“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 nacsshow.com.
The 2016 International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE)—the most comprehensive event in the western hemisphere for the grain-based food industry—recently wrapped up its largest show to date at the Las Vegas Convention Center with more than 1,000 exhibitors—340 new to IBIE and a 28 percent increase over 2013—in more than 700,000 square feet of exhibit space. Attendance also continued its upward trend with more than 23,000 registered attendees—a nine percent increase over 2013 and an astounding 65 percent increase over the last decade.
Much of the growth has come from international markets with attendees hailing from more than 100 countries and making up 30 percent of the total attendance.
“The quality and depth of IBIE’s attendees, exhibitors and education sessions was incredible,” said Michael J. Cornelis, Chair of IBIE. “IBIE is continually evolving and growing to meet the needs of baking industry professionals, as well as the trends in the industry, and this year we saw a record-breaking show with the largest show floor, number of exhibitors, innovation showcase and education program in IBIE’s history.”
A host of thought-provoking new and returning features created an even more engaging experience for attendees and exhibitors; highlights included:
Also new to the show was the Satin Ice Live Challenge competition, which brought together six teams of three professional decorators, including one Satin Ice Artist of Excellence, to construct and decorate a fairytale-themed cake on the show floor in only six hours. The winning team included Satin Ice Artist of Excellence Jörg Amsler, Jaime VanderWoude of Eagan Hy-Vee in Minnesota and Erika Youngdahl of Jerry’s Foods in Edina, Minnesota, with VanderWoude and Youngdahl representing the upper Midwest Bakery Association. Winners were awarded a trip to the America’s Cake Fair hosted by Satin Ice in Orlando.
Brambles, a logistics solutions company operating in more than 60 countries primarily through the CHEP and IFCO brands, has signed a three-year agreement with the international non-profit organization The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN). Through this partnership Brambles will provide supply chain knowledge, in-kind contributions, volunteers and donations to help finance GFN operations, in an effort to reduce hunger, poverty, malnutrition and food waste globally.
The agreement comes as the United Nations FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) reports that the value of food lost or wasted annually around the globe – some one-third of the food produced or 1.3 billion tonnes – amounts to roughly $680 billion USD in industrialized countries and $310 billion USD in developing countries. At the same time, nearly 800 million people suffer from hunger every day.
Lisa Moon, President and CEO of GFN, said: “We are honored to partner with Brambles to leverage its expertise, products, and leadership to help drive efficiency and scale in food banks around the world. We would like to thank Brambles for their commitment to the fight against world hunger while also advancing sustainability.”
Last year, food banks within GFN’s network distributed 421,840 metric tons of food to 6.8 million needy people in partnership with 27,000 charitable organizations and social centers. The GFN network consists of a total of 792 food banks located in 32 countries.
Brambles CEO, Tom Gorman, said: “Brambles is highly committed to deliver sustainable value in the communities where we operate. Food banks are a great example of that. Our new relationship with GFN builds on our multi-year engagement working with our customers to support food banks around the world. In addition, Brambles efforts to expand both the capacity and capabilities of GFN Network to address hunger is an important part of our comprehensive approach to addressing food security.
“We are focused on reducing post-harvest food loss, improving the ability of small holder farmers to access modern packaging that protects the integrity of the product and enhances food safety. Whether we are working with individual food banks, the GFN, The Consumer Goods Forum or Enactus, our employees are dedicated to improving access to food and economic opportunity and to improving the sustainability of our environment.”
Christie & Co. has named Dave Kingsbury as its new Vice President of Growth & Innovation. He will be leading the company’s Rocky Mountains office.
“We are so thrilled to have Dave join our team to be part of this next phase of our growth, building upon decades of experience to continue our heritage of pioneering innovative, ethical leaders, companies, products, and causes,” stated Gillian Christie, Founder and CEO of Christie & Co. “His extensive experience will enhance our outreach and maximize our impact to strengthen the growth potential and innovation for companies in the natural industry, outdoor, agriculture, and clean tech sectors, as well as to create new branding and innovation solutions for leading global corporations to be understood and relevant to the changing economy and demographics driving growth in our industries.”
Kingsbury was formerly Vice President of Partnership and Product Development for New Hope Natural Media.
For the second year in a row, Rogue Creamery will donate 1 percent of October sales to ACEF (American Cheese Education Fund) to celebrate American Cheese Month. The American Cheese Society’s sister organization, ACEF, was created to educate people about the art and science of artisanal and specialty cheese and it supports existing and new educational efforts to further learning opportunities for all those interested in producing, marketing, selling, and appreciating North America’s artisan, farmstead, and specialty cheeses.
One of those educational components is the Certified Cheese Professional program; the letters ACS CCP designate that an individual has acquired thorough knowledge and the level of expertise that is demanded within the cheese industry. Two Rogue Creamery team members, Tom Van Voorhees and Chelsea Faris, were among the first in the U.S. to earn the CCP credentials. For additional information about ACEF go to http://www.cheesefoundation.org/ and for additional information about American Cheese Month, October, go to http://www.americancheesemonth.org/october-american-cheese-month/ .
Entube, maker of modern chili pastes in a tube, has just unveiled a new addition to its line of gourmet chili pastes: Spicy Umeboshi Plum Paste. Expanding the brand’s global palate, the new variety features ume plum, a traditional Japanese staple. Other ingredients include vinegar, cayenne, and beet, resulting in a colorful, nutritious condiment that aids in digestive support, nausea, and fatigue, including hangovers.
“In response to the success of our inaugural products, Harissa and Indian Curry, which pay homage to North African and Indian flavors, we set out to provide a new global flavor experience for our customers inspired by the Japanese ume plum,” said Entube Creator and Founder Richard Lassalle. “Using the highest quality ingredients, Spicy Umeboshi Plum Paste is an easy-to-use, versatile product that will add bright color and flavor to dishes, empowering anyone to become a chef.”
Spicy Umeboshi Plum Paste is a fermented fruit-based paste, best used in raw form as a finishing condiment on sushi, oysters, vegetables and in cocktails. Like all Entube products, Spicy Umeboshi Plum Paste is gluten free, vegan and does not contain any added sugar, artificial coloring or preservatives.
The Entube Spicy Umeboshi Plum Paste is offered in a 100g tube that retails for about $8.
Following an October 11 roundtable discussion with dairy producers near La Crosse, Wisconsin, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering to purchase $20 million of cheddar cheese to reduce a private cheese surplus that has reached record levels, while assisting food banks and other food assistance recipients.
While USDA projects dairy prices to increase throughout the rest of the year, many factors including low world market prices, increased milk supplies and inventories, and slower demand have contributed to a sluggish marketplace for dairy producers and caused dairy revenues to drop 35 percent over the past two years. Section 32 of the Agriculture Act of 1935 authorizes USDA to purchase surplus food to benefit food banks and families in need through its nutrition assistance programs.
“America’s farming families are being called on to demonstrate their world-famous resourcefulness and resilience in the face of this current market downturn, and USDA is making use of every tool that we have to help them,” said Vilsack. “For dairy farmers, this has included $11.2 million in payments in August through the Dairy Margin Protection Program, in addition to the surplus purchase offers. While our analysis predicts the market will improve for these hardworking men and women, reducing the surplus can give them extra reassurance while also filling demand at food banks and other organizations that help our nation’s families in need. Farmers at other points in the supply chain are also receiving a boost with over $7 billion in Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage payments for the 2015 crop year, which by design kick in when times are tough. As always, we continue to watch market conditions and will explore opportunities for further assistance in the coming months. For producers challenged by weather, disease and falling revenue, we will continue to ensure the availability of a strong safety net to keep them farming or ranching.”
A solicitation will be issued shortly, and cheese deliveries to food banks and other food assistance recipients are expected to occur beginning in March 2017.
Also at the roundtable, Vilsack shared details of a new report by the USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist, which shows continued growth of the U.S. dairy sector is largely contingent on trade and that the Trans-Pacific Partnership could create an additional $150 to $300 million in annual U.S. dairy exports. Free trade agreements have contributed to the growth in U.S. dairy exports and helped to address tariff and nontariff barriers that disadvantage U.S. products in overseas markets. U.S. dairy exports to free trade agreement partners grew from $690 million in the year prior to each agreement’s entry into force to $2.8 billion in 2015, driven by lower trade barriers and increased U.S. competitiveness. For more information on TPP, visit www.fas.usda.gov/topics/trans-pacific-partnership-tpp.
For the 10th year in a row, Certified Angus Beef LLC reported record sales of its signature Certified Angus Beef ® brand, marketing 1.015 billion pounds of product in fiscal 2016 (ending September 30). The increase of 13.3 percent represented an additional 119 million pounds of product sold by a network of more than 18,000 licensed partners worldwide.
“Thanks to a dramatic positive shift in the supply of high-quality Angus cattle, our partners were able to deliver more of the highest quality beef to consumers while supporting ranch families and rural communities,” said brand President John Stika. “Our partners’ collective achievement – from the farm to the table – illustrates the relevance of our mission established nearly 40 years ago. By delivering unique experiences and value to consumers, our individual partners succeed as well.”
Monthly sales records and category growth
The Certified Angus Beef brand set sales records in all 12 months of fiscal 2016. Furthermore, eight of the 10 best sales months in the brand’s 38-year history were set in fiscal 2016. Sales of more than 90 million pounds in July, August and September reflected partners’ strong marketing and promotional activity during grilling season.
Growth was balanced across product categories. Backed by traditionally strong demand, particularly for consumers’ celebrations and special occasions, sales of premium steaks (middle meats) grew by 11.4 percent. End meat sales grew by 87 million pounds, and ground beef sales increased by 8.5 million pounds.
Illustrating the appeal of premium beef to the most discerning consumers, sales of the brand’s Prime product extension grew by more than 26 percent.
After six years of deceleration, retail division sales exploded with 18.5 percent growth, or 68 million pounds. Quality-focused retailers have long represented the largest portion of brand sales – 43 percent in fiscal 2016 – but lower beef prices linked to increased supply encouraged more consumers to choose beef for family meals more often. Plus, grocery partners aggressively featured brand items in their circulars, further driving sales.
The foodservice division, already on a well-established path of growth, enjoyed its seventh consecutive year of record sales: 355 million pounds, a 6.3 percent increase. Three-quarters of the brand’s licensed distributors grew their business by an average 9.3 percent. Sales to licensed restaurants also increased 10 percent, demonstrating the brand’s relevance and value to chefs, restaurateurs and customers.
International sales of the Certified Angus Beef brand reached a new record of 138 million pounds in 49 countries. Sales in Japan, historically important for U.S. beef, more than doubled in fiscal 2016, thanks to the efforts of partners strongly committed to the brand. Sales in Mexico also increased a notable 16 percent.
Processors responded to growing consumer demand for high-quality convenience meals in both retail and foodservice with branded value-added products. Sales were up by 8.9 percent, driven by key items including smoked brisket, marinated fajita meat and fresh corned beef.
Family farmers’ focus on quality leads to increased supply
Family farmers and ranchers have been the foundation of the Certified Angus Beef brand since its start; their efforts to raise quality cattle meeting the brand’s 10 exacting standards enable licensed processors, distributors, restaurateurs and retailers to meet consumers’ growing demand for premium beef.
A few years after a devastating drought across much of the United States, these families finally saw the fruits of their efforts to rebuild herds. Beyond simply adding more cattle, they improved the quality of their herds with a strong focus on Angus genetics and the brand’s quality target in mind. As a result, the rate of cattle eligible to earn the brand name rose to a record 28.9 percent, up from just 14 percent a decade ago. The collective improvement in cattle translated into increased supply for the brand of 440,000 head, or 115 million pounds of branded product.
“This additional supply led to reduced prices for consumers while delivering more of the same superior beef they’ve come to expect from the brand,” said Stika. “This intentional focus on quality by our family farmers and ranchers is at the core of the brand’s relevance, not just to the ranching families themselves, but also to the brand’s partners and consumers. It’s a relationship that has a collective impact much greater than the sum of its many individual parts, all passionately focused on quality and family.”
Velvet Ice Cream has just opened the largest expansion capital improvement in the company’s storied 102-year history. Velvet broke ground on a new 23,000-square-foot expansion, with price tag of more than $3 million, last August. The expansion added a new state-of-the-art warehouse freezer distribution facility to Velvet Ice Cream’s central Ohio plant at Ye Olde Mill in Utica, more than doubling the company’s freezing and picking capacity. On the heels of significant expansion into the Kentucky and other markets, demand for Velvet Ice Cream has grown, taking the company from $25 million in revenue in 2009 to more than $30 million in 2014. As a result, last summer, Velvet was nearly at capacity with its former distribution facility.
“Our expansion allows us to improve sustainability, sharpen efficiencies and produce more delicious Velvet Ice Cream in order to meet increased demand,” said Velvet Ice Cream President Luconda Dager. “But it also positions us well for future growth and expansion.”
Dager helped the more than 100 attendees at the expansion ribbon cutting to better understand the project’s size, sharing the following details on the new facility:
Velvet Ice Cream worked with the Licking County, Ohio firm Robertson Construction as general contractor for the project, which took 14 months to complete. Currently employing a staff of 125, Velvet’s new distribution facility initially will require the addition of eight new employees in its picking and shipping operations. However, the development enables the company further to expand production as new accounts are acquired, which is expected to increase future employment. The project also uses the latest green technology, minimizing the company’s environmental footprint via environmentally friendly design, motion-controlled energy efficient lighting, state-of-the-art insulating panels and high-speed automated doors.
Dager added that thanks to the support of tax abatement from North Fork Local School District and Velvet’s partners at People’s Bank and Freije-RSC Engineered Solutions Company, the expansion makes it possible for the company to not only continue serving existing customers, but also enter new markets and forge new partnerships, like those Velvet already has with major retailers and other food service partners.
This year, Velvet Ice Cream celebrates 102 years of making ice cream in Ohio. Founded in 1914 by Joseph Dager, four generations of Dager family have since run the company. Still family-owned and operated, Velvet produces and distributes more than 5 million gallons of ice cream every year from its headquarters on the grounds of Ye Olde Mill. Ye Olde Mill also houses an ice cream and milling museum, a restaurant, playground, picnic area and catch-and-release fish pond.
Named by Frommer’s as one of America’s 10 Best Ice Cream Factory Tours, Velvet’s Ye Olde Mill welcomes 150,000 visitors each year for tours, tastings and events. The annual Ice Cream Festival, group tour experiences and school learning field trips are among the many draws to Ye Olde Mill, which is open to the public April 20-October 31. Complete information about Velvet Ice Cream and Ye Olde Mill is available www.VelvetIceCream.com on Twitter at @VelvetIceCream or Facebook.com/VelvetIceCream.
By Lorrie Baumann
Bellwether Farms‘ Blackstone was released to the market in small quantities just this January, and the cheese already has a growing fan base. Blackstone placed first in its category for mixed milk cheeses with flavor added during this year’s American Cheese Society Judging and Competition. It’s made from two-thirds Jersey cow milk and one-third sheep milk, with black peppercorns incorporated into the paste and a hand-rubbed black rind that combines rosemary and black pepper with vegetable ash.
The three-pound wheel has the elegant eminence of Patrick Stewart declaiming Shakespeare. When it’s cut, slices from the wedge have a thin black border that lends a satisfying weight to even the thinnest of slices and a color contrast that adds beauty to their arrangement on the cheese board.
Blackstone’s flavor is strongly influenced by the tang of the sheep milk – think Manchego – with extra zing and texture from the peppercorns along with caramel notes and a rich and satisfying mouthfeel that come from the Jersey milk. It pairs beautifully with a wide range of beers, and the peppery/herbal notes make a nice complement to a pinot noir or Syrah.
The black rind was part of cheesemaker Liam Callahan’s original inspiration for the cheese, he said. “There aren’t that many aged cheeses that have a rind that actively contributes interesting flavor notes to it. It’s more common for washed-rind cheeses, but with aged cheeses, it’s just protecting it from the environment,” he said. “For this cheese, the rind is more than something to nibble up to and throw away, more than a board-flavored musty component. The rosemary doesn’t taste of rosemary, but it helps give a savory element to the rind. Plus, it looks cool. As soon as you put it out there, people say ‘What’s that?’ They are drawn to the look of the cheese.”
The vegetable ash/rosemary/black pepper mixture is hand-rubbed onto the cheese in several stages as it ages over about 10 weeks. The ash helps control the acidity at the cheese’s surface, but it also melds together the different particle sizes of the rosemary and black pepper, Callahan said. “The very powdery vegetable ash just helped to hold it all together.”
Blackstone starts its aging on wood shelves, and then it’s moved to wire shelves and then back to the boards, with the transitions timed to respond to the moisture levels at the rind. “We’re still playing with the timing of those transitions to get the right moisture on that rind at the key moments when it needs it,” Callahan said.
Distribution for the cheese is still ramping up, and it’s currently available almost exclusively in California, where it’s selling readily for prices between $25 and $30 per pound. “It’s a difficult cheese to make, and at retail, it’s an expensive cheese that demands the right attention to it,” he said. “But restaurants love to feature something that’s so visual on the cheese board.”
“I never make more than about 120 wheels at a time. All of our vats are small, and it’s hands-on,” he added. “It’s been figuring out how to ramp up production in a way that maintains the quality and consistency. It’s really been a fun cheese to work on.”
Callahan expects Blackstone to reach a wider audience once more people have had the opportunity to taste it and as his production increases. “We are actively talking about it now, and samples are getting out there, and people are hearing from folks – they’re really liking it so much,” he said. “We really do expect this to be a major cheese for us. It’s so good, and we like it so much, and it’s unique in the marketplace.”