gluten and allergen free space and is touted to be the largest gluten free exposition in the United States.
Appealing to everyday and gourmet pizza lovers alike – and to those who like to personalize their pizza – the newest offering to join the Sonoma Flatbreads line of gluten-free pizzas is Chicken and Fire Roasted Peppers. This 12-inch pizza has a net weight of 18.88 ounces and includes a special crushed red pepper spice packet.
Exhibiting at Gluten & Allergen Free Expo is timely for Jane’s Dough Foods, an independent, family-owned company celebrating more than 50 years of business, as the company is innovating the way consumers think about gluten-free pizza. “We are redefining gluten-free pizza by combining the flavors and ingredients that speak to today’s consumer with 50 years of restaurant industry know-how,” says Alan Hoover, General Manager of Jane’s Dough Foods, maker of Sonoma Flatbreads. The pizza features antibiotic-free chicken that was fed a vegetarian diet and is minimally processed. The pepper trio includes fire roasted green, red, and yellow bell peppers. A rich tomato sauce and lightly smoked provolone round out the offering. Made with “simply honest ingredients,” there are no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives in any of the Sonoma Flatbreads line. Each serving of the new pizza flavor provides 14 grams of protein. The suggested retail price is $8.99.
5W Public Relations, one of the 25 largest independent public relations firms in the U.S., has added DF MAVENS to its diverse roster of food and consumer packaged goods clients. DF MAVENS is a new and delicious dairy-free ice cream created by Malcolm Stogo, one of the world’s leading ice cream experts.
A dairy-free dessert unlike any other, DF MAVENS products provide a treat that everyone can enjoy – vegans, lactose intolerant and anyone who loves eating ice cream. Combining the finest and healthiest ingredients from around the world, DF MAVENS comes in three main varieties including soy, coconut and almond. All products are dairy-free, gluten-free, do not contain preservatives or cholesterol and are Kosher. No Sugar Added options are also available and all products come in flavors such as Madagascar Vanilla Bean, Del Lago Chocolate, Peanut Butter Fudge Mash, New Orleans Salted Praline, Mocha Almond Chip, Mint Almond Cookie and many more.
“We are thrilled to be working with the DF MAVENS team,” said Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5W Public Relations. “As a leader in the food space, 5W will utilize our team’s unparalleled work ethic and creativity to develop unique campaigns, and generate maximum exposure among consumers for this innovative brand and its exceptional dairy-free products.”
Nick Lachey, television personality, multi-platinum recording artist, loving husband and father, joined premium chocolatier, Lindt USA, to launch the fifth Lindt GOLD BUNNY Celebrity Auction and help raise awareness for autism, a cause close to his family. Lachey, who shared his personal connection to autism, joined the exclusive line-up of nearly 100 celebrities participating in this year’s auction by donating autographs. One hundred percent of proceeds from the celebrity-signed Lindt GOLD BUNNY figures will benefit the world’s leading autism research and advocacy organization, Autism Speaks. This year, Lindt will make a matching donation. Now through April 14, fans can bid on celebrity-signed porcelain Lindt GOLD BUNNY figures – from Kelly Clarkson to Sarah Jessica Parker, Tom Brady and Seth Meyers – and give back this Easter.
“It’s an honor to help launch this year’s Lindt GOLD BUNNY Celebrity Auction and support a cause very close to my family,” said Lachey. “My younger brother, Zac, was diagnosed with autism as a child, and we’re continuously inspired by his perseverance and strength. Autism affects so many families, and Lindt is offering simple ways to get involved this Easter and help give back.”
New Hope Natural Media, which produces the Natural Products Expos, has won a 2014 Internet Advertising Competition Award in the “Outstanding Website – Consumer Goods” category for its online data and insight solution NEXT Trend. NEXT Trend offers proprietary pre-shelf products data for the natural and healthy living market, future trend predictions and insights, a predictive consumer segmentation, custom research and extensive industry expertise that helps enterprise level companies quickly recognize and act on emerging, high-growth market opportunities.
Produced by the Web Marketing Association, the Internet Advertising Competition is an annual awards program that honors excellence in online advertising, recognizes the individuals and organizations responsible, and showcases the best in Internet advertising.
“The Internet Advertising Competition awards recognize outstanding achievements in online advertising. We are honored to be a winner of this respected awards competition,” said Bill Tuohig, Vice President and Product Leader of New Hope Natural Media. “This award is a testament to the hard work of our team and the creative approach we are taking to developing new kinds of data and insight solutions for the natural products marketplace.”
NEXT Trend assists consumer food and beverage companies, retailers, suppliers and investment firms identify key market drivers; predict which pre-shelf products and ingredients are poised for widespread adoption; develop targeted, localized go-to-market strategies; and minimize risk and accelerate speed to market with a fast, affordable, early product concept filter. Next Trend’s exclusive pre-shelf data includes: 30+ top trends, 40,000+ products, ingredients and attributes, 8,000+ ingredients, and 1,000+ product categories.
New Hope Natural Media’s Predictive Consumer Segmentation is also overlaid within NEXT Trend to help brands and retailers identify and target consumers who are most likely to be early adopters of natural products and the regions where those consumers are to be found, which are areas within the U.S. that offer high success potential for new products. Five key consumer segments differentiated by early adoption, lifestyles, behaviors and beliefs toward health and wellness were created from the research, redefining traditional market segmentation. The segmentation allows companies to effectively target interested, passionate consumers and provides them with concepts and marketing strategies to optimize product innovation.
NEXT Trend also provides a dynamic Product Concept Lab within the Predictive Consumer Segmentation, which allows product innovators to test new product concepts early in the new product development cycle. This early, fast product filter allows innovators to focus on high potential product concepts, which saves time and money and decreases new product development cycle times.
Last month, NEXT Trend announced that blue chip consumer packaged goods companies – TwinLab, MetaBrand, Lundberg Family Farms, General Mills Small Planet Foods, Clorox, Kellogg’s Kashi, Quinoa Corporation, and PepsiCO – are among those using the online data and insight solution to gain a competitive edge when bringing natural products to market.
To learn more or see NEXT Trend in action, visit www.nexttrend.com.
By Lucas Witman
From the royal wedding to the London Olympics and from Harry Potter to Downton Abbey, British culture has never been more popular in the United States than it is today. Americans seem positively poised to pounce on any book, movie, television show or event emblazoned with the Union Jack or featuring iconic Briticisms. Once much maligned on this side of the Atlantic, British foods have not escaped the U.K. invasion, including what has perhaps become the most sought after British food staple in the United States: cheese. Today, shoppers at any artisan cheese shop in the United States or even any grocery store specialty cheese case can choose among a wide variety of British offerings.
When it comes to bringing British cheeses to the U.S. market, companies in the United Kingdom must navigate several particular challenges. Perhaps the biggest technical challenge British cheese producers face in exporting their products to this country concerns the different standards for the use of antibiotics that are in place in the United States and Europe. In Great Britain, a farmer can use antibiotics to treat a sick animal, but that animal must then be quarantined for several months before it can be allowed back into the herd. In the United States, once treated with antibiotics, the animal must be permanently removed from the herd. Some British cheese companies have overcome this disparity in standards by raising two separate herds, one producing milk for cheeses to be consumed domestically and one producing milk for cheeses intended for export to the United States.
Beyond the technical issues facing British cheese exports, however, there are a host of other adaptations companies in the United Kingdom must make in order to effectively reach out to American consumers. The Irish Dairy Board found this out when it first began selling its Pilgrim’s Choice line, one of the most popular cheese lines in Great Britain, in the United States.
“A key headline for our business is that U.S. Consumers want to know where the product comes from,” said Conor O’Donovan, Category Sales Manager for U.K. Cheese at the Irish Dairy Board. “While Pilgrim’s Choice as a brand name has strong resonance in the U.K., it was relatively meaningless in the U.S. so it was important to define the origin of the cheese and find a name that resonates for the consumer.” By changing the name of the cheese line to Londoner and placing a Union Jack prominently on the label, the company found that it was finally able to effectively market its cheeses to U.S. consumers.
Another part of successfully marketing British specialty foods in the United States is learning about and responding to uniquely American trends. According to Nicola Turner Export Director for Kingdom British Organic Heritage Cheeses, perhaps the biggest American trend to which her company has been forced to adapt is the U.S. local products movement.
“In the U.S., there is very much a drive for local and supporting local,” said Turner. “In the U.K., this exists too but imported specialty cheeses offer something different. It’s about discovery—allowing you to experience a new place, a new culture from your own four walls.”
Turner also noted that cheese consumption in the United States is tied to wine consumption in a way that does not necessarily translate to the British marketplace. “There seems to be far more focus on wine pairings in the U.S. It does happen in the U.K., but in the U.S. you guys take it to another level,” she said. “In the U.K. … there isn’t this whole culture of matching wines. That’s something that I’ve had to get up to speed with quickly here.”
Still, despite a variety of cultural differences separating U.S. and U.K. consumers, British cheese companies have found that when it comes to the consumer flavor palate, there is relatively little difference between the two countries. “What we’ve found is that flavor profiles that develop in the U.K. are a good benchmark of what’s coming to the U.S.,” said O’Donovan. “We find that whatever flavor profile is becoming big in the U.K., generally America will follow. That’s been our experience,” said O’Donovan.
Richard Newton-Jones, Commercial Director for Welsh cheesemaker Snowdonia Cheese Company echoes O’Donovan’s observations, arguing that as Americans taste his company’s cheeses, the varieties and flavors that they most respond to are the same varieties and flavors that are the company’s biggest sellers in Great Britain. Although not yet commercially available in the United States, Snowdonia is planning to introduce its cheeses to this market in the near future, and Newton-Jones says that it will make no changes to the product in order to appeal to American palates.
When it comes to cheeses native to the British Isles, there are several products that are historically synonymous with this nation. Stilton, for example, is a popular bleu cheese linked to the British counties of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Caerphilly is one of the most popular Welsh cheeses, a mild, crumbly cow’s milk cheese with a pleasant tang. And Wensleydale is one of the most popular cheeses throughout Britain, often found blended with cranberries or apples.
However, the undisputed king of British cheeses is Cheddar. “The cheese market and the specialty cheese market is very competitive. There are hundreds of cheeses here,” said Turner. “Cheddar is our first offering, because everyone likes a good cheddar.”
Cheddar cheese represents British culinary heritage perhaps more than any other food. The cheese was originally made in and is named for the village of Cheddar in the southwestern corner of the country. Historically, the cheese was aged in the area’s many caves. Cheddar cheese benefited from the region’s unique climate, and the abundant grassy landscape that provides almost all of the diet for the area’s cows.
There are a number of things that make authentic British cheddars a much sought after cheese treat throughout the world. “British cheddar offers a discovery of an area that is very much well known for the taste of its cheese. You’ll have a different Cheddar experience,” said Turner.
“It is a different flavor profile, and the whole make process is different,” said Newton-Jones. “Basically the starter cultures which are used in these products are different from American cheddars. Also it’s different because the climate is different. For Snowdonia, we have a very high rainfall. The dairy herds in North Wales are grassfed herds. So we don’t have very high yielding herds … The result of that is that you get a higher level of butterfat and protein in the milk. So that allows us to produce a very high quality cheese as well.”
In explaining what makes British Cheddar so special, O’Donovan offered a British saying, popular among the country’s cheesemakers: “You have the grass in the cow’s tail,” he said. “What it means is that literally the cow’s tail is in the grass. Therefore you have the real grassy flavor.”
For Turner, bringing her company’s cheese to American consumers is about giving them an opportunity to figuratively travel to a new place. Regardless of the popularity of local foods in this country, when it comes to cheese, she believes there will always be a place in the U.S. consumer landscape for imported products that offer a taste of a particular place in the world.
“It’s unique, and it’s a discovery, and I think that’s what consumers are saying,” said Turner. “When it comes to specialty cheese, it gives them a way of discovering new things. You can support local, but it adds a little more spice by trying different things. It’s a bit like traveling the world without going anywhere.”
Emmi Roth USA will be a national partner and the official specialty cheese sponsor at four of Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation® events, including the upcoming Taste of the Nation Houston event on April 6.
At Taste of the Nation events, guests will have the opportunity to sample a range of imported cheeses from Switzerland, such as Kaltbach Cave-aged Le Gruyère AOP, Kaltbach Cave-aged Emmentaler AOC, SwissArt and Appenzeller, along with award-winning selections from Wisconsin, including Grand Cru® Reserve, Buttermilk Blue®, GranQueso®, Horseradish Havarti, and the recently introduced 3 Chile Pepper Gouda.
Every year, Taste of the Nation events bring together the country’s best chefs, sommeliers and mixologists to raise money for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign, which is ending childhood hunger in America by connecting kids in need to the healthy food they need, every day. Held in more than 30 cities across the nation, guests of Taste of the Nation can sip and sample gourmet creations from each city’s premier culinary talent and participate in unique culinary, travel and lifestyle auctions – all while raising funds to make No Kid Hungry a reality. Since 1988, Taste of the Nation has raised more than $85 million.
“We are proud to sponsor Taste of the Nation events and continue to serve as proud partners of the No Kid Hungry campaign this year,” said Linda Duwve, Vice President of Sales at Emmi Roth USA. “We look forward to sharing our domestic and international award-winning cheeses with food lovers across the country for a great cause.”
Taste of the Nation Houston will be held April 6, 2014 at the Houstonian Hotel Club & Spa. Emmi Roth will also sponsor Taste of the Nation events in New York City on April 28, Minneapolis on June 23 and Chicago on August 13.
In addition to sponsoring the events, Emmi Roth USA will donate $1 to the No Kid Hungry campaign for each Roth Signature Cheese Board Kit sold in 2014. For more information on the Cheese Board Kit, visit www.emmirothfoodservice.com.