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Heat and Serve

A Taste of Anatolia from Ana’s Apron

By Lorrie Baumann

Paul Theroux was riding the Trans-Siberian Express three days east of Nishni Novgorod, the apple blossom land described by Amor Towles in “A Gentleman in Moscow,” when on page 471 of Theroux’s story about the trip, he was offered manti by a passing stranger. Theroux described the manti as steaming meat-filled dumplings. “I knew the word because I’d heard manti  for dumpling in Turkey and elsewhere,” Theroux wrote in “Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.”

DSCN0352Some of this came back to me when I stopped in front of Kader Ucar and Hasan Ertas (wife and husband) at the Winter Fancy Food Show. They were standing in front of a banner identifying Ana’s Apron, and what they had on a table in front of them was a little plate of Ana’s Apron Manti, which Ucar, who is Ana’s Apron’s President, described as traditional Anatolian-style manti. Anatolia is the Asian part of Turkey, she further explained.

Ucar is also the Founder of Palo Alto Pasta Co., which owns the Ana’s Apron brand. It’s a woman-owned and operated business located in California’s Bay Area. Ten percent of the company’s profits are dedicated to children’s charities around the world. “’Ana’ means ‘mother’ in Turkish, and I founded this company with tremendous support from my mother. We are using her artisanal old recipe in our Manti pasta, and she now lives permanently with us. We wanted to name our Manti brand after her to show our gratitude to what she has done for us. You can almost always find my mother at home with her apron on cooking amazing Anatolian dishes for lunch and dinner,” said Ucar.

The Manti are little filled dumplings about the size of a marble and the shape of a tiny purse, and they’re available from Ana’s Apron in four varieties: Spinach & Feta & Olive, Five Cheese, Beef & Onion and Chicken & Thyme. They’re similar to Italian tortellini, but they’re based on recipes that Ucar and her family have been making for seven generations. “We sell it the way we eat it in our own family. Some of our most frequent customers are families with young children. Our Manti pasta is a small bite size, so even a three-year-old can eat it without any parental help at the table. Kids love our pasta!” Ertas said.

Ana’s Apron packages the Manti for sale in 10-ounce pouches that serve two and sell for about $6.99 from the grocer’s freezer case. The product is also available in 3-pound pouches for food service and in a family pack.

They’re prepared by dropping the frozen dumplings into boiling water for two minutes and then traditionally served topped with plain yogurt and then tomato sauce on top of that. For customers who are buying their tomato sauce in a jar instead of making it themselves, a simple marinara would be an appropriate choice, Ucar confirmed.

The Beef & Onion variety provides 36 percent of a daily value of protein per serving, and the Spinach & Feta & Olive variety is also rich in protein as well as iron, Ucar said. Shelf life in the grocer’s freezer case is nine months, and Ana’s Apron is currently distributing the products in the Bay Area, with production capacity ready for expanded distribution beyond that. “We’ve been working on it for the last eight months, and we’re ready to take on bigger orders,” Ucar said.

For more information, visit www.anasapron.com.

Home Meal Solution Kits from Stouffer’s

stouffersEighty-four percent of consumers are interested in purchasing supermarket deli “meals at home” at least one day per week. New Stouffer’s Home Meal Solution Kits cater to today’s busy lifestyles with simple, delicious take-and-bake meals. Operators can maximize margins by repurposing extra protein to cut down waste and create familiar, restaurant-quality favorites.

Home Meal Solution Kits include: Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese, Stroganoff and Tuscan Style Cavatappi. To cater to all customers, operators can choose to portion into single or family size meals. For more information, call 1.800.288.8682 or visit nestleprofessional.us/food/stouffers.

Boulder Organic! Souping It Up in Colorado

By Lorrie Baumann

Boulder Organic Foods is a fast-growing maker of fresh soups that are sold out of grocers’ refrigerated cases. “We started here locally in Boulder [Colorado] in a handful of stores, and today we’re in more than 2,000 stores nationwide in pretty much every major market in the country,” said CEO Greg Powers. “We are a dedicated organic, gluten free and non-GMO company. Everything we produce reflects those three attributes.”

The company was started just seven years ago by Kate Brown, a single mom who was looking for healthier fresh soup options. She made several shopping trips to local stores looking for a gluten-free soup brand that would meet her own dietary needs and that would also meet her goals for the food she wanted to give her daughter. When she didn’t find any, she decided to make her own.

Boulder Organic Green Chile Corn ChowderAfter she began serving her soups to friends and family, one of those friends referred her products to the local Whole Foods store, which asked her to make the soup for sale there. At that point, she put together a business plan and spent a year or two coming up with recipes for commercial quantities of her soups and launched her new food business in early 2009. Powers joined the company several months later. “I joined her having a background in business, and between the two of us, with her passion and talent for cooking and her skills at coming up with new recipes, and my background in business, we built this company,” he said. “We’ve doubled our size every year since we began. It’s fast growth, but it’s also thoughtful growth. We’ve been very sure to keep the same quality, working with many of the same suppliers we worked with when we started years ago.”

Today, the company makes eight to 12 different soups at any given time – a core set that includes Roasted Tomato Basil, Garden Minestrone, Potato Leek, Red Lentil Dahl and Golden Quinoa and Kale soups, along with a rotating list of seasonal offerings in its SQF level 3 plant in Boulder, Colorado. Three new soups – Tomato Bisque, Broccoli Cheddar and Bacon Potato Corn Chowder – are launching early this month in Target stores.

Boulder Organic! packages most of its soups in 24-ounce containers. The serving size is identified as eight ounces, which works when it’s served as a side dish, but most people will want a bit more than that if they’re eating it as an entree, so in practice, most consumers will regard the 24-ounce container as enough to feed two people, Powers said. For club stores, the 24-ounce containers are bundled into a 2-pack, and Target carries a 16-ounce container.

While some of the Boulder Organic! soups are mostly vegetables with chicken stock in the base, many are vegetarian and a few include animal protein along with the vegetables. The heavy emphasis on vegetables in the ingredient deck is partly a response to the local market in Boulder, Powers said. “We have a very active vegetarian community in Boulder. For our little market, it was a good fit. It was a good way to start the company and produce products that would fit with our community.”

The company maintains its commitment to being a socially responsible woman-owned business, and 2 percent of its production is donated to a local food bank. “We try to treat all of our employees fairly and we have a very flat organizational structure,” Powers said. Employees are paid a living wage, and the company’s operations are zero waste, with everything that isn’t used up being composted or recycled. “We’re constantly looking for ways to reduce our environmental footprint further,” Powers said. “We also take food safety very seriously.”

New Meat Topped Pizzas from American Flatbread

American Flatbread has expanded its premium line and entered a new product category with three new meat topped pizzas – Pulled Pork & Pineapple, Pulled Pork, Pineapple & Jalapeño and Uncured Pepperoni & Uncured Bacon. These new pizzas are a great alternative to takeout pizza and make delicious, restaurant quality last minute dinners for families on the go.

American Flatbread’s pizzas are premium handmade flatbreads that are wood-fired in earthen ovens and are made with organic and all natural ingredients. They are made with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors. The flatbreads have a light, crisp and flavorful bite.

Uncured Pepperoni & Uncured Bacon – Crispy bacon and pepperoni with a tangy organic tomato sauce on a handmade flatbread.

Pulled Pork, Pineapple & Jalapeño – Sweet pineapple, fiery jalapeno with smoky pulled pork, barbeque sauce and organic tomato sauce on a handmade flatbread.

Pulled Pork & Pineapple – Sweet pineapple, smoky pulled pork, barbeque and organic tomato sauce on a handmade flatbread.

The pizzas are available in 10-inch and 12-inch. The 10-inch pizzas retail between $6.99 – $7.99 and the 12-inch pizzas retail between $8.99 – $11.99. The new American Flatbread pizzas are available in select retailers across the country.

Carla’s Pasta Launches in Big Y Markets

Carla’s Pasta’s new line of frozen, ready-to-eat pastas and pestos will be launched at all 64 Big Y locations starting this month. Big Y® is a family owned and family oriented retail food company headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts.

“We could not be happier or more proud to launch our best in class pasta products with the best in class grocery chain like Big Y,” said Sandro Squatrito, Vice President of Business Development for Carla’s Pasta. “To this day, we make everything the way that Mom always did, just a bit more of it.” Carla’s Pasta is made at a state of the art production facility in South Windsor, Connecticut. The company has about 165 employees.

The Carla’s Pasta product line at Big Y includes Cheese Ravioli, Cheese Tortellini, Gluten Free Penne and Six Cheese Sacchettini, which come in a revolutionary microwave bag that has been over a decade in development. The line also includes microwavable steam bag meals, which include Mac & Cheese, Six Cheese Ravioli with Marinara, Tortellini Alfredo and Buttered Noodles. In addition to the microwavable line, which is ready in minutes, they have a line of frozen specialty raviolis in clam shell packaging which include Spinach & Egg Striped Cheese Ravioli, Tomato & Egg Striped Ravioli, Tuscan Style Vegetable Ravioli, Sage & Egg Striped Butternut Squash Ravioli, Spicy Italian Sausage Ravioli, Shrimp Scampi Ravioli, Vegan Ravioli and Gorgonzola Pacchetti. In addition to the eight year round flavors, Carla’s Pasta has a seasonal rotation program of four specialty ravioli flavors; fall’s flavor is Pumpkin Ravioli. The product line also includes four varieties of pestos: Basil PestoBasil Pesto with Pine Nuts, Sundried Tomato Pesto and Wild Mushroom Pesto. In addition to the four current pesto offerings, Carla’s Pasta is working on introducing Kale Pesto, which will be coming soon.

Meatless Handheld Breakfast Options from Sweet Earth Natural Foods

By Lorrie Baumann

Sweet Earth Natural Foods, which makes award winning, all natural plant-based foods, is on a mission to persuade more Americans that plant-based foods can be an affordable, convenient and delicious way to eat less meat. “Our food is plant based, but not just for vegetarians and vegans – everyone wants to eat more vegetables and whole grains,” said Sweet Earth Natural Foods CEO Kelly Swette. “We want mainstream customers who are trying to eat less meat because they recognize it has a negative effect on their health and the environment. Plant-based foods are simply more sustainable.”

Sweet Earth offers a range of heat-and-eat products made with plant-based meat alternatives that consumers will recognize as options for multiple day parts, starting with breakfast. They include burritos, veggie burgers, seed based energy bars and the company’s newest products, Farmstand Flaxbread Breakfast Sandwiches, which respond to the breakfast-food-all-day trend that fast food restaurants are embracing enthusiastically. “It’s nice for people to have a delicious portable option that doesn’t require a spoon. And, that portability is what makes breakfast all day work,” Swette said.

“Breakfast sandwiches are also for people who want comfort convenient foods without compromising flavor,” she added. “We see that as one of the areas where we have been particularly innovative.”

The Farmstead Flaxbread Breakfast Sandwiches come in the kind of range you’d expect from a line of breakfast sandwiches, except that a plant-based meat alternative has replaced the sausage, bacon or ham you’d find in a conventional breakfast sandwich. One variety comes with cage free eggs, sharp cheddar and meatless Benevolent Bacon™ on a bun made with whole wheat, oat bran and flaxseed. This variety provides 14.5 grams of whole grains, 22 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Other varieties are similar, and there’s even a vegan version in which meatless Harmless Ham™, a spicy chickpea patty and a sun-dried tomato spread are sandwiched on the bun. Each variety is packaged as a two-pack that retails for $4.49. Swette notes, “We have a version that’s vegan, but we also have egg sandwiches too. We’ve chosen mainstream flavors like ham and Swiss, bacon and Cheddar that people love. We know that people are interested in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, but we also think they are increasingly looking for clean proteins, free of preservatives, hormones and antibiotics.”

Sweet Earth’s burrito line also hits the mark on portability and convenience. There’s a line that’s designed around breakfast flavors and a range that’s based on food truck-type fusions of international flavors. The Peruvian Burrito, for instance, is filled with black beans, red quinoa, sweet potato, goat cheese, roasted corn and spirulina, while the Santa Cruz is filled with a classic Southwest blend of pinto beans, Monterey Jack cheese, oregano and a tangy salsa.

Sweet Earth’s products are, in general, not for the consumer who’s avoiding gluten. “That really isn’t our point of view,” Swette said. “We are more focused on what we put into the product: real vegetables, whole grains, and the natural consequences are more fiber, vitamins and inherently healthy food.”
Sweet Earth Natural Foods products are distributed by UNFI and are available in Whole Foods, Target, Kroger and other retailers nationwide.

Meat Alternative Appeals to Mainstream Consumers

 

By Dan Wilkins

 

Chilli_Quorn_TacosMeat alternative Quorn, the market leader in the U.S. natural foods channel, is quickly gaining mainstream acceptance for a product line whose protein comes from fungi. “The specific type of fungi allows the mimicking of the taste of real meat with much better health benefits,” says Sanjay Panchal, General Manager of Quorn Foods USA. The Mycoprotein in Quorn products is a complete protein that’s naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber, according to Panchal. “It has as much protein as an egg, as much fiber as broccoli,” he said.

The products contain no soy or GMOs, and the protein source is also environmentally friendly, with a carbon and water footprint that’s about 90 percent less than beef and 75 percent less than chicken, Panchal said. “In addition to the great health benefits and environmental benefits, our food just tastes amazing,” he said. “I’ve got three sons, age 9, 7 and 3, and we, probably once or twice a week, we replace their chicken nuggets with Quorn nuggets, and they Hoover them.”

Five products in the Quorn line are gluten free: Grounds, a product that substitutes for crumbled ground meat; Chik’n Tenders; Chik’n Cutlet, Turk’y Roast and Bacon Style Slices. “It gives folks looking for a gluten-free option another opportunity to use a food like ours in their recipes to satisfy their specific dietary restrictions,” Panchal said.

Quorn appeals to consumers who want to eat less meat but also want both convenience and the flexibility to adapt recipes that already work for them. “Our food doesn’t just attract vegetarians,” he added. “What you’ll find is people like our family who are complete carnivores, but if they’re looking for a way to reduce the meat in their diet, for whatever reason, this appeals. The appeal of a meat alternative, and Quorn specifically, is very broad and broadening…. Our growth rate year to date is 29 percent in sales versus a year ago and growing across all channels. We’re really pleased with our performance.”

The product line includes options like Grounds that will work for the consumer who has the time and the desire to cook meals like spaghetti Bolognese from scratch but also includes heat and eat options like Jalapeno and Three Cheese Stuffed Chik’n Cutlets for the consumer who values speed and convenience. “It’s really easy to prepare on weeknights. It’s basically straight out of the freezer and into the pan or the oven,” Panchal said. “With the nuggets, it’s 10 minutes to eating it…. With the Grounds, you mix it with a little water, taco seasoning and cheese and make it into a quesadilla. It’s a really simple food to make, and that’s why we like it as a family.”

Quorn products retail for $3.69 to $4.99 every day, depending on the retailer, for a package that serves four people. Quorn is distributed nationally.

 

Boulder Organic Soups Now Available in 850 Target Stores Nationwide

Boulder OrganicBoulder Organic Foods launches its Boulder Organic line of garden-fresh soups, made with the finest certified organic, gluten-free and non-GMO verified ingredients, in the refrigerated deli section at more than 850 Target stores nationwide.

Four soup varieties, sold in 16-ounce tubs with a suggested retail price of $4.49, are now available: Butternut Squash with Sage, Roasted Tomato Basil, Red Lentil Dahl and Garden Minestrone. Two additional flavors, Chicken Quinoa & Kale and Chicken Vegetable Chili, will be added later this month.

“We believe everyone should have access to delicious, organic foods, and our entry into Target brings Boulder Organic soups to more people than ever before,” said Boulder Organic Foods CEO Greg Powers. “Target shoppers care about eating well, and our small-batch soups are a tasty addition to Target’s extensive selection of high-quality foods.”

Boulder Organic soup is found in the grab-and-go and deli refrigerators of natural and conventional grocers nationally. The company offers varieties for all types of diets, including gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian and dairy-free.

The New Super-Trendy Vegetable: Beets

 

By Richard Thompson

Beets are getting a whole new look this year, emphasizing their nutritional benefits while being featured in products that appeals to shifting consumer tastes. Similar to the way kale appealed to consumers last year, beets are being marketed as the new super trendy vegetable, grabbing the attention of food retailers and restaurateurs who are selling more items with beets in them than in previous years. Beet products are becoming so popular that this year’s list of sofi Award finalists include two different beet products that were up for three different awards between them.

The past five years have seen beets become more common place as people are more educated about them, says Natasha Shapiro of LoveBeets, known for their popular beet-featured product lines. Adding to the 20 percent increase in distributorship they have seen in the last year is their variety of beet juices and line of beet bars. The Love Beets health bars are coming in Beet & Apple, Beet & Cherry and Beet & Blueberry with all three made gluten-free and with clean ingredients. “We are making beets more fun, accessible and upbeat,” said Shapiro, “We’re modernizing the idea of beets.”

Blue Hill Yogurt, whose Beet Yogurt is a sofi finalist, combined the earthy sweetness of beets with the acidic tangyness of yogurt for a natural and unique trend that could push people looking for something new in milk products. Amped with raspberries and vinegar to maximize the natural earthy sweetness of the beet, Blue Hill wants people to think outside of what is normally thought of with beets and yogurt. “This is a savory yogurt that offers some sweetness, but not fruit-like sweetness. It’s a great afternoon yogurt,” said David Barber, President of Blue Hill.

Beetroot Rasam Soup from Cafe Spices, another finalist for the sofi Award, is competing in two categories, New Products and as a Soup, Stew, Bean or Chili Product. The colorful soup that pairs roasted beets pureed into a tomato base with tamarind, garlic, chiles and mustard seeds is an inspiration from the company’s culinary director and chef Hari Nayak.

Featuring naturally occurring nitrates that help extend exercise performance, fitness communities have long embraced the healthy benefits of beets. Coupled with social media and a general health conscious mindset in consumers, appreciation of beets has spider-webbed through mainstream markets, according to Shapiro. “Its the one vegetable people feel strongly about, Shapiro said, “At events, people just want to share their experiences about beets.”

Adam Kaye, Vice President of Culinary Affairs for Blue Hill, who worked with Dan Barber on their sofi nominated Beet Yogurt, goes one step further. Kaye has seen the appreciation of beets growing beyond it being a fancy potato and finds the whole vegetable incredible. “There is something about the beet that straddles the savory and the sweet,” said Kaye, “You can taste the earth in beets.”

This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

 

The Italian Sauces for Consumers Who Don’t Trust Processed Foods

 

By Lorrie Baumann

The federal Food and Drug Administration has announced that it proposes to require that nutrition fact labels on packaged foods include a declaration of added sugars “to provide consumers with information that is necessary to meet the dietary recommendation to reduce caloric intake from solid fats and added sugars,” according to the agency’s announcement published in the Federal Register in March, 2014. If and when that proposal becomes a federal requirement, the labels on Uncle Steve’s Italian sauces will report that the sauces contain the same amount of added sugars they always have – zero.

The recipes for the sauces came from Steve Schirrippa, actor, author and creator of the sauces, who’s better known as his character, Bobby Baccalieri on the hit television show “The Sopranos.” He got the recipe from his mother, who has since passed away, Scarpinito says. “Steve wanted to pay a tribute to his mother. Abundant home cooked Sunday family meals were very important to her. Steve honored her by producing products he got from her recipes to keep the Sunday tradition alive.”

None of the three varieties of Uncle Steve’s sauces: Marinara, Tomato with Basil and Arrabiata, contain any added sugar, a common ingredient in other prepared pasta sauces. They also contain no GMOs or gluten, and they’re organic. That’s at the insistence of Schirripa’s wife Laura, who’s a marathon runner conscious of healthy eating and who told her husband that if he wanted to make and sell tomato sauce, he needed to be sure that it would be good for people as well as enjoyable, says Uncle Steve’s Italian Specialties Chief Operating Officer Joseph Scarpinito, Jr.:“If you were to line up all of the popular tomato sauces and then remove the ones with pesticides, tomato paste, puree, and added sweetener, you’d be left with only one—Uncle Steve’s.”

Uncle Steve’s is simmered on our stove for six hours. The only sugar in our sauce comes from organic tomatoes imported from Italy and organic onions. Quality is of the utmost important to us,” he added.

The sauces were launched just last year on the company’s website and quickly picked up by Whole Foods Northeast. Other markets along the East Coast followed.

This year, Scarpinito is concentrating on expanding distribution of the sauces to the Southeast, Southwest and West Coast. “That expansion has already started – the sauce has been picked up by the Albertson’s Boise division and by Gelson’s in Los Angeles,” he said. “The sauce is also available from several distributors servicing large independent retailers.”

New products are also under development, including olive oil, pasta and other flavored pasta sauces. Scarpinito is naturally a little coy about pinning them down with any more detail than that, but he did offer a hint: we can expect to see an Uncle Steve’s vodka sauce early next year.

Once the FDA’s proposal is finalized, the FDA wants to give the food industry two years to switch to the new labels. In addition to requiring a declaration for added sugars, the FDA is also proposing a new format for the label that would make calories, serving sizes, and percent daily value figures more prominent. Serving sizes would be changed to reflect the amounts reasonably consumed in one eating occasion. “People are generally eating more today than 20 years ago, so some of the current serving sizes, and the amount of calories and nutrients that go with them, are out of date,” according to the FDA.

This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

 

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