By Richard Thompson
Retailers looking for any supply increases or price stabilization for Italian olive oil are most likely not going to find it this year. The dismal 2014 harvest of Italian olive oil lowered levels of production and increased costs to retailers and consumers from a combination of conditions that have no immediate solutions and probably won’t be resolved in the near future.
David Neuman, CEO of Gaea, North America, LLC and who has worked previously with Lucini Italia has seen problems with Italian oil harvests for years and sees the industry working on borrowed time. “Every single year there’s a problem,” Neuman said, “Every year there are good harvests and bad harvests, but southern Italy is getting pummeled [by Olive Quick Decline Syndrome], and the last harvest was like a perfect storm. Too many combinations that came together.”
So what is plaguing Italian farmers and oil producers on such a dismal scale? Basically, everything that could harm production is happening all at once.
Italy had a terrible rainy season last year and olive flies had infested compromised crops, but the Olive Quick Decline Syndrome (OQDS), a bacterial infection that withers and desiccates the tree shoots, is now spreading across the province of Lecce, leaving Italian officials unsure on how to resolve the problem.
First reported at the end of September 2013 by the Italian government’s Plant Health Directorate in Malta, OQDS was already considered an epidemic in the Italian province of Lecce, with more than 8000 hectares of olive orchards affected, but a declaration that OQDS was responsible for olive tree deaths was deferred pending further study.
The Italian Trade Commissioner agrees with this non-committal stance, even while acknowledging the growing blight caused by OQDS. “We feel the authorities have to further investigate the bacteria and its effects that are a cause for concern” said Pier Paolo Celeste, Italian Trade Commissioner and Executive Director for the NY offices in the US, “It is not entirely proven yet.”
The ITC believes that the Xylella fastidiosa bacterium – the cause for OQDS – may not be what is making the olive trees sick. Instead, they believe that it is only a component that must be activated by right conditions to harm the trees, leaving the olive fruit still safe for consumption. “We know for sure that the quality of the fruit is intact,” Celeste said, “It attacks the tree itself, but does not affect the quality of the olive oil produced. It is absolutely safe.”
Some Italian non-government organizations, such as Peacelink, are pushing to save the trees infected by OQDS. The organization has requested the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an independent organization that advises the European Union, to confirm that the bacterium is not the cause of olive tree death. Peacelink points to trees that have survived and rebounded after the orchards have been treated, but hasn’t been able to provide enough proof to be sure.
The EFSA is saying that X. fastidiosa is a new problem for Italian olive trees and doesn’t seem to need specific conditions in order to spread, so there’s no concrete plan that is sure to succeed that will stop the spread. Since X. fastidiosa has such as wide range of hosts, it can persist even with insecticide treatments on specific host crops – such as olive trees.
On top of that, there is no record of successful eradication of X. fastidiosa once it finds a home outdoors. The destruction of olive trees that have been infected is one of the only ways to contain the spread of the blight, an action the Italian government is reluctant to approve and Peacelink outright opposes.
Despite their qualms, the Italian government has already culled an estimated 700,000 olive trees, with some reports indicating the number closer to 1 million or more. Some of these trees were between 150 and 200 years old.
The acreage that was culled was immediately replanted with new precautions in place to prevent further spread. This new crop of olive trees is hoped to be back in production in about three to four years.
“We are actively seeking out viable solutions,” Celeste said, “It is something that is being vigorously studied by our authorities; as it represents a unique challenge.”
The production will certainly not be back to normal in 2015. Neither will prices.
The Italian Trade Commission Office confirms that 2014′s limited production did affect prices. A recent report by the International Olive Council (IOC), an independent organization that reports on the olive industry annually, stated that Italian production actually declined 55 percent and prices climbed by as much as 37 percent from 2013. The IOC is currently projecting that Italy’s 2015 olive oil production will be larger than 2014′s, but still significantly below normal.
Divino USA, Inc. has entered the U.S. frozen dessert market with its distinctive line of Italian handcrafted gelato-filled fruit. The company is poised
to continue on the current trajectory of rapid growth in this country, having already secured national distribution available through KeHE, Haddon House, Nature’s Best and UNFI. Unlike any other gelato on the market, Divino is made from fresh Southern Italian fruit that is hand-picked near the Divino factory on the Amalfi Coast. The fresh fruit pulp is blended with volcanic waters from neighboring Mount Vesuvius, sweetened with natural sugar and lemon juice, and then filled into the halved fruit shell and frozen to a delicious single serving.
Divino varieties include Amalfi Lemon, Roman Kiwi, Ciaculli Tangerine, Apulian Peach and Black Diamond Plum. Each single serve item contains about 100 calories, and all are gluten-free certified, fat free and Non-GMO Project Verified. Each unit is individually packaged in a colorful box and includes a serving tray and spoon, allowing for easy display and grab-and-go. The fruit shell containing the gelato is also completely edible. The product has a shelf life of approximately 12 months. Divino calls its frozen treats ‘gelato’ because in Italy, both ice cream and sorbet fall under the gelato category.
Divino is available in natural foods stores, as well as select grocery and specialty stores across the country, with rapidly growing national distribution, and retails for approximately $3.99-$4.49 per single serving. For more information, visit www.lovedivino.com.
Steve Schirripa is teaming up with his Sopranos co-star Michael Imperioli to meet their fans at The Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, where Steve will be exhibiting his Uncle Steve’s Italian Specialties line of organic pasta sauces. Schirripa and Imperioli, known by Sopranos fans as Bobby Baccalieri and Christopher Moltisanti, will be signing autographs and sharing sauce with their fans at The Hilton Level 2 – Hot Products Pavilion, Booth H201 on March 5 and 6 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There will also be raffle prizes given out continuously throughout both days.
“Michael Imperioli is like a brother to me, so it’ll be great to have him in Anaheim. We’re looking forward to breaking bread with our fans and introducing them to Uncle Steve’s sauces,” Schirripa noted.
Uncle Steve’s Italian Specialties was created by Steve Schirripa earlier this year. Each jar of Uncle Steve’s sauce is produced in the USA from small batches of fresh imported organic Italian plum tomatoes, vegetables and spices, “Our products are USDA-certified organic, gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and contain no added sugar. With no GMOs, no pesticides, and nothing artificial, you can be confident you are feeding your family not only great-tasting products, but nourishing them as well.” said Schirripa. “My mother cooked her sauce for six hours and unlike the others, we are doing the same.”
Uncle Steve’s is available in three flavors: Marinara, Tomato Basil and Arrabiata. It is available at Whole Foods Market, Central Market, ShopRite, Stop ‘n Shop and many other grocery and health food stores across the USA. For more information on where to buy or to purchase by mail, go to www.unclestevesny.com.
Harris Teeter and Balducci’s have added imported Italian Foods Corporation’s pastas to their lineup of gourmet products.
Harris Teeter now is carrying two of Italian Foods’ shelf stable stuffed pastas, La Piana® Mezzaluna with Basil Pesto filling and La Piana Ravioli with Squash in one-pound boxes, said Francesca Lapiana-Krause, General Manager. Harris Teeter also has added artisan, bronze die-cut La Piana Pasta di Campofilone Sage Fettuccine egg pasta and La Piana Tomato & Olive Pasta Sauce. The sale is through Haddon House of Medford, New Jersey.
Balducci’s has added two of Italian Foods’ long cut artisan egg pastas, La Piana tagliatelle and pappardelle, Lapiana-Krause said. The sale is being handled through Haddon House.
La Piana stuffed pastas are packaged in one-pound boxes with a suggested retail price of $6.19 to $7.19 and are available in six flavors. Three flavors of the stuffed pastas, which are shelf stable for 15 months, also are available in 8-ounce boxes with a suggested retail price of $4.49 to $5.19. Suggested retail prices for the artisan egg pastas are $8.99 and the La Piana pasta sauces are $8.99 More information is available online at http://www.ItalianFoods.com, by calling 1.888.516.7262 and by connecting at https://www.Facebook.com/LaPianaItalianFoods.
American Flatbread Pizza, producer of handmade wood-fired premium frozen pizza, is introducing three new pizza flavors to its premium line: Gluten-Free Cheese Trio & Tomato Sauce, Gluten-Free Pesto & Cheese and Fresh Basil Pesto & Feta.
The new American Flatbread frozen pizzas are made with specialty ingredients, many of which are locally sourced in New England where the company is based. Gluten-Free Cheese Trio & Tomato Sauce and Gluten-Free Pesto & Cheese are American Flatbread’s first gluten-free options within its line. Gluten-Free Cheese Trio & Tomato Sauce is a handmade flatbread topped with mozzarella, parmesan and Vermont Cookeville grana cheese, with homemade tomato sauce and fresh herbs. Gluten-Free Pesto & Cheese is also a handmade flatbread topped with savory pesto, made with fresh basil, toasted pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, fresh minced garlic and parmesan. The third new flavor, Fresh Basil Pesto & Feta, is topped with savory pesto made with fresh basil, toasted pine nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh minced garlic and feta.
“More and more Americans are maintaining a gluten-free diet, so it was important to meet their needs and develop these new recipes,” said CEO Brad Sterl. “As with all of our flatbread pizzas, we only use fresh, all-natural ingredients to ensure that our customers enjoy every last bite. We are dedicated to making pizza night a delicious and healthy experience for the whole family, and now they have even more choices.”
The Fresh Basil Pesto & Feta retails for $7.99 and the Gluten-Free Pesto & Cheese and Gluten-Free Cheese Trio & Tomato Sauce retail for $8.99.
American Flatbread frozen pizzas are topped with fresh herbs, vegetables and the finest of cheeses. They are all-natural, with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, and handcrafted from scratch and par-baked in wood-fired ovens.
For more information visit www.americanflatbreadproducts.com.
The retail food landscape has long been populated by bland, low-cost spaghetti noodles and insipid jars of watery marinara sauce. However, gourmet foods companies are revolutionizing the world of prepared sauces and dry, fresh and frozen pastas with high-quality ingredients and surprising flavor combinations. More and more consumers are turning to these companies and their products in order to make their Italian meals more memorable. Here are 10 companies to look for when stocking your pantry with artisan pastas and sauces.
1. Cucina Antica Foods Corp. The 2014 sofi Award winner in the Outstanding Pasta Sauce category for its Tuscany Pumpkin Pasta Sauce, Cucina Antica Foods Corp. offers a broad selection of all-natural sauces and authentic Italian pastas. The signature Tuscany Pumpkin Sauce features pumpkin and carrot puree, mixed with Italian San Marzano tomatoes, autumn spices and a touch of cream.
2. Dave’s Gourmet. The gourmet pasta sauce experts at Dave’s Gourmet strive to think outside the box when it comes to introducing new sauce flavors into the specialty food marketplace. The company’s product line contains unexpected hits like butternut squash, Indian-inspired masala marinara and wild mushroom. Dave’s Gourmet also offers a gourmet pasta sauce gift basket.
3. The French Farm. The French Farm offers a number of Italian specialties, including herb mixes, risotto mixes, polenta, sauces and dry pastas. The company recently introduced a new product to its line of brightly colored pastas: farfaline (bowtie). The new multicolor farfaline pasta is made exclusively from high-quality durum wheat semolina, tinged with natural plant-based colors.
4. Italian Foods Corporation. The shelf-stable dry stuffed pastas in Italian Foods Corporation’s La Piana line are a convenient and delicious way to enjoy an authentic Italian specialty. The stuffed pastas include ravioli, tortellini and mezzaluna filled with everything from Gorgonzola to winter squash to pesto. Italian Foods Corporation also offers artisan egg pastas, gnocchi and jarred sauces.
5. La Pasta Inc. A brilliantly-colored artisanal pasta delicacy, La Pasta’s Beet, Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese ravioli recently won the 2014 sofi Award in the Outstanding Pasta, Rice or Grain category. The product features the star ingredients wrapped in a delicate pasta sheath. In addition to this sofi Award-winning ravioli, La Pasta delights consumers with fresh vegan and gluten-free pasta offerings.
6. Michael’s of Brooklyn. Michael’s of Brooklyn traditional Italian tomato sauces taste like homemade, because they use high-quality ingredients: imported Italian tomatoes, fresh herbs and spices, garlic, onion and olive oil. The result is an extraordinary range of fresh, delicious sauces in six distinctive flavors, including marinara, tomato basil, filetto di pomodoro, puttanesca, arrabbiata and the newest flavor, home style gravy.
7. Pastificio Felicetti. Felicetti pasta is the world’s largest supplier of 100 percent organic pasta. The company’s pasta is outstanding because of its exceptional aromatic quality, taste and excellent nutritional value. These results are thanks to the attention paid to three key components: flour, water and drying technique. The company’s Monograno Felicetti line comes in three varieties: Farro, Kamut and Matt.
8. Po Valley Foods. Imported from the Po Valley plains of northern Italy, the products from Po Valley Foods include dry pastas, risotto, rice, polenta, olive oils and vinegars. The company offers four dry pasta lines: Campofilone® Elite, high-quality egg pastas; Premiato Pastificio Afeltra, bronze drawn durum wheat pastas; Carlo Moro, a line of buckwheat pastas; and Casarecci di Calabria pasta kits.
9. Robert Rothschild Farm. The artichoke pasta sauce from Robert Rothschild Farm features tender artichokes blended with tomatoes, onions, celery and herbs, creating a truly gourmet pasta topping. The product is just one of a number of distinctive pasta sauces offered by Robert Rothschild Farm. The company’s other sauces include puttanesca, vodka, roasted portabella, roma tomato and more.
10. Sauces ‘n Love. Specialty food company Sauces ‘n Love recently introduced a line of gluten-free pastas, including ravioli, tagliatelle, rigatoni and gnocchi. These products have a premium gourmet taste that surpasses many traditional wheat pastas in flavor and consistency and pairs perfectly with the brand’s pasta sauces. It is an innovation both omnivorous gourmands and wellness-concerned customers can enjoy together with gusto.
Award-winning La Sovana extra-virgin olive oil, distributed in the United States by Mintie Wine & Spirits, is a renowned Italian single estate olive oil, combining a blend of leccino, moraiolo and coreggiolo olives. The olives are harvested at the peak of freshness and pressed by hand on the Olivi family’s Tuscan estate. Preserving the essence of the Italian countryside, the olives are pressed within 24 hours of being harvested.
La Sovana extra-virgin olive oil has been certified by the Consortium for the protection of PDO Extra Virgin Olive Oil DOP Terre di Siena. In addition, the product was recently awarded a Mention of Merit from the national Sirena d’Oro di Sorrento competition.
Already used in some of the finest restaurants in Europe, La Sovana extra-virgin olive oil is now being introduced to the American market. The oil is now available online at www.zingermans.com, as well as at The Cheese Store in Beverly Hills, California and in a growing number of specialty food stores.
For more information, visit the company online at www.lasovana.com/en/olio.
For an effortless way to add zest to food, Doxy’s Fine Foods , a brand of artisanal seasoning blends, announces the launch of its newest product: Doxy’s™ Pasta Sauce Herbs. The Pasta Sauce Herbs mix, made of sweet garlic and natural spices, is the perfect addition to Italian-style home meals, without added preservatives or excessive sodium.
“Knowing Americans have limited time in the kitchen, I developed our blends to make meal preparation easy, delicious and fun,” says Nina Faull, Founder and CEO of Doxy’s Fine Foods. “Doxy’s Pasta Sauce Herbs is so versatile, and provides a feeling of la bella vita to weekday, home-cooked meals.”
All of Doxy’s seasonings boast gluten-free, fat-free, and no-added MSG natural goodness to meet another demand among Americans: health. With Doxy’s Pasta Sauce Herbs mix, Americans can add flavor to their meals without sacrificing health. Available on Doxy’s website for just $3.50, a package of Pasta Sauce Herbs takes quick home-cooking to the next level. Enhance simple canned tomatoes with a packet of all-natural Doxy’s Herbs to create an impactful, healthy dish. Mixed with extra virgin and olive oil for an herb vinaigrette, or dusted atop buttered baguettes, Doxy’s Pasta Sauce Herbs offer a new twist to a typical standby meal.
Bauli, a creator of authentic Italian holiday cakes and pastries, is announcing its official launch in the United States. Bauli products are now available at retailers, including Fairway, Whole Foods and Duane Reade stores nationwide. Bauli’s line of products will introduce traditional Italian desserts to the U.S. market, guaranteeing the highest quality of natural ingredients to customers.
Rooted in Verona, Italy with history dating back to 1922, today, the Bauli family business maintains the same dedication to excellence that it started over 80 years ago. Bauli prides itself in having combined the skill of homemade recipes with high technology to bring authentic Italian baked goods and holiday products to consumers. With respect for traditions and ancient recipes, Bauli products are oven baked and made with no preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors and no genetically modified ingredients and are kosher certified. The Bauli family’s guiding principle has always been a desire for excellence.
Bauli’s core products include Il Panettone di Milano, the traditional and most famous Italian Christmas bread, loaded with candied citron, lemon zest and raisins; Il Pandoro di Verona, a pan d’oro or golden bread, which is a traditional Christmas bread from Verona that’s baked in a special star-shape mold, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar and made with real eggs, which gives it the beautiful golden color; and its everyday croissant treats, which include chocolate cream, vanilla custard, and cherry jelly. In addition to these core products, Bauli is also offering its specialty Italian treats for the U.S., including Il Budino, a moist cake with delicate chocolate filling, exquisite chocolate icing and dark chocolate decorations, and La Bavarese, a soft pan d’oro dough with delicate custard cream and sugared cocoa filling. Bauli’s authentic products are the ultimate holiday hostess gift, arriving in a beautiful packaging, Il Panettone and Il Pandoro are an awaited Christmas tradition at many family tables throughout Italy, uniting the love of family, friends and food. Bauli products are a delicious Italian tradition that’s perfect for sharing with family and friends just like in Italy, and great for making delicious recipes, including panettone pudding and orange ricotta panettone ‘shortcake’.
Victoria Fine Foods has just launched new packaging for its Victoria premium brand of artisanal pasta sauces listing ingredients on the front of the label.
Extensive consumer research was conducted among primary shoppers and meal preparers of pasta sauce that led to the revolutionary decision to place the ingredients on the front of the label. Consumers indicated that placing ingredients on the front was very positive and helped show that Victoria had all natural fresh ingredients without preservatives that were similar to ingredients they would use in their own pasta sauce. They also indicated it would make shopping easier.
This new label approach supports Victoria’s philosophy of Ingredients Come First™, making Victoria the only major pasta sauce brand to highlight the ingredients on the front of their package.
“We are proud to be first major brand in the pasta sauce category to declare our ingredients on the front of our package; It’s not just a location, it’s a philosophy” says Don Davide, Chief Strategy Officer, VFF. “We are committed to using only fresh ingredients and the most authentic slow kettle-cooking process for a true homemade taste, and by announcing this on the front of our new label, we believe our new package allows the consumer to make an informed decision about what they are feeding their families.”
Victoria maintains small-batch, home-style cooking methods on a larger scale by slow kettle cooking all of their sauces starting with freshly chopped ingredients. Unlike leading national brands, Victoria never adds water, paste (tomato byproducts), or dried ingredients and never compromises taste for processing alternatives like quick heating transfer tubes. Victoria maintains that life and food, like a gondola ride, is better when taken slowly.