By Lorrie Baumann
Bissinger’s is offering two summery new flavors of its Gummy Pandas. Strawberry Mango and Tart Cherry & Lime join a line-up that already included Blueberry Acai, Pink Grapefruit with Grapeseed, Pomegranate White Tea, Raspberry Yumberry and Blackberry Hibiscus Gummy Pandas. “They’re well-liked by children, but they’re sophisticated enough for adults,” said Dave Owens, Bissinger’s Chief Chocolatier and Vice President of Taste. “They have a true-to-nature taste.”
Like the other flavors in the line, the new Gummy Pandas are gluten free, dairy free and contain no high fructose corn syrup. They’re packaged in a 3-ounce pouch that retails for $4.99.
Bissinger’s also debuted its Caramelized Blood Orange bar, which is 60 percent dark chocolate. Made with a blood orange-rosemary caramel with hazelnuts and cocoa nibs, the 3-ounce bar retails for $4.99. The bar is gluten free, and the early reviews are enthusiastic.
There are 10 bars in the line, including Coconut Caramel and Honey Pepita Caramel, which has roasted salted pepitas on the back of the bar, lots of honey taste and guajillo chili for a whisper of spice.
Bissinger’s Chocolate-Covered Wine Grapes are made from Muscat grapes that have dried into raisins on the vine. They’re infused with Shiraz wine and then enrobed in 60 percent dark chocolate. This is not a new product, but the packaging has been updated. They come in a 3.5-ounce pouch that retails for $5.99 as well as an 8-ounce gift box that retails for $14.99.
Many of these products originated in the kitchen of Chief Chocolatier Owens, who’s been Bissinger’s Vice President of Taste for nine years after coming to Bissinger’s after a 30-year career in the restaurant business. His assignment at Bissinger’s includes new product development, and in that role, it’s his responsibility to ensure that the legacy brought by the company’s 350 years of history is maintained as the product line also evolves to appeal to changing tastes. Doing that isn’t about responding to trends, Owens said: “We try to be in front of our consumers to know what they want before they want it.”
Like the days when Owens was developing a new dish to serve in his restaurant, a new Bissinger’s candy starts with a concept. Owens rolls that thought around in his mind until he can taste it, and then he goes into his lab to work on it. In the case of the Caramelized Blood Orange bar, it was the rosemary that got added into the recipe in the course of that work. Its herbaceous note adds a complexity to the bar that Owens really likes and that he thinks will resonate with consumers on the hunt for a new flavor sensation.
Though the other flavors change with the times, and many of them come and go in the product line, there’s one flavor that doesn’t change, and that’s the Bissinger’s chocolate. All of the chocolate that Bissinger’s uses is made in Europe – it all comes from one liquor, so that the milk chocolate and the different dark chocolates have common flavor notes. “It’s all cohesive,” Owens said. “That’s why we have customers for life…. We meet customers in their 80s who tell us they’ve been eating it since they were a small child. They can tell me more about the company than even I know.”
By Robin Mather
Meatcrafters, an artisanal producer of specialty cured meats, debuted its Skinny Salamis at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York recently. Skinny Salamis are the only lactic-fermented meat snacks on the market, said Mitch Berliner, one of the company’s three founders and self-proclaimed “Chief Sampling Officer.”
“They are cured, uncooked products, made in traditional ways that date back to the Egyptians and early Romans. They are high in protein, low in calories, have no sugar or carbs and are gluten-free. They’re made from antibiotic- and hormone-free meats.”
Skinny Salamis are unique for several reasons, Berliner said.
“We were just at the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago,” Berliner said. “All the other meat snacks we saw were cooked, whether dehydrated like jerky or extruded and cooked like the familiar meat sticks.”
Meatcrafters is among the few companies in the US to have gained USDA approval to produce such products, and the only one in Maryland, Berliner said. “We don’t outsource our production,” Berliner said. “We do everything ourselves, from sourcing the meat from local farmers to grinding our own spices to producing and packaging the salamis.”
Skinny Salamis are designed to be a portable snack that fits easily into a pocket or purse. The snack salamis are available in three flavors: Original Black Angus Beef, Truffle (pork) and Street Cart Schwarma (lamb). Three more flavors will be available later this year: Merguez (lamb), Spicy Argentinean Chorizo (pork) and Casbah (pork), flavored with North African spices. The salamis come four to a package, and suggested retail is $6.79—$7.95.
Berliner said the company trialed its products at farmers markets and were selling more than 300 salamis a week from very early on. “And then a wine distributor tried them and said, ‘If you put this in grown-up packaging, I’ll buy it for distribution.’ So we went to work on grown-up packaging.” The company’s designed-from-the-ground-up packaging recently won awards for its graphic design, Berliner said.
Chefs visiting the market also liked Meatcrafters’ salamis, and they now appear on menus at restaurants in Maryland and Virginia, including Patrick O’Connell’s much-lauded Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia.
“We like to help local farmers,” Berliner said, noting that they work with local producers of Black Angus beef, heritage breed Duroc pork and all-natural lamb. “In addition to our own products, we make specialty sausages with our farmers’ meats so they can offer their own customers salami made from only their meat. We also make specialty sausages for brew pubs using their beers, and for local vineyards using their wines.”
Meatcrafters has been in business since 2009, producing duck breast prosciutto as well as a variety of specialty salamis. They include Chajari, an Argentinian-style salami flavored with garlic, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon and whole peppercorns; Chorizo de Pamplona, an aged Spanish-style classic with cayenne and Spanish smoked paprika; Chesapeake, seasoned with Maryland crab seasoning; Cacciatore, a traditional Italian hunter’s sausage of Duroc pork flavored with sea salt, pepper and garlic; Truffle Mania and Porcini Salami, two fungi-forward flavors that capture the best of the much-loved ingredients; Cinta, another Duroc pork salami flavored with long pepper, lemon zest and mace; Ararat, a Duroc pork salami seasoned with smoked paprika, fenugreek and the Turkish pepper called urfa biber; a wild fennel pollen Duroc pork sausage called One Wild Fennel; a traditional Spanish salami called Fuet, simply seasoned with salt and pepper to showcase the flavors of the Duroc pork and the lactic fermentation; and Dillio, made with dill pollen, garlic and red wine.
The Landover, Maryland, company, founded in 2009 by Berliner, his wife, Debra Moser, and their friend Stan Feder draws on decades of experience the three share in charcuterie and the food business. Berliner, who’s been in the food business for more than 50 years, started as a food distributor. Moser brings a diverse background in food and business experience. Feder, who’s studied with charcuterie experts in Spain, Italy and the US, has a lifelong passion for salumi.
“We’re Baby Boomers who failed at retirement,” quipped Berliner. “We pulled money out of our retirement funds to start this company, and have never taken loans or investments from anyone else to keep going.”
The founders were inspired to start the company when they realized that “we had visited Italy many times and we didn’t know why there wasn’t more good American salami. So we were an upscale charcuterie and then, a little over three years ago, we thought, ‘why don’t we take our salamis and put them in a meat snack product?’ “
The “failing at retirement” thing seems to be working for the company’s founders. “We just knocked out a wall to expand our space,” Berliner said.
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