The Food and Drug Administration announced on June 16 that it had finalized its determination that partially hydrogenated oils, the primary food manufacturing source of trans fats, are not “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for foods, giving grocery manufacturers three years to remove them entirely from food products.
Because partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are no longer “generally recognized as safe,” they become subject to premarket approval by FDA as food additives, and approval of exceptions seems unlikely, even though the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) will lobby for a reconsideration of a ban on low-level uses.
The terms partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) and trans fats are used somewhat interchangeably because PHOs are the main food processing source of trans fats. Partially hydrogenated oils are created in the production of some food products when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them semi-solid in consistency. In bakery applications, for example, trans fats can give liquid vegetable oils that are cheaper, more shelf stable, and cholesterol-free the functional performance of butter, which generally sets the norm for quality expectations for baked goods.
Foods containing unapproved food additives are considered adulterated under U.S. law, meaning they cannot legally be sold. In plainer English, the FDA is essentially banning trans fats in food products, and the “no trans fats” label on food products will become obsolete. Naturally occurring trans fats found in small amounts in some meat and dairy products are not additives and a special case, and they do not fall under the ban.
Since 2006, the FDA has mandated that nutritional labels on foods specify the level of trans fat content. In November 2013, the FDA announced its intention to accelerate the elimination of partially hydrogenated oils from the U.S. food supply, having provisionally made the determination that these trans fats carriers are not GRAS. The intensifying glare of regulatory attention on trans fats has already spurred extensive reformulation in the food market, such that trans fat has been reduced by 78 percent since 2003, according to an FDA estimate, and by 86 percent, according to the GMA. Nevertheless, partially hydrogenated oils are still commonly used in many popular food products, including many bakery products, coffee creamers and microwave popcorn.
Moreover, FDA regulation previously allowed less than a half gram of trans fats to be labeled as “0g,” so that zero didn’t mean what consumers would logically interpret it to mean. That loophole, too, is closing.
In terms of consumer confidence, the mainstream food industry has paid a price for foot-dragging and sleight-of-hand on nutritional and labeling issues, leading to consumer counter-revolutions including the current clean label movement. A November 2014 survey by Packaged Facts showed 23 percent of U.S. adults strongly agreeing and 38 percent somewhat agreeing that, “Grocery manufacturers often mislead by highlighting only the positive nutritional qualities in their products, not the negative ones.” At the other end of the spectrum, only 3 percent strongly disagree and only 6 percent somewhat disagree. The findings were published in the Packaged Facts report, “Food Formulation Trends: Ingredients Consumers Avoid.”
From the perspective of public health, trans fats have been especially linked to coronary disease, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Trans fats raise the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol while lowering the level of HDL (good) cholesterol. Various health organizations have long fought the use of trans fats. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association both cite research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2012) estimating that a trans fat ban could prevent 10,000-20,000 heart attacks and 3,000-7,000 coronary heart disease deaths in the U.S. annually. Dr. Steven Nisssen, chair of the cardiovascular medicine department at the Cleveland Clinic (long top-ranked nationally for cardiology) describes trans fats as “clearly harmful” and praises the FDA’s ban. The ban is also consistent with First Lady Michelle Obama’s signature Let’s Move initiative, with its focus on childhood obesity.
By Lorrie Baumann
Australia’s leading olive oil producer, Boundary Bend Olives, had been in California just long enough to get stationery printed with its address at a former John Deere dealership in Woodland, California, about 20 miles northwest of Sacramento, before the company started winning awards for its California oils at the New York International Olive Oil Competition. The April 15 competition drew nearly 700 olive oils from 25 countries for judging by an international panel of experts, and Boundary Bend took home four NYIOOC awards for Cobram Estate oils produced from California olives as well as five awards for oils produced in Australia.
Cobram Estate Ultra Premium Picual, a medium picual oil from the U.S., won a NYIOOC Silver. Cobram Estate Super Premium Robust Blend, which combines leading varieties from California and Australia for a blend with a cut green grass nose, a strong spicy aroma and complex fruit flavors, earned a NYIOOC Gold Award. Cobram Estate Super Premium Medium Blend took home a NYIOOC Gold Award for appealing fresh fruity aromas and penetrating flavors, and Cobram Estate Ultra Premium Mission, from olives ultra cold-pressed within four hours of picking, received a NYIOOC Silver Award. The company’s NYIOOC awards for Australian oils included two Best in Class Awards for Cobram Estate Ultra Premium Hojiblanca and Cobram Estate Super Premium Premiere, a Robust Blend oil that also won a Best in Class Award in 2014; Cobram Estate Robust Flavour Intensity, a full-bodied blend from Australia that was pressed within six hours of picking, which won a Silver Award; Cobram Estate Classic Flavour, a medium blend from Australia also pressed within six hours, which won a Gold Award and Cobram Estate Ultra Premium Picual, which was ultra cold-pressed within four hours of picking and won a Silver Award in both 2015 and 2014.
Boundary Bend Co-founder and Executive Chairman Rob McGavin announced the company’s plan to expand its operations to the United States in May, 2014, and in January of this year announced that it had set up operations on eight acres near Woodland, California under the guidance of fifth-generation California farmer Adam Engelhardt, formerly of California Olive Ranch, and now CEO of Boundary Bend’s U.S. operations. The company had a small crush last October using another company’s plant for trial runs with small batches of oil. Boundary Bend plans to be in commercial production in California this calendar year. “We do plan to plant our own groves. We’ve got the trees for the plantings ready and are assessing suitable land and expect to have that in process within the next year,” McGavin said. “We’re just waiting for all the balls to line up.”
The company is eager to enter the American market because the country’s olive oil consumption is quite high, but domestic production is quite low, McGavin said. The U.S. is the fourth-largest consumer of olive oil globally, with consumption growing spectacularly over the past 25 years from a bit more than 100,000 metric tons per year in 1990 to the current figure of almost 300,000 metric tons per year, according to the International Olive Council. Per capita consumption in the United States is only 0.9 kg, which is comparable to per capita consumption in the U.K. and Germany, and the vast majority of that is imported, with only 3.8 percent of the olive oil consumed in the U.S. produced domestically. “Consumption of U.S.-produced oil is growing but is limited by supply,” McGavin wrote in a May 2014 letter to Boundary Bend stockholders in which he announced the plan to expand to the U.S.
Boundary Bend Olives, founded in 1998 by college buddies McGavin and Paul Riordan, currently sells more olive oil in Australia than anyone else, and its Australia production, from its own groves in the Murray Valley region of Victoria, is greater than the entire volume of olive oil currently produced in the U.S. “We’ve grown from nothing 10 years ago to the number-one selling brand in Australia,” McGavin said. To his stockholders, he wrote that, “We believe we can replicate, in the USA, the success of our Australian integrated business, but we will be taking a conservative, long-term approach to our business strategy.”
Boundary Bend is starting up agricultural operations in California at a time when the state is in the midst of a historic drought. Agricultural economist Richard Howitt and others from the University of California, Davis and ERA Economics reported to the California Department of Food and Agriculture in May of this year that following three critically dry years, many irrigation districts had exhausted their surface water reserves and the groundwater table had been drawn down in many parts of the Central Valley. The economists estimated that this year’s drought, coming on top of the three previous drought years, will result in the fallowing of about 564,000 acres and an $856 million reduction in gross crop farm revenues across the state. About 18,600 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs may be lost this year, and the total economic loss to California’s agriculture industry is estimated to be $2.7 billion.
None of that scares McGavin one whit. “We know it’s going to be difficult. It’s never, ever easy, but if we do it in a methodical way not to sound arrogant, but we are confident that what worked in Australia’s severe drought conditions will work in California,” he said.
He points out that he and his company have had some experience with drought in Australia. “We had the most awful drought. The scientists were calling it a thousand-year drought, and it went on for seven years,” he said. During the drought, the farmers at Boundary Bend learned how to monitor the water needs of their trees through telemetry-equipped sensors that monitor the percolation of irrigation water through the ground to the tree roots. They learned when the trees needed to be irrigated and when they could stay dry and still survive, thus minimizing the amount of irrigation necessary. “Olives really came into their own in Australia during the drought, and having that experience is something that we can bring to the U.S.,” McGavin said. He added that the experience in the best watering practices to make olive trees thrive on the least possible amount of water was a painful lesson, but he thinks that his neighboring California olive tree farmers will be eager to see how Boundary Bend does it, and that will be beneficial for California agriculture in the long run.
In addition, olive trees require half the irrigation water of nut trees, so replacing some of the nut trees currently growing in California’s Central Valley with olive trees will save water too, he said. “Being able to plant twice the area of olives versus nut tree crops for the same amount of water is a good use of the water,” he said.
When it has secured the land, Boundary Bend will plant the olive trees much less densely than the typical California super high-density planting. While Boundary Bend’s groves will have fewer trees planted per acre, the overall yield of olive oil per acre will be similar because the trees will grow bigger. They’ll also be more drought-tolerant.
The trees will be a mix of varietals rather than the Arbequina monocrop that’s typical in California. This will result in extra-virgin olive oils with outstanding shelf life, better health benefits and complex flavor profiles as well as lowering the risk of crop failure, McGavin said. A good Arbequina oil has a shelf life of 18 months if it’s stored properly, while other oils, such as the Coratina variety originating in southern Italy, can last on the shelf for up to three years because they contain more antioxidants. Those antioxidants are also credited with some of the health benefits of extra-virgin olive oils. “A mix of olives extends the harvest and offers different flavor profiles,” McGavin said. Stretching out the harvest allows the olives to be picked at optimum ripeness and rushed to the mill for pressing within hours.
The precise timing of the harvest and the speed of that processing is important in the protection of the volatile components of the oils. What makes a good extra-virgin olive oil is the minor components and how fresh they are and how much is expressed in the oil to contribute to flavor as well as health benefits, according to McGavin. “We think it works well here [in Australia], and we think it’ll work well in the USA, and we’re really excited about coming over and bringing it to American consumers,” he said. “A really important part of our strategy is to introduce the varieties that we grow in Australia and our way of growing them – different varieties of olives that give greater complexity to the oil.”
“We’re all a bunch of farmers,” he added. “Our company stands by farmers. We’re farmers, and today we own 2.5 million trees on our own land, and the reason we’re successful is that we love what we do and have a brilliant product.”
This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.
Wild Ginger Brewing Company unveils Wild Ginger™ Alcoholic Ginger Beer. “Alcoholic ginger beer has been around as long as the art of brewing. It was only during Prohibition that it turned to soda,” said Wild Ginger Founder Jamey Grosser. “I’ve always loved ginger beer, but could never find an alcoholic version, so I decided to make one myself. With Wild Ginger, we’ve nailed the right combination of ginger spice and fresh citrus that is great on its own or is a mixologist’s dream in cocktails.”
Grosser learned the art of brewing from legendary Moonshiner Popcorn Sutton and with this current venture is expanding his repertoire through a wide range of adult beverages.
At first impression, Wild Ginger entices with a subtle sweetness that climaxes in a spicy finish – with no beer aftertaste. Wild Ginger is right at home on the rocks with a lemon or lime, sipped straight out of a cold can or enjoyed in a classic cocktail such as the Moscow Mule.
“We have seen the explosion of ciders over the last two years, and ginger beer is a natural progression,” said Steve Economos, CEO of Eagle Rock Distributing Company in Atlanta, Georgia. “Craft sodas have been hot for many years now, and Moscow Mules are on fire in the on-premise. Fusing those two flavors into a beer is a homerun. I think Wild Ginger has nailed it from a taste profile, and I am excited to see what our team can do with it in the market.”
Wild Ginger Alcoholic Ginger Beer (4 percent ABV) is initially available in 12-ounce cans in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and North Florida, with national availability expected by year-end. A six-pack will retail for approximately $8.99-$9.99. Additional products are planned for release in the fall.
Snap Kitchen, an Austin, Texas-based retailer that provides freshly prepared, healthy takeaway meals, has named David Kirchhoff as Chief Executive Officer. The company has also raised $22 million in new capital from existing investors Catterton and Co-founder Bradley Radoff. The addition of Kirchhoff, coupled with the new capital, will drive accelerated retail growth and enhanced innovation, allowing Snap Kitchen to further its goal of providing compelling and convenient solutions for customers seeking healthier eating options.
Kirchhoff joins Snap Kitchen with a long history as a leader in the health and wellness sector, having spent 13 years in various management roles at Weight Watchers International, the world’s leading weight management company, most recently as CEO. In this role, Kirchhoff oversaw a network of more than 40,000 employees and service providers around the world serving approximately 1.2 million members attending 45,000 meetings a week globally in addition to over a million online subscribers.
“Having spent nearly 14 years helping people learn how to live healthy lives and navigate a difficult food environment, I have been eagerly waiting for a concept like this to be created,” says Kirchhoff. “Consumers deserve a meal option that is without compromise: great food, great health and maximum convenience. Snap Kitchen is all of these things—truly the Holy Grail of future-facing food. The team at Snap Kitchen has built the concept I have always dreamed of, and I am honored to have the opportunity to take it to a new level.”
Co-Founder Martin Berson will remain actively involved in the day to day operations as President of Snap Kitchen. “We are really excited to have Dave join our team. Snap Kitchen has grown significantly in our short history, and with Dave at the helm, we are positioned to take our business to exciting new heights,” says Berson. “Dave’s background running Weight Watchers, combined with his passion for healthy living, breadth of experience and strong leadership skills, will complement the skillsets of our current team. Fantastic food and awesome service have always been the beating heart of Snap Kitchen. In my new role, I can fully dedicate myself to upping the ante in both of these areas as we relentlessly pursue our passion for phenomenal food, expertly sourced, and delivered with transparent nutritionals.”
Jon Owsley, a Partner at Catterton, says, “We are excited to welcome Dave into Snap Kitchen and to continue to support this unique retail concept. Through its culinary focus on healthy and great-tasting food sourced from local and organic ingredients, Snap Kitchen is ideally positioned to serve the needs and cravings of all health conscious consumers. Dave’s experience and his passion make him the ideal candidate to lead the company into the future.”
“This is an exciting moment in the evolution of Snap Kitchen. I think we have only begun to scratch the surface in how we can enrich and enhance our customers’ lives by providing delicious and convenient healthier dining options. I want to thank my partner Martin for helping transform what started as an idea five years ago into a leading retail concept today, and I want to welcome Dave as he accepts the challenge to lead us as we continue to innovate and change the way people eat,” says Bradley Radoff, Co-Founder.
In the heart of America’s favorite food city, in a neighborhood busting with craft and creativity, the California Artisan Cheese Guild will launch SF Cheese Fest, a first‐time event bringing together acclaimed cheesemakers, the city’s hippest mongers, Bay Area brews, and local makers of artisan foods. Tickets are on sale now for the SF Cheese Fest’s main event, the Cheesemaker Celebration along with other festival events to be held at various locations around the city. The mission of SF Cheese Fest is to bring the farm to the City – to celebrate the hard work, craftsmanship, and unique character of California cheese and cheesemakers.
“By supporting local artisan and farmstead cheeses, you are helping to preserve working farms, open space and the unique flavors they produce,” says Cheese Guild President Louella Hill. At the SF Cheese Fest Cheesemaker Celebration on Saturday, September 19, 2015, at Dogpatch WineWorks, guests will rub elbows with over 20 cheesemakers, cheesemongers, goat wrangles, cow lovers, sheep breeders, and more. On offer are curated pairings with Bay Area cutting edge producers We Love Jam, Mimi’s Confiture, Rustic Bakery, Josey Baker Bread, Fra’ Mani, Bay Area Bee Company, Friend in Cheeses preserves, along with beer from San Francisco breweries Magnolia Brewing Company, Fort Point Beer Co., and Harmonic Brewing. The evening will overflow with flavor while music from The Easy Leaves, and DJ Lisa Pezzino keeps the party moving.
Tickets are available at Eventbrite, including VIP tickets ($125) with early entrance at 6 pm, live music, special bites provided by Piccino and prizes, and General Admission ($75) from 7–10 pm.
Additional ticketed festival events:
Friday, September 18, from 6:30-7:30 pm, famed local cheesemonger, Emiliano Lee, will host “Preview of Cheese Fest,” a cheese and beer pairing workshop at Eat Real Fest in Oakland. Ticketed on-site.
Friday, September 18, from 5-7 pm, a hoppy happy hour of brews and cheese celebrating these friends in fermentation, will take place at Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing Co. featuring Magnolia beer and cheese from California Artisan Cheese Guild cheesemakers.
Friday, September 18, from 6-8 pm, urban winemaker Carl Sutton will host a cheese and wine evening at Sutton Cellars featuring his wines paired with cheeses from California Artisan Cheese Guild members.
Saturday, September 19, from 10 am‐1 pm at Dogpatch WineWorks, the San Francisco Milk Maid will teach a hands‐on cheesemaking “Curd Nerd” seminar where attendees will learn the basics of cheesemaking, the stages of fermentation, and how to stretch mozzarella and fill burrata.
SF Cheese Fest is made possible with generous sponsorship from The Chefs’ Warehouse, Hilmar Cheese, Bi-Rite Family of Businesses, Greenleaf, McKenna Marketing, Mike Hudson Distributing, Food Matters Again, Plow, Gourmet News, World’s Best Cheeses and Canyon Market. SF Cheese Fest is the primary fundraiser for the California Artisan Cheese Guild.
Cathy Strange, Global Cheese Buyer for Whole Foods Market, was presented with the American Cheese Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award on July 30. The ACS Lifetime Achievement Award was created to offer individuals who have made a lasting impact on the American cheese industry. Past winners have included Ig Vella, Daphne Zepos, Steve Jenkins and Ari Weinzweig. “The person at Whole Foods who has not just supported cheese but made it her passion to bring it to the public is Cathy Strange. What Cathy has done and continues to do includes not just global cheese-buying duties, but a worldwide effort to provide her customers with the finest specialty foods available. fighting for right to choose raw milk cheeses, supporting regional small producers with a high-profile venue for them. Her reach and influence is impossible to exaggerate. visionary advocacy and championship for good, safe and delicious food,” said Peggy Smith, who presented the award on behalf of the society.
American snackers love their nutritional bars, finds market research publisher Packaged Facts in the report “Nutritional and Cereal Bars in the U.S., 4th Edition.” Nutritional bars are a handy way for consumers to stop eating three meals a day at set times and to start consuming smaller portions of food throughout the day, whether they are on the go or at home.
Nutritional bars conform to a broad cultural shift toward healthier, good-for-you food products. Bars provide an attractive way for food marketers to offer bold, exciting flavors; ingredients with a shiny health halo resulting from their organic and “natural” characteristics; and superfoods and other functional ingredients targeting specific health concerns such as a desire or need for food to be gluten-free. Nutritional bars, which have achieved torrid sales growth in recent years, provide an especially appropriate platform to deliver the kind of dense nutrition today’s consumers crave and search for in sources such as ancient grains and healthy seeds, including quinoa, amaranth, sorghum, chia and flaxseed.
Nutritional bars have long been marketed as a source of quick energy and meal replacements for athletes and fitness buffs. According to the report, the psychographic profile of high-volume users of nutritional bars indicates that marketers of these products will continue to be on target with advertising campaigns geared toward fitness and outdoor activities. High-volume users of nutritional bars are more likely to say they enjoy taking risks (42 percent vs. 34 percent) and have a higher likelihood of engaging in outdoor pursuits such as mountain/rock climbing, backpacking and mountain biking. They also are far more likely to try to stay fit by engaging in fitness activities such as fitness walking and weight training.
An emerging trend highlighted in “Nutritional and Cereal Bars in the U.S., 4th Edition” is that consumers engaged in sports and fitness activities are starting to shy away from sweet flavors and are increasingly being drawn to savory snacks. Savory bars also provide flavor options for different times of the day, reflecting the fact that consumers often look to sweet flavors earlier in the day and savory flavors later in the day.
Marketers are rushing to roll out new nutritional bars to reflect this shift in flavor preferences. The shift toward savory nutritional bars has increased the popularity of bars that offer meat as a protein source. Consumers can also expect to find more and more nutritional bars using vegetables as their protein source. Nutritional bars now on the market include carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli, spinach, quinoa, cauliflower, lentils, bell pepper and basil.
Some industry analysts note that savory bars will need to overcome a number of obstacles if they are to succeed in the marketplace. They are more difficult to manufacture because they lack sweeteners that act as binding agents. Moreover, marketers need to find ways to overcome the ingrained association between snack bars and sweet flavors.
Consumers trying to maintain or improve their health are increasingly seeking specialty food and non-food alternatives. Whether they are organic, gluten-free, dye-free or lactose-free, these products can be costly, but a new survey of special needs store brands items shows significant savings for consumers.
The research, conducted by the Private Label Manufacturers Association, assembled a market basket consisting of 27 typical specialty products that consumers might purchase as healthy alternatives or for special dietary needs. These products include gluten-free items like pancake mix and chicken broth; organics such as milk and pasta; even non-food allergy-free items like dye and perfume-free laundry detergent.
For every category in the study, a leading national brand product was compared to a similar store brand product when available and prices were adjusted to account for all known discounts, coupons and promotions available for each of the four shopping visits in the study.
The PLMA survey discovered that many organic products on the shelves had a private label product but sometimes did not have a national brand counterpart. However, when a national brand was available for comparison, private label products saved consumers 15 percent. When comparing gluten-free products, the PLMA market basket study found the private label products cost 17 percent less on average when compared to their national brand counterparts, while some store brand products saved shoppers as much as 41 percent.
Millions in the U.S. who are suffering from food allergies, and those with special dietary needs can also save with store brands. Consumers who choose to buy soy burgers, lactose-free milk and low-salt chicken broth, among other specialty food products, would save almost 30 percent when compared to national brand products.
Organic food sales overall continue to grow. Presently they represent a $26 billion market, but sales are projected to reach $60 billion by 2020, according to a report from Packaged Facts. A recent Gallup survey found 45 percent of consumers actively try to include organic products into their diet, and for consumers under the age of 29, that jumps to 53 percent.
The opportunity for private label is evident for a growing number of retailers. In a consumer survey, Walmart found 91 percent of people would buy organic products if they were more affordable. Kroger’s Simple Truth Organic has become a billion dollar brand for the retailer, while other retailers like Costco and Target are expecting billions of dollars in organic food sales this coming year.
The growth of gluten-free products in the U.S. is also widespread. According to Mintel, gluten-free sales have grown 63 percent since 2011 and gluten free sales will top $8 billion this year. Mintel also projects sales are expected to reach $14 billion by 2017 as their popularity and their availability on the shelves continue to grow.
Looking beyond organics and gluten, the Food Allergy Network reports 15 million U.S. adults and children suffer from food allergies, while another five million are allergic to various chemical products. In a recent survey by Datamonitor, 20 percent of consumers said that they avoid certain foods due to an allergy or intolerance most or all of the time.
The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. has acquired the Mona Group, a producer of plant-based foods and beverages with facilities in Germany and Austria through one of its wholly-owned subsidiaries. Mona offers a wide range of organic and natural products under the Joya® and Happy® brands, including soy, oat, rice and nut-based drinks as well as plant-based yogurts, desserts, creamers, tofu and private label products, sold to leading retailers in Europe, primarily in Austria and Germany and eastern European countries.
“We are excited by the acquisition of Mona, which expands our presence in plant-based products in Europe, solidifying our leadership position in the category with the addition of Joya® and Happy® to our Dream™, Lima® and Natumi® brands. This acquisition increases the scale of our plant-based operations to over $100 million net sales in Europe in a growing category of branded and private label products, while providing us with additional manufacturing capacity,” said Irwin D. Simon, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hain Celestial. “Mona also presents us with the opportunity to expand our European product offerings of Lima, Ella’s Kitchen®, Frank Cooper’s®, Robertson’s® and Sun-Pat® brands into Austria, Germany and other central and eastern European countries, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia. We plan to create sales opportunities with plant-based beverages and yogurt, which we have successfully introduced in the United States, expand the refrigerated category into desserts, extend the reach of our global brands, including Celestial Seasonings®, Terra® and Tilda®, and leverage our existing infrastructure, manufacturing and research and development expertise for cost efficiencies.”
In calendar year 2014 Mona had approximately $50 million in net sales and is expected to be accretive to Hain Celestial’s earnings in fiscal year 2016. Mona’s plant-based business, which was established in 2001, was owned by several venture capital groups and members of current and former management.
“As a leading natural and organic foods company in Europe, we believe plant-based foods will become more and more a part of our daily diets. With this acquisition we will be able to further expand our healthy food offerings and capitalize on plant-based eating trends,” commented Bart Dobbelaere, Chief Executive Officer of Hain Celestial Europe. “In addition plant-based foods and beverages are more sustainable and lighten the footprint we leave behind.”
With the acquisition of Mona, Hain Celestial Europe will have three facilities producing plant-based beverages, two in Germany and one in Austria, serving the European markets. Mona’s Vienna office will be the base for expansion into eastern Europe.
By Lorrie Baumann
The federal Food and Drug Administration has announced that it proposes to require that nutrition fact labels on packaged foods include a declaration of added sugars “to provide consumers with information that is necessary to meet the dietary recommendation to reduce caloric intake from solid fats and added sugars,” according to the agency’s announcement published in the Federal Register in March, 2014. If and when that proposal becomes a federal requirement, the labels on Uncle Steve’s Italian sauces will report that the sauces contain the same amount of added sugars they always have – zero.
The recipes for the sauces came from Steve Schirrippa, actor, author and creator of the sauces, who’s better known as his character, Bobby Baccalieri on the hit television show “The Sopranos.” He got the recipe from his mother, who has since passed away, Scarpinito says. “Steve wanted to pay a tribute to his mother. Abundant home cooked Sunday family meals were very important to her. Steve honored her by producing products he got from her recipes to keep the Sunday tradition alive.”
None of the three varieties of Uncle Steve’s sauces: Marinara, Tomato with Basil and Arrabiata, contain any added sugar, a common ingredient in other prepared pasta sauces. They also contain no GMOs or gluten, and they’re organic. That’s at the insistence of Schirripa’s wife Laura, who’s a marathon runner conscious of healthy eating and who told her husband that if he wanted to make and sell tomato sauce, he needed to be sure that it would be good for people as well as enjoyable, says Uncle Steve’s Italian Specialties Chief Operating Officer Joseph Scarpinito, Jr.:“If you were to line up all of the popular tomato sauces and then remove the ones with pesticides, tomato paste, puree, and added sweetener, you’d be left with only one—Uncle Steve’s.”
“Uncle Steve’s is simmered on our stove for six hours. The only sugar in our sauce comes from organic tomatoes imported from Italy and organic onions. Quality is of the utmost important to us,” he added.
The sauces were launched just last year on the company’s website and quickly picked up by Whole Foods Northeast. Other markets along the East Coast followed.
This year, Scarpinito is concentrating on expanding distribution of the sauces to the Southeast, Southwest and West Coast. “That expansion has already started – the sauce has been picked up by the Albertson’s Boise division and by Gelson’s in Los Angeles,” he said. “The sauce is also available from several distributors servicing large independent retailers.”
New products are also under development, including olive oil, pasta and other flavored pasta sauces. Scarpinito is naturally a little coy about pinning them down with any more detail than that, but he did offer a hint: we can expect to see an Uncle Steve’s vodka sauce early next year.
Once the FDA’s proposal is finalized, the FDA wants to give the food industry two years to switch to the new labels. In addition to requiring a declaration for added sugars, the FDA is also proposing a new format for the label that would make calories, serving sizes, and percent daily value figures more prominent. Serving sizes would be changed to reflect the amounts reasonably consumed in one eating occasion. “People are generally eating more today than 20 years ago, so some of the current serving sizes, and the amount of calories and nutrients that go with them, are out of date,” according to the FDA.