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Kroger Opens Culinary Innovation Center

Kroger has opened its Culinary Innovation Center in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio.

“Kroger’s new Culinary Innovation Center is an exciting state-of-the-art test kitchen and education center,” said Daniel Hammer, Kroger’s Vice President of Culinary Development and New Business. “As we focus on redefining the customer experience and developing talent through food inspiration and uplift, as outlined in Restock Kroger, this R&D lab will allow us to accelerate product development for Our Brands, produce new recipes for Prep + Pared Meal Kits, explore new restaurant concepts, host food tastings and focus groups, and increase our associates’ culinary knowledge.”

Kroger commenced construction on the 12,000-square-foot, LEED-designed center in March 2017. The commercial kitchen features multiple cooking stations, spaces and capabilities, including technology that allows video streaming of educational sessions to Kroger associates across the country.

Kroger introduced its first restaurant concept Kitchen 1883 in November 2017 and launched its Prep+Pared Meal Kits earlier in the same year, which are available for purchase in stores and through ClickList. Kroger has plans to rapidly grow the footprint of Prep+Pared Meal Kits in 2018.

“Kroger has operated grocery stores since 1883; we know food. People will always eat, but the way they eat will always change. Our new Center is one more tool we have to keep our pulse on customer trends and expand our foodie culture,” said Hammer.

SIAL Paris Just Around the Corner

It is now more than half a century since SIAL (Salon International de l’Alimentation – International Food Exhibition) first espoused the ambition to become the world’s most important network for food professionals. A daring wager, but one which has paid off, as evinced by the success foretold of the upcoming edition of SIAL Paris, to take place from October 21 to 25, 2018 at Paris Nord Villepinte. This key biennial event has become the go-to, inspirational meeting place for the entire food processing industry, because it is here that the food of today goes on show and the food of tomorrow is conceived.

“All eyes in the food industry will be turned toward Paris in October 2018,” predicts Nicolas Trentesaux, Director of the SIAL network. “Let us not forget,” he said, “that the food industry is one of the most dynamic industries in the majority of the G20 countries! Coming to SIAL Paris is about discovering opportunities for growth, and new trends; it is about benefiting from an excellent springboard to attain the ambitious objectives aspired to by the actors in the food industry. SIAL Paris is a unique, inspirational platform for testing new markets, launching new products and meeting the main professionals in the sector to discuss the challenges that lie ahead. It is also a veritable laboratory, with research and development departments from around the world finalizing their innovations to test them in the aisles of the exhibition. More than 2,500 innovations will be unveiled to the world for the very first time as part of SIAL Innovation, serving up yet more inspiration to the food processing industry.”

At about nine months before its opening, almost 90 percent of the exhibition’s floor space has been reserved, and more than 80 countries have already confirmed their attendance. More than 160,000 visitors from around the world are expected to arrive at the exhibit hall. Among the offerings on the show floor will be organic products, free-from products, eco-friendly products, sustainable products and semi-processed foods, which will all be shown in a new exhibit sector: Alternative Food. The pavilion will have at its core a space for roundtables and talks, as well as guided tours.

Two other pavilions will showcase beverages and products made in France, which will be exhibited under the same banner, and equipment and services, which will allow micro-enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises to present their technologies and equipment. The 2018 edition of SIAL also welcomes a new feature event dedicated to forecasting trends: “Future Lab.” This will accommodate European start-ups, global studies and experiential spaces.


Cheeses from the PrairyErth: Green Dirt Farm

By Lorrie Baumann

PrairieTomme for webGreen Dirt Farm was born of Sarah Hoffmann’s desire to give her children the kind of grounded life that her parents provided for her on the various farms to which her family moved as her father’s duty assignments as a pilot for the U.S. Navy took him from place to place. “We moved every two years, but wherever we moved, we lived on a small farm,” says Hoffmann, who is the Proprietor at Green Dirt Farm today. “My dad did the work when he got home from work.”

Even today, Hoffmann’s father, John Hoffmann, though at 83, long since retired from his Naval career, still maintains draft horses. “My dad, we always teased him that he was a closet farmer, but he’s not a closet farmer – he’s a farmer at heart,” Sarah Hoffmann says. “He grew up loving the farm, and he communicated that to his kids.”

ewesfacesHer experience of growing up on various kinds of farms, from simple family subsistence-style farms with vegetable gardens and a few animals to more robust kinds of farming operations, gave her both knowledge of a wide range of farming styles and an enduring desire to raise her own family on a farm even after she grew up and went her own way with a career in medicine. She met her husband while they were in medical school together in San Francisco, pursued her residency in internal medicine while he completed a residency in cardiology as well as a masters degree in public health and then fellowships to prepare for an academic career. When he finished his fellowship, he realized that the family would have to move so he could teach, since universities rarely hire their professors from the ranks of those who’ve trained in their institution. Hoffmann took that move as a chance to exercise her dream of living on a farm so that her children could have the experience of spending time outdoors, of seeing the cycle of life and death, of knowing that hard work can be challenging, but it’s also very rewarding. “I said to him, ‘Here’s the deal, this is what we’re going to do,’ ” she says, “ ‘Target academic medical centers within 30 miles of affordable farmland.’ ”

JulyGrassThere weren’t many of those, since major teaching hospitals tend to be located in the heart of a big city. Kansas City, Missouri, had one of the five hospitals that filled the bill. “When we got here, they offered us both fantastic jobs, and when we looked around, we said, ‘Good farmland. This is where we’re coming,’ ” she says. “I had actually never lived in the Midwest.”

They found the farm they’d been seeking in Weston, Missouri, a rural town of about 1,500 people that’s close to Kansas City and started a grass-based sheep dairy with the intention that eventually they’d be a farmstead cheese operation. Hoffmann spent the six years from 2002 to 2008 getting the farm set up and learning how to make cheese, then started making cheese for commercial sale in 2008. It was a role for which her education in chemistry, biology and medicine stood her in good stead, since cheesemaking is largely a matter of chemistry and microbiology, she says.

Of course, commercial cheesemaking isn’t just a matter of chemistry and biology – there’s still the commercial part of it. “We still needed to reach that goal of economic sustainability,” she says. Hoffmann’s not the first to discover that it’s extremely difficult to make a living in the U.S. with sheep milk cheeses, even if the cheeses are really good, even if they’re winning prizes in competitions. There are a variety of reasons for this, ranging from considerations of international trade to the complexities of ovine biology to market forces in the American economy. Her solution to the problem was to form partnerships with nearby Amish dairies who were raising sheep and cows. They agreed both to sell her their milk but also to follow her rules about how they raised their animals. “Those dairies promised to uphold all the same farm practices we think are very important for producing great cheese,” Hoffmann says. Those farm practices include raising the animals on pasture and that they be Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World. “We think that’s really important because there’s a lot of research that shows that a diverse grass diet will concentrate a lot more flavor compounds in the milk,” Hoffmann says. “We think it’s important to have a third-party come in and validate that our farm practices are both humane and environmentally responsible. … That helps our customers know that we pay particular attention to those details on our farm and that we really care about the health and welfare of our animals.”

While Hoffmann made all her own cheeses in the early days of the operation, Rachel Kleine is now Green Dirt Farm’s Head Cheesemaker. She’s responsible for developing the recipes for the mixed milk cheeses that the creamery makes today in addition to its 100 percent sheep milk cheeses, which include Dirt Lover. the dairy’s flagship cheese, a soft-ripened lactic style cheese with an ash coating that helps control how the rind develops as it ages. Dirt Lover tastes buttery, lemony, and mushroomy, and becomes earthy and beefy with age. It smells of wet dirt, like working in the garden, according to the dairy’s description. It won a third-place award for sheep milk cheeses aged between 31 and 60 days this year at the American Cheese Society’s Judging and Competition.

Green Dirt Farm’s Prairie Tomme won a third-place ACS award for a cheese made in the U.S. in an international style. It’s a rustic, mountain style, hard cheese made with sheeps milk. The curd is cut very small and slowly cooked, resulting in a lower moisture cheese. It is aged at least four months, during which the rind is washed with brine. This creates a beautiful, natural rind with an earthy flavor, according to the creamery’s website.

YumAux Arcs, pronounced like Ozark, won a second place ACS award for a blended milk cheese in an international style. It’s a rustic, mountain style, hard cheese made with blended sheep and cow’s milk, made in the summer while the animals are on pasture and aged for at least two months. Aux Arcs is milky and buttery with sweet pineapple notes and hints of flowers. Its rind is evocative of damp earth and mushrooms.

GreenDirt_FreshGreen Dirt Farm also won a second-place award for Fresh Plain, a fresh rindless sheep milk cheese aged less than 30 days, and a first-place win in the category for sheep milk cheeses aged between 31 and 60 days for Woolly Rind, a bloomy rind aged cheese that’s a classic lactic style cheese that undergoes progressive ripening as it ages. Woolly Rind tastes buttery, tangy, and mushroomy. With age, the cheese gains earthy and beefy qualities. Its aroma frequently evokes thoughts of forest floor, or fresh soil. It is a good option to introduce people to aged sheep’s milk cheese, as it is relatively mild, according to Green Dirt Farm.

Bossa won a second-place award in the American Originals category for cheeses made from sheep milk at the 2017 ACS Competition and Judging, tying with Bleating Heart Cheese’s Fat Bottom Girl. Bossa is a signature cheese for Green Dirt Farm, a washed-rind cheese that’s aged for five weeks before wrapping. It reaches its peak at about eight to nine weeks, when it’s very runny, with a custard-like paste that can be spooned out of the rind onto crusty bread. This is a stinky cheese that tastes meaty, with buttery or nutty notes and a delicate honey-nectar flavor.

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