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Gourmet Newswire

Action for Healthy Kids and ALDI Team up in Southern California

Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) and ALDI have partnered to invest in Southern California communities through AFHK’s School Grants for Healthy Kids initiative. The ALDI investment of $175,000 will help 15 Southern California area schools to improve their overall wellness environments through grants and technical assistance during the 2015-2016 school year.

Funding supports the establishment or expansion of school health teams; implementation of school wellness programs to drive effective health initiatives utilizing AFHK’s Game On program to identify and target areas of need; and engagement of parents, community members and ALDI employees to promote wellness at school and at home. The ALDI-funded program will benefit more than 11,000 students at the selected schools where, on average, 71 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced meals.

Grocery Survey Finds Wegmans Now America’s Favorite

Wegmans is now America’s favorite grocery retail, according to a new large-scale consumer study of more than 10,000 consumers conducted by Market Force Information® (Market Force). Publix Super Markets came in as Americans’ second-favorite grocer, followed by Trader Joe’s in third place. This is the first time in four years that Trader Joe’s did not rank first.

Wegmans Rises to the Top
For the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent grocery shopping experience and their likelihood to refer that grocer to others. The results were averaged to rank each brand on a Composite Loyalty Index.

After not earning enough votes to make the list in 2015, Wegmans garnered double the votes in 2016, resulting in a score of 76 percent, enough to secure the top spot. Publix ranked second for the fourth year in a row with an earned a score of 75 percent, followed by Trader Joe’s, which slipped 5 percentage points from 2015 for a score of 73 percent. Hy-Vee and ALDI rounded out the top five.

Wegmans, founded in 1916, is known for its fresh produce, reasonable prices and massive stores. The Rochester, New York-based chain is expanding modestly, but steadily and winning over more devoted customers along the way. Its focus on employee training to ensure customers have the best experience has been a winning strategy that creates superfans eager for a new location to open near their home.

Publix Has Best items, ALDI Best Prices
Market Force sought to uncover which brands excel in specific operational and service categories that set leading grocers apart.  It found that Publix and Wegmans led in most areas, including the ability to find desired items, cleanliness and specialty department service. ALDI was the price leader, followed by WinCo and Costco. Trader Joe’s, known for its friendly service, ranked first for cashier courtesy. ShopRite, Meijer and Kroger offer the best sales and promotions. Hy-Vee also performed well across the board, ranking in the top five in many categories.

Organic and Local Foods Taking Root
Shoppers are increasing seeking local and organic foods while grocery shopping. The study showed that 49 percent of consumers prefer to purchase organic items when given a choice. Produce, meat and dairy were the most frequently purchased organic products, followed by packaged canned foods, packaged dry foods and frozen foods. Less popular were organic baby products, paper products and personal hygiene products. Purchases of organic options for all but two categories increased one to three percentage points from 2015, indicating a growing importance on the availability of organic selections. A majority (58 percent) of shoppers also indicated that locally sourced meat, produce and dairy products are important.

Prepared Foods Warming Up
As more shoppers are crunched for time, prepared foods continue to be a popular choice, with two thirds indicating they purchased some form of prepared food from their grocer in the previous 30 days. Forty-three percent did so once a month, 19 percent once a week, and 8 percent twice a week or more. Convenience was overwhelming the most popular reason for purchasing prepared foods, but many also turn to pre-made foods as an alternative to dining out or because of the quality of food offered.

The most common types of prepared meals purchased were ready-to-eat main courses and ready-to-eat side dishes/appetizers/desserts. Ready-to-cook main courses and ready-to-cook side dishes/appetizers/desserts ranked third and fourth, respectively.

Home Delivery and Click & Collect Not Yet Widely Used
Despite the rise in alternative shopping and delivery methods, 99 percent still do their grocery shopping traditionally – a trip to the store to buy and bring home products. In the past 90 days, just 5 percent ordered online for home delivery, 2 percent ordered online and picked up groceries in-store, and 2 percent used “Click and Collect” – ordering online and collecting through the grocer’s drive-up. Of the 4 percent who have ever tried Click and Collect, 73 percent were satisfied with the experience and nearly half are repeat users.

Apps and Circulars Holding Steady
Market Force’s study found approximately half of consumers used a grocery app in the previous 90 days. The most prevalently used apps are those offered by specific grocers, while a nominal amount of consumers opt for third-party apps such as Checkout 51, SavingStar and Yummly. Consumers are primarily using apps to obtain coupons, followed by scanning barcodes, comparing prices and availability, and creating grocery lists.

On the more low-tech end, printed circulars have not diminished in popularity. About half of consumers are reviewing them once a week, and 14 percent are reviewing them three to four times a week. They’re also influencing where and how consumers shop. Seventy-nine percent said they plan their shopping trips based on what is in the circulars, 65 percent clip coupons from them and 61 percent use them to compare prices between grocers. Of particular interest to grocers is that nearly two thirds shop at a specific grocer because of the promotions offered in a weekly circular.

Survey Demographics
The survey was conducted online in February 2016 across the United States. The pool of 10,025 respondents represented a cross-section of the four U.S. census regions, and reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with 54 percent reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 67 percent were women and 33 percent were men.

Capatriti Extra Virgin Olive Oil Earns Stringent USDA QMP Seal

Capatriti® Extra Virgin Olive Oil, manufactured by Gourmet Factory™, has qualified for the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Quality Monitoring Program (QMP) seal. The USDA Quality Monitoring Program verifies the purity and quality of a brand’s extra virgin olive oil. Capatriti Extra Virgin Olive Oil was required to meet meticulous program criteria in order to qualify for the seal. Upon entering the Quality Monitoring Program for its extra virgin olive oil, Gourmet Factory agreed to allow the USDA to conduct unannounced visits to review and inspect quality assurance records, randomly sample product for chemical analysis and sensory evaluation, and verify labels on an ongoing basis.

“It’s important that we, as a manufacturer and industry partner, provide consumers with the correct information about what is pure extra virgin olive oil – the taste, the aroma and the color,” stated Themis Kangadis, Gourmet Factory CEO. “As a family-owned company, we know that trust is the most important part of any relationship, and by earning this stringent USDA QMP designation, we are looking at our consumers as family by increasing their knowledge and making their choice easier.”

Confusion about EVOO is nothing new in the marketplace and is still an ongoing issue. According to a 2010 UC Davis report, “69 percent of imported olive oils labeled as ‘extra virgin’ failed to meet the international standard for extra virgin olive oil.” More recently, a 2015 report from National Consumer League found that six out of 11 (about 55 percent) of EVOO from four major retailers failed to meet the EVOO requirements.

The USDA QMP seal indicates that USDA samples of Capatriti Extra Virgin Olive Oil have passed USDA quality and purity analysis. Additionally, the USDA also reviewed the performance of the company’s production processes, quality assurance measures and record-keeping system. Under the program, the USDA will continue to monitor Capatriti’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil, conducting unannounced plant visits to verify quality assurance measures and test the extra virgin olive oil.

Victoria Fine Foods Sauces at Sur La Table

Victoria Fine Foods and Sur La Table are launching a new line of artisanal pasta sauces created exclusively for the Sur La Table customer.The line consists of the following five varieties:

  • Organic Pomodoro Sauce
  • Fra Diavolo Sauce
  • Roasted Garlic Sauce
  • Vodka Sauce
  • Chianti Marinara Sauce

All sauces come in 24-ounce jars and are available in Sur La Table stories nationwide, as well as on the Sur La Table website and catalog. The suggested retail price is $12-$13. All sauces, except the Vodka variety, are Non-GMO Project verified.

Just like Victoria’s premium and Organic sauce lines, the Sur La Table artisanal sauces are made with just a handful of ingredients which are featured prominently on the front of the label: ripe plum tomatoes, fresh onions, fresh garlic, fresh basil, olive oil and salt. No artificial flavors or colors are ever added.

The Sur La Table artisanal pasta sauces owe their rich flavor to the superb quality of the tomatoes and a slow kettle-cooking process. The San Marzano-style plum whole tomatoes are grown in the volcanic soil of coastal Italy, long considered the source of the world’s finest tomatoes, and slow cooked them in small batches with fresh, hand picked basil, fresh garlic, and fresh onions.

“This is Victoria Fine Foods’ first co-branded partnership, and we are thrilled to be launching this venture with Sur La Table,” says Tim Shanley, CEO, Victoria Fine Foods.  “Our brands and mission are very similar, with a focus on the highest quality, best-tasting ingredients and the desire to help consumers achieve kitchen victories every day.”

NASDA Urges Passage of Trans-Pacific Partnership

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) has called on Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before the end of the year.  NASDA co-signed a letter to House and Senate leadership with over 220 organizations that represent the broad spectrum of American agriculture, all of whom stand to benefit from the passage of the 12-country free trade agreement.

Greg Ibach, Nebraska Director of Agriculture and NASDA President, has been NASDA’s chief advocate of the benefits of international trade during his decade of service to the organization. NASDA voted in February in favor of an Ibach-sponsored Action Item to support TPP.

“America’s farmers and ranchers depend on the global marketplace. TPP will open markets and eliminate trade barriers that currently prevent us from competitively providing our high-quality food and fiber to consumers in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Ibach. “TPP will open the door to increased farm income for farmers, ranchers, and value-added food producers of all sizes and production methods. This is an opportunity which Congress cannot ignore.”

NASDA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association which represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries, and directors of the departments of agriculture in all fifty states and four U.S. territories.  NASDA grows and enhances agriculture by forging partnerships and creating consensus to achieve sound policy outcomes between state departments of agriculture, the federal government, and stakeholders.

Kenny Kimball to Become President of Smith’s

The Kroger Co. has announced the promotion of Kenny Kimball, currently Vice President of Operations in the company’s Smith’s division, to serve as President of Smith’s, effective April 30. Kimball succeeds Jay Cummins, whose retirement was announced in February.

“Kenny’s passion for developing associates and his commitment to putting our customers first will further accelerate growth in our important Smith’s division markets,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s Chairman and CEO. “Kenny brings to this role leadership experience at all levels of our business and a record of success as both an operator and a merchandiser. We look forward to his leadership as president of Smith’s.”

Kimball joined the company in 1984 as a courtesy clerk in the Smith’s division. He served in several leadership roles with Smith’s, including store manager, district manager and bakery director. In 2009, he was named Smith’s senior vice president of sales and merchandising. In 2012, he was named vice president of merchandising for the Ralphs division, and in 2013 was named vice president of operations for Ralphs. Kimball most recently served on special assignment at Kroger’s general office in 2015, before taking on his current role in February.

Wynn’s Market Re-creates Itself in Naples

Naples, Florida is considered one of the wealthiest cities in America; known for its architecture and local flora that gives a European feel to the affluent beach-side community. Famous for its palm tree flecked, white sand beaches, the city is home to a historical landmark that’s almost as old as the city itself: Wynn’s Market.

“[We’ve] been here since the beginning,” says Tim Wynn, Owner of Wynn’s Market. “Even our employees have been here for a long time. We have a saying: ‘If you haven’t worked here for over 20 years, you’re a newbie!’”

Wynn’s Market started in Naples way back in 1938 by Wynn’s grandfather as a small inn for Depression-era travelers who took the train from New York to Miami. After the end of the second World War, the building was taken over by Wynn’s father, who transformed the inn into the first modern grocery store for the community of less than 600. Much has changed in the community over the years, such as the metamorphosis from a small fishing village to wealthy tourist destination, but what has remained the same, according to Wynn, is his family’s dedication to offering the best product and service at a fair price. “We give them the service, give them the quality and give them a unique selection,” says Wynn. “We are also one of the first ones to start online sales in Naples region, which gives us a competitive advantage over our competition.”

An extensive remodeling of the store 11 years ago elevated Wynn’s Market to an upscale, specialty grocery that would match the lifestyle of the residents in the area. “We work with a very affluent segment of the community,” says Wynn. “We carry household things and unique gifts…. We have a complete shopping experience where [customers] can find something that nobody else has.”

The 21,000 square-foot grocery’s center floor offers a limited variety of traditional staples, with the rest of the store dedicated to its renovated wine department, deli and cheese counter, specialty sea food counter and bakery. A sidewalk cafe outside the store offers a dozen tables.

The store has been certified as a Blue Zone grocery, providing organic juices, gluten-free snacks and low-sodium snacks to help customers practice healthy nutrition. Wynn says, “Our checkout area doesn’t have any candy!”

Wynn says that the deli is the grocery’s strongest department, specializing in antibiotic-free cuts of grass-fed beef and chickens as well as fresh-made salads, pastas and prime rib.The deli carries over 60 different items, from meatloaf and pot roast to freshly-made chicken quesadillas and fried chicken. Offerings are rotated so customers will find something new as well as their usual favorites. “You have to keep changing out there, or [the competition] will eat you alive,” says Wynn.

The market has a close relationship with local fishermen. All of the grocery’s seafood is fresh off the boat. Stone crab claws, salmon, yellow snapper, sword fish and trout, not to mention scallops, clams and oysters are all available at the counter. Recently, the store’s sushi department started offering customers the choice to have a dozen oysters shucked, packed on ice and taken home for some ready-to-go oysters on the half shell. He says, “Our sales have gone through the roof… through our strong relationship with local fishers and boaters.”

Wynn’s Market’s large wine department houses a temperature-controlled, walk-in wine cellar that contains nearly 800 different wines from Chile, Australia, Argentina, Germany, France, Spain, New Zealand and South Africa. Wynn says that they carry every type of wine from extremely high-end selections such as Opus 1 and Cristal to more affordable $6.99 bottles.

Sioux Natural Hatches Veggan, a Gluten-Free, Plant-Based Egg Substitute

Sioux Natural is introducing Veggan, a plant-based egg substitute that matches the nutritional and functional properties of whole eggs in baking, while minimizing the health risks we’ve come to know with conventional eggs. The new product comes much to the relief of chickens, vegans, and those with egg allergies everywhere as well as those watching their cholesterol.

“We are proud to offer a clean, plant-based, allergen-free egg alternative in a time where large-scale egg production can’t keep up with maintaining the health and safety of their flocks or their eggs,” said Paula Persinger, President of Sioux Natural, LLC. “Veggan is a natural choice for people avoiding animal products, allergens, and GMOs, and for the companies who’d like to make food for them while also benefiting from cost and risk reduction.”

Since Veggan is created through sustainable, minimally processed, GRAS-certified ingredients, it virtually eliminates the risks we’ve come to recognize—and bear—from large-scale egg production practices. The product offers identical performance: Veggan offers a 1:1 volume and weight substitution, which eliminates the need for additional allowances or reformulations.

Veggan’s ingredients are available and easily sourced at a cost savings to eggs. Without having to rely on flock health, using plant-based Veggan minimizes the huge price increases that occur when chicken populations are fighting widespread illness, like the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in 2015. Not only is Veggan immune to bird illnesses, it also substantially reduces the microbial risk for salmonella and listeria in a way that large-scale egg production simply can’t. When eggs get recalled, so do every product and recipe they touch. Using Veggan helps preserve corporate bottom lines, company reputations, and the health of the end-consumer.

Replacing eggs with Veggan also allows the baking industry to expand their product offering to customers with gluten, cholesterol, and environmental sensitivities. With its amazing functionality, neutral flavor profile, and clean label, Veggan is a clear choice for waffles, donuts, breads, cakes, muffins, cookies, and more.

“It’s always refreshing when science can make good, wholesome food healthier and more accessible,” adds Persinger. “And it’s exciting to see a product that has just as many applications in Grandma’s kitchen as it does in large-scale baking operations.”

Consumers Seeking Healthy Condiments

By Greg Gonzales

Not all condiments were created equal. Consumers increasingly seek alternatives to condiment cornerstones high in sodium or high-fructose corn syrup, or that fail to meet their specific health and diet needs. Producers have responded directly by releasing products that meet individual consumer needs, and some naturally healthy condiments need no alteration.

Of course, a healthy condiment isn’t necessarily the same item for everyone. “It’s more complex than most people think,” said Chrissy Weiss, a nutrition expert who serves as Director of Marketing and Communications at Culinary Collective. “We all are following different diets. Some have health issues, some are athletes, so it depends on someone’s needs individually. … Make sure the product falls in line with your own health goals.” Those goals might include non-GMO products, gluten-free, no high-fructose corn syrup, low sugar, low sodium or vegan.

There’s a condiment for every consumer need. Annie’s, Portland and Sir Kensington’s ketchups do away with fillers like corn syrup and artificial colors, and the organic tomatoes they use contain more nutrients and antioxidants than their non-organic counterparts. The Not Ketchup brand adds a paleo-friendly option to the mix with its fruit ketchups, available in specialty flavors like Blueberry White Pepper and Tangerine Hatch Chile. The winner of the free-from badge contest might have to go to Primal Kitchen for its take on mayonnaise, made with avocado oil. This gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, canola-free, non-GMO spread made with cage-free eggs is packed with healthy fats and is paleo-friendly. Hampton Creek’s spread, Just Mayo, is also Non-GMO Project Verified, but brings mayo back to the vegan crowd by taking the eggs out entirely — in four specialty flavors, too. And consumers who want flavorful ribs without the sugar rush might try Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Sensuous Slathering Sauce. It’s a gluten-free and all-natural take on the tangy-sweet stuff, with only 154mg of sodium and 5 grams of sugar per serving. It’s not alone on the shelf, either. Tessemae’s All Natural BBQ Sauce contains only 2 grams of sugar and 125mg of sodium. It’s also gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and paleo-friendly.

“People are reading more ingredient labels these days to see if it’s just simple,” said Weiss. “Used to be a long time ago, we wanted everything fat free.” But these days, consumers know good fats are essential to a healthy diet, and can even lower cholesterol. Culinary Collective’s gluten-free Matiz Catalan All I Oli Garlic Spread, made from sunflower oil, garlic, lemon juice and salt, is high in good fats but dairy-free, low in sodium and sugar. Salsas, guacamole, hot sauces and low-sugar chutneys also make nutritious additions to healthy meals.

“A lot of people believe traditional foods made from scratch, made from high-quality ingredients, can be helpful,” said Weiss, adding that this attitude has been a given in the specialty food industry from the get-go. “We’ll be part of the solution, not the problem.… There’s a lot of products out there that are, honestly, just junk. They don’t add anything to consumers’ diets, and producers are starting to wake up to that. We’ll definitely see this continue.”

California Olive Ranch Growing Americans’ Taste for Olive Oil

By Lorrie Baumann

Silicon Valley technocrat Gregg Kelley had a nice little career going for himself in 2006. He’d taken two dot-coms public and settled into a consulting career in which he could choose the clients he wanted to advise on how to succeed the way he had. He ditched it all when the owners of California Olive Ranch came to him and said they’d learned how to make a good product and wanted his help to scale up their operation to compete in the national market. Eight years later, he has no regrets.

“It was just the right time. The owners of the company had learned what they needed to learn and were looking for a CFO [chief financial officer]. I was interested in their approach to the industry,” he said. “I really liked the people who owned the company, liked the opportunity. It checked that box for me. I took a pretty significant pay cut to join the company. It was a leap of faith. It was right place, right people, right time.”

“It’s been a great opportunity. A change of direction. I wanted to lead a life where I could look at myself in the mirror,” he adds. “There were two things I wanted to do: be a good husband and a good father and have a positive impact on the world. I get to do that now…. Those are the simple rules to live my life by.”

Kelley is now California Olive Ranch’s Chief Executive Officer, and the company has been registering sales growth rates of 30 to 50 percent per year for a compound annual growth rate exceeding 45 percent over the past eight years. California Olive Ranch has become the U.S.’s largest domestic olive oil producer: in terms of consumer sales, it’s the #4 brand in the grocery channel, the #1 brand in the specialty/gourmet channel and the #3 brand in the natural channel, according to SPINS. With just under 15,000 acres planted with olive trees now, Kelley is actively looking for another 3,000 more acres to plant this year to feed rapidly growing consumer demand for extra virgin olive oils from California.

A few factors have combined to drive that growth, according to Kelley. Americans are becoming more aware of the virtues of high-quality olive oils, and improved technology has allowed California Olive Ranch to provide a better product at an accessible price point. “California has had an olive industry for hundreds of years, but it stayed small until technology got better. The ability to hit a price point that makes it accessible is what accelerates that learning curve,” Kelley said. “You break this barrier of accessibility for a larger number of people. California has made the norm become a much higher quality product. The American consumer, time and time again, has a proven preference for higher-quality products. Wine was an example of that. We’re seeing it in cheese, in chocolate…. We are participating in the same evolution.”

Kelley is determined to propel Americans along the learning curve by putting the taste of California Olive Ranch oil on as many tongues as possible. He says that letting people smell the aroma of a freshly opened bottle of good extra virgin olive oil and then letting them taste the oil and feel the warmth of it in their throats is all it takes to inspire them to want that experience again, especially if they can have it for a price premium of just a few dollars a bottle. “What makes us different is the ability to provide a much higher quality experience regularly,” he said. “The vast majority of the oil we produce would win awards around the world.”

“Great olive oils add to the experience of a good meal,” he said. “That was the ‘Aha!’ for me that was the final hook that got me involved in the industry and got me into California Olive Ranch.”

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