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KIND Bars Healthy Again

By Lorrie Baumann

The Food and Drug Administration has decided that the agency will not enforce a regulation that the agency has interpreted to limit the use of the word “healthy” on food labels in a way that excludes products like some of KIND’s nut and seed bars. The new guidance from the FDA represents only the agency’s current thinking on this topic, and it’s intended to fill a gap between changing understanding about the role of fats in a healthy diet and a regulation that many said was stuck in the past.

Under the new guidance, FDA will allow foods to say they’re “healthy” on their labels if they’re not low in total fat but have a fat profile that’s predominantly mono and polyunsaturated fats or contain at least 10 percent of the daily value of potassium or vitamin D in the amount of the food that would be customarily consumed. “We’re encouraged by the speed of progress within the FDA and see this as a notable milestone in our country’s journey to redefine healthy,” said KIND Founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky.

This change in thinking comes partly as a result of KIND’s urging the agency to take another look at the issue after the FDA sent the company a warning letter in March that the labels of its KIND Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot, Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut, KIND Plus Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein and Kind Plus Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants bars were misbranded because the labels included the word “healthy.” Under the FDA rules at that time, a food had to contain no more than 15 percent of its calories from saturated fat, and the agency noted that the products didn’t meet that criterion. The FDA had a few other quarrels with the labels – among them that KIND had listed its address as its post office box instead of its street address. KIND fixed its labels to comply with FDA requirements, resulting in a stand-down from the agency with a closeout letter on April 20. “The FDA concluded that KIND satisfactorily addressed the violations contained in the warning letter,” according to the agency.

Following receipt of the closeout letter, KIND requested confirmation that it could use the phrase “healthy and tasty” in text clearly presented as the company’s corporate philosophy rather than in the context of an actual nutrient claim for any particular product. “The FDA evaluates the label as a whole and has indicated that in this instance it does not object,” the agency decided, and then followed up with a notice that the newest nutrition research, reflected in the “2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines,” as well as a citizen petition requesting a reevaluation of regulations regarding nutrient content claims suggested that the time had come for the agency to take another look at the issue.

KIND reinstated the word “healthy” on its wrappers. “Earlier this year, the FDA closed out a warning letter issued to KIND in March 2015 affirming that we could use healthy on our wrappers again – just as we had it before – in connection with our corporate philosophy,” said Justin Mervis, KIND’s Head of Regulatory Affairs.

The agency’s next step will be a re-evaluation of the regulatory criteria for use of the implied nutrient claim “healthy” in light of the latest nutrition science and the current dietary recommendations and the seeking of input on how to update the existing regulations for this claim. ”The FDA has posed a number of important questions for comment, and in our continued efforts to advocate for public health, we’re actively convening experts to help provide answers grounded in current nutrition science,” Lubetzky said.

In the meantime, KIND won’t be taking advantage of the FDA’s decision not to enforce current rules, according to Mervis. “At the moment, we have no plans to use healthy in other contexts in reliance of the FDA’s enforcement discretion,” he said. “For us, healthy has always been more than just a word on a label – it’s a commitment to making wholesome snacks that consumers can feel good about putting in their body.”

Millennials Choose Organic

America’s 75 million Millennials are devouring organic, and they’re making sure their families are too. Parents in the 18- to 34-year-old age range are now the biggest group of organic buyers in America, finds a new survey on the organic buying habits of American households released recently by the Organic Trade Association (OTA).

Among U.S. parents, more than five in 10 (52 percent) organic buyers are Millennials. And this influential and progressive generation is stocking their shopping carts with organic on a regular basis.

“The Millennial consumer and head of household is changing the landscape of our food industry,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “Our survey shows that Millennial parents seek out organic because they are more aware of the benefits of organic, that they place a greater value on knowing how their food was grown and produced, and that they are deeply committed to supporting a food system that sustains and nurtures the environment.”

OTA has partnered with KIWI Magazine to conduct surveys of the organic buying patterns of households since 2009. This year’s survey marks the first time that generational buying habits have been studied. The survey looked at Millennials (born between 1981-1997, currently age 18-34 years), Generation-X (born between 1965-1980, currently 35-50 years old), and Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964 and currently 51-69 years old).

Compared to Millennials who account for 52 percent of organic buyers, Generation X parents made up 35 percent of parents choosing organic, and Baby Boomers just 14 percent.

OTA’s “U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs 2016 Tracking Study,” a survey of more than 1,800 households throughout the country with at least one child under 18, found that more than eight in ten (82 percent) U.S. families say they buy organic sometimes, one of the highest levels in the survey’s seven-year lifetime. The number of families never buying organic has steadily decreased, going from almost 30 percent in 2009 to just 18 percent today.

Organic and Living Green
While 35 percent of all families surveyed said that choosing organic products is a key part of their effort to live in an environmentally friendly way, a greater percentage of Millennials said buying organic is a key eco-conscious habit than any other generational group. For 40 percent of Millennials, choosing organic is an integral part of living green, versus 32 percent of Generation Xers and 28 percent of Baby Boomers.

Organic buying continues to be on the rise across the generations. Forty-nine percent of all households surveyed said they are buying more organic foods today than a year ago.

Knowledge about organic is also growing across the generational spectrum of parents, but Millennials in particular are likely to view themselves as very knowledgable about organic products, with nearly eight in 10 (77 percent) reporting that they are “well informed” (34 percent) or “know quite a bit” (44 percent). With that knowledge comes a great deal of trust for the organic label. Parents’ trust in organic labeling is the strongest and highest among Millennials, with 54 percent saying they have confidence in the integrity of the organic label. Almost 60 percent of Millennial parents say they have a “strong connection” with the label and feel the organic label is an important part of how they shop for food.

“The Millennial shopper puts a high premium on the healthiness and quality of the food they choose for their families,” said Batcha. “This generation has grown up eating organic, and seeing that organic label. It’s not surprising that they have a greater knowledge of what it means to be organic, and consequently a greater trust of the organic label.”

Organic sales in the U.S. in 2015 posted new records, with total organic product sales hitting a new benchmark of $43.3 billion, up a robust 11 percent from the previous year’s record level and far outstripping the overall food market’s growth rate of 3 percent, according to OTA’s “2016 Organic Industry Survey.” Of the $43.3 billion in total organic sales, $39.7 billion were organic food sales, up 11 percent from the previous year, with non-food organic products accounting for $3.6 billion, up 13 percent. Nearly 5 percent of all the food sold in the U.S. in 2015 was organic.

Fermentation Fervor Drives Market for Perfect Pickler

By Lorrie Baumann

perfect-pickler-imageThere’s been a surge of consumer interest in fermenting foods over the past few years, fueled in part by scientific research into probiotics, prebiotics and gut health in general and aided by the increasing availability of pre-prepared vegetables in grocers’ produce departments. Leading the way in this is fermentation guru Sandor Katz, author of “Wild Fermentation” and “The Art of Fermentation.” “I got a reputation, and my friends started calling me ‘Sandor Kraut,’” he said.

That surge in interest has created a market for products like the Perfect Pickler, a do-it-yourself kit that enables consumers to make an unlimited supply of affordable fermented vegetables with no spillage or odors and with a minimum of counter space. The Perfect Pickler kit includes an airlock that prevents odors and spillage and simplifies the process. “There are no spills, no odors; it’s completely foolproof,” said Perfect Pickler Owner and Fermentation Visionary Wendy Jackson. “There’s no managing through the process This is just load it, lock it, leave it. Every time it’s foolproof. Fast and easy results.”

“Our kit is an affordable option. It only takes four days and it’s foolproof,” she added. Perfect Pickler has two products in the line, the Master System, which supplies everything the consumer needs to make fermented vegetables on the countertop except a wide-mouth Mason jar, the vegetables and water, and an add-on system that allows users to ferment in two jars at once. “This reflects the demand from customers who were looking to do two at the same time, maybe one jar with curried cauliflower and one with sauerkraut,” Jackson said.

The actual fermenting process is very simple – it’s a matter of chopping vegetables into small pieces, or buying ready-chopped vegetables, adding salt to create a brine and submerging the vegetables under the brine to keep them away from oxygen, then waiting while anaerobic bacteria do their work. In this oxygen-free environment, natural bacteria digest the natural sugars in the plant material and manufacture lactic acid, which discourages the growth of the kinds of microbes that cause food poisoning and adds its own flavor. Four days later, the sauerkraut or kimchi in the Perfect Pickler jar is ready to eat. It’s essentially the same process that’s also used to make wine, beer, yogurt and cheese.

“Almost everybody in every part of the world eats and drinks the products of fermentation every day,” Katz said. “Fermented foods are integrated into culinary traditions in every part of the world.” Jackson herself has traveled to Africa and to India to teach fermentation workshops in places where that local culinary tradition had died out over time. Her workshops gave them back the skills to recreate traditional foods from their own culture. “Even in India it was gone,” she said. “It was amazing to connect with the people.”

Historically, fermentation has been regarded as a practical strategy for preserving extremely perishable foods. Fermentation predates recorded history: human beings learned early that if they could control the microbial changes that happen naturally to foods, they could make it last longer. “The alternative is that food decomposes into a ugly mess that no one would want to eat,” Katz said. “I have dabbled in every realm of fermentation, but I am not an expert…. Indigenous cultures around the world – that’s where the real experts are.”
Katz noted that the most frequent questions he hears as he travels the country speaking and teaching about fermentation is about whether the beginning fermenter runs a risk of making himself sick. Katz says no, that fermenting raw vegetables actually makes them safer. “People project all kinds of fears on fermentation,” he said. “There never has been a single case of illness or food poisoning from fermented vegetables.”

Much of the recent interest in fermented vegetables has resulted from greater understanding of the complexity of the microbial communities that exist within the human body and within the gut in particular. Katz noted that the cells in each of our bodies that carry our own DNA are actually outnumbered by the bacteria living inside each of us. “They’re not parasites. They’re not freeloaders. They contribute to our functionality,” Katz said.

These bacteria are thought to be part of our natural defenses against harmful bacteria, and some research suggests that there may be a connection between our mental health and the health of these gut bacteria in ways that aren’t currently understood, according to Katz. He noted that widespread chlorination of drinking water has deleterious effects on gut bacteria, decreasing its biodiversity, and consumption of probiotics is a strategy for remedying this, he said. “If we’re really interested in cultivating biodiversity, we need to consume different kinds of fermented foods and beverages,” he said. “Bacteria are not our enemies. They are our ancestors and our allies and they give us wonderful foods.”

Cheese + Provisions Purveys the Funk in Denver

By Lorrie Baumann

cheesepro_9161Steve and Kim Duty’s customers at Denver’s Cheese + Provisions love the funk, and Owner/Cheesemonger Steve Duty loves them right back. “Every [Denver] neighborhood seems to have its favorite categories. The neighborhood I’m in seems to really love washed rinds and blues, which is a cheesemonger’s dream,” he said. “Here, the funkier the cheese, the more interested the folks are.”



“We’ve had to trim back the Alpine collection because our customers want the funky stuff,” added Co-owner Kim. The couple opened their 940 square-foot shop in the Sunnyside neighborhood of northwest Denver on December 15, 2015, just in time for the last bit of the winter holiday trade, after construction delays that finally forced them to cram about six weeks of work into the last two and half weeks of opening. They slept in the store a few of those last few nights just to get that extra 15 minutes of sleep, then opened to greet a rush of customers who’d been waiting for a specialty cheese shop to open in their neighborhood. “We opened with a bang and had amazing sales all the way through January, and it put us on a solid financial footing,” Kim said. “It was worth it, but I don’t necessarily recommend it.”

“We’ve been really very happy with the reception we’ve gotten from our neighborhood and from the city at large,” she added.
The couple, married now for 25 years, took the road less traveled to both their cheese shop and to Denver itself. Neither is originally from Denver.

Steve started working in restaurants right out of high school, then attended the Culinary Institute of America to gain his credentials as a chef. Then he did what young chefs then and now frequently do right after graduation from CIA – he headed for New York to stage. From the New York restaurant scene to a brief stop in Arkansas to help with a family restaurant to many years in Washington, DC. But one day, he decided to pursue his love of controlled fermentation and ended up getting a job as the winemaker and general manager at a He spent five years at the winery, with Kim acting as the part-time marketing director, until the winery’s owners discovered the truth of the old saying that if you want to make a small fortune with a winery, the way to do that is to start with a big fortune. By that time, Steve and Kim had had enough experience of the countryside to know they wanted to stay on the land.

“At one point, I said, ‘If you wanted to do something of your own, what would it be?’ He said, ‘It’s always been cheese,’” Kim tells the story. So, naturally, they bought a 25-acre farm and started a sheep dairy.

“He turned me into a foodie very deliberately over the years,” the story continues. “My passion is the people and the animals. He comes to it through the food first, and I come to it through the farm and the animals and what the people are doing.”
That part of the story ends just about the way you’re already starting to suspect. “We were not good sheep farmers. It’s just too difficult to take those cute lambs to slaughter. And you really do need kids to make it work!” Kim said.

They operated the sheep dairy into 2007, when they decided to get away from that hard, hard life for a while and take off for Nepal to celebrate Kim’s 40th birthday with a hike to the Mount Everest Base Camp. The Himalayas have always been a place for spiritual reflection and self-discovery. What Steve and Kim discovered was that they wanted to stay near the mountains after they’d returned home to the U.S.

So they moved to Colorado, to a fast-growing city where the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains rises out of the plains in a dramatic backdrop to destiny, and Steve went to work at Whole Foods and then a few other local cheese shops. Kim kept the day job she’s had for nearly 20 years running the communications department for a DC-based trade association, commuting back and forth between DC and Denver, and together they waited until they thought that Denver’s interest in artisanal cheeses was strong enough to support another cheese shop. “Denver’s food culture has exploded, with new chefs coming into the city and the population growing at the rate of 1,000 new residents a month,” Kim said. “The city is transforming pretty dramatically.”

They found a shop in a gentrifying neighborhood with a growing population of Millennials who share the foodie culture of their peers. “They feel that good food comes first,” Kim said. “They might buy $30 worth of cheese when they’re having trouble paying their rent.”

“The neighborhood itself is full of young families, but the shop pulls customers from all over the city. Word seems to have spread,” Steve added. “The core demographic from the neighborhood is in the 30s, who are the adventurous folks, plus the older people who have been fortunate enough to travel overseas.”


Cheese + Provisions’ offering focuses on high-quality American cheeses and salumi as well as a careful selection of accompaniments, with emphasis on locally produced products. Steve works in the shop with one full-time employee, while Kim keeps her day job, helps in the shop on weekends and evenings when special occasions are scheduled and does the shop’s marketing and newsletters. Steve does the cheese and salumi buying, working directly with a number of American artisan cheesemakers. Kim focuses on buying the dry goods. “I really like interacting with the dry goods producers,” she said. “Once we started digging into the Colorado products, we realized that we have an abundance of good food producers here in the state.”

Part of the shop’s model is that customers can trust Steve’s experience as a chef to guide them in selecting their cheese. “We focus on American artisan cheese. We also focus on telling the stories behind these cheeses. Being former cheesemakers ourselves, we understand the difficulty and the passion and dedication it takes. You certainly don’t do it for the money,” Steve said. “We focus on American artisan rather than European. We want to showcase what America can really do these days. We’re competitive with the best of European cheeses. We’re not constricted by the DOP restrictions of European cheeses. The philosophy is bringing in interesting cheeses that pique my interest and the interest of the public at large.”

Customers have responded enthusiastically, allowing Steve to lead them toward bolder choices like washed rind and blue cheeses. “I like them to have a story, and something like a washed bloomy certainly has a story behind it. Rock Hill Creamery in Utah – the woman has six cows, and when she sends a wheel, it comes with a picture of the cow that made the milk,” Steve said. “When I find a cheese like that, I pounce on it.”

“We’re bringing cheeses into Colorado that have never been in Colorado before,” Kim said. “We’re trying to help cheesemakers be successful and to expose those who live in Denver to quality cheeses. It’s a passion of ours.”

Jelly Belly Trolls Collection Debuts

The hair-raising excitement over the DreamWorks motion picture Trolls continues as Jelly Belly Candy Company introduces the Trolls Collection. This new line, inspired by the movie’s heartfelt story and the Trolls’ fun and unique personalities includes a variety of delightful packages of Jelly Belly® jelly beans featuring the pint-sized stars of the film. The Jelly Belly Trolls Collection is available now.

The 4.25-ounce Jelly Belly Trolls Gift Box is bound to be a hot holiday item. Each compartment is filled with Jelly Belly beans to represent a lovable lead character: a mix of Berry Blue and Cotton Candy for the fashion twins Satin and Chenille, Mixed Berry Smoothie for practical Branch, Jewel Very Cherry for exuberant Poppy, Orange Sherbet for upbeat DJ Suki, and Blueberry for adorable Biggie and his sweet companion, Mr. Dinkles. Shipping in 12-count cases.

The 1-ounce bags in their playful packaging are wonderful treats for any occasion. Each bag, perfectly sized for on-the-go snacking, features one of four main characters: Poppy, Branch, DJ Suki or Biggie with Mr. Dinkles. Shipping in mixed 24-count caddies.

Both the 2.8-ounce Grab & Go® bags and 7.5-ounce Gift Bags make wonderful gifts for the upcoming holidays and beyond. The Grab & Go bag showcases whimsical character art of Poppy, Branch and Biggie with Mr. Dinkles. The Gift Bag features lead duo Poppy and Branch, and the bag’s vibrant pink foil-like finish appeals to shoppers as a truly special gift. The Grab & Go bags ship in 12-count caddies, and the Gift Bags ship in 12-count cases.

All bags in this charming collection are filled with the Hugfest Mix, an assortment of Berry Blue, Jewel Very Cherry, Lemon, Lime and Orange Sherbet Jelly Belly bean flavors.

Ethel M Chocolates Sweetens Factory and Flagship Store

Ethel M Chocolates is sweeter than ever with reimagined designs and new features after an extensive upgrade to its factory and flagship store. The Henderson-based chocolate factory has reopened its door with a fully enhanced guest experience, an updated look, new interactive elements, expanded retail space and additions to its café menu.

To commemorate the special anniversary and factory reopening, Ethel M will be holding a special family-friendly grand reopening celebration on National Chocolate Day, Friday, October 28. The event will be held at the factory from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will feature door prizes, live entertainment, free chocolate samplings, and more.

“Ethel M has been a staple in the Henderson community for 35 years, and while our cherished family recipes haven’t changed in more than 100 years, we wanted to give our customers a modern experience,” said Oren Young, General Manager of Ethel M Chocolates. “We believe in the connective power of sharing an unexpected experience, and that is what we are committed to do with the newly reimagined factory and store.”

New Factory Store Experience
The redesigned store showcases a new ambiance and atmosphere, highlighting colors and materials that represent the factory’s original copper kettles and signature botanical cactus garden. The upgraded Chocolate Tasting Room overlooks the cactus garden, where guests learn how chocolate is made and sample freshly made confections. The demonstration area features professional chocolatiers who prepare delectable combinations such as chocolate-covered strawberries and caramel dipped apples.

The self-guided viewing aisle, where guests can view how Ethel M Chocolates are made, has also been upgraded with digital displays that illustrate Ethel M Chocolate’s history and the sustainability efforts of Mars Inc..

The café space has been remodeled and now offers an extended menu. Light bites include dark chocolate ganache cupcakes, coconut macarons, and chocolate-dipped strawberries. Specialty drinks include double hot chocolate, Aztec hot chocolate, and chocolate cappuccino. Adjacent to the café, in the enhanced 7,500-square-foot retail space, guests can find the entire line of their favorite Ethel M treats.

In addition to enjoying the new factory, guests can stroll through Nevada’s and one of the world’s largest botanical cactus gardens. The 3-acre breathtaking garden features more than 300 different species of drought-tolerant ornamentals, cacti, and other desert plants. The garden is open to the public 365 days a year.

Mamma Chia Appoints New Senior Leadership Team Members

Mamma Chia has just added four executive team members: Ken Vargha, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing; Lance Dermeik, Vice President of Operations; Steve Polzin, Director of Sales; and Brenda Quesada, Director of Research & Development and Technical Services.

“Mamma Chia has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years including the addition of two new product lines — Chia & Greens Beverages and Chia Vitality Bars. As a result of this growth, we’ve been looking for the right people to help continue to elevate our brand,” said Janie Hoffman, Mamma Chia Founder and Chief Executive Officer. “Ken, Lance, Steve and Brenda are all as talented and experienced … and we’re incredibly excited to have them on board.”

Prior to joining Mamma Chia, Vargha served as the senior vice president of sales and marketing for Renew Life, which makes digestive wellness supplements. His extensive background spans across various industries from nutraceuticals and cosmetics to healthcare and non-profit.

“Janie and her team have built a very successful company around these power-packed seeds, and I am energized by the opportunities ahead to help further strengthen the brand,” said Vargha. “I look forward to working alongside Janie and the rest of the team to reinforce the reach of Mamma Chia’s organic chia-based foods and beverages….”

Dermeik will oversee the strategic operations and supply chain processes for Mamma Chia. During the past eight years he was the senior director of contract manufacturing at The Hain Celestial Group, where he worked with contract manufacturers to support Hain’s portfolio of natural and organic brands.

Polzin worked alongside Vargha at Renew Life and Alacer, where he increased sales and expanded distribution, most recently as the national director of sales. Quesada joins Mamma Chia with more than 20 years of diverse food product development and manufacturing experience.

The Original Cakerie Names Paul Lapadat as CEO of Newly Formed Holding Company

The Original Cakerie, which makes high-quality frozen desserts for retail and foodservice customers across North America, has named Paul J. Lapadat as Chief Executive Officer of a new holding company established to accelerate growth. Lapadat, a longtime executive with deep experience leading both consumer product conglomerates and specialty food companies, succeeds Dave Hood, who was CEO of The Original Cakerie for more than 20 years. Hood will become an advisor to the board of directors of The Original Cakerie.

Concurrently, The Original Cakerie announced it has restructured its business under a holding company known as Desserts Holdings, based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Desserts Holdings will allow a shared services model and integrated selling organization between The Original Cakerie and Lawler Foods to better serve current and prospective customers. Both The Original Cakerie and Lawler Foods are portfolio companies of Gryphon Investors, a San Francisco-based middle market private equity firm.

The Original Cakerie, founded in 1979, is based in Delta, British Columbia, Canada, with a second production facility in London, Ontario. Lawler Foods, a manufacturer of gourmet cheesecakes, layer cakes, pies and other desserts, is based in Humble, Texas. Together, the companies serve more than 200 customers in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Europe.

As part of the transition, Chris W. Rogers has also been named CFO for the holding company and will report to Lapadat in the St. Paul office. Doris Bitz, currently Senior Vice President, Retail Sales & Marketing, will become President of The Original Cakerie. The Original Cakerie and Lawler Foods will remain stand-alone, independent operating companies with their own brands. The companies’ manufacturing operations will remain in Delta, London, and the Houston area.

Dennis O’Brien, a Partner at Gryphon Investors and Chairman of the Board of The Original Cakerie, said, “We are pleased to welcome Paul to Desserts Holdings. Having worked closely with him on our previous successful investment in Flagstone Foods, we are very familiar with Paul’s leadership skills and believe he will be instrumental to building this unique platform company. Likewise, we welcome Chris, and we are excited to see Doris move into her new role as President. We are fortunate to have attracted leaders of Paul’s, Chris’ and Doris’s caliber. We are equally grateful for Dave Hood’s continuing presence, and we expect to take full advantage of his immeasurable product and industry knowledge.”

Lapadat added, “I am excited to be working alongside Gryphon again to continue to grow this highly respected business in the premium dessert space. The Original Cakerie and Lawler Foods are best-in-class companies, and I look forward to working with their teams to increase capabilities and expand our dessert offerings so that our retail and foodservice customers will continue to view us as their company of choice.”

Hood commented, “I am pleased to have worked with the Gryphon team on the ownership transition of The Original Cakerie, and I know it will continue to be viewed as the premier premium frozen desserts company in North America. I look forward to continuing my work as a strategic advisor.”

Renee Hicks Joins The Fremont Company

Renee Hicks, a 23-year food industry veteran, has joined The Fremont Company, a 111-year-old manufacturer of private brands products, as Director of Private Brands. The Fremont Company is one of the country’s leading producers of private brands regular and organic ketchup, as well as steak sauces and barbecue sauces. Hicks was most recently with Roehl Corporation, a brokerage company for the private brands food business.

“Renee will be managing The Fremont Company’s fast growing domestic account portfolio, dealing with our large pool of retail customers. Her background in account management on both the regional and national levels brings important expertise to help our company achieve new goals in new client acquisition as well as expanding existing relationships,” says Chris Smith, President of The Fremont Company. “The private brands industry is reaching record sales numbers, and professionals like Renee are in high demand to help companies understand and meet market needs.”

Store brand sales in the U.S. reached $118.4 billion in 2015, an all-time record. That was an increase of $2.2 billion over the previous year, according to the Private Label Association “2016 Private Label Yearbook.” Annual sales of store brands have grown by 5 percent, or $5.4 billion, in combined channels. Dollar share for store brands is now 17.7 percent, a new high for the industry.

Convenience Store Industry Sees Future in Food

“More than ever, I truly believe that food is our future,” said NACS 2015-16 Chairman Jack Kofdarali during his speech at this year’s NACS Show general session. NACS is the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.

But, he cautioned that while all signs are pointing toward food as the industry’s future, it won’t happen without work.

“We’re going to have to fight for customers in an already crowded marketplace,” said Kofdarali, who also serves as President of Corona, California-based J&T Management Inc., which operates convenience stores in Southern California. “We’re also going to have to tell our story and correct misperceptions about our offer. And we’re going to have to address an increasingly long list of regulations that stand in our way—whether related to food or our other products.”

He said that it is eye-opening to travel from California to the East Coast—and Europe—and see so many retailers executing at a very high level with food. “Their focus is not just on food made fast, but on food that is really good—both in taste and in quality,” said Kofdarali. “And here’s the most important thing: It’s making them money.”

Kofdarali shared regional breakout data from the NACS State of the Industry Report of 2015 Data that showed how high prepared food sales also push the sales of other items higher. “Prepared foods is bringing in more customers, and retailers are selling more food and other items,” he said.

“Over the past few years, especially during my time as NACS chairman, I have seen the future of retail,” said Kofdarali, citing excellence in merchandising and branding, new concepts and fresh ideas. “But that future also isn’t guaranteed—even if we have the smartest business plans and the best execution—because there is one other element that affects our business—and that is regulation.”

Kofdarali shared a few examples of regulations in his home state of California, from potential tobacco bans to warning labels on bottled water or fuel dispensers, to a litany of fuel-related regulations.

But, he warned, what’s happening in California is not happening in isolation. He said that just as weather patterns move west to east, so do regulations—especially those emitting from California.


The NACS Show is the premier event of the year for the convenience and fuel retailing industry. More than 20,000 attendees from 60-plus countries are at the 2016 NACS Show in Atlanta, which features four days of general sessions, more than 60 education sessions and more than 1,200 exhibiting companies in a nearly 410,000 net-square-foot expo. For the most up-to-date news and information on the event, go to

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