By Lorrie Baumann
Le Bon Magot® surprised the specialty food community at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show with a display of five sofi Awards, all earned this year with the new company’s very first entries into the sofi Award competition. Naomi Mobed, the company’s Founder and CEO, launched the brand in February 2015 and then exhibited in the 2016 Summer Fancy Food Show to test its flavors with Fancy Food Show attendees before she was really ready to face the sofi Award competition. “Actually, we validated the taste and flavors of our products with trusted palates even before being incorporated into a company,” she said.
With her five 2017 sofi Awards on her shelves, Mobed is ready to scale up production to meet the demands of the national market. She’s debt-free and looking for investment capital to help her grow. “We’re keen to attract external investment and believe we have a sound and scalable business model,” she said.
Le Bon Magot currently offers just five products, all based on regional African, Middle Eastern and South Asian flavors, with sophisticated spice blends with depth and nuance that also appeal to contemporary American palates. Each of them reflects their branding – “magot” is a French word that means a hidden treasure. “The name was for a variety of reasons – one was the pure marketing reality that the common language among gourmets continues to be French,” she said. “I like the fact that it doesn’t have one specific meaning, not just a treasure, but jewels, loot, coffers, bounty and booty. Each one of our products is of a vibrant gem-like color. I came from a finance background and I am passionate about jewelry, so our name also has a tongue-in-cheek element to it.”
Her Tomato and White Sultana Chutney, winner of this year’s gold sofi Award in the condiments category, was her first product and is still her company’s top seller. The chutney marries the sweet fruitiness of tomato to Kashmiri chiles, ginger and garam masala. Next in production were the White Pumpkin and Almond Murraba and the Brinjal Caponata, made of purple aubergine, cumin and curry leaves and the winner of the bronze sofi Award in the pickles category. The Brinjal Caponata is a traditional western Indian condiment made from a recipe that came from Mobed’s grandmother by way of her mother, who tweaked it a little bit, and that Mobed herself played with also before settling on its current formulation. The White Pumpkin and Almond Murraba includes cardamom, cinnamon and vanilla in a preserve that’s traditionally used for celebrations in Central Asia and Middle East.
Spiced Raisin Marmalata won a gold sofi Award and an award for the best new product in the jam and preserves category. This product offers jumbo black raisins imported from South Africa blended with ras al hanout, dried rose petals, green cardamom and smoked cinnamon. “We wanted to recreate the oud scent but for the palate,” Mobed said. While oud is the distinctive scent of a resin found in agarwood trees that is used for incense and perfumes and valued in many cultures for its distinctive fragrance, Mobed uses smoked cinnamon alongside dried rose petals, cardamom and other spices to recreate the musky notes. Like the other products in the Le Bon Magot line, Spiced Raisin Marmalata was made to pair with cheese and charcuterie, but can also be used as a cooking ingredient, perhaps to be added to a spiced oatmeal raisin cookie or a Linzer cookie. The company’s final product is its Lemon-Sultana Marmalata with Caraway and Saffron, the winner of a bronze sofi Award in the jam and preserves category.
All of the products are made from recipes that came from Mobed’s grandmother and great-grandmother that were originally written down in a dialect that Mobed speaks but doesn’t read. Her mother translated them, interpreting measurements that came from a system that was once used across Asia but is no longer common.
Mobed is a Parsi born in Pakistan with family from India. Her father was employed in the oil industry, while her mother worked in the pharmaceuticals industry, and they raised Mobed in Iran, Hong Kong and Europe as well as in the U.S. Her first American home was in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. She left the U.S. to go to the London School of Economics when she was 21, after receiving her undergraduate degree at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. “I’d always wanted to be in the food business since the latter years of my undergraduate degree,” she said. “I was applying to grad school and culinary school. I decided to go to the London School of Economics, thinking I could do culinary later.”
Mobed lived in London after finishing her education there, eventually moved to Muscat, Oman, then came back to England, and did some more moving around from Johannesburg to Dubai and all points in-between before returning to the United States two years ago. Her business is now based in New Jersey, where she says she is settled for the immediate future. “A business settles you,” she said. “My mother lives here. My grandmother now lives here. I’m as settled as I ever will be.”
She says that, while she brings her finance experience with her into her business, making and selling food is a part of her family culture that she values highly, and a number of her female family members have flourishing food businesses around the world. “For a lot of women in Iran and Pakistan, catering and foodservice is a way for women to gain independence and empowerment without leaving their homes,” she said. “The same goes for other countries in the Middle East as well. That’s why you have so many female entrepreneurs.”
By Lorrie Baumann
H & H Midtown East Bagels has been making its crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside bagels in its Manhattan location at the heart of New York City for 43 years. Famous among the bagel-loving cognoscenti, the H & H Midtown bagels have won more top scores on local “best bagel” polls than Owner Jay Rushin can recall right off the top of his head, but he’s confident that New Yorkers who’ve moved away from the city that never sleeps will greet with enthusiasm the national launch of H & H Midtown bagels into the retail market.
“The number one complaint from retailers is that they can’t get a great bagel where they live. Everyone complains that they just can’t get a great bagel, and we are the answer to that,” said Mark Weinberg, H & H Midtown’s National Sales Director, who’s spearheading the drive into the retail market. “I don’t want to sound over confident but … the reality is that we are different, and a lot of customers who demand the best request H&H Midtown Bagels by name.”
Some of that confidence comes from the success of the H & H Midtown East Bagels in the foodservice channel, and some of it comes from the company’s online retail sales. “People are already ordering bagels online from all over the country,” Weinberg said. Those online sales reflect the migration of New Yorkers from the city into some of the biggest growth markets in the country, including California, Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Colorado, according to Weinberg. “They move to different states, and they settle down, and nobody can find a decent bagel,” he said.
The bagels that are now being offered at retail are the same sold at the company’s Manhattan retail store, made by Baker David Figueroa who started with the company when he was just 16 years old and has been there now for 25 years now. He’s using the same recipe that’s been used at H & H Midtown East since the business started and much of the same equipment, although the ovens and mixers were recently refurbished, Rushin said. “We still follow the old-fashioned way of making bagels and we use the finest ingredients money can buy,” he said.
The flour used in the bagel dough is one of the most expensive on the market, he added. “All that combines to make a classic New York water bagel,” he said. “We still use the kettle to boil the bagels, and we still use the burlap-covered boards to bake them.”
His personal favorite bagel is the classic plain bagel, and for him, the combination of taste and texture offered by the H & H Midtown bagel means that it doesn’t have to be topped with anything at all. He said, “You can make a cheaper bagel or a quicker bagel, but that shows in the quality.”
The H & H Midtown Bagels are offered for retail sale in six-packs that retail for around $3.99. “I truly believe that being in the retail stores, it’ll be a home run for anyone who carries our brand,” Weinberg said. “We can provide signage, we have the demographics, and, most important, we have the demand for our world famous brand!”
By Lorrie Baumann
KeHE prides itself on offering products to help grocery retailers get out in front of emerging trends, so it was no surprise to see that many of the vendors who came to KeHE’s Holiday Show came prepared with options to help home cooks add a punch of flavor to a meal that’s easy and quick to prepare. The KeHE Holiday Show was held June 12-13 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Meal kit services have been making bank by providing consumers with a scratch-cook experience that doesn’t require a lot of last-minute thought, much time or advanced cooking skills. Grocers have watched aghast as these services have elbowed their way into this market with offerings of premeasured grocery products and a recipe card delivered to customers’ homes. Grocers have responded by finding ways to offer home delivery themselves, but Blue Apron in particular has turned the tables on grocers by marketing itself as a healthier alternative to the food that consumers might otherwise buy in their local supermarket. KeHE’s Holiday Show vendors brought the goods to help grocers ante their way back into that game, proving that there’s more than one way to appeal to a consumer with a sense of adventure and an urge to cook at home along with limited culinary skills and no set recipe repertoire.
The Spice Hunter, for instance, has some good ideas that make it easier for a home cook to roast a moist, flavorful holiday turkey with its Original and new Lemon, Garlic & Herb Turkey Brine & Bag. One 11-ounce pouch that retails for $7.99 to $9.99 provides the necessities for brining a turkey up to 25 pounds. The home cook stirs the brine mix into a gallon of boiling water to dissolve it, then chills the brine before submerging the turkey into it. After the turkey has brined for 12 to 24 hours, it’s ready to be patted dry and roasted, smoked or deep-fried.
The Spice Hunter is also launching this year its new Korean BBQ and Mango Habanero Global Fusion Rubs. These versatile rubs season grilled proteins and vegetables, but they can also be used as seasonings for dips or salad dressings or even as a popcorn topping. These rubs join a line that includes Mild Sriracha, Coriander Lime, Chipotle Cinnamon, Smoky Chile, Smoky Turmeric, Spicy Garlic and Tandoori. The Spice Hunter Global Fusion Rubs offer home cooks a convenient way to add a hit of flavor to everyday foods, and the range of spices has something to appeal to consumers with varying tolerances for heat.
Cook’s All-Natural Pantry offers pickled vegetables that provide an easy side dish, particularly for consumers who are following the trend to include more vegetables in their diets. A line of organic pickled vegetables packed on farms in the area around Krakow, Poland, will appeal to consumers looking for ethnic authenticity and includes Organic Whole Beets, Organic Sliced Beets, Organic Polish Dill Spears, Organic Polish Dill Slices, Organic Polish Dill Pickles (which are packaged whole), Organic Spicy Sauerkraut (spicy with red peppers and garlic), Organic Beet Sauerkraut and Organic Sauerkraut.
Cook’s Pantry also offers Organic Medium Red Enchilada Sauce, Mild Red Enchilada Sauce and Mild Green Enchilada Sauce. The enchilada sauces retail for $7.99 for a 16-ounce jar.
Tasty Bite is offering new hot and spicy Asian vegetarian dishes in pouches that serve two. The dishes are microwaved for just 60 seconds and retail for around $4.
Indian Coconut Vegetables is vegetables and sweet potatoes simmered in a spicy coconut yogurt sauce. Indian Vindaloo has vegetables and tomatoes in a spicy curry sauce. And Thai Vegetable Curry has potatoes and vegetables stewed in a spicy curry. All of them are GMO- and gluten-free.
Tasty Bite is also launching out a line of Spice & Simmer entree kits that takes its inspiration directly from those boxed meal kits. Each Spice & Simmer peggable package includes whole spices, a marinade and a simmer sauce to make an Asian specialty entree by marinating vegetables or protein, heating spices in oil, adding the marinated vegetables and/or protein and then adding the simmer sauce and simmering. The line includes kits for Korma, Tikka Masala, Kashmir Curry, Thai Green Curry, Szechuan and Teriyaki. The kits are all vegan and have an 18-month shelf life. They contain no preservatives, additives or MSG, and they don’t require refrigeration.
Pickled Pink is a line of Southern-style pickles made according to old family recipes of friends and business partners Jim Lawlor and Charlie Stephenson, who both spent many years in the restaurant business. They launched their company in 2013 and pointed out at the KeHE Holiday Show that their pickles have been successful because they sell year-round and are popular for grilling and tailgating season as well as for the winter holidays. They work well as part of a charcuterie platter, as an accompaniment for a pork tenderloin or over vanilla ice cream, Stephenson said. “A lot of them taste like Christmas,” he added.
The line includes Sweet Heat Jalapenos, Spiced Watermelon Pickle, Gourmet Jalapeno Pickle, Smokin’ Okra, Perfectly Pickled Peaches and Vidalia Onion & Peach Relish. Coming later in 2017, we can expect to see Spicy Pickled Green Beans and Garlic Dill Pickles join the line.
Lemon & Vine, offered by Erotas Enterprises, a woman-owned family company in Napa, California, is a line of entrees and appetizers made from Greek family recipes given a modern twist. These will work well either for family meals or for a party. Vegetable Pastichio is pasta layered with savory vegetables and tomatoes and baked in a creamy custard – rather like an Italian lasagna with a custard instead of cheese. Packaged in a family size to serve four or in a one to two serving size. The family package retails for $15.99, and the smaller package retails for $9.99.
Meat Pastichio has pasta layered with beef, lamb and tomato baked in a custard. This is also offered in a family size or a single size. The family size, again serving four, retails for $19.99, while the one to two serving size retails for $11.99.
Lemon & Vine Keftethes are savory beef and lamb entree-size meatballs baked in a red wine tomato sauce. A package that serves four retails for $21.99.
For party appetizers, Lemon & Vine offers Lemon Chicken Triangles, Spanakopita, Cheese Tiropita and Eggplant Artichoke Triangles. Each is made from crisp, flaky fillo dough and a filling that includes feta cheese. A 12-ounce box contains 12 appetizers for each variety, and the retail price for these is about $8.99.
Simply Asia is launching Vietnamese-Inspired Pho Broth that requires only the addition of noodles, beef and vegetables to make an authentic pho and Japanese-Inspired Ramen Soy Ginger Chicken Broth that can be turned into an authentic ramen soup with noodles, chicken and vegetables.
To make home preparation easier, Simply Asia also offers the noodles: Japanese-style Soba, Ramen and Udon noodles and Chinese-style Lo Mein. The Pho and Ramen broths will retail for about $2.99 for a package that serves about three. The 14-ounce boxes of Soba, Udon and Lo Mein noodles and the 8-ounce boxes of Ramen noodles will retail for about $2.49.
Southeastern Mills is offering Louisiana Gold pepper sauces in red and green, both made with tabasco peppers. Bottles holding 5 fluid ounces will retail for $1.99, and 2-ounce bottles will retail for $1.49.
The company also offers Better Than Bouillon food bases, and is launching a new Roasted Garlic flavor. The paste can be used right out of the bottle as a seasoning for meats or for grilled vegetables. The website at www.betterthanbouillon.com offers hundreds of recipes for the products, including a whole section devoted to 30-minute meals.