By Lorrie Baumann
Thirty three years ago, the goal of American Spoon founders Justin Rashid and Larry Forgione was to make the best preserves in America using Michigan fruits. The goal is the same today, Rashid says.
American Spoon is based in Petoskey, Michigan, a summer resort area with a remarkable microclimate that stretches along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, which buffers the extremes of temperature to make a growing season that allows local farmers to grow most of America’s crop of tart cherries as well as Haven peaches and, since the 1920s, a good share of America’s cultivated blueberries.
Rashid spent the summers of his childhood in the area and it was then that he learned to appreciate the local fruits. As he grew up, he learned to forage for wild mushrooms and fruits from the 30,000 acres of state forest lands that surrounded his parents’ summer cabin. “Any excuse to be out there in the woods,” he says. “It was what I loved to do, and I had a passion for it.”
He met Chef Larry Forgione, a pioneer in the farm to table movement when Forgione was looking for sources for wonderful ingredients to use in his restaurant menus and started supplying him with wild mushrooms and fruits. It wasn’t long before Forgione paid him a visit to see for himself where the wonderful produce that Rashid was supplying had originated. Once he saw the bounty available in Michigan, Forgione knew he wanted more of it in his restaurants. “He asked if I could provide fruit preserves for the River Cafe,” Rashid says. “We were both young, you know. I said, ‘I’m sure I could make preserves.’”
The two of them together founded American Spoon, which was incorporated in 1982. The name refers to the spoonability of the preserves, which are more suited to scooping onto bread or a cheese with a spoon rather than spreading them with a knife. Forgione developed the recipes, Rashid sourced the fruit, and together they set up a kitchen equipped with traditional copper kettles and wooden paddles.
Today, American Spoon still makes its preserves in small batches the old-fashioned, labor-intensive way and sells about 85 percent of what the company makes directly to consumers in six retail stores, all located in destination resort towns along Lake Michigan. “We have developed a very significant direct mail and Internet business, so some of the same customers who discover us when they’re on vacation here in the summer become year-round customers at Spoon.com,” Rashid says.
American Spoon draws summer tourists from the small-town sidewalks of the resort towns into its shops with a sampling table where visitors can try everything the company makes. “The wonderful thing about our small towns here is that they’ve been around a long time, so they have small-scale, human-scale, walkable downtowns,” Rashid says. “People taste and they buy, and very often they buy a case. It’s like going to a vineyard and tasting the wine and going away with a case.”
“A company of ours is not supposed to be able to survive based on quality, quantity and price. You have to justify your existence by producing products that spoil people,” he says. “We have one chance, when they open that jar and taste it, to create a relationship. We’re not selling food as fuel. We’re selling it to people who use it to entertain, for gifts, to celebrate.”
After 33 years in business, Rashid says that running American Spoon is still a lot of fun. These days, his son Noah Marshall-Rashid does all the marketing and runs many of the business details while Rashid himself is more involved in the production side of things. “I don’t suppose it would be as much fun if it were not that I have Noah here, who does most of the heavy lifting, so to speak,” he says. “We have a great time meeting our customers in our stores, talking with them about food, sharing recipes with them…. The food business can be very rewarding because everybody eats, and it makes people happy.”
“The core of Marie’s Dreams brand is quality and enjoyment, but our vision is also to offer people something their parents and grandparents got in the 1950’s,” says Pekka Rantajarvi, CEO at A1 Tradehouse Corp.
“When people buy a Marie’s Dreams product, they know they get the real thing,” tells Rantajarvi. “Like in the ’50s, when the things were what they were supposed to be. Those days a scooter was made to last more than three months, and you didn’t need to read the small print to make sure you were not fooled. Today’s consumers face a much harder reality. We want to turn back the clock in a positive way!”
The first product out is Marie’s Dreams Seedless Cloudberry Preserve with 45percent wild cloudberries from the clean Arctic nature of northern Finland. “It’s delicious with ice cream, cheese, whipped cream, waffles!” says Rantajarvi.
“I know somebody can launch a product with much less berries for a better profit, but that’s not what Marie’s Dreams is about. We want to give people the real stuff when they buy a Marie’s Dreams product,” says Rantajarvi. “Marie is a young American woman who wants to enjoy real things. She also wants to share her love for quality with all Americans who want to have real stuff. I encourage everybody to visit www.mariesdreams.com to learn more about Marie and her dreams.”
Marie’s Dreams Seedless Cloudberry Preserve is available at selected specialty stores and quality food groceries starting in October.
By Dave Bernard
When you live abroad and cannot keep up with the demand from friends and family for the interesting food products you ferry home in suitcases each year, it might be time to start your own business. So it was with Colleen Sundlie, who had discovered date syrup while living in the United Arab Emirates with her professor husband and son. Now back in Springfield, Missouri and two and a half years into her business, Date Lady, Sundlie no longer has to seek out the obscure Middle Eastern market to locate a bottle of this nutritious and surprisingly versatile syrup.
After tasting many products and coming to appreciate Middle Eastern “date culture,” where hosts typically serve coffee and dates, and bowls of the fruit are a staple at gyms, hotels and car dealerships, Sundlie put her marketing and business background to work. In addition to the date syrup, Date Lady sells a caramel sauce and a chocolate spread, both sweetened only by dates, as well as packaged dates and a new date balsamic vinegar. The all-natural products are sold nationwide, including at many prominent retailers, such as Murray’s Cheese, Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic Markets, as well as in many smaller specialty food stores. Sundlie reports the company’s sales have roughly doubled in the last year.
According to Sundlie, consumer demand for Date Lady’s flagship date syrup has exploded in recent months. “We have a lot of people that are addicted to it,” she said. “We’ve had people asking us if they can order it by the gallon.” While the company is looking into larger packaging, it recently added convenience with squeeze bottles for its date syrup and caramel sauce. These products previously came in glass jars. “People were just using it more often and asking, ‘How can you make this easier for us?’” said Sundlie.
When it comes to the company’s packaged date offerings, Date Lady’s uniqueness extends to this product line as well. While most dates sold in the United States are Medjools or Deglet Noors, Date Lady sells organic California Barhi and Halawi dates. Sundlie likens these less common dried fruits to pieces of caramel. The company does use Medjool and Deglet Noor dates in its other products.
In addition to climbing retail sales of Date Lady’s date syrup, some manufacturers have begun substituting the 100 percent fruit syrup for other sweeteners, for example in chocolate and fruit and nut bars, smoothies, ice cream and even beer. Interestingly, none of these products are date-flavored. The syrup has the sweetness of maple syrup but carries a more complex flavor, with hints of caramel, toffee and molasses. The date flavor itself is often masked when the syrup is used to sweeten other foods. However, when used alone as a syrup, for example on pancakes, notes of date do come through.
To meet growing demand from consumers and manufacturers, Date Lady recently moved to a new Springfield headquarters and production facility, tripling its capacity. The company benefits from a relative lack of competition within the larger specialty food landscape. While other companies sell whole dates, Date Lady’s syrup, caramel sauce, chocolate spread and date balsamic go virtually unmatched. Even most Middle Eastern products do not compete directly with Date Lady products. Many include added sugar, and, according to Sundlie, some products touted as “all-natural” frequently fall short of the claim.
Always looking to branch out into the gourmet market with new products, Date Lady launched its new date sugar last month and plans to debut additional products later this year. For more information, visit www.ilovedatelady.com.
By David Bernard
When developing a successful specialty food company, usually you work hard to create a product, market that product and build the business. Then you have some fun after success hits. The team at Hampton, Virginia-based Simply Panache, maker of Mango Mango preserve, took the opposite route.
Simply Panache’s three co-owners, Lakesha Brown-Renfro, Nzinga Teule-Hekima and Tanecia Willis started out having quite a bit of fun as corporate and special event planners. While organizing these events, the trio wanted to give guests something special to remember the occasion, and that turned out to be a signature mango preserve. They had their chef add the preserve to everything from mimosas and lemonade to cream cheese dip and ginger shrimp. And the preserve simply took off from there.
“Our event clients always wanted to know, what was in the shrimp, what was in the punch,” said Brown-Renfro, co-owner and Product Executive at Simply Panache. “They started asking if they could buy what was in all of these things we made. We looked at each other and said, ‘We think we have something here.’”
Immediately a hit, the preserve actually landed its co-owners a coveted spot on the television show Shark Tank. While the owners did not end up partnering with the Shark, they did field 15,000 new orders in the 48 hours after the show aired. “We have people who order from all over the world now,” said Brown-Renfro. In the year ending in September, the company sold more than 60,000 jars, a whopping 300 percent increase over the previous year’s sales.
Simply Panache’s Mango Mango preserve is an all-natural, four-ingredient preserve that just two and a half years after its debut is now sold in all Mid-Atlantic Whole Foods stores, and in gourmet and other specialty stores nationwide. When creating the preserve, Brown-Renfro and her colleagues had all-natural and less sugar in mind. Mango Mango contains no preservatives and uses less sugar than most commercially available preserves.
“It’s a very distinctive taste,” said Brown-Renfro. “It’s the blend that does it. You don’t really see commercial preserves with lime juice and vanilla. The blend is what sets it apart from other mango products and other preserves. And with no fillers, you get more of the mango fruit.”
Simply Panache will open a new production facility and bistro in Hampton, early next year. The company has several new products in the works, including two vinaigrettes – one with red wine, olive oil and vinegar and one with mango and Dijon mustard – a mimosa mixer, lemonade and cocktail sauce. If all goes to plan, these products will start rolling out next spring.
For three friends who were happily operating an event planning business, this fruity turn has been a pleasant surprise. “This was an accidental business,” said Brown-Renfro. “But once we started making the preserve, with our event clients requesting it, and then the positive early feedback we got, we thought it would be successful. And we’re hoping that it will be a lot more successful. We’d love for it to be a household product, because it just has so many uses.”
This story was originally published in the November 2014 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.
A perfect stocking stuffer, Sarabeth’s Mini Jar Gift Box consists of six 1.5-ounce jars of the most popular, award-winning flavors of Sarabeth’s Legendary Spreadable Fruit. The flavors include orange apricot marmalade, plum cherry, strawberry raspberry, mixed berry, pineapple mango and peach apricot. This neat little item will appeal to gift basket buyers, department stores, gourmet retailers, florists, corporate accounts and any store selling highly regarded branded merchandise. Sarabeth’s Mini Jar Gift Box is an ideal product for a thank you gift, housewarming present, dinner party invitation, a colleague’s birthday or for a Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Secretary’s Day remembrance.
Sarabeth tested sales of this product at her own bakery in the Chelsea Market of New York City, and it quickly became one of the fastest moving items in the store. The product is available at a suggested retail price of $17.95.
By Lorrie Baumann
Stonewall Kitchen is showcasing the flavors of maple and bacon in two new products that will put a stamp of excellence on holiday entertaining events. See them in booth #3914 at the Summer Fancy Food Show. Maple Bacon Onion Jam has the sweetness of maple and onions combined with the savory umami of bacon for a flavorful and versatile product. Put it on the cheese tray during the cocktail hour or use it to glaze the dinnertime ham. There’s even a pizza recipe — just use the jam as the base sauce on the crust and then top with cheese. For a super-easy appetizer, pick up some flatbread at the grocery, spread it with this jam and toast it in the oven. That would be fabulous, and there’s no requirement at all that you tell anyone at all how easy that was to pull off.
The other new maple-bacon product is a Maple Bacon Aioli that’s made with canola oil, real bacon bits and pure maple syrup. Try it as a sandwich spread, especially on a BLT, just use a dollop on grilled meats to add some extra flavor, or you could even use it as a dip for fries or vegetable sticks. After tasting it, I can hardly wait to slather it over some chicken pieces, bake that in the oven and serve it to somebody I love.
Stonewall Kitchen is also introducing a second aioli — this one a Cilantro Lime Aioli. Use this one to top fish tacos of other summertime Mexican dishes. Remember that commercial in which the hamster in the plastic ball points out that the dinnertime tacos aren’t going to eat themselves and then the young woman bounces in anticipation? “Oooh, tacos!” Well, that’s the reaction this Cilantro Lime Aioli would get.
The Maple Bacon Onion Jam retails for $7.95, and the aiolis retail for $7.50 for a 10.25-ounce bottle.
Cherchies Specialty Foods is introducing four new products to its line of gourmet foods: Strawberry Hot Pepper Jam, Blackberry Preserves, Lem’n Raspberry Marmalade, and Apple Butter Spread. Cherchies showcases these items in new attractive 10-ounce jars perfect for creating an enticing product display.
Cherchies Specialty Foods has been producing award-winning gourmet foods since 1978 and has a reputation for innovation, excellence in quality and personal-touch customer service.
For more information about Cherchies Specialty Foods, call Christine Hartfield at 800-644-1980 or email at email@example.com.
Award-winning Caramelized Onion Marmalade from The Tracklement Company, one of the U.K.’s most celebrated specialty condiment producers, is now available in the U.S. through online outlets and retail grocery stores.
Made by hand in small batches at Tracklement’s factory in Sherston, a village of 2,000 in Wiltshire, England, Caramelized Onion Marmalade won top “Great Taste” and “Taste of the West” awards in the U.K. in 2012. It has a sweet roasted-onion flavor derived from its main ingredient: white onions that are cooked fro three hours and enriched with redcurrant juice.
In England, Caramelized Onion Marmalade is served alngside grilled or roasted meats and is a popular accompaniment for pates, terrines and cheese. Tracklement’s owner Guy Tullberg serves it melted over sausages and as a topping for any grilled burger. It is also used to enhance gravies or sauces.
The Tracklement Company produced more than 60 tons of Onion Marmalade last year. It is currently available online at Amazon.com through CyberCucina.com and Lobels.com, and at independent retail stores, including Eli’s Manhattan, Formaggio Kitchen, Epicure Market and Home Grown Meats. The suggested U.S. retail price is $7.99 for a 9-ounce jar.
Tracklement’s U.S. distributor is Belgravia Imports of Portsmouth, R.I.
In 1989, Gerhard Latka and his wife Gabriele co-founded Crofter’s Organic in Parry Sound, Ontario, with the dream of creating organic fruit spreads that were nutritious and affordable – an ambitious goal since the organic food industry had not yet gained popularity in North America. Perseverance and belief in the value of Crofter’s low-sugar, organic fruit spreads sustained Crofter’s through the early years. Over the past 25 years, Crofter’s Organic has blended, jarred and sold antioxidant-rich fruit spreads to jam lovers across North America, fulfilling the original mission to bring the highest quality organic products, “from source to spread,” to consumers. Today, Crofter’s Organic remains family owned and is the largest organic jam manufacturer in North America and the leading brand in the natural channel in the United States.
“From the beginning, we were dedicated to making the best tasting, nutritious, organic fruit spreads, focusing on robust, fresh fruit flavor and an elegantly spreadable consistency but with less sugar than traditional preserves,” said Gerhard Latka, Co-Founder and President of Crofter’s Organic. “We wanted to create products that brought consumers what we like to call ‘accessible organic’; high-quality, low-sugar, non-GMO spreads at an affordable price.”
The demand for lower sugar, more nutrient-dense foods that still taste great is a pervading theme in food formulation these days, as consumers, healthcare providers and nutritionists have become increasingly aware of the negative impact of high-sugar, and nutritionally void foods made with artificial ingredients. As a result, Crofter’s minimally processed, low-sugar products provide shoppers a high-quality organic alternative to traditional jams and preserves, at only 30 calories a serving.
Crofter’s offers shoppers more than 20 certified organic, Non-GMO Project verified spreads, including the fair trade cane sugar sweetened Premium Spreads, the high antioxidant Superfruit TM spreads and the no added cane sugar Just FruitTM Spreads. Over the past 25 years, the company has established long-term relationships with suppliers and growers around the world, which means that Crofter’s Organic high-quality ingredients come from the best sources on earth.
Through continued commitment to innovation, Crofter’s aims to remain the benchmark for quality standards, resources, process and products in the fruit spread industry with the goal of making a positive impact on the health and well-being of generations to come.
“We want to be the best low calorie fruit spread,” adds Latka. “The best ingredients, crafted with the utmost attention to quality in our own manufacturing facility, results in a delicious fruit spread that is also healthy – not loaded with sugar or any unnecessary ingredients.”
Red Lake Nation Foods wild rice and gift baskets feature all natural foods, which include all natural wild rice, wild hand-harvested fruit jellies, jams and syrups, handcrafted gift items, all natural batter mixes, popcorn and herbal teas. Red Lake Nation Foods began in 2005 and is a member of the Intertribal Agricultural Council and features the Made/Produced by American Indians trademark on its products. Red Lake Nation is owned and operated by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa of Northern Minnesota, whose mission is to provide award winning, specialty natural foods and gift products that represent the nation’s cultural heritage for the benefit of over 9,600 members of the Red Lake Nation.
Red Lake Nation wild rice resembles rice, but is actually an aquatic grass seed often referred to as a pseudo grain or false grain. Wild rice boasts higher nutrition than regular rice, with more protein (12 percent) and minerals. Wild rice also has more niacin than brown rice and is a good source of B vitamins. A 1/3-cup serving provides approximately 16 grams of whole grains, or the equivalent of one serving of a whole grain. It is low in fat and, like other pseudo grains (quinoa and flaxseed), it is gluten-free. A staple of the Ojibwe, wild rice has been called a delicacy by non-Native Americans.
Traditionally, the month of September was the time when the Ojibwe left their homes and spent their days gathering and processing the wild rice. Processing included drying the rice in the sun or parching it over fire, and separating the hulls from the seeds. Because it was such a valuable food wild rice became a staple at trading posts. Cooked wild rice keeps in the refrigerator for one to two weeks, frozen up to six months, and uncooked it will keep indefinitely when placed in dry storage. Red Lake Nation wild rice is easy to prepare, affordable, and available year-round. It is a Minnesota-cultivated premium, dark roasted long grain rice and is available in gift, retail, bulk and family-size packs.
Red Lake Nation Foods wild berry jams, jellies and syrups are chock full of wild fruits harvested locally at the peak of freshness. They contain no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors and are scrumptious on pancakes, yogurt, ice cream or your favorite bread. Try them with Red Lake Nation’s traditional fry bread mix for an easy delicacy. Flavors include the Chokecherry Jelly that won the 2012 Taste Test Award in Cooking Light magazine. Other flavors are Wild Blueberry Jam, Wild Grape Jelly, Wild Hawthorn Jelly and Wild Plum Jelly. Syrups include Real Maple Syrup, Wild Plum, Wild Grape and Wild Blueberry Syrup. Red Lake Nation’s Wild Rice Pancake Mix is all natural, preservative free and is made in small batches to ensure the freshest product. Native American Fish Batter Mix is a preservative free lightly seasoned batter mix for fish or anything else you want to use it on. Other mixes include Traditional Bannock Quick Bread Mix and Wild Rice Fl our. Bannock Quick Bread Mix is an all natural batter mix that produces a rich, cake-like bread mix. It needs only water and heat to make traditional baked flatbread. Wild Rice Flour is an all natural, gluten-free whole grain flour with a sweet, nutty aroma. It contains all the nutritional benefits of whole wild rice and is high in B vitamins and rich in zinc and potassium.
Red Lake Nation gift products make the perfect individual or corporate gift and are available in regular or custom designed boxes or handmade birch bark baskets. A personalized gift card may also be included. Wholesale pricing is available for gourmet and specialty retailers, gift and gift basket retailers, up-scale grocery, caterers and restaurants or foodservices. They may also be purchased on-line at www.redlakenationfoods.com.
For more information, contact: Red Lake Nation Foods, 888-225-2108, www.redlakelakenationfoods.coml Fax: 219-679-2714.