By Lorrie Baumann
La Pasta’s Radicchio, Parsnip & Apricot Ravioli has won the 2016 sofi Award for Best New Product. Radicchio is sauteed with a little bit of balsamic vinegar to bring out the sweetness of the vegetables and then folded into ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheese together with roasted parsnips and dried apricots. The filling is then enclosed in La Pasta’s signature pasta with black pepper pasta stripes.
“We got lucky. It happens,” said Alexis Konownitzine, President of La Pasta, “Our chef Kristen made the product and will be at the Fancy Food Show.”
La Pasta already had several sofi Awards for products including its Marinara Sauce and Beet, Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Ravioli. This year’s winner was selected from among 23 finalists in the Best New Product category by the sofi judging panel of culinary experts in a blind tasting. Overall, 28 products were named winners and 100 named finalists from among 3,200 entries this year.
This year’s judging diverged from the methodology used for the past couple of years, in that the judging was completed before the Summer Fancy Food Show and winners were named at the same time as finalists. This process was designed to make the judging more fair and transparent, according to the Specialty Food Association, which owns the sofi Awards program. The products were judged by criteria that awarded 70 percent of the product’s score for taste, which included flavor, appearance, texture and aroma and 30 percent for ingredient quality, which included a consideration of whether any of the product’s ingredients were artificial and whether they were combined in a creative or unexpected way. One winner was chosen in each of the 28 judging categories, and the top 4 percent of the entries in each category were named finalists. No awards were presented this year in classic, foodservice or product line categories, which were part of last year’s contest.
Finalists for the Best New Product award included Dalmatia Sour Cherry Spread from Atalanta Corporation, Jansal Valley Boneless Prosciutto Toscano D.O.P. from Sid Wainer and Son Specialty Produce and Specialty Food, Organic Stoneground Flakes Cereal — Purple Corn from Back to the Roots and Sliced Prosciutto (Domestic) from Creminelli Fine Meats. “Prosciutto is everywhere in the U.S., but we do it differently, using whole-muscle Duroc pork that’s 100 percent vegetarian-fed with no antibiotics ever. We layer it in the tray by hand instead of by machine,” said Kyle Svete, Creminelli Fine Meats’ Director of Sales for National Accounts. “We invest in people, not machines. It’s part of who we are – people, animal, craft…. We have machines to help us do our job, but it’s really about the people. The recyclable tray and the elegant look of it elevates the product and the category.”
“We’re proud of it. We put the ingredients right on the front of the label,” he added. “That’s all there is to it – time, love, pork and sea salt.”
Chocolate-covered Cocomels – 5 Salts from JJ’s Sweets, Gourmet Honey Spread: Salted Honey from Cloister Honey LLC, Wild Boar Salted Star Anise Single Origin Organic Dark Chocolate Bar from Hagensborg Chocolate Ltd., Original Tangerine Sriracha from Just Jan’s Inc., Mr. Hot Stuff Pepper Spread from Steppin’ Out LLC, Clementine Crush Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Enzo Olive Oil Company/P-R Farms, Inc. and Deschutes Brewery® Black Butte Porter Truffle from Moonstruck Chocolate, Co. were also among the finalists for the Best New Product Award.
Other finalists were Pineapple Habanero Caramel from JulieAnn Caramels, Frozen Passion Chia Lassi from Monsieur Singh LLC, Chicken Fat (Schmaltz) Premium Cooking Oil from Fatworks LLC, Avocado Oil Mayo and Licorice Mint Tea from Chosen Foods, Inc., Chili Crunch Bar from Vivra Chocolate, Vegan Stone Ground Hazelnut Butter from Karmalize LLC, Raspberry Amaretto Preserves from Robert Rothschild Farm, Orange Artisan Fruit Cracker from Simple & Crisp, Gluten-Free Coffee Brownie from Savvy Girl Baking Company and Dark Moon from Marin French Cheese Company.
In the remaining categories, Brussizzle Sprouts from Pacific Pickle Works, Inc. was named the best appetizer. The Spice Hunter, Inc.‘s Coriander Lime Global Fusion Rub was named best baking ingredient, baking mix or flavor enhancer, Ginger Hemp Granola from Michele’s Granola LLC was the best in the category for breads, muffins, granola or cereal, and Vermont Creamery‘s Bijou was judged the best cheese. Vermont Creamery’s Bonne Bouche was a finalist for the award both this year and last year.
Money on Honey by Droga Chocolates won the sofi in the chocolate category, and Bittermilk LLC‘s No. 3 Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour won the award in the cold beverage category. Bittermilk was a sofi finalist last year with the same product. Non-GMO Salted Caramelized Fig Spread from King’s Cupboard was named the best condiment, and Sea Salt & Vanilla Farmstead Goat Milk Caramels from Big Picture Farm LLC received the award for the best confection. Big Picture Farm won sofi Awards last year for best new product with its Raspberry Rhubarb Goat Milk Caramels and for best confection with its Goat Milk Chai Caramels. Moon Dance Baking‘s Holly Baking Cookie Brittle Cinnamon & Spice was named in the category for cookies, brownies, cakes or pie.
Barnier Pimento Sauce with Preserved Lemon from FoodMatch Inc. was named best cooking, dipping or finishing sauce. Cranberry Pistachio “The Original” from Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps was named the best cracker. Epicurean Butter‘s Organic Cocoa Coconut Butter was named in the category for best dairy or dairy alternative product. “The reason this is something really new and innovative is that this is organic pasteurized cream, organic coconut oil, organic honey, organic canola oil, organic cocoa powder and Himalayan pink salt. It’s good on crepes, pancakes French toast. We actually just love it on a baguette,” said Janey Hubschman, who co-founded Epicurean Butter with her husband John, who’s the chef and still does all the formulations for the company’s products. “It’s got a lovely mouth feel with the butter and the coconut oil and then the finish of the salt.” The Organic Cocoa Coconut Butter is part of a product line that includes 13 finishing butters, of which two are organic. The company has just installed new equipment in its plant that allows Epicurean Butter to produce single-serve squeeze packs. Each of those has 190 calories for a 1-ounce serving, and Hubschman expects that the single-serve packaging will draw a lot of interest from the producers of home-delivered meal kits.
Bourbon Matured Maple Syrup from BLiS LLC was named the best dessert sauce, topping or syrup. Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate‘s Single Origin Drinking Chocolate 72% Belize, Toledo received the sofi Award for the best hot beverage. Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate was a finalist in the chocolate category last year with its 72% Madagascar, Sambirano bar. The Gelato Fiasco‘s Ripe Mango Sorbetto was named the best ice cream, gelato or frozen treat.
Cioccomiel, a spread made from hazelnuts, cocoa and honey, won the sofi Award for the best jam, preserve, honey or nut butter. It is imported by Marcelli Formaggi LLC.
Fermín Chorizo Ibérico Picante / Fermín Ibérico Pork Dry-Cured Chorizo Sausage Spicy from Fermin USA was named the best meat, pate or seafood.
Stöger Organic Austrian Pumpkin Seed Oil was named the best oil. It is imported by Los Chileros, which won a finalist award last year for the same product.
Gustiamo, Inc.‘s Pianogrillo Sicilian Cherry Tomato Sauce took home the sofi Award for the best pasta sauce, while the best pasta was Pastifico Artigianale Leonardo Carassai, made in Campofilone, Italy, and imported by Bravo International Inc.
Wozz! Kitchen Creations, which won the 2015 sofi Award for best salsa or dip with its Kiwi Lime Salsa Verde takes home the gold in the salad dressing category this year with North African Chermoula Dressing. This year’s award in the salsa or dip category went to American Spoon Foods’ Pumpkin Seed Salsa.
Hickory Smoked Spicy Candied Bacon from Little Red Dot Kitchen LLC won the sofi Award this year in the category for savory snacks. The best sweet snack came from Creative Snacks Co. with its Organic Coconut Bites.
Dinner Tonight Black Bean Tortilla Chili Mix from Backyard Safari Company won the award for best soup, stew, bean or chili. ParmCrisps Mini Aged Parmesan Crisps from Kitchen Table Bakers won the award for the best vegan or gluten-free product. Kitchen Table Bakers was a finalist last year for its Jalapeno Parmesan Crisps. Finally, this year’s best vinegar was Balsamic Nectar from Boulder Flavours.
New for the Summer Fancy Food Show is Rabbit Creek Products‘ new doughnut muffin mix. Taking a riff on classic cider doughnuts, these delicious muffins bring apple-y goodness without the mess of frying doughnuts. A wonderfully enticing treat that can go with breakfast or dinner, think of these with some beautiful pork chops!
Like all things Rabbit Creek, the doughnut muffins can be ordered in a mixed case (12) of like items. Free private labeling is as always offered as well.
For more than 30 years Rabbit Creek Products has been creating the best gourmet dry mixes there are. Still family owned and operated in a bucolic eastern Kansas town, Rabbit Creek is there for the long haul.
By Lorrie Baumann
A finalist for a 2015 sofi Award for its Burnt Sugar and Fennel Shortbread, Lark Fine Foods will be back at the Summer Fancy Food Show this year with Salted Caramel Almond Chocolate Pearl shortbread cookies. This cookie starts with a traditional chocolate chip cookie and kicks the recipe up a notch with Valrhona Chocolate Pearls – little crispy nuggets enrobed in chocolate and mixed into the cookie dough along with crackly bits of salted caramel and almond brittle. “There are noticeable chunks of caramel throughout the cookie,” said Lark Managing Partner Bob Carroll, who describes this as “a chocolate cookie for grownups.” A 5.5-ounce package containing about 10 of the cookies has a suggested retail price of $6, and this new cookie flavor is shipping now.
Lark Fine Foods is also debuting three flavors of its all-natural shortbread cookies in a single-serving size. Each 1.5-ounce package contains two cookies in either Salted Caramel Almond Chocolate Pearl, Salted Rosemary and Coconut Butter varieties. Carroll says the Salted Rosemary cookie makes a great accompaniment for cheese, and all three of the single-serve packs are positioned for sale as snack items. They’re also available for immediate shipment.
Manicaretti Italian Food Importers won a sofi Award in 2015 with Sicilian Pistachio Spread and has fresh victories with four gold awards at the New York International Olive Oil Competition. Manicaretti will have those oils, including Titoni DOP, an organic extra virgin olive oil from Sicily, and Crudo, a bright green oil with strong yellow undertones. “Every year it wins awards, both in the U.S. and in international competitions. It stands out in terms of profile and in terms of story. It’s a very interesting olive oil,” said Rossella Florio, Manicaretti’s Marketing Director. “We have a very nice portfolio of oils from different regions in Italy.”
Manicaretti will also be bringing expansions to the gluten-free pasta line imported from Rustichella d’ Abruzzo, for which Manicaretti is the exclusive importer. The new products include pasta made from buckwheat, green pea and red lentil flours. Each is gluten free and organic. “It’s all about awareness and offering more options that are equally delicious as durum wheat pasta,” Florio said.
Missing from the Summer Fancy Food Show this year will be Boat Street Pickles and Coop’s Microcreamery. Boat Street Pickles’ Pickled Cherries were a finalist in the Best New Product category at the 2015 sofi Award competition, while Coop’s Microcreamery’s Salted Caramel Sauce was a winner in the Dessert Sauces, Toppings and Syrups category. Neither company has a new product to launch this year. Boat Street Pickles’ Pickled Cherries are selling well, and Chef Renee Erickson, the company’s product developer, has been very busy earning a James Beard Award at The Whale Wins in Seattle. Erickson was named the Northwest’s Best Chef by the James Beard Foundation.
Coop’s Microcreamery has pushed product development to the back burner while preparing to move into a new 1,200 square-foot facility, says Marc Cooper, the “Coop” of Coop’s Microcreamery. The new facility doubles the creamery’s production space, and Cooper is hoping that his expanded capacity will help him catch up with an orders backlog.
by Lorrie Baumann
Start-up company Cibo California, founded last year, has reached exclusive distribution agreements for artisanal products previously unknown in the United States and is ready to launch them into the American market. Cibo California CEO Massimo Cannas says he spent months and even years persuading families that make artisanal Italian food products in traditional ways to share these products with the American market and to trust his company with that mission.
One of those product lines is Campofilone egg pasta from the Pastificio Decarlonis Srl, a family company run by brothers Paolo, Pietro and their father Enzo Decarlonis, who agreed to hold a “serious family meeting” after a long conversation with Cannas that ended with the decision that they were ready to enter the American market. “I spent several years convincing this family to start selling their products to the United States,” Cannas says. “We are the only company that is able to import their products to the U.S.”
The company is located in the Marche region on the eastern coast of Italy, directly across the Adriatic Sea from Croatia and separated from Florence by the Appenine Mountains. It’s a beautiful part of the country with an uncontaminated environment, and the pasta made in the tiny village of Campofilone is protected by the Italian government with an IGP designation, “Maccheroncini di Campofilone I.G.P.,” which means that the pasta can be traced back to this geographic area. “It’s only there that they can use this name, the Campofilone pasta,” Cannas says. “Only there, by the law, are people authorized to produce this kind of pasta and authorized to call it Campofilone pasta.”
Made with just egg and flour, with no added water, the Campofilone pastas cook in just two minutes. “They make this pasta using just flour and hand-cracked local, fresh eggs. This is what makes the difference,” Cannas says. “One by one, the eggs are cracked by a team of ladies. They must be quick.” Federico Pavoncelli, Vice President of Cibo California, says that one of his favorite recipes for the Decarlonis Maccheroncini di Campofilone IGP is Maccheroncini with lobster. “Very simple, quick to cook and delicious,” he says. He makes it with some chopped onion, chili pepper, a whole lobster and some white wine. He cooks the Maccheroncini separately for just one minute and then tosses it with the lobster sauce. “All this in no more than a minute. Serve it and enjoy!” he says.
Americans are familiar with the name Giuseppe Verdi as the composer of “La Traviata” and “Aida,” among other operas, but today’s Giuseppe Verdi is making vinegars at the Acefificio Aretino in Tuscany in the beautiful medieval city of Arezzo. Cibo California is offering the Verdi brand vinegars in a wide range of products for which it is the exclusive importer into the U.S. These include balsamic vinegar, red and white wine vinegars, organic red and white wine vinegar, red and white wine vinegar made with IGP Chianti wine in Tuscany, apple vinegar, and, very specially, blood orange wine vinegar made with blood oranges cultivated in Sicily. “This is something different, something unique,” Cannas says. “I tried it with a smoked salmon carpaccio and very thinly sliced sweet onions, a little radicchio, and a little lemon juice. It’s delicious.”
Cibo California is also importing a range of innovative high-quality products made with white and black truffles from Tartuflanghe, which is recognized as one of the world’s leading producers of truffles from Italy, according to Cannas. “Tartuflaghe is the master. We are talking about a very high-end product, the Louis Vuitton of the truffle industry,” he says.
The company based in Alba, Piemonte, is recognized as a leader, not just for the quality of its truffles but also for the elegance of its packaging, both for its retail and foodservice products. “This is a company that does a lot of research. They are not following the market. They are anticipating the trends in the food industry worldwide,” Cannas says. “It’s more expensive than the average imported truffle products, but in two or three bites, you see the stars, the best expression of an extensive line of truffle specialty products.” Tray the Parmiggiano Reggiano Cream with Truffle, or the Truffle Butter or the Acacia Honey with White Truffle!
Delizie di Sardegna and Sarda Affumicati are Cibo California’s source for bottarga, both from tuna and mullet. Bottarga is salted, cured fish roe, with mullet bottarga traditionally being produced in Sardinia, while tuna is used in Sicily. Most people prefer mullet bottarga for its flavor, which is less fishy than the tuna bottarga, Cannas says. “Bottarga is extracted from the fish and cleaned and covered with salt and put in a special drying cellar for a very slow drying process. In the last century, this process was done just under the sun,” he adds. “Today, bottarga is made in a drying system that produces an even better quality, flavor and consistency. Then it’s vacuum-packed and shipped all over the world.”
The bottarga is offered as the baffa, the egg sacs which have been extracted and processed whole, as well as grated or powdered in 40-gram jars. The baffa is vacuum-packed and sold at weights between 70 and 200 grams, with the best seller at around 100 grams.
“Add it to pasta to add a special flavor to any kind of meal. Over pasta, rice or soup, on top of a cioppino, drop a few drops of olive oil infused with grated bottarga,” Cannas says. “Or the bottarga is fantastic grated, a little spoon on top of grilled pork chops. This is the Sardinian way. Just use a little sprinkling of the bottarga to finish the meat after grilling.”
“With the baffa, you just slice the bottarga very thin, slice fresh artichoke heart, mix those together, add extra virgin olive oil, little bit of salt and two-three drops of lemon. This is all. You are in paradise,” he says. “That is a delicious appetizer that is offered in every restaurant in Sardinia. Instead of artichokes, you can use celery and add some cherry tomatoes.”
For dessert, Cibo California is importing biscotti and cookies from Grondona Pasticceria Genovese, a very traditional baker-biscottificio in Genoa since 1820. The pastries are made with simple ingredients of the highest quality, including, Cannas says, a lot of butter. Grondona products are made with La Madre Bianca, the company’s mother yeast, in which baker’s yeast and beneficial bacteria have been nurtured for almost two centuries. The process for feeding, tending and dividing the yeast has been kept a secret through four generations of the Grondona family – the art is rare today even in Italy, according to Cannas. “They are starting right now to enter the U.S. market, and we have been able to become exclusive importer for western U.S.,” he says.
Likewise, Grondona recipes are based on almost 200 years of tradition. Today, the company is operated by Orlando Grondona and his family. His son, Andrea Grondona, is in charge of the export division. “I took the airplane, I go to Genoa and I spent two days with Orlando and Andrea, the son. They are two wonderful human beings. Orlando is a lovely person, a genius, a master in the biscotti and cookie industry, not just in Italy but in the world. He is also a master wine expert and collector,” Cannas says. He is importing four Grondona products: the Baci di Dama in 100-gram packages, super-delicate and rich with real butter, honey, 14 percent chocolate and 17 percent hazelnuts; Canestrelli Antica Genova in 100-gram packages, in the shape of stars, 25 percent butter, lemon juice, Madagascar vanilla pods and packaged with a small packet of icing sugar intended to be sprinkled onto the cookie just before eating; Cuori Mori, heart-shaped and rich with butter, 9 percent chocolate and 3.5 percent cocoa; and Pandolcini Antica Genova, a miniature version of a cake that’s traditionally bought on the way home from church on Sunday to be served with Sunday’s lunch. It’s made from wheat flour, butter, 30 percent sultana raisins, orange peel, apples, pears, pineapples, 2.3 percent pine nuts, fresh eggs and lemon juice.
Cibo California is currently seeking account executives and distributors for southern California and other areas in the western U.S. Anyone interested in evaluating local distribution agreements for both foodservice and retail products is invited to contact Cannas at 949.230.6866 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
GrandyOats, a Maine maker of organic cereals and snacks, is launching a line of certified gluten-free products from its dedicated gluten-free production area in its new 100 percent solar powered headquarters in Hiram, Maine. This spring, GrandyOats will launch its certified gluten-free line starting with 12 skus of bulk trail mixes and nuts followed by two packaged products. GrandyOats expects to launch more certified gluten-free products later in the year.
Specifically, GrandyOats trail mixes and roasted nuts including High Antioxidant Trail Mix, Garlic Herb Cashews, Maple Roasted Cashews, and Nori Sesame Cashews, will all be certified gluten-free. GrandyOats granola will be next to go gluten-free, with its popular Coconut + Fruit Granola earning the designation shortly thereafter, followed by organic oatmeal and other products.
“Gluten-free will be a strong focus for us throughout 2016 and into 2017,” said Aaron Anker, Chief Granola Officer, GrandyOats. “Our customers have been asking us for organic, certified gluten-free granola and snacks, and in our new designated gluten-free space we are happy we can deliver.”
Consumers are choosing gluten-free products for many reasons, including disease, sensitivity, allergy, and other health concerns. In addition, gluten-free consumers are seeking additional benefits, such as organic and GMO-free, that go beyond gluten-free. Value-added propositions including current low-sugar and savory culinary trends, factor in highly as well. Improving the quality and selection of gluten-free foods available in mainstream channels will help sales in the category grow nearly 1.5 times through 2019, according to market analysis by Packaged Facts.
Like all GrandyOats cereals and snacks, the new gluten-free products are certified organic, non-GMO, and made by hand in small batches by the GrandyOats family in their 100 percent solar powered bakery in rural Maine.
Organic Granola has long been the keystone product of the GrandyOats bakery. GrandyOats Coconut + Fruit Granola is a savory-sweet, organic granola with a hearty blend of organic oats, rich coconut flakes, fruit juice-sweetened dried cranberries, plump raisins, wild flower honey, coriander and sea salt. GrandyOats Coconut + Fruit Granola will be gluten-free in both bulk and packaged offerings.
GrandyOats never uses refined sugar or artificial ingredients in its recipes. Both new flavors are sweetened with real, wild flower honey and have organic apple juice sweetened fruit. Certified organic by Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) and certified Kosher, GrandyOats never uses products that contain antibiotics, synthetic hormones, toxic pesticides or GMOs. All GrandyOats organic granola is made with organic sunflower oil and does not use canola oil.
In November 2015, GrandyOats became the first net zero food production facility on the East Coast by constructing a state-of-the-art, 100 percent solar powered facility in rural Maine. The GrandyOats solar electric system will produce on average 95,622 kWh of clean, renewable electricity annually. It will offset over 145,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year, or the amount of miles equivalent to driving from Maine to San Francisco and back 25 times.
GrandyOats achieved 28 percent growth in 2015 producing 1.2 million pounds of organic granola, trail mix and roasted nuts and generating 5.3 million in sales. Also in 2015, GrandyOats expanded its food service presence in higher education cafeterias as the first independent, organic brand to be served at more than 75 colleges and universities from University of Maine at Orono to The State University of New York (SUNY) Buffalo. With the gluten-free product line, they hope to reach even more “real granolas.”
“We’ve been fortunate enough to grow slowly but steadily, while still making our products by hand in small batches in rural Maine,” continued Anker.
Consistent with its commitment to being net zero, GrandyOats will have a 100 percent solar-powered booth at Natural Products ExpoWest Conference in Anaheim, CA at booth #3313.
Certified organic by Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) and certified kosher, GrandyOats never uses products that contain antibiotics, synthetic hormones, toxic pesticides or GMOs. A wide range of GrandyOats organic cereals and snacks in a variety of sizes are available nationwide in natural food stores, food cooperatives, major grocery chains and online at www.grandyoats.com.
In response to consumers’ desire to make more informed choices about whether to eat foods which are made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), New World Pasta Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ebro Foods, announced that its brands: American Beauty®, San Giorgio®, Ronzoni®, Creamette®, Prince® and Skinner® have earned NonGMO Project Verification on their most popular pasta products.
“Today’s consumer is demanding transparency in food labels. Simply put, consumers want to know not just what’s in their food but also where it comes from,” said Paul Galvani, Senior Vice President of Marketing for New World Pasta. “We are proud to be leading the way in the pasta category by earning Non-GMO Project Verification.”
Over 200 pasta products from Ronzoni, Creamette, San Giorgio, American Beauty, Prince and Skinner will carry the new verification seal. New World Pasta products bearing the Non-GMO Project Verified logo began appearing on shelves in 2016. The Non-GMO Project seal is the most trusted sign that a product is produced through best practices for GMO avoidance.
The pasta brands from which New World Pasta formed are built upon a firm commitment to quality and value. The brands began as family-run companies, some more than a century old, and the principles that helped garner their intense customer loyalty are the same principles that guide New World Pasta today.
By Lorrie Baumann
If you happen to see Aaron Anker tooling around at the wheel of a Volkswagen bus, don’t let good manners keep you from calling him a granola to his face. He won’t mind. “We are who we are,” he says. “We make granola, but we also drive our VW buses, and when you meet our staff, you’ll know why we have all been called granolas at some time in our life. We are authentic. We are who we say we are.”
Anker is a co-owner and Chief Granola Officer at GrandyOats, a Maine maker of organic cereals and snacks that’s just finished its third straight year with more than 25 percent annual growth. Over the past year, the company achieved 28 percent growth and made 1.2 million pounds of organic granola, trail mix and roasted nuts and generated $5.3 million in sales.
GrandyOats is also just settling into a state-of-the-art 100 percent solar powered facility that will make the company the first net zero food production facility in New England. The new facility is located in Hiram, Maine, where it’s adding 21 to the only 39 jobs currently existing in the town of Hiram. “We are literally in the mountains, in the hills of Maine, way off the beaten path…. One of the things that’s happening in rural New England is that there isn’t much economic growth and people are migrating to the cities. A lot of these towns don’t have much going on,” Anker says. “We really enjoy being able to employ people. We get people who are excited to join us, who are excited to be part of the company…. We’re helping the community grow. It’s a really nice feeling.”
Anker joined the company in 2000 after co-owner and Head Honcho, Nat Peirce, a college friend from the University of New Hampshire bought the company and invited him to join the partnership. The two have pursued their goals of creating a healthy, good place for people to work and keeping the organic integrity of their products. Their ownership of the company and a strategy of gradual growth and reinvestment in the business frees them from having to meet investor goals as well, Anker says.
When GrandyOats outgrew its previous facility and Anker and Peirce went looking for new premises that would allow them to fulfill a dream of powering their operations with solar energy, they were fortunate to find a disused elementary school made available by consolidation of the local school district. The 8.5-acre site included more than an acre of space where the students used to play soccer and kickball and that’s now used as the site for 288 solar panels that are expected to produce an average of 95.622 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. That’s enough to offset 145,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year. “We looked at all the different options for space, including some that would have required cutting down trees, but that wasn’t the granola thing to do,” Anker says. “Revitalizing an old building was.”
Everything in the new building is powered with solar electricity, including the ovens, the forklifts, the heating and cooling. “We won’t have any petroleum on premises at all,” Anker says. “We’re really excited about it, and we’re the first food production facility in New England to do that.”
With its new plant, the company is ready to expand its distribution into additional retailers in California, Arizona and Nevada under the leadership of a new Western U.S. Account Manager, Becky LaFord. GrandyOats is already being sold in the South Pacific region of Whole Foods, and the product line is doing well in independent natural food stores and co-ops as well as Hannaford, Wegmans and MOM’s Organic Markets. All of those retailers are good partners for the brand, which does best when it’s in the hands of retailers who care about the integrity of the products they sell, value transparency about how the products are made and are willing to educate customers to help them make good decisions, Anker says.
GrandyOats is also offered in 75 college and university dining halls. “It’s been really a fun segment for us,” Anker says. “It helps universities communicate their commitment to healthy, quality offerings they can feel good about. It’s been positive for the schools, the students, and has helped grow our business and brand.”
The company’s product line comprises more than 40 SKUs of trail mixes, granolas, roasted nuts, and hot cereals. The Classic Granola has 11 ingredients. The trail mixes generally have seven or eight. Those ingredients don’t include either refined sugars, canola oil or corn. “With our granolas, you’re never going to find any refined sugar. We only sweeten with honey, maple syrup, fruit juice and agave. We use fruits and nuts and wholesome grains,” Anker says. “For instance, our Instant Oatmeal Cup: Why make something simple like oatmeal complicated? Organic oats, cranberries, raisins and apples – delicious oatmeal with 35 percent fruit. You can add whatever milk you want, whatever sweetener you want. That’s our philosophy – pure, clean food, 100 percent organic…. We make good, clean food. We don’t think it needs to be overly complicated.”
Upfront Foods® is introducing a new display carton in a smaller size that helps keep the single-serving pouches of its non-GMO, vegan, and kosher granolas neatly displayed, conserves space on the shelf, and includes point-of-sale elements that appeal to today’s consumers.
The new shelf and countertop display cartons are available December 1 and hold six of the 1.4-ounce single serving pouches with a compact footprint of about 8 by 3.5 inches on the shelf, said Gigi Twist Upfront Foods’ founder. A master case contains six cartons for a total of 36 pouches, Twist said. The previous display held 12 pouches.
The colorful display carton carries over the packaging motif of leaves, ferns, shafts of grain, and other natural elements to reflect the close-to-the-Earth nature of the ingredients. It also highlights the convenience of the single serving packaging with a “Take Me Anywhere” call to action. The new cartons are available for all three flavors, and Upfront Granola® Original Crunch and Upfront Granola Cranberry Zest™ have a call-out to let consumers know they meet USDA Smart Snacks in School Standards. For Upfront Granola Pecan Almond Crisp, the carton highlights its four grams of protein per serving.
“The new smaller size was designed with retailers’ needs in mind, and the design for our packaging and display carton appeals to consumers who are looking for smarter snacks that fit their on-the-go lifestyles,” Twist said. “The cartons also let them know that our non-GMO granola is a portion controlled snack with simple ingredients from trusted food sources and contain no preservatives or artificial ingredients.”
Upfront Foods three granola flavors have Non-GMO Project Verification, are certified vegan by the Vegan Awareness Foundation, are OU Kosher certified, and Made in USA Certified®. All three are designated 100 percent whole grain by the Whole Grains Council. They are available in 1.4-ounce single-serving pouches with a suggested retail price of $1.79. Additional information is available at http://UpfrontFoods.com or by calling 1.561.886.0209.
By Richard Thompson
A southern California quinoa company is bringing about social reform in Bolivia as it works with the indigenous community to provide award-winning products to American tables. Andean Dream is a Fair Trade certified quinoa pasta, soup and cookie company that makes non-GMO, allergen-friendly products that range from Organic Fusilli and Organic Orzo to Coconut and Cocoa-Orange Cookies. The entire line is made from Royal Quinoa – the most nutrient-dense quinoa – and the products are free from hydrogenated oils and gluten along with being allergen-friendly, with no chance of cross contamination since they are made in a dedicated facility free of gluten, eggs, soy, corn and nuts. “Free-from was what everyone was talking about, and we were the first to really do it,” says Andean Dream Founder and President, Ingrid Hirstin-Lazcano.
The cookies, which launched in 2006, are offered in Chocolate Chip, Coconut, Cocoa-Orange and Cafe Mocha varieties. Each contains only 2.5 grams of sugar, says Hirstin-Lazcano. “My personal favorite goes between the Cafe Mocha and Coconut, but the best seller in the line is Chocolate Chip.”
The pasta line includes Organic Fusilli, Organic Macaroni, Organic Shells, Organic Orzo and Organic Spaghetti. Each is made gluten- and corn-free, is vegan friendly, organic- and kosher-certified, is non-GMO and is produced in an allergen-friendly facility. Each 8-ounce box of pasta contains 24 grams of protein. “Our Organic Vegetarian Quinoa Noodle Soup was originally seasonal, but we’re bringing it back to the marketplace,” says Hirstin-Lazcano.
Andean Dream started out as an ordinary cookie company in 2006 but quickly blossomed into a specialty food/social justice project under the leadership of Hirstin-Lazcano, who was inspired to practice conscientious capitalism to help bring jobs, medical benefits and retirement pensions to single mothers and disabled individuals throughout the poorest regions of Bolivia. “I wanted to create a value-added product that could aid indigenous farmers and workers in Bolivia,” she says. Already involved with the Bolivian community in Los Angeles, she learned of the circumstances regarding the poverty stricken regions in Bolivia from her husband, Fernando Lazcano Dunn, a 25-year diplomat who worked as Consul General of Bolivia in Los Angeles at the time, and sought out a solution that aligned with her personal convictions.“They are close to my heart and I wanted to see everyone have an equal opportunity,” says Hirstin-Lazcano, “I wanted to help raise their standard of living.”
According to 2015 Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book, 45 percent of Bolivia’s population lives under the poverty line (based on the international standard of two dollars a day) with three out of four people in rural areas living in poverty. The Rural Poverty Portal, a forum that discusses the difficulties of rural life in Bolivian regions, notes that women and young people are particularly vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity.
“I wanted to bring attention to the situation over there and provide single mothers that don’t have jobs – or are working menial labor – and help give them a regular respectable job,” says Hirstin-Lazcano.
Hirstin-Lazcano spent two weeks traveling through Bolivia in 2006 to find the right co-packer that could provide large scale manufacturing at a local level, offer jobs and provide advancement to native farmers. Hirstin-Lazcano says that she was able to find a co-packer that would work with locals as well as provide benefits such as medical care and retirement pensions that they wouldn’t have ever gotten before. Currently, the co-packer that works with Andean Dream is employing between 20 to 25 indigenous people for Andean’ Dream’s manufacturing, many of whom have received promotions to higher management positions. “There are always new opportunities as we grow, and as we grow our facility for production, many others will be hired for satellite locations,” says Hirstin-Lazcano.
One particular story that stands out for Hirstin-Lazcano is that of a deaf and mute woman who had been resigned to harsh janitorial work and would have been stuck there had it not been for Andean Dream’s project. Edith was hired and was eventually promoted into a supervisor position. “She would’ve never been able to do that before,” says Hirstin-Lazcano, “Because of her employment, both of her sons are able to go to university. One is studying to be a dentist, and the other an architect.”
In addition to the company’s social activism in Bolivia, Andean Dream was the Official Cookie Sponsor in the Special Olympic World Games, providing 48,000 cookies to athletes as well as regularly giving away products to local charitable foundations, food-banks and organizations focused on inner-city kids with economic challenges.
When asked about how her work makes her feel, Hirstin-Lazcano isn’t shy about answering: “We’re socially minded … and helping to provide opportunities to individuals who need a better life is our Andean Dream.”
This story was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Gourmet News.
Italian Foods Corporation’s La Piana shelf stable gourmet stuffed pastas in new recyclable plastic packaging have now arrived in the U.S. for both the original three flavors and two additional flavors in an 8-ounce size.
The new 8-ounce package has a matte finish and elegant design of soft grey and yellow. A clear window allows consumers to view the pasta, said Francesca Lapiana-Krause, General Manager. The new packaging is a more minimalist design eliminating a box that previously held a clear cellophane bag of pasta. In addition to reducing the amount of packaging, it allows more efficient shipping, Lapiana-Krause said. The bags are designed with a squared bottom for a neat display on the shelf. They are available through Haddon House Food Products of Medford, New Jersey.
Flavors in the 8-ounce size include Tortellini with Cheese, Mezzaluna with Basil Pesto, Ravioli with Squash, and the two new flavors, Mezzaluna with Gorgonzola and Tortellini with Sundried Tomato and Oregano. The stuffed pastas are one of Italian Foods Corporation’s best sellers. They are imported from the Lombardy region and shelf stable for 15 months with a suggested retail price of $4.99. They also are packaged in 1-pound boxes, which have a suggested retail price of $6.19 to $7.19.