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Ralphs Cheese Expert Receives the American Cheese Society’s Certified Cheese Professional Credential

Ralphs Grocery Company is proud to announce that its associate Nicki Smock has been named a Certified Cheese Professionals™ by the American Cheese Society.

Smock, a Ralphs Cheese Specialist and resident of Long Beach, is part of an elite group of 187 individuals from 51 different companies who passed the 4th annual ACS Certified Cheese Professional® Exam. The exam was held on July 29 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Smock is the first Ralphs associate to earn the ASC’s Certified Cheese Professional designation.

The ACS Certified Cheese Professional Exam is the first and only exam of its kind. It was established by the American Cheese Society to promote the large and comprehensive world of cheeses and encourage food industry professionals to master the knowledge.

“We are proud of Nicki for dedicating herself to her craft and sharing her passion for cheese with our customers,” said Donna Giordano, President of Ralphs. “Her designation as a Certified Cheese Professional™ is an inspiration to Ralphs’ cheese masters who take pride in delighting their customers.”

Passing the American Cheese Society’s CCP exam is no small feat. Before being allowed to sit for the exam, cheese people must have 4,000 hours of work and/or formal education in the cheese-field under their belt.

“It’s a great honor to be the first Ralphs associate to complete the exam and become a Certified Cheese Professional,” said Smock. “I look forward to using my certification, knowledge and experience to train our Ralphs cheese masters to better serve our customers.”

As a Ralphs Cheese Specialist, Smock is responsible for the overseeing the operation of the 22 Murray’s Cheese Shops that are located inside Ralphs stores. Smock managed Ralphs’ first Murray’s Cheese Shop, which opened inside its Marina Pacifica store in Long Beach in 2013. She joined Ralphs in 2006 as a Deli Department Clerk.

In recognition of becoming a Certified Cheese Professional, Smock will receive an official lapel pin, embroidered patch, certificate and the right to use the title ACS Certified Cheese Professional™. As an ACS Certified Cheese Professional, Smock will be required to demonstrate continued active participation within the cheese industry and continued professional development to maintain this credential, and will be required to recertify every three years.

Through an exclusive partnership with New York City’s Murray’s Cheese, Ralphs stores feature 22 Murray’s Cheese Shops in its stores from San Diego to Santa Barbara. Featuring more than 175 cheeses and specialty goods from all over the world, the Murray’s Cheese Shops are staffed by Ralphs associates who have been trained by Murray’s experts in New York.

The Albertsons Companies Begins Fall Season Fundraiser to Combat Childhood Hunger

The Albertsons Companies and its store brands, in partnership with the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), will join together for an in-store campaign featuring Academy and Emmy Award®-nominated actress Viola Davis to benefit Hunger Is, a charitable program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation. Hunger Is raises awareness and funds to fight childhood hunger in America. The Albertsons Companies store brands include Albertsons, Safeway, Amigos, Star Market, Pavilions, Tom Thumb, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, ACME Markets, Randalls, Carrs, Market Street, United Supermarkets, Vons and Super Saver.

Taking place in September, this effort will be the first fall season in-store campaign to support Hunger Is, enabling shoppers to contribute to solving a problem that affects one in five children in America. The Hunger Is print public service ad featuring Davis, which appears year-round in an array of media outlets, will be adapted for point-of-sale displays and other materials to be featured in select stores during the in-store campaign.

Shoppers across the country will be able to support this important cause at 2,200 locations in 33 states. In addition to individual shoppers’ contributions, sales of select products from participating vendors will generate donations to Hunger Is, up to $1 million. Vendors include Marie Callendar’s, Healthy Choice, Bertolli, P.F. Chang’s, Campbell’s, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, Unilever and Albertsons’ private label brands, Organics and Open Nature.

To date, Hunger Is has raised over $10 million for programs connecting hungry children to healthy food. Today, Hunger Is continues to encourage individuals and communities to come together in an effort to improve access to school breakfasts, out-of-school and summer food programs, increase access to healthy foods and develop a lasting solution to childhood hunger.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the incredible success we have had with Hunger Is. The support of our communities and our neighbors has made a tangible impact in our fight to eradicate childhood hunger in this country,” stated Davis. “I am continually grateful to represent Hunger Is in its work to change lives and put an end to a problem that has gone on for far too long.”

Funds raised through the initiative will go toward programs focused on fighting childhood hunger and improving health-related outcomes for hungry children and their families. In addition to supporting programs that connect hungry children to healthy food, Hunger Is will continue its focus on determining the best methods to link clients to resources that can help prevent food insecurity on a long-term basis.

“We are so grateful to have Viola Davis continue her active role in our shared mission to end childhood hunger in America,” said Christy Duncan Anderson, Director of Community Relations for the Albertson Companies. “We cannot begin to express the level of gratitude we have for our customers in communities across the country. With the generous support of our vendors offering a wide array of participating products, we are able to expand this in-store fundraising campaign even further to make a larger impact. Their generous support throughout this campaign shows just how much this issue affects each and every one of us. We, along with our partners at the Entertainment Industry Foundation, stand with Viola as we share our goal of providing a brighter future for our youth.”

Since 2014, Hunger Is has awarded grants on a national scale, which includes impact grants to organizations to evaluate “best practices” that might be implemented widely to help expand meal programs, increase access to nutritious food for families in need and improve state/local policies related to public nutrition programs for children. These supported programs will be evaluated to determine ongoing grant programs to make a sustainable impact on childhood hunger.

Hunger Is grant recipients were selected with the help of the Hunger Is Advisory Committee (HIAC), comprised of leaders from the most respected hunger advocacy organizations in the U.S., including the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Drexel University, Feeding America, Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), Growing Power, New York City Coalition Against Hunger, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, and WhyHunger. The HIAC provides guidance in defining and addressing needs and makes funding recommendations for approval by the Albertsons Companies stores and EIF Boards of Directors.

“We are honored to continue to pursue our goal of ending childhood hunger alongside the Albertsons Companies stores and our passionate Ambassador Viola Davis, whose personal experience struggling with hunger not only moves us all but provide a powerful voice for the children who struggle with hunger on a daily basis,” said Lisa Paulsen, EIF President and CEO. “Together we will continue helping families across the nation as we move toward a solution.”

For more information about childhood hunger, along with simple ways for individuals to get involved and donate, visit For information about the fall campaign and participating brands, go to

Launch of

Maureen Downey, named the “Sherlock Holmes of Wine” by Bloomberg and the “Wine Detective” by SF Weeklyannounces the official launch of, the first of its kind resource for vendors, buyers and producers of fine wine. Founder Maureen Downey was instrumental in solving the now notorious case of the Kurniawan wine counterfeits, which were estimated to have brought $130 million dollars of fake wine to auction and international markets. When Thomas Keller’s the French Laundry had $300,000 of wine stolen from their collection last December, Downey was immediately consulted by the FBI to help them crack the case. Bloomberg Business says, “For the past 10 years she has been on a one-woman crusade to rid the wine industry of counterfeit and stolen wine.”

The aim of is to raise awareness of wine fraud and counterfeiting issues in the wine trade and among consumers, and to educate its members on the core principles of wine authentication. The mission of the site is to make it difficult for wine fraudsters to thrive by raising awareness and knowledge, as well as increasing due diligence. The ultimate goal is to end wine counterfeiting and fraud, creating a more transparent and authentic global wine marketplace. offers a subscription service that provides education and advocacy for wine collectors, producers and vendors through the largest anti-counterfeiting resource in the world. The site reports information about the latest breaking counterfeit scandals, and current wine fraud events and trends seen by Downey and her global team of experts.

The site lists vendor members who are known to do their due diligence when it comes to selling wine in the global marketplace and reports news related to wine production, packaging, branding, distributing, storing, selling, and collecting. In The Business and Vendor sections, members can display the Member Badge on their own websites and wherever they market or sell their wines to demonstrate to colleagues and clients that they are dedicated to becoming educated about and stamping out wine fraud and wine counterfeiting. It is a one-stop-shop for all things related to wine fraud and counterfeiting, and it is helping the wine industry become more accountable to its buyers.

Fork in the Road Foods Launches Gourmet Sausage Line at Whole Foods Market

Most Whole Foods regions will begin offering Fork in the Road Food’s Non-GMO Project verified gourmet sausages and hot dogs in early September. The line includes six chicken and heirloom pork varieties.

“We are continually striving to improve our standards and take a better path,” said Phil Gatto, CEO of Fork in the Road. “In speaking with our customers and farmers over the past few years, we knew that going non-GMO would be a step in the right direction. We are happy to offer consumers a product that is free of genetically modified organisms and meets our guidelines for animal welfare and quality.”

Fork in the Road received Non-GMO Project verification after a rigorous testing process to ensure all animal feed and product ingredients, as well as their manufacturing plant, met the Non-GMO Project Standard. As with all Fork in the Road products, the sausages are produced from meat raised without the use of antibiotics and added hormones, and is animal welfare certified under the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) 5-Step Program. Products contain no synthetic nitrates or nitrites, or artificial ingredients and preservatives.

“Whole Foods Market is excited to introduce Fork in the Road’s new line of sausages and hot dogs from non-GMO-fed chicken and pigs,” said Becky FaudreeWhole Foods Market Global Senior Meat Coordinator. “We are proud of this exclusive partnership where we have both worked hard to bring our customers a new and unique product in the meat space.”

Fork in the Road’s new non-GMO sausage line includes:

  • Vermont Maple Syrup Breakfast Sausage
  • Bratwurst Made With Heirloom Pork
  • Asian Style Pork Sausage with Ginger and Scallions
  • Fire Roasted Fuji Apple Chicken Sausage
  • Spicy Heirloom Pepper Chicken Sausage
  • Honest Dogs™ Uncured Chicken Hot Dogs

For more information, visit

John Kelly Chocolates Introduces New Artisan Chocolate Bars

Hollywood chocolatier John Kelly Chocolates has just launched new Artisan Chocolate Bars. Developed with acute attention to detail, the new Artisan Chocolate Bars are beautifully packaged, made with all-natural and fair trade ingredients and carefully hand-crafted to provide the highest quality and most delicious taste.

John Kelly newThese bars come in six exceptional flavors including:

  • Dark Chocolate with Fleur de Sel Sea Salt
  • Dark Chocolate with Roasted Almonds & Pink Himalayan Salt
  • Dark Chocolate EspressoDark Chocolate with Habanero & Jalapeño Chile
  • Milk Chocolate with Roasted Almonds & French Grey Sea Salt
  • Milk Chocolate with Roasted Hazelnuts & Mediterranean Sea Salt. 


Both the dark chocolate (73 percent cacao) and milk chocolate (41 percent cacao) bars are non-GMO, and soy and gluten-free. Suggested retail price is $7.50 each.

John Kelly Chocolates Artisan Chocolate Bars are available for purchase at select national retailers such as Neiman Marcus and regional retailers such as Central Market in addition to John Kelly boutique stores in Hollywood and Santa Monica. Online purchases can be made at

Haggen Files Suit Against Albertsons

Haggen, the West Coast regional grocer, today announced that the company has filed a lawsuit against Albertsons LLC and Albertsons Holdings LLC (“Albertsons”) seeking more than $1 billion in damages.

The complaint, which was filed today in United States District Court for the District of Delaware, alleged that following Haggen’s December 2014 purchase of 146 Albertsons and Safeway stores, Albertsons engaged in “coordinated and systematic efforts to eliminate competition and Haggen as a viable competitor in over 130 local grocery markets in five states,” and made false representations to both Haggen and the Federal Trade Commission about Albertsons’ commitment to a seamless transformation of the stores into viable competitors under the Haggen banner.

Albertsons sought out Haggen in order to convince the FTC that Haggen would be a new competitor in local markets, which enabled Albertsons to gain the FTC’s approval of a merger between Albertsons and Safeway—a merger that created “one of the largest food retailers in the United States, with over 2,200 stores and $61 billion in combined sales,” according to the complaint. Despite the FTC’s orders and Albertsons’ agreement to abide by all conditions of the sale, the complaint alleges, Albertsons engaged in an illegal campaign against Haggen including “premeditated acts of unfair and anti-competitive conduct that were calculated to circumvent Albertsons obligations under federal antitrust laws, FTC orders, and contractual commitments to Haggen, all of which were intended to prevent and delay the successful entry of Haggen (or any other viable competitor) into local grocery markets that Albertsons now dominates.”

“During the transfer process, Albertsons launched its plan to gain market power and/or monopoly power, acting in a manner that was designed to (and did) hamstring Haggen’s ability to successfully operate the Stores after taking ownership,” according to the complaint.  As a result, despite Haggen’s plans to successfully operate and expand upon the acquired stores, Haggen was “forced to close 26 of the Stores that it newly acquired as a part of the Albertsons’ divestiture, and faces the potential closure of additional stores,” the complaint said. “Albertson’s anti-competitive actions critically damaged the operations, customer service, brand goodwill and profitability of the divested stores from the outset,” the complaint alleged, “[and] have caused significant harm to competition, local communities, employees and consumers,” throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona.  Instead of focusing on succeeding in the new markets, according to the complaint, “Haggen has had to focus on strategies to recover from Albertsons’ wrongful acts, which include, sadly, Haggen’s efforts to find new jobs for displaced employees who too are victims of Albertsons’ actions.”

In particular, Haggen alleged in its complaint that Albertsons, in violation of numerous laws, the FTC order and the purchase agreement, intentionally and deliberately undertook a number of “malicious and unfair actions” that “strained Haggen’s resources” and “created substantial distraction and diverted the attention of store-level and senior Haggen management” during the store conversion process, such as:

  • Using proprietary and confidential conversion scheduling information to plan and execute aggressive marketing campaigns intended to undermine Haggen grand openings;
  • Providing Haggen with false, misleading and incomplete retail pricing data, causing Haggen stores to unknowingly inflate prices;
  • Cutting off Haggen-acquired store advertising in order to decrease customer traffic;
  • Timing the remodeling and rebranding of its retained stores to impair Haggen’s entry into the relevant markets;
  • Diverting customers by illegally accessing Haggen’s confidential data to gain an unfair competitive advantage;
  • Deliberately understocking certain inventory at Haggen-acquired stores below levels consistent with the ordinary course of business just prior to conversion, resulting in out of stocks which negatively impacted the shopping experience upon Haggen grand openings;
  • Deliberately overstocking perishable inventory at Haggen-acquired stores beyond levels consistent with the ordinary course of business just prior to conversion such that Haggen had to throw away significant amounts of inventory it paid for;
  • Removing store fixtures and inventory from Haggen-acquired stores that Haggen paid for;
  • Diverting Haggen inventory to Albertsons stores; and
  • Failing to perform routine maintenance on stores and equipment.

“Albertson’s anti-competitive conduct caused significant damage to Haggen’s image, brand, and ability to build goodwill during its grand openings to the public,” according to the complaint. The complaint continued, “Albertson’s unlawful acts destroyed or substantially lessened the economic viability, marketability and competitiveness of the [Haggen] Stores, depriving consumers in each of the Relevant Markets the benefits of substantial competition from a new market entrant.”

United Supermarkets Reaffirms Commitment to Lubbock; Announces New Store


United Supermarkets has announced that the chain will open a new location in Lubbock, Texas. Construction on the new location is expected to start late this fall and is targeted for completion in late summer or early fall 2016, according to Robert Taylor, President of United Supermarkets, LLC.

“We are thrilled at the opportunity to bring a next generation United store to Lubbock. Lubbock and the surrounding communities have always been highly supportive of United,” said Taylor. “We are glad to continue expanding to serve guests in our home-base city, which continues to grow and thrive.”

At 56,000 square feet, the new United will anchor a larger development that will include additional retailers. The store will feature an adjacent 2,500 square foot United Express convenience store with a convenient drive-through.

According to Senior Director of Marketing Ron Bonacci, the company’s tenth Lubbock location will showcase a new look and feel for United shoppers. “This store will be the third United that reflects our new brand strategy and the first in Lubbock,” Bonacci said. “The Lubbock community is so important to our company, and we believe the welcoming floor plan, signage and department layouts will be a positive expression of the strong relationship we have with our Lubbock guests.”

The new United store will offer some features currently found in Market Street stores, including fresh sushi and expanded food service options. A large salad bar and restaurant-quality food will be accompanied by an expanded in-store dining room. A larger produce section with extensive organic options and a wide variety of beer and wine are planned for the new store.

In addition, a significant expansion project at the Lubbock’s Llano Logistics distribution center is underway, paving the way for future growth. Both the new store and distribution center project will create new jobs for Lubbock.


Specialty Food Producer Seeks Crowdfunding Support for Incubator Kitchen

The Discerning Palate, a New Hampshire specialty food producer, is set to launch Genuine Local, a small food business incubator project. The Discerning Palate produces all-natural specialty foods that include Swineheart’s Signature Sauces, Our Local Table and Old’s Cool Wild Game Sauces. For the last two years these New England favorites have been produced in the Neighbor Made business incubator facility in Keene, New Hampshire. On Friday, August 28, 2015, the new Neighbor Made owners announced that they would be closing their doors effective October 1, 2015. In addition to The Discerning Palate brands, this leaves many small producers without an approved production facility.

The Genuine Local concept has been in the works for over a year, and was initially intended to be a separate, but collaborative effort with Neighbor Made. The idea was to have a comparable facility located in the lakes region that would further leverage buying power for small businesses and coordinate regional distribution efforts of products coming out of both facilities.

While it is likely that The Discerning Palate would not exist without Neighbor Made, it is a certainty that it would not be as successful as it has become. In recognition of the benefits realized by the use of Neighbor Made and the services and training provided, The Discerning Palate will “pay it forward” by creating Genuine Local.

Genuine Local’s mission is to expand production capabilities and create a community of small food producers and local farmers in central New Hampshire that will collectively benefit from technical support, regulatory guidance, introduction to innovative sustainable business practices, and help in leveraging individual buying power through collective purchasing (hence reducing input costs). Genuine Local hopes to enable existing and future small food producers to enhance their financial viability, expand their market reach and create additional jobs. It is anticipated that Genuine Local will also be able to create a home for some of the businesses displaced by the closure of Neighbor Made, as well as provide co-pack services for former Neighbor Made customers.

Originally slated to be implemented over the next six months and be fully operational in spring 2016, the Genuine Local project is exploring all support options in order to fast-track the opening and be operational by December 1, 2015. With help from Members First Credit Union, every avenue is being explored to establish a facility that can provide the same type of support and a similar range of services to small foodpreneurs and local farmers seeking to create value added products. This includes creating a crowd funding campaign to assist with acquisition of additional equipment.

With the assistance of NH Made, a survey prepared by The Discerning Palate introducing Genuine Local was distributed to over 200 members with food-related companies. Responses to this blind distribution survey provided valuable insight for equipment, services and training needs. NH Made’s mission is to increase awareness and demand for NH made products and services and to provide support programs that local businesses need to grow.

Everyone can help preserve the small businesses impacted by these recent events – buy local and donate today!

Additional information on Genuine Local can be found on the website at; on their Facebook page, or the crowd funding site at

Kroger & Murray’s Cheese Associates Named Certified Cheese Professionals

Twenty Kroger associates and eight Murray’s Cheese associates have been named Certified Cheese Professionals™ by the American Cheese Society.

This breaks both company’s previous records of 13 Kroger associates and four Murray’s Cheese associates who achieved the ultimate in cheese recognition last year. There are now 52 Certified Cheese Professionals in the Kroger and Murray’s family.

This year, all 28 associates 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.

“We are not only proud of these distinguished individuals and their professional achievement, but also of the industry’s adoption of the ACS CCP designation as the standard for cheese professionals,” says Nora Weiser, Executive Director of the American Cheese Society. “The entire cheese industry – from cheesemaker to consumer – benefits from the understanding, education, and professionalism of ACS CCPs. They are a testament to the growth, quality, and passion of today’s American cheese scene.”

Passing the American Cheese Society’s CCP exam is no small feat. Before being allowed to sit for the exam, cheese people must have 4,000 hours of work and/or formal education in the cheese-field under their belt.

“When I started on the counter at Murray’s 25 years ago, the job of cheesemonger didn’t formally exist,” said Rob Kaufelt, Murray’s Owner and President. “And if it did, it was certainly not at the level of a chef or sommelier. That is, we were not a profession at all back then. Now I’m proud to say that Murray’s, with the help of the ACS and Kroger, is well on its way to establishing a proud, new, traditional line of work in the food industry. We are leading the country toward a new and respected profession with a formal certificate of recognition.”

Through an exclusive partnership with New York City’s Murray’s Cheese, the Kroger family of stores features 210 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.  For a list of Murray’s in Kroger locations, visit

The happy egg co. Achieves National Retail Distribution

The happy egg co.’s free range eggs have gained further distribution to more than 1100 Food Lion® stores down the East Coast from Delaware to Georgia including the retailers stronghold states of North CarolinaSouth Carolina and Virginia. Furthermore, the brand has also gained distribution in 150 Target® stores in WashingtonCaliforniaOregon and Idaho, bringing the number of states the eggs are now sold in to 30.

After recently announcing its nationwide distribution through Walmart®, the happy egg co. has rapidly grown since its launch in the United States in 2012 to more than 6,300 retail stores across the country.

“Our coast to coast expansion into Food Lion and Target stores is a true testament to the changing face of the egg industry. Consumers are demanding humanely produced animal products and retailers are responding, and this latest expansion has brought us even closer to our mission of providing humanely produced eggs to all consumers at an affordable price,” said Jenni Danby, Marketing Director at the happy egg co. “The happy egg co. leads the way in true free range egg production, and it is incredibly exciting to see how consumer purchasing habits are changing so quickly and to be at the forefront of such change.”

As the only free range egg to be certified by the American Humane Association, the happy egg co. hens roam freely on farms, equivalent in size to six football fields, with 21.8 square feet of space per hen to exhibit her natural behaviors. The happy egg co. is now available nationwide and operates out of 13 farms in Missouri and Arkansas.

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