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Meats and Poultry

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Rastelli Foods Group Caters to Both Consumers and Other Retailers

By Lorrie Baumann

As both a retailer and a wholesale meat processor, Rastelli Foods Group is in prime position to observe how the American grocery landscape is evolving. Rastelli Foods Group supplies meat in the wholesale market to grocers and meal kit delivery services up and down the East Coast of the U.S., provides meat for U.S. military installations overseas, ships directly to consumers across the U.S. and operates two New Jersey specialty grocery stores, a 6,000-square foot store originally opened in Deptford as Rastelli’s Meat Stop and then remodeled and reopened five years ago as Rastelli Market Fresh and a new 40,000 square-foot specialty grocer in Marlton.

Ray Rastelli, III is the company’s Vice President and son of the Founder who started Rastelli Meat Stop about 40 years ago and grew it into one of the premier meat suppliers on the East Coast. His father, also Ray Rastelli, is still very active in the business and likely to be recognized by the QVC shoppers who see him pitching fresh and frozen meats four to six times a week on their televisions. The QVC sales are part of a direct-to-consumer mail-order operation that delivers 50,000 to 60,000 packages, mainly fresh and frozen meat and seafood products, both to those QVC shoppers and to customers who come directly to the company’s website. “We started our e-commerce platform in 2009,” Rastelli says. “For the first few years, we sold a few thousand packages a month. Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen a significant, significant increase.”

From this vantage point, Ray Rastelli, 33, is seeing a trend that’s corroborated by marketing researchers. U.S. government figures document that about half of Americans’ food dollars are now spend on food prepared in restaurants, and even when Americans eat at home, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing the same kind of cooking that their grandmothers did. “The biggest thing I see that’s really changing in the past two years is the evolution of the at-home delivery companies,” Rastelli said. “Some of the retailers we work with are trying to come out with their own version of that – meal kits right at the front of the store. Those companies are definitely taking market share.” According to market research firm Packaged Facts, there are now more than 150 meal delivery kit services operating in the U.S. and over the past few years, these businesses have raised more than $650 million in venture capital. Most of these meal kit delivery services are targeting young professionals and families with children who live in urban areas.

Americans between the ages of 25 and 55 are increasingly comfortable ordering their food online, and and cooking it at home, often in the form of meals that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. Women now spend less than an hour a day on food preparation and cleanup, while men still spend an average of less than half an hour a day working in the kitchen, according to 2015 statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Rastelli says his company’s online customers tend to be foodies who care about the quality of the food they’re getting. “They’re definitely people who are really engaged in food, not people who are just looking to put something on the plate,” he said.

He says they’re increasingly likely to see organic and all-natural foods as healthier options. “Five years ago, organic and all-natural would be one one hundredth of the business,” he said. “These days, it’s between 30 to 45 percent of the product we manufacture.”

Rastelli, who started work sweeping floors in his father’s business when he was 10 years old, then became a regular employee on the night shift while he was a sophomore in high school, now sees these trends playing out in the company’s two retail stores. The original Rastelli Market Fresh was converted from a 6,000-foot Rastelli’s Meat Stop store five years ago. Designed as a kind of hybrid between Whole Foods and the previous store, but with a lot of prepared options, the business at the new store inspired the company to expand with a second, bigger location in Marlton, New Jersey, about a half-hour drive from Philadelphia.

The new Rastelli Market Fresh is more of a prepared food store with a pantry of specialty items than a full-service grocer, with almost half of its business professional customers stopping in to eat in the store rather than purchase a basket of food to take home and cook. The store includes several made-to-order restaurant-type concepts – there’s no hot-line buffet – including a pizza stand, sushi restaurant, a taqueria and a Craftwich sandwich shop. Customers order from any of the concepts and the store’s deli counter from a self-service kiosk that prints out a ticket for the customer, who waits only about 2-1/2 to 3 minutes for a meal that’s made from scratch. “It’s set the world on fire in that area,” Rastelli said. “It’s been beyond our expectations.”

Of the 20,000 customers a week who come through the store and check out with an average $38 purchase, fully 9,000 to 10,000 of them came to eat at the 150-seat cafe/lounge or to pick up a single meal to take home with them. According to research reported by the Washington Post in 2015, less than 60 percent of suppers served at home in 2014 were actually cooked at home, and although that trend stalled a bit during the recession, Americans began picking up takeout again as the economy improved.

The single most popular concept in the Marlton Rastelli Market Fresh store is a create-a-plate offering in which customers select a protein from several choices that might include a chicken breast, a filet mignon, a grilled salmon portion and a lamb chop and then add two sides from a menu of 10 selections to put together a total customized meal priced at $8.99. The concept has lines of customers waiting every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Rastelli said. “We package it up for them and off they go.”

The retail stores also act as a product development lab for products offered by the company’s online and wholesale operations. For instance, recipes for pre-marinated steaks and chicken breasts, which are extremely popular items, are pilot-tested in the retail stores, where Rastelli and other family members will spend time on the weekends talking to customers about whether they like what they’re eating. If not, the recipe goes back for more work until there’s general agreement that the company has a really good product before it’s mass-marketed to Rastelli’s online customers and to other grocery retailers. “We’re finding that grocery stores are just shifting to what people are looking for. “People still have to eat,” Rastelli said. “We try to cater to business professionals who are in a jam and trying to get dinner for their families because they worked late.”

Schweid & Sons to Open New Beef Processing Plant

Schweid & Sons, a family-owned, fourth-generation ground beef purveyor supplying premier food service and retail operations across the nation, will be opening a new, cutting-edge ground beef processing facility in College Park, Georgia in early 2017, in response to the increased consumer demand for Schweid & Sons’ products.

“We are thrilled to announce the opening of a Schweid & Sons ground beef processing facility in the Atlanta area,” said Jamie Schweid, President. “The facility represents a major milestone for Schweid & Sons. We are thrilled at the growth that we have experienced over the last year, and look forward to continuing to provide the best-tasting, highest-quality burgers to food service and retail operations around the U.S.”

The new, 66,000 square foot facility will utilize state of the art equipment to produce high-quality fresh and frozen products; cut down transportation time for customers located in the South, South Central and lower Midwest regions of the United States; and ensure fresher product on a quicker timeline. Schweid & Sons expects to start shipping from this facility in early 2017.

Little Red Dot Kitchen Leverages sofi Award

littlereddotbeefbakkwaemLittle Red Dot Kitchen, whose Singapore street-style Hickory Smoked Spicy Candied Bacon Bak Kwa was named a 2016 sofi® Award winner, has leveraged that recognition for growth in distribution and at retail.

Little Red Dot Kitchen has seen growing interest in its line of five meat snacks since its Hickory Smoked Spicy Candied Bacon Bak Kwa was named a finalist and won the savory snack category in this year’s sofi Awards, according to Little Red Dot Kitchen CEO Ching Lee. The Bak Kwa meat snacks, which come from U.S. family farms dedicated to raising animals humanely and without antibiotics or hormones, have been added by Vistar, headquartered in Centennial, Colorado; Gourmet Merchants International of Gardena, California and Gourmet Goods Distribution of Belleview, New Jersey.

New retail placements include Barnes & Noble College stores through Vistar, and direct sales to Safeway for its San Jose, California, stores; Straub’s in Missouri and Foodstuffs in Illinois, Lee said. “Straub’s and Foodstuffs came to us directly because of the sofi Award,” she said, “We have seen interest from other large chains and additional distributors as more and more retailers across many channels are encountering consumers who want a higher level of snacking with more interesting and exotic flavors and better, cleaner ingredients.”

In addition to being produced from protein sources raised humanely and without antibiotics or hormones, Little Red Dot Kitchen’s Bak Kwa is minimally processed with most ingredients having non-GMO verification. It also is free from artificial ingredients, wheat, dairy and eggs. The Bak Kwa is available in five flavors, including Hickory Smoked Spicy Candied Bacon, which has no nitrates or nitrites, Spicy Chipotle Beef Bak Kwa, Pork Bak Kwa, free-range Turkey Bak Kwa, and Lemongrass Beef Bak Kwa. The meat snacks are available in resealable 1- to 3-ounce packages with a suggested retail price of $6.99 to $7.99. Cases include 12 of the 2.5- to 3-ounce bags and 18 of the 1-ounce bags.

More information about Little Red Dot Kitchen is available by calling 408.673.8227 or by connecting online at www.facebook.com/reddotkitchen, www.twitter.com/reddotkitchen, and www.instagram.com/littlereddotkithen.

Subscription Service Delivers Affordable Grass-fed Beef

By Lorrie Baumann

Plaid Cow Society is a new subscription service, launched in late September, that delivers fresh grass-fed beef to customers in eight western states. In October, the service will expand to offer nationwide deliveries.

Founder and CEO Travis Scarpace says that the idea behind Plaid Cow Society was born with a high school friend who now owns a CrossFit gym, who told him that his clients were looking for better sources for the grass-fed and finished, hormone-free and antibiotic free meat protein that they needed to support a Paleo lifestyle. “You might be onto something. Let me get back to you,” Scarpace, a veteran of the meat industry, told him. That was about a year and a half ago, and the result is now ready to roll out.

Plaid Cow Society, based in Pasadena, California, is working with West Coast ranchers to ensure a supply of beef that’s lived on grass for its entire life. No antibiotics or hormones are given to the animals to encourage them to grow faster or to develop more muscle mass, and they’re fed no corn at all. “We try to treat our animals with the most dignity that we possibly can,” Scarpace said. “When we’re working with ranchers, that’s what we’re looking for.”

“Just because a grocery store’s label says vegetarian fed, it does not mean that the cow ate grass its whole life,” he said.

Plaid Cow Society meat is trimmed to remove all of the visible fat, so that what the customer ends up buying is just the protein. “A lot of times in the grocery store, the steaks are 20 to 50 percent fat per pound, which means that the customer is paying for that fat,” Scarpace said.

Once it’s trimmed, it’s carefully packaged to ensure that it’ll reach its purchaser fresh. “We don’t freeze. We don’t add any type of gas to preserve the meat. We don’t add any type of meat glue or anything,” Scarpace said. “I feel strongly about the customer not knowing the difference between what they paid for and what they end up getting. What upsets me is when someone buys something and they don’t know what’s happened to it, and they think it’s the same as something that’s sitting next to it.”

“We’re trying to open the lines of communication. Our packaging is very clear on what we do and what we don’t,” he continued. “It’s just little simple things like that that we’re trying to do with the consumer.”

Meat is shipped out from the USDA-inspected southern California processing plant in recyclable gel-packed containers that keep it cold without freezing it in time to be at the customer’s home by Friday. “The product that’s shipped out that day has been processed that day, so that our turnaround from farm to table is incredibly fast,” Scarpace said. “The whole thing is recyclable top to bottom. That was huge. We wanted something that was sustainable, which was not easy.”

Although Plaid Cow Society is a subscription box, Scarpace has eliminated the subscription commitment. There are no member fees, Plaid Cow may be canceled at any time and members have the option to skip a week’s delivery.

Deliveries are separated into plans: one-person plan will receive 12 cuts delivered every month while the two-person plan includes 12 cuts delivered every two weeks. Currently Plaid Cow Society is available to be shipped to Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Colorado and California with more states to be added as the brand grows.

 

Oberto Beef Jerky Launches Trail Mix Product Line

Oberto Beef Jerky will expand its product portfolio this month as it enters the trail mix category with the launch of Oberto Trail Mix. Oberto’s entry is part of the company’s bigger mission to provide more delicious, convenient, and “better for you” snacking product forms featuring the unmatched lean protein power of its Oberto Beef Jerky. The first three Oberto Trail Mix flavors – Original Beef, Spicy Sweet Beef, and Teriyaki Chicken — are now rolling out to select retailers nationwide.

The introduction of Oberto Trail Mix comes as the beef jerky and trail mix categories are both seeing explosive growth. Combined U.S. retail category sales of jerky and trail mix exceed $3 billion, with explosive growth this yea, according to Nielsen ScanTrak.

Oberto Trail Mix has been in development for more than a year. At Oberto’s integrated research and development lab and U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed manufacturing facility in the Seattle area, the company developed a proprietary blend that guarantees delicious, tender jerky while adding premium nuts, seeds, fruit and dark chocolate. Oberto’s innovative trail mix not only satisfies hunger, but delivers high protein without artificial ingredients.

David Lakey, Oberto’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, said this is a natural expansion of the Oberto Brand. “Active consumers want more protein in their snacks. Loyal Oberto Beef Jerky consumers also eat a lot of trail mix, and our research indicates they’re very interested in this new snack option while on the go.”

To support the launch of Oberto Trail Mix at retail, Oberto has created a range of in-store merchandising vehicles, including shelf talkers and aisle and counter rack displays. It will also promote the new line through digital and social media marketing – including contests and branded content featuring its line-up of major-league athletes.

Top Retailers, Distributors Recognized for Beef Excellence

From grilled steaks to burgers to delicious roasts, consumers seek top-quality beef cuts and rely on local grocers to help them serve their favorite family meals. At this year’s Certified Angus Beef ® Annual Conference, held in Tucson, Arizona, these retailers and distributors from around the globe were honored as beef leaders. The retailers and distributors gathered with family Angus cattle ranchers to nurture their focus on delivering premium beef.
“We are proud to partner with these companies and congratulate their ongoing successes,” says John Stika, the beef brand’s President. “Every time they recommend the Certified Angus Beef brand, they embrace our family ranching heritage and dedication to quality from farm to table.”

Giant Eagle, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, earned the retailer of the year award. Through its focus on bringing top-quality beef to customers, Giant Eagle held a store-wide grilling event and featured roasts for the holidays. Promotions included social media, targeted e-mails and weekly recipes. Stores offer beef that’s cut fresh in-store, as well as specialty burgers, beef kabobs and Certified Angus Beef brand prime cuts. Circular features also included buy-one, get-one opportunities. Giant Eagle’s focus on premium beef earned loyal customers and the top retail sales volume increase award.

Price Chopper and Market 32, based in Schenectady, New York, earned the award for retail marketer of the year for a large chain. Creative promotions year-round feature the Certified Angus Beef brand, which anchors the meat case at all Price Chopper and Market 32 stores. For example, the summer grilling promotion included in-store, print, television and radio promotions leading customers to the meat case, where their beef can be cut to order. Collaboration between the meat team, marketing team and the brand’s staff also introduced top-quality ground beef, helping Price Chopper to also receive a top five sales volume large-chain retailer award.

Foodland Super Markets, in Hawaii, was named the retail marketer of the year for a small chain. The retailer developed comprehensive marketing programs that made the Certified Angus Beef brand the focal point of the meat case and front-page features. Meat department staff were trained to approach customers to discuss beef cuts and meal solutions, which aligned with a campaign inviting customers to meet Foodland’s in-house beef experts. Radio ads, coupons and social media also added sales, which led to a top five sales volume small-chain retailer award.

Meijer, Grand Rapids, Michigan, was named the retail value-added products marketer of the year. Meijer is an innovator in offering Certified Angus Beef brand products in all categories: fresh meats, convenience items, frozen foods and deli meats. The retailer regularly features them in the circular, store signage, advertising and social media. Training programs for meat department staff provide customers with meal solutions.

Reasor’s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, received the retail brand extension marketer of the year award. Stores offer a selection of premium fresh cuts, including Certified Angus Beef brand prime and some dry-aged steaks. Deli and convenience meats also give customers more options for mealtime. Informed meat staff help customers choose beef cuts. Videos with cooking tips and the semi-annual “fill your freezer” sales also help customers enjoy great-tasting beef year-round.

DeMoulas Market Basket, Tewksbury, Massachusetts, was named the retail rising star. Custom marketing materials throughout stores and monthly cooking demonstrations with coupons and recipes lead customers to the meat case. DeMoulas has also been offering a wider selection of fresh beef cuts since introducing Certified Angus Beef brand products two years ago.

Hays Supermarkets, Wynne, Arkansas, received the retail rookie of the year award for its year-long focus on introducing Certified Angus Beef brand products to customers. Throughout the year, Hays stores featured the brand in promotions and focused on offering ground beef to shoppers as a quality advantage in the market.

Centro Cuesta Nacional in the Dominican Republic was recognized as the international retail marketer of the year. The single-store retailer uses a comprehensive marketing plan to offer a wide selection of Certified Angus Beef brand cuts. Billboards, print advertising in major publications, social media and in-store promotions explain beef quality and lead customers to the meat case.

 

Foster Farms Names ConAgra Foods Alum as its New President and CEO

Foster Farms’ board of directors has appointed Laura Flanagan President and Chief Executive Officer effective August 29, 2016.

Laura FlanaganFlanagan, 48, most recently served as president of the ConAgra Foods Snacks Division, one of North America’s leading suppliers of packaged foods. She will succeed Ron Foster, grandson of company founders Max and Verda Foster, as Foster Farms’ president and CEO. Foster previously announced his plans to step down. He will remain a Foster Farms Owner and Member of the board of directors.

“The board unanimously selected Laura Flanagan as the ideal executive to guide Foster Farms during a time of significant growth,” said Foster. “She has an impressive record of transforming and growing household consumer brands across an ever-shifting landscape. We are confident that her strategic approach will lead Foster Farms to new heights within the U.S. meat and poultry industry.”

Before taking leadership of the Snacks Division, Flanagan served as president of ConAgra’s Convenient Meals Division from 2008 to 2011, revitalizing and expanding key brands. She also led initiatives to promote diversity, develop internal talent, and build skills and capabilities throughout ConAgra.

“Foster Farms is a strong competitor in the national poultry landscape in large part because of its family-owned roots and its steadfast commitment to truly locally grown, fresh poultry,” said Flanagan. “I intend to honor the Foster family’s legacy for excellence while growing the business, guiding our dedicated employees and maintaining the trust of a new generation of consumers who care deeply about the food they feed their families, especially organic and antibiotic-free poultry choices.”

Before joining ConAgra, Flanagan served as vice president and chief marketing officer of Tropicana Shelf Stable Juices at PepsiCo and, from 1996 to 2005, held brand-management positions at General Mills and PepsiCo. Earlier, she was a manufacturing engineer at Saturn Corporation. She earned an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1996.

Flanagan currently serves on the board of directors at Core-Mark International, one of North America’s largest marketers of fresh and broad-line supply solutions to the convenience retail industry.

Under Ron Foster’s leadership, the company grew by 70 percent and became the nation’s first major poultry producer to be certified by the American Humane Association. In June, Foster Farms was selected as the 2016 Processor of the Year by The National Provisioner for industry-leading achievements in food safety, water conservation and product diversity. While Ron Foster led the company, it raised the National Thanksgiving Turkey for the White House on two occasions, became the No. 1 brand of frozen cooked chicken in the western U.S., and became the largest producer of organic and antibiotic-free fresh chicken on the West Coast.

Columbus Eases the Charcuterie Board

Not only are charcuterie boards easy to prepare ,  they work for every season. Whether a spring brunch, a summer pool party, or the ever-busy winter holidays , they are always a great option for entertaining.

Sometimes building a charcuterie board can be a bit intimidating. Where do you start? Columbus makes it easier for you with its Charcuterie Sampler, which provides a variety of four delicious salami : Calabrese, Genoa, Italian Dry and Sopressata. These four styles give diverse flavor profiles that range from a slow mild heat to fresh garlic and even hints of fennel. Both the Italian Dry and Sopressata are a thicker cut, creating a mouth-feel akin to a hand-cut slice (without the work!). All you need to do is add some accompaniments .  The key is variety and balance with a focus on foods that complement each other without overwhelming the palate.

Calabrese is a zesty salame made with red bell peppers. Enjoy it with a hard cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano. Wash it down with an IPA or a Syrah.

Genoa is a mild salame seasoned with wine and garlic. Add a softer cheese, like fontina or fresh goat cheese for a different texture. They go well with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc or Pilsner.

Italian Dry is the company’s San Francisco classic salame that pairs well with a hard sheep-milk cheese like pecorino romano. This combination works well with Pinot Noirs, Pilsners and Pale Ales.

Sopressata brings flavors of sweet fennel and chili pepper. Combine with a harder cow cheese like grana padano. Savor it with a glass of Pinot Grigio.

You can also include other delicious cured meats like prosciutto or coppa to your board. Here are some other suggestions for your mouth-watering charcuterie platter:

  • Crunchy breads and crackers: These should be plain so as not to compete for the many flavors on the board. Favorites: Toasted plain baguette, pita bread, water crackers and bread sticks.
  • Spreads: Both creamy and seeded mustard versions are good choices. Sweet and savory jams with caramelized onion flavors or deep fruity notes are also welcome partners. Be sure to select flavors that aren’t overwhelming. Favorites: Fruit chutney, fig jam, hummus or a white bean dip.
  • Olives and pickled vegetables: Always great additions. Cornichons and pickled radishes work very well.
  • Fresh seasonal fruits are welcome too. In the winter, dried fruits including apricots and figs are great complements.

That’s it! Just start with the best craft meats, include complementary cheese, breads and spreads that provide different textures and flavors, pop open bottles of wine and beer, and enjoy the gathering.

Organic Prairie Releases Grass-fed Beef Jerky

Organic PrairieOrganic Prairie, the brand of organic meats produced by the same farmer-owned co-op as Organic Valley, has introduced Mighty Beef Jerky, made from organic, 100 percent grass-fed beef. Available in Teriyaki, Original and Peppered flavors, these organic beef snacks deliver big, ready-to-eat flavor without worrisome additives. Many consumers today are looking for a quick protein snack, and Mighty Jerky is a sophisticated, savory flavor choice with an ingredient list that’s simple and clean: Mighty snacks are always organic and never contain GMOs, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, or artificial fillers.

Like Mighty Bar, launched in the summer of 2015, each paleo-friendly serving of Mighty Jerky contains 12 grams of gluten-free, nut-free, non-GMO, 100 percent grass-fed, organic protein. Mighty Jerky has a toothsome texture thanks to a touch of honey, which also improves shelf stability.

A Mighty opportunity for you!

  • Beef snack sales are exploding with 55 percent growth in the Natural Channel!
  • Consumer demand continues to soar for paleo-friendly products like Mighty Jerky.
  • Mighty Bar and Mighty Jerky are the only organic, 100 percent grass-fed meat snacks currently available in the United States.

Today, meat bars and jerky are no longer exclusively for the hunting and fishing crowd on a munchie run at the gas station. Next-generation meat snacks are for anyone seeking a healthy, protein-rich, low glycemic snack. Just so, a quality organic option was lacking—until the introduction of Mighty Bar and now Mighty Jerky.

“Having a busy lifestyle no longer means you have to sacrifice quality or nutrition when you want a quick snack,” says Eric Newman, Organic Prairie CEO. “Mighty Bar and Mighty Jerky are USDA Certified Organic, and they’re made with 100 percent grass-fed beef. So these snacks are delicious, nutritious, and simple the way nature intended.

The suggested retail price per two-ounce package of Mighty Jerky is $6.99.

Specialty Food Producers Take Home the Gold

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.

CFM_Prosciutto-sliceFinalists 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.

JulieAnn CaramelsOther 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 maple hi res (2)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.

NorthAfricanChermouladressingwozzWozz! 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.

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