Cathy Strange, Global Cheese Buyer for Whole Foods Market, was presented with the American Cheese Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award on July 30. The ACS Lifetime Achievement Award was created to offer individuals who have made a lasting impact on the American cheese industry. Past winners have included Ig Vella, Daphne Zepos, Steve Jenkins and Ari Weinzweig. “The person at Whole Foods who has not just supported cheese but made it her passion to bring it to the public is Cathy Strange. What Cathy has done and continues to do includes not just global cheese-buying duties, but a worldwide effort to provide her customers with the finest specialty foods available. fighting for right to choose raw milk cheeses, supporting regional small producers with a high-profile venue for them. Her reach and influence is impossible to exaggerate. visionary advocacy and championship for good, safe and delicious food,” said Peggy Smith, who presented the award on behalf of the society.
American snackers love their nutritional bars, finds market research publisher Packaged Facts in the report “Nutritional and Cereal Bars in the U.S., 4th Edition.” Nutritional bars are a handy way for consumers to stop eating three meals a day at set times and to start consuming smaller portions of food throughout the day, whether they are on the go or at home.
Nutritional bars conform to a broad cultural shift toward healthier, good-for-you food products. Bars provide an attractive way for food marketers to offer bold, exciting flavors; ingredients with a shiny health halo resulting from their organic and “natural” characteristics; and superfoods and other functional ingredients targeting specific health concerns such as a desire or need for food to be gluten-free. Nutritional bars, which have achieved torrid sales growth in recent years, provide an especially appropriate platform to deliver the kind of dense nutrition today’s consumers crave and search for in sources such as ancient grains and healthy seeds, including quinoa, amaranth, sorghum, chia and flaxseed.
Nutritional bars have long been marketed as a source of quick energy and meal replacements for athletes and fitness buffs. According to the report, the psychographic profile of high-volume users of nutritional bars indicates that marketers of these products will continue to be on target with advertising campaigns geared toward fitness and outdoor activities. High-volume users of nutritional bars are more likely to say they enjoy taking risks (42 percent vs. 34 percent) and have a higher likelihood of engaging in outdoor pursuits such as mountain/rock climbing, backpacking and mountain biking. They also are far more likely to try to stay fit by engaging in fitness activities such as fitness walking and weight training.
An emerging trend highlighted in “Nutritional and Cereal Bars in the U.S., 4th Edition” is that consumers engaged in sports and fitness activities are starting to shy away from sweet flavors and are increasingly being drawn to savory snacks. Savory bars also provide flavor options for different times of the day, reflecting the fact that consumers often look to sweet flavors earlier in the day and savory flavors later in the day.
Marketers are rushing to roll out new nutritional bars to reflect this shift in flavor preferences. The shift toward savory nutritional bars has increased the popularity of bars that offer meat as a protein source. Consumers can also expect to find more and more nutritional bars using vegetables as their protein source. Nutritional bars now on the market include carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli, spinach, quinoa, cauliflower, lentils, bell pepper and basil.
Some industry analysts note that savory bars will need to overcome a number of obstacles if they are to succeed in the marketplace. They are more difficult to manufacture because they lack sweeteners that act as binding agents. Moreover, marketers need to find ways to overcome the ingrained association between snack bars and sweet flavors.
Consumers trying to maintain or improve their health are increasingly seeking specialty food and non-food alternatives. Whether they are organic, gluten-free, dye-free or lactose-free, these products can be costly, but a new survey of special needs store brands items shows significant savings for consumers.
The research, conducted by the Private Label Manufacturers Association, assembled a market basket consisting of 27 typical specialty products that consumers might purchase as healthy alternatives or for special dietary needs. These products include gluten-free items like pancake mix and chicken broth; organics such as milk and pasta; even non-food allergy-free items like dye and perfume-free laundry detergent.
For every category in the study, a leading national brand product was compared to a similar store brand product when available and prices were adjusted to account for all known discounts, coupons and promotions available for each of the four shopping visits in the study.
The PLMA survey discovered that many organic products on the shelves had a private label product but sometimes did not have a national brand counterpart. However, when a national brand was available for comparison, private label products saved consumers 15 percent. When comparing gluten-free products, the PLMA market basket study found the private label products cost 17 percent less on average when compared to their national brand counterparts, while some store brand products saved shoppers as much as 41 percent.
Millions in the U.S. who are suffering from food allergies, and those with special dietary needs can also save with store brands. Consumers who choose to buy soy burgers, lactose-free milk and low-salt chicken broth, among other specialty food products, would save almost 30 percent when compared to national brand products.
Organic food sales overall continue to grow. Presently they represent a $26 billion market, but sales are projected to reach $60 billion by 2020, according to a report from Packaged Facts. A recent Gallup survey found 45 percent of consumers actively try to include organic products into their diet, and for consumers under the age of 29, that jumps to 53 percent.
The opportunity for private label is evident for a growing number of retailers. In a consumer survey, Walmart found 91 percent of people would buy organic products if they were more affordable. Kroger’s Simple Truth Organic has become a billion dollar brand for the retailer, while other retailers like Costco and Target are expecting billions of dollars in organic food sales this coming year.
The growth of gluten-free products in the U.S. is also widespread. According to Mintel, gluten-free sales have grown 63 percent since 2011 and gluten free sales will top $8 billion this year. Mintel also projects sales are expected to reach $14 billion by 2017 as their popularity and their availability on the shelves continue to grow.
Looking beyond organics and gluten, the Food Allergy Network reports 15 million U.S. adults and children suffer from food allergies, while another five million are allergic to various chemical products. In a recent survey by Datamonitor, 20 percent of consumers said that they avoid certain foods due to an allergy or intolerance most or all of the time.
The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. has acquired the Mona Group, a producer of plant-based foods and beverages with facilities in Germany and Austria through one of its wholly-owned subsidiaries. Mona offers a wide range of organic and natural products under the Joya® and Happy® brands, including soy, oat, rice and nut-based drinks as well as plant-based yogurts, desserts, creamers, tofu and private label products, sold to leading retailers in Europe, primarily in Austria and Germany and eastern European countries.
“We are excited by the acquisition of Mona, which expands our presence in plant-based products in Europe, solidifying our leadership position in the category with the addition of Joya® and Happy® to our Dream™, Lima® and Natumi® brands. This acquisition increases the scale of our plant-based operations to over $100 million net sales in Europe in a growing category of branded and private label products, while providing us with additional manufacturing capacity,” said Irwin D. Simon, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hain Celestial. “Mona also presents us with the opportunity to expand our European product offerings of Lima, Ella’s Kitchen®, Frank Cooper’s®, Robertson’s® and Sun-Pat® brands into Austria, Germany and other central and eastern European countries, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia. We plan to create sales opportunities with plant-based beverages and yogurt, which we have successfully introduced in the United States, expand the refrigerated category into desserts, extend the reach of our global brands, including Celestial Seasonings®, Terra® and Tilda®, and leverage our existing infrastructure, manufacturing and research and development expertise for cost efficiencies.”
In calendar year 2014 Mona had approximately $50 million in net sales and is expected to be accretive to Hain Celestial’s earnings in fiscal year 2016. Mona’s plant-based business, which was established in 2001, was owned by several venture capital groups and members of current and former management.
“As a leading natural and organic foods company in Europe, we believe plant-based foods will become more and more a part of our daily diets. With this acquisition we will be able to further expand our healthy food offerings and capitalize on plant-based eating trends,” commented Bart Dobbelaere, Chief Executive Officer of Hain Celestial Europe. “In addition plant-based foods and beverages are more sustainable and lighten the footprint we leave behind.”
With the acquisition of Mona, Hain Celestial Europe will have three facilities producing plant-based beverages, two in Germany and one in Austria, serving the European markets. Mona’s Vienna office will be the base for expansion into eastern Europe.
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.
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.”
There was much anticipation going into the 2015 Bristol Bay sockeye season this year, with some 54 million sockeye salmon forecasted to return. While the final return of sockeye may fall just short of the pre-season forecast, the 2015 sockeye season was a historic one, with a much higher than average return and a surprisingly late, long run. As of July 26, 51 millon sockeye salmon returned to Bristol Bay with 35 million of those fish harvested. The peak of Bristol Bay’s run came in about 10 days later than usual this year.
“The season started slow and there was a lot of nervousness on the water, but, as always, the salmon came swimming home on their own schedule. And when they finally did show up, they came by the tens of millions! We had a few rough weather days, but it was an unusually sunny season with lots of rainbows and beautiful sunsets, and the best news is that we have plenty of sockeye for our customers,” said Jason McKinley, Bristol Bay Fisherman and Owner of Caught Wild Salmon.
Unusually late timing of the salmon’s return kept fishery managers, fishermen, and seafood processors on their toes as they waited to see how things would play out. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game kept a close eye on in-season fish numbers and managed fishing efforts day-by-day to ensure that escapement targets were met in all the Bay’s major rivers.
This year’s huge return is good news for chefs and other seafood buyers who source Bristol Bay sockeye and depend on its consistently abundant runs and year-round availability. Because the majority of Bristol Bay sockeye is flash frozen during the peak of the fishing season, late July and August signal the real start of the Bristol Bay salmon season for consumers.
“When you’re dealing with a wild food like sockeye salmon, you never know what’s going to happen. That’s part of the beauty of it and what makes it so special,” said William Dissen, Chef and Owner of The Market Place in Asheville, North Carolina. “I’ve served Bristol Bay sockeye in my restaurant for the past few years and am thrilled to once again be able to provide it to our customers who’ve come to expect it on our menu.”
Others in the marketplace are also pleased with this season’s sockeye return, including the national company Plated, which features Bristol Bay sockeye salmon as part of its meal-delivery menu. “Being able to source and provide Bristol Bay sockeye to our customers is an important part of who we are as a company, and key to our commitment to purchasing sustainable, healthy protein,” said Keith Lydon, Vice President of Operations at Plated.
Consumers around the country can now purchase Bristol Bay sockeye directly from fishermen through Community Supported Fisheries, farmers markets, and buying clubs. A list of Bristol Bay sockeye suppliers can be found at www.bristolbaysockeye.org.
By Lorrie Baumann
“Goats are getting a lot of love tonight,” Big Picture Farm Co-founder Lucas Farrell observed as he accepted the sofi Award for Outstanding New Product for 2015 for Raspberry Rhubarb Goat Milk Caramels together with Co-founder Louisa Conrad. The two started their farm in the fall of 2010 with just four goats and now have 44, who were very happy to see Farrell back at home after the conclusion of this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show. “They were very happy to see us. They’re going to go on new pastures, and I’ve got to mow the old ones,” Farrell said.
The show was a commercial as well as critical success for Big Picture Farm, which also won a sofi Award this year in the Outstanding Confection category for Goat Milk Chai Caramels. Big Picture Farm previously won a sofi in 2011 for its Sea Salt and Bourbon Vanilla Caramel, and the chai caramels also won a Good Food Award in 2013. During the three days of this year’s show, Big Picture took “a fair amount” of orders, both from current customers and some new ones who stopped by for a taste after the sofi Awards ceremony, Farrell said. “It helps bring people who might otherwise not stop at our booth to come over and put a caramel in their mouth,” he said. “That’s our main selling point, when they taste it.”
Continuing the goat love, Fat Toad Farm Goat’s Milk Caramels won the 2015 sofi Award for Outstanding Product Line. Fat Toad Farm is run by husband and wife team Steve Reid and Judith Irving, their daughter Calley Hastings, and three employees. “We’re from Vermont,” Hastings said as she accepted the award. “Our family is back there working the goats so we get to be here.”
The awards were presented by Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, an Iron Chef and frequent judge on Chopped, who substituted for Ted Allen from Chopped, who had been scheduled to host the ceremony but sent a video presentation in his stead. “You know how much I love food I’m eating, and you know I’m quite passionate about it,” she said. “I really love food, sometimes too much, and nothing gives me more joy than to eat food made by people who love it too.”
Awards were presented in 32 categories, with winners selected from more than 2,700 entries. Products were tasted and judged by a panel that included journalists and restaurateurs to select finalists, while the winners of the gold trophies were selected by the votes of retailers and distributors who tasted the products during the show.
Callie’s Charleston Biscuits took home two sofi Awards for Outstanding Frozen Savory, which went to the company’s Country Ham Biscuits, and for Outstanding Bread, Muffin, Granola, or Cereal, which went to Cheese and Chive Biscuits. There was a tie for the sofi for Outstanding Cooking, Dipping or Finishing Sauce, and dual sofis went to Charissa for Authentic Moroccan Seasoning and to Kitchens of Africa for Zanzibar.
Three Lone Mountain Wagyu products were selected as sofi finalists: 100 percent Fullblood Wagyu Beef Summer Sausage in the Appetizer, Antipasto, or Hors d’Oeuvres category; 100 percent Fullblood Wagyu Beef Sausage Links in the Frozen Savory category; and 100 percent Fullblood Wagyu Beef Jerky in the Savory Snack category. The gold award went to the summer sausage.
This year’s Outstanding Baking Ingredient, Baking Mix or Flavor Enhancer was the Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownie Kit by Sutter Buttes Natural and Artisan Foods, while the Bay Blue from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese was named the Outstanding Cheese. The Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Chocolate Toffee from Laurie & Sons was named Outstanding Chocolate. Read more about Laurie & Sons in the snacks supplement in this issue. The Outstanding Cookie, Brownie, Cake or Pie was Organic Molten Chocolate Cake – Dark Decadence from Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery, while the Outstanding Dessert Sauce, Topping or Syrup was Salted Caramel Sauce from Coop’s MicroCreamery.
Vermont Creamery’s Cultured Butter Sea Salt Basket was named the show’s Outstanding Classic Product, while the Blackberry Sheep Milk Yogurt from Bellwether Farms was named Outstanding Dairy or Dairy Alternative Product. The Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream from Steve’s Ice Cream took home the award for Outstanding Ice Cream, Gelato or Frozen Treat.
Tea Forte’s Vanilla Pear Tea was named Outstanding Hot Beverage, while Owl’s Brew’s White and Vine was named Outstanding Cold Beverage. The award for Outstanding Condiment went to Sir Kensington’s Special Sauce, while Grains of Health took home the Outstanding Cracker award for Laiki Black Rice Crackers. Crown Maple’s Grade A Very Dark Color Strong Taste Maple Syrup was named Outstanding Foodservice Product. The award for Outstanding Jam, Preserve, Honey, or Nut butter went to Manicaretti Italian Food Imports for Sicilian Pistachio Spread. Fra’ Mani Handcrafted Foods’ Salametto Piccante was named Outstanding Meat, Pate or Seafood; Castillo de Canena Smoked Arbequina Olive Oil, imported into the U.S. by Culinary Collective, won the award for Outstanding Oil. The Outstanding Vinegar was Organic Apple Balsamic Vinegar from Ritrovo Italian Regional Foods.
Nella Pasta’s Corn, Caramelized Onion & Thyme Ravioli won the award for Outstanding Pasta, Rice, or Grain. The award for Outstanding Pasta Sauce went to Pumpkin and Kale Alfredo Sauce from Sauces ‘n Love. Cracked Sesame Miso from Nago Foods won the award for Outstanding Salad Dressing, and Sweet Chili Chickpea Chips from Maya Kaimal Fine Indian Foods were named the Outstanding Savory Snack. Kettle Pipcorn from Pipsnacks won the award for Outstanding Sweet Snack. Look for more about Pipsnacks in the October issue of Gourmet News.
Tate’s Bake Shop’s Gluten Free Ginger Zinger Cookie was named the Outstanding Vegan or Gluten-Free Product. Nona Lim Thai Curry and Lime Broth from Cook San Francisco was named Outstanding Soup, Stew, Bean or Chili.
Finally, the Outstanding Salsa or Dip was Kiwi Lime Salsa Verde from Wozz! Kitchen Creations. Wozz! won sofi Awards in 2014 for Ginger Soy Infusion, which was named Outstanding Dressing, and for Triple Ale Onion Spread, which was named Outstanding Condiment. “I’m an Australian in America, winning with a Mexican condiment,” Wozz said as he accepted the award. “God bless America!”
By Micah Cheek
Bone broth, the heavily reduced stock that has been popular with various diets and health regimens, is becoming available for quick home use. Mark Cronin, Regional Grocery Buyer/Supervisor of Jimbo’s… Naturally!, says Jimbo’s started selling premade frozen broths three years ago with great results. “Customers want things that are easy for them; offering it where they can be taken home is easy. That’s part of why they’ve been so successful.” Bone broth became popular with various health-conscious groups as a minimally processed source of protein and collagen, and then its popularity exploded after Marco Canora started offering it in his restaurant restaurant, Brodo, and the New York Times took note. It has been touted as an intestinal health aid, workout beverage, and even a morning coffee alternative.
Prepackaged bone broths have found a market with people who want to enjoy the purported benefits of bone broth, but lack the time to simmer organic bones for more than 12 hours. “We have done some customer surveys. People are saying, ‘We love broth, we believe in broth, but we love that we don’t have to make it,’” says Lance Roll, Executive Chef and founder of The Flavor Chef. “There’s also the issue of handling the product. Fifty percent of people have a spouse that doesn’t enjoy the smell of broth. If you’re cooking it for 12 to 24 hours, it constantly smells your house up.”
Premade bone broths have the added convenience of a six month shelf life in the freezer. Shelf-stable broths from Pacific Foods are available in boxes as well. Cronin believes that the next step in retail bone broths should be pre-portioned ice trays or packets so that small amounts can be thawed conveniently.
A good indicator of quality for a premade bone broth is how it behaves at room temperature. The process of making bone broth aims to extract as much gelatin and collagen from bones as possible, so a good bone broth will be a loose gel when thawed. The gelatin contributes to a rich texture when the broth is consumed.
It is recommended that broths are heated in a pot on the stove, rather than in a microwave. After heating, variations are only limited by the consumer’s tastes. Traditional bone broths are crafted for sipping, with only salt added. Seasonings like fresh ginger and lemon slices or steeped herbs customize the flavor. Bone broth can also be used wherever standard broths are called for, as the liquid in braises and stews or as a base for sauces.
For those who don’t enjoy drinking broth straight, Cronin suggests cooking it with rice noodles, green onions and other vegetables to make a simple soup. Roll has recently developed a Coconut Ginger Mint and Lemon Bone Broth soup, made with 80 percent chicken bone broth.
The majority of retail bone broths are made with either beef or chicken. Many are certified organic. Organic pork broth is rarely seen because of the difficulty in finding pigs that meet organic standards. “We’re not going to be doing it any time soon, mainly because I can’t get enough good pork bone,” says Roll. As bone broth gets more attention, Cronin is looking forward to more varieties of products becoming available. “There are more and more companies jumping into it on a retail level,” he says.