By Greg Gonzales
Gluten-free dog food, signs for gluten-free haircuts and even gluten-free lap dances are some of the jokes floating around these days, but the gluten-free market is serious business. Gluten-free options are everywhere now, and they’re not going away anytime soon. Even so, the market is set to shrink a little as a result of high prices and trendy eaters quitting the diet.
Research from NPD Group revealed that most consumers see gluten free as a fad, while they still seek natural, wholesome products. In addition, Packaged Facts reported that 53 percent of shoppers consider gluten-free foods overpriced, while 41 percent said they’d purchase gluten-free items if they were more affordable.
Though the trend may be at a peak, there’s plenty of support for the market. According to research from Mintel, 37 percent of consumers eat gluten free because they consider it good for overall health. Fifteen percent of U.S. consumers in a Nielsen survey said gluten free is a very important factor in purchasing decisions.
“The gluten-free trend is not disappearing,” said Kim Holman, Marketing Director of Wixon. “However, we are seeing a greater emphasis on transparency and consumers being able to easily identify gluten-free products on the shelves versus new formulations of gluten-free products.” Plus, consumers are increasingly expecting to know where their food came from, how it was made and if the product offers extra nutrition. Meanwhile, food producers are still moving to add “gluten free” to their labels. “When a formula is already gluten free or contains easily removable gluten, we are seeing many of our customers deciding to make the move to gluten free in order to be able to put the claim on their packaging,” Holman said.
Moreover, 80 percent of respondents in a global Nielsen market research survey said they’re willing to pay more for foods with health attributes, and the Mintel research showed that 26 percent of consumers believe gluten-free foods are worth the price bump. Not everyone in that group, however, has reason to believe gluten-free items are for them. “Consumers are making choices for their lifestyle, the way they want to live,” said Holman. “Consumers are looking for foods that eliminate unneeded and unwanted ingredients, and gluten is one of those ingredients for many people. I do think the trend may be peaking, as almost all research firms are declaring. And why is it peaking? Because eliminating gluten does not cure everything.”
According to Holman, stories of medical miracles spreading through social media were what drove the trend. “Stories of medical miracles made people believe that a gluten-free diet was best and gluten was the devil,” she said. Consumers and experts alike are calling those stories misguided.
Gluten free is a trend for the majority, but the diet and products are a legitimate medical need for at least seven percent of the population, if not much more. An estimated one percent of the population has celiac disease, and anywhere from 0.5 percent to 70 percent of the population could be non-celiac gluten-sensitive, according to Dr. Allesio Fasano, Founder and Director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“Fifteen years ago, people didn’t know how to spell gluten,” Fasano said. “Now, in 2015, the pendulum has swung way over … any comedian includes gluten in their acts. People understand what it is, and it’s one of the most popular markets in the United States. The pendulum will come back a little bit, but not like the other diet trends; this diet is also driven by a real medical necessity and [that] will continue to drive the market.”
Fasano added that a gluten-free diet is a medical intervention, and that anyone considering going gluten free should seek advice from a dietitian. “You don’t inject yourself with insulin and then ask if you have diabetes or not,” he said. “Don’t give it a try just because someone told you that you have symptoms, and don’t do this by yourself.”
As new health research is released and gluten myth-busting becomes more visible — such as Fasano’s December 18 article in the Washington Post — consumers who don’t see results and expect transparency from companies are turning away from gluten-free foods. And until medical researchers like Fasano figure out how to diagnose non-celiac gluten sensitivities, gluten-free foods are potentially a necessity for anywhere from 1.5 percent to 70 percent of the population. While that’s being figured out, people have some diet choices to consider.
“The vendors need to let them know how things are done, to give the consumer a choice,” said Barry Novick, President of Kitchen Table Bakers. “You’re going to see free-from trends continue; that’s very very important. What is natural? Is baking in an oven natural? Is baking in a microwave natural? The consumer should know how the product is made. We have a patient’s bill of rights, and I believe the consumer should have a bill of rights.”
Novick identified poor nutrition content and low quality as reasons people are moving away from gluten-free products. In the rush to formulate products that taste like their gluten-containing counterparts, many of those products failed to measure up in taste and texture.
“If the product is good, it should diversify,” said Novick. “If it’s just gluten free because that’s what people made, it’s going to end up in the same position as the low-carb fad products,” adding that companies are finding success using real people for tasting, and not just formulas, to mimic gluten.
Chris Licata, President and CEO of Blake’s All Natural, reiterated Novick’s point: “I think the products and the brands that are truly committed to making super-high-quality gluten-free meals will continue to grow. There’s a reason why we don’t have 10 or 12 gluten-free items; that’s because if we make a gluten-free item, it truly has to be as good as a similar item that’s not gluten free. It’s not enough to just have it be labeled gluten free; it has to have taste, texture and flavors that are comparable.”
Novick said his gluten-free products, cheese crisps, work because everyone can enjoy them, that, “You need something universal, that the kids can eat and the parents can have with a glass of wine.… Wherever you go, whatever your diet, you can have our product at the party. You’re never left out.”
With so much time, effort and dollar amounts spent on adding gluten-free options to their lineups, producers within the industry won’t be taking the label off their products. And continued and increased consumer interest in free-from and natural products, nutrient-dense superfoods, along with the many alternatives to gluten, leaves room for the market to grow.
“Many manufacturers want the added value of being gluten free and a small additional cost, but in the end, consumers will decide if gluten free stays or goes,” Wixon food scientist Renee Santy said. “They will speak with their wallet. In the meantime, companies need to stay in touch with their customers and understand their changing needs around gluten free.”
“Many consumers had hoped that gluten free would help them lose weight or help some medical issue. When this does not transpire, they will lose interest in gluten free,” Santy added. “But those consumers, that just feel better because they live gluten free, will continue to live gluten free.”
An earlier version of this story misattributed a quote from Kim Holman to Renee Santy. This story has been updated to correct the attribution.
By Micah Cheek
Spring’s bounty will be headed to shelves in just a few months, and customers will be looking for the most Instagram-friendly options for their plates. In addition to the usual snap peas and asparagus, the more exciting options for spring produce have never been better.
Interest in foraged produce is continuing to increase. “On the specialty side the most typical produce would be morel mushrooms and ramps. Next would be fiddlehead ferns. You’ve got a bunch of peripheral specialties there [too], miners lettuce and nettles,” says Justin Marx, CEO of Marx Foods.
Morels are a traditional spring favorite in the northwest, becoming available in April. ”Morels just knock it out of the park,” says Kim Brauer, Culinary Concierge at Marx Foods. “In the Northwest, a lot of us survive winter be knowing that morels will be coming out.” Now that wild vegetables have moved from a restaurant favorite to a foodie phenomenon, they are expected to remain on the minds of consumers. “The ramps and the nettles, I’m seeing more cooks look for those,” Brauer adds. Ramps and stinging nettles will be available for their limited growing season from April to May.
Edible flowers like pansy blossoms and orchids have been a popular garnish in fine restaurants, but producers are beginning to see interest from retail outlets as well. Marx says, “As they become more affordable and available, it’ll just become more common. A lot of them have culinary merit and flavors that deserve their own merit.” Brauer notes that people want to use them as garnish for regular meals to make them feel like they have a restaurant quality meal. Squash blossoms are seeing interest as they make their way out of the restaurant and on to the dinner table. For retailers, Marx Foods usually supplies a single species of edible flower, followed by a variety if there is greater interest. Another interesting edible flower is the Szechuan button, named after the Szechuan pepper for the numbing and tingling sensation both products induce. “It’s a little yellow flower that tastes like electricity,” says Marx. Cocktail parties can also be livened up by edible blossoms, as an attractive and unusual garnish.
For Easter, the classic fresh vegetable choices are expected to remain robust, so much more so if those veggies are miniature. The cipollini onions are being joined by baby beets, carrots and radishes, says Karen Caplan, President and CEO of Frieda’s, Inc. A violaceous variety will be available for Frieda’s “Power of Purple” promotion in March. A monochromatic medley will be promoted, including purple snow peas, cauliflower, artichokes and a new breed of purple sweet potatoes.
For late winter and early spring, an increasing variety of citrus will become available. “In the winter and spring, we do a bang-up job in all the citrus categories,” says Caplan. More specialty options like Meyer lemons, Buddha’s hand (a fingered variety of citron) and finger limes have been finding their way into popular recipes. The same goes for some non-citrus tropical fruits. “Dragonfruit has just become the darling of American consumers,” Caplan adds.
By Micah Cheek
Halfway through my interview with Fabio Viviani, I had to interrupt the restaurateur, entrepreneur and Top Chef winner to catch up with the quote I was typing. He jumped at the chance to interrupt me back. “You can make it so much easier on yourself if you record everything, get a voice recognition program,” he said. “Get in the 21st century!” Viviani had just reiterated an attitude that has followed him through his restaurants, kitchenware collections and media outlets – keep it simple.
Viviani’s outlook is worth listening to, especially because of the media presence he commands. The “Fan Favorite” status he earned on his initial “Top Chef” appearance put the spotlight on the chef’s undeniable charisma, which he has leveraged into a variety of appearance and endorsements along with his restaurant interests. This media savvy has been placing him on everything from local newscasts to “The Rachael Ray Show,” and the videos just keep coming. Aside from the celebrity factor, the appeal is clear. Viviani is feeding the desires of consumers who want to cook more, cook healthier and do it all with a gentle learning curve.
Viviani’s history, growing up watching his grandmother cook and making his way up through the restaurants of Florence, made me expect to speak with a stickler for tradition. I was surprised to hear that three of his home kitchen essentials are appliances: a food processor, immersion blender and high speed blender, in addition to wooden spoons and a few good knives. And how good should those knives be? “A $30 knife is as good as a $300 one, as long as it’s kept sharp. A $1,000 dollar dull knife is not gonna work,” says Viviani. The chef’s standard fresh pasta recipe, a mainstay of his kitchen demonstrations and TV appearances, avoids the classic volcano of eggs in flour in favor of a minute or two in a food processor. When tradition comes up against practicality, practicality wins every time.
Viviani was raised with a bent toward this efficiency. “I grew up on food stamps. My grandmother was paralyzed from the waist down, and she was always cooking,” says Viviani. “I was witnessing her making a meal out of nothing.” Viviani’s family didn’t have the luxury of stringent preparation rules or of waste. This has informed the way Viviani’s recipes are crafted and executed. Viviani seems excited to encourage consumers to simplify cooking with fresh ingredients. The only time I heard him taking a serious tone was when we starting broaching the subject of home cooking. Viviani said he was expecting home cooking to continue to rise in prominence, and then things began to take a turn. “Eventually people will have to get back in the kitchen or else they’ll go to the cemetery,” said Viviani. “[If] people are lazy, then they get fat, and then they get sick and die.” Viviani has the same passionate outlook on food waste, recalling the times that his family could not even afford to throw away potato peelings. He says he often deals with people who think he can only advocate these changes because he has the expertise to cook in a healthy way. “People say, ‘For you, it’s easy,’” he said. But Viviani grew up watching someone with no formal training feeding a family in this way. “My grandmother was cooking for six people every day, and we didn’t even have food.”
I mention home entertaining, and just like that, Viviani’s usual cheer is back. “I think the best concept for home entertaining is tapas,” says Viviani. “As long as it’s not complicated and it’s easy to consume, everything is good.” Tapas are a good standby, because the format can be as formal as you like, and guests can easily get involved in the kitchen with simple room-temperature snacks. “Food is meant to bring people together. When you have a lot of people and everyone does their share, it’s fun.” Viviani recommends serving for parties on small wooden plates, because the style can be adopted for both formal and casual scenarios. The chef has lent his name to the Fabio Viviani Heritage Collection, a set of acacia wood tableware that fits the bill nicely.
When discussing wine pairings, Viviani said the words that every novice oenophile was hoping to hear. “Everything about wine is an opinion, and I don’t follow opinion much,” said Viviani. “When you think about food and wine, you can think too much.” For Viviani, a few general guidelines can point a consumer in the right direction more than worrying about tannin levels or jammy undertones. “You don’t want to drink a dry white wine with something spicy, or your face will be on fire,” says Viviani. “You want to drink a pinot noir with a lighter meat, while you can save a bolder wine for something heavier.” Viviani’s line of wines, first released last year, promotes this attitude. “The most important rule for us is to keep the wine easy for people to understand,” he says.
If Viviani’s continuously rising star is any indication, consumers are starting to heed the no-nonsense advice. Meanwhile, I’m headed back to the kitchen to sharpen my $30 knives.
By Lorrie Baumann
Wholesome Goodness is a brand based on three key tenets: that food should taste great, that food should be nutritious, and that nutritious food should be affordable. Because it fulfills all three of these goals, Wholesome Goodness’ product line aligns with the way that Millennial generation consumers want to eat today, according to company founders Jeff Posner and Rick Letizia.
Posner and Letizia had 70 years of experience in the food industry between them when they decided to leave behind their executive positions in major food companies like Kraft and General Foods to strike out on their own with a brand reflecting their beliefs about how more nutritious foods can help address health problems related to diet. Posner himself suffers from high blood pressure, while Letizia has type-2 diabetes, so they are personally aware of the burdens that nutrition-related diseases place on health care costs, quality of life and longevity.
From experience, they knew that major food companies use ingredients that make products cheaper to manufacture but may offer less nutrition to the consumers who used them. They wanted to go another way; to start a food business that would serve consumers’ ever-increasing expectations for healthier foods. “Wholesome Goodness products emphasize positive ingredients like protein, antioxidants and whole grains, while de-emphasizing negative ingredients like saturated fats, added sugars and added sodium,” Posner said.
“Part one of the Wholesome Goodness promise is that for every calorie consumed you get relatively more nutrition than the mainstream national brands,” he continued. “Part two is affordability. This requirement recognizes that 75 percent of the country is overweight or obese, and the barriers to eating healthier foods are both taste and price. Conceptually, if you take nutritional density and divide by price, our products provide consumers with the optimal blend of high nutrition and affordable cost. That’s our unique value proposition. At Wholesome Goodness, we want the 75 percent of the population that’s overweight or obese to be able to afford and enjoy each and every one of our products.”
The two started out six years ago by talking with consumers and retailers to learn more about changing trends in eating patterns before they decided that their first products would be a line of snacks, Letizia said. “Data shows that the bulk of our population, in particular the nearly 80 million Millennials, are snacking four to six times a day; thus, portability is extremely important – things you can throw in your purse or backpack,” he said.
As the two developed other products, they stayed with the directive that they wanted their foods to be nutrition-dense, a concept offered up by Yale University childhood obesity and nutrition expert Dr. David Katz. This concept, simply stated, requires that for every calorie contained in their products, the consumer will get a healthier blend of more positive nutrition and less negative nutrition. They wanted clean ingredients without excessive sodium or added sugars. “We currently ban 127 ingredients that other food companies use today, including all 85 identified by Whole Foods,” Letizia said. “We have the cleanest ingredient deck in the industry at the present time.”
And while they were creating clean ingredient labels for their products, they also wanted to produce foods that were more affordable than mainstream competitors’, Posner said. “These are the kinds of products that my mother would have served the family: great-tasting and affordable for the family. Not that she did anything different from all my friends’ mothers; the only thing my friends and I knew growing up was just good, old-fashioned food,” he said. “Frankly, there is no reason why anyone today should have to pay a premium to have better-for-you products.”
“We don’t have anywhere near the cost structure of the large companies. We don’t own any plants; instead, we use highly-qualified third parties to manufacture our proprietary product formulations, so we don’t have the overhead and capital requirements of a big company. We certainly don’t make the multi-million dollar salaries of the executives of the large food companies. We don’t have the requirement to deliver a 15 percent bottom line just to maintain shareholder value – we can make do on a much smaller percentage,” he explained. “We want our products to be accessible to the masses…. For example, our award winning Sweet Chili and Omega Tortilla Chips come in a 9-ounce bag that retails for $3.99 – and even less on feature. A 5.5-ounce bag of competing better-for-you brands will cost about as much as Wholesome Goodness. Consequently, we’re less expensive, averaging about 20 to 30 percent cheaper, ounce for ounce, than these other brands. When you divide our products’ nutritional density by food budget dollars spent, we’re really the best deal in town.”
The Wholesome Goodness product line includes snack chips and crisps; granola bars, snack mixes, and hot and cold cereals. Learn more at www.wholesome-goodness.com.
Seviroli Foods, Inc., creator of artisan filled pasta and sauces and the world’s largest frozen tortellini manufacturer, has announced an asset purchase of D’Orazio Foods, Inc, also a purveyor of frozen Italian fare, such as shells, crepe manicotti, stuffed rigatoni and more.
This acquisition represents a key portion of Seviroli Foods’ strategic plan in expanding its market share. The D’Orazio organization will be folded into the Seviroli Foods organization, preserving the long-honored family traditions and cultures important to both companies. Both launched in the 1960s, the combination of these two venerable businesses will further increase the overall capacity to meet customers’ needs.
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and Farm Credit joined together to celebrate 100 years of service to agriculture during a congressional reception in the United States Capitol on February 2. The reception was widely attended by Farm Credit leaders, commissioners, secretaries and directors of agriculture, Members of Congress, leadership from federal agencies, and agriculture industry stakeholders.
“NASDA and Farm Credit each have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to agriculture and rural America for 100 years,” said Greg Ibach, NASDA President and Nebraska Director of Agriculture. “State departments of agriculture collectively play a key role in advocating national policy and promotional activities that make sense for farmers, ranchers, agribusiness, and rural communities,” Ibach said. “Farm Credit provides access to vital financial resources for the agriculture sector and important educational opportunities for the next generation of producers. Together, our organizations have led, and will continue to lead, the way in supporting the evolving needs of all of agriculture, today and tomorrow.”
The Congressional Reception was the culmination of a full week of centennial activities for the members of both NASDA and Farm Credit, which were both founded in 1916. This week NASDA hosted 250 state and federal agriculture officials for its Winter Policy Conference, while the Farm Credit Council hosted its Annual Meeting, welcoming 800 directors and staff to the nation’s capital. Prior to the joint centennial celebration on Capitol Hill Tuesday evening, NASDA leaders and members focused on important public policy issues ranging from how to create more opportunities for beginning farmers to international trade, and domestic natural resource challenges.
“NASDA and Farm Credit have been working side by side to support rural communities and agriculture for 100 years,” said Todd Van Hoose, President and CEO of the Farm Credit Council. “Farm Credit is proud to partner with NASDA and its members to support programs that ensure rural America is healthy and thriving today, and for the next 100 years.”
One such program is the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Homegrown By Heroes program, a consumer product labeling initiative for farmer veterans that Farm Credit has supported since its national rollout in 2014.
In addition to this week’s centennial activities, both Farm Credit and NASDA have centennial programs planned throughout the year, both in D.C. and in communities across the country. Farm Credit will celebrate Farm Credit Week in June, while the Nebraska Director of Agriculture Greg Ibach, the 2015 – 2016 President of NASDA, will host NASDA’s Annual Meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska, in September.
NASDA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association which represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries, and directors of the departments of agriculture in all 50 states and four U.S. territories.
The Organic Consumers Association is joining forces with the Organic & Natural Health Association, a new trade group committed to bringing together “a broad coalition to work towards preserving and advancing the health and well-being of people, animals and plants, and the planet as a whole.”
“The Organic & Natural Health Association fills a void in today’s market for a trade group that is dedicated to serving the needs of suppliers, retailers and consumers who seek truthful, unbiased and credible information, based on the latest health- and nutrition-based science and research, about organic and natural products,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s International Director. “America’s 100 million organic consumers and 100 million natural health consumers, working together, can be a mighty force for positive change, moving society toward a future which is organic and regenerative, while fighting off the increasing attacks against organic foods and natural health from Big Ag, Big Pharma, and their indentured scientists, propagandists, and political officials.”
The Organic & Natural Health recently held its first annual conference, where Karen Howard, CEO and Executive Director, announced that group’s board has decided against advocating for development of a certification or seal for the word “natural” on product labels, in favor of instead strengthening the current definition of “organic.” The U.S. Food & Drug Administration recently extended the public comment period on whether or not the agency should define “natural.”
Howard said, “Our research clearly shows that the majority of consumers do not differentiate between ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ and expect products labeled natural to also be organic. So, after careful consideration, we determined that introducing a new ‘natural’ certification seal would not be in the best interest of consumers and could contribute to further confusion. At this juncture, encouraging people to go organic is more important, so we will focus on the existing organic certification seal and do whatever we can to strengthen that program.”
According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, a majority of consumers falsely assume that products labeled “natural” are produced without the use of pesticides, and are free of genetically engineered and artificial ingredients.
“Confusion around product labeling and false marketing claims makes it difficult for consumers to know which companies and brands are trustworthy. OCA supports the Organic & Natural Health’s mission to eliminate confusion and to hold brands to the highest of standards relating to product integrity,” Cummins said.
In addition to educating consumers about the false assumptions around the “natural” label, the Organic & Natural Health will collaborate with IFOAM International, OCA and other organizations to promote Organic 3.0, a more inclusive definition of organic, which takes into account the role agriculture plays in the global issues of hunger, inequity, energy consumption, pollution, climate change, loss of biodiversity and depletion of natural resources.
“We can no longer talk about food out of context,” Cummins said. “Food and agriculture are inextricably linked to a host of environmental and social issues, all of which are intertwined. The OCA fully supports Organic & Natural Health’s commitment to raising the bar for organics, and to holding all of those involved in the food supply chain accountable for the role they play in society as a whole. Our interaction with consumers leads us to believe that they understand these issues, support higher standards, and will support those brands that adhere to Organic 3.0 standards and Organic & Natural Health’s values.”
Arthur Schuman, Inc. has hits with its 2015 award-winning Cello Riserva Copper Kettle Parmesan and Cello Riserva Artisan Parmesan. These award-winning cheeses are rated #1 and #2 Parmesan cheese in the United States by the American Cheese Society, and the company offered both of them in its booth during the Specialty Food Association’s Winter Fancy Food Show.
“We had an overwhelmingly positive response from both retailers and foodservice operators seeking to find exceptional cheese options for their customers,” said lIana Fischer, Vice President of Innovation & Strategy at Arthur Schuman, Inc. “Show attendees marveled at the exceptional taste and crunchy textures of our award-winning Parmesan cheeses.”
Arthur Schuman, Inc., a fourth-generation family company located in Fairfield, New Jersey is recognized as a leader within the specialty cheese industry as both an importer and a producer of hard domestic cheeses for foodservice operators, retailers and distributors.
Fischer was thrilled to see how many show attendees stopped by their booth to experience for themselves the delicious taste of their award-winning cheeses that included:
Cello Riserva Copper Kettle Parmesan – This Parmesan cheese has a unique rich and nutty flavor that earned a first-place award at the 2015 American Cheese Society Competition. Made with strict traditional methods, this award-winning cheese is produced in Arthur Schuman’s Lake Country Dairy facility using the highest quality milk. The cheese’s robust flavor and distinct color comes from our commitment to using a copper kettle in the cheese making process and natural sea salt in the brining process. Each wheel is hand selected by a team of expert cheese graders as soon as its flavor has reached the peak of perfection.
Cello Riserva Artisan Parmesan – Produced by expert cheesemakers, Cello Riserva Artisan Parmesan is made with the freshest milk from local Wisconsin farms and carefully crafted using traditional techniques. Each wheel is naturally aged for over 12 months, developing a deep, nutty, sweet flavor. The complex composition of Cello Riserva Artisan Parmesan earned the second-place award at the 2015 American Cheese Society Competition.
Show attendees were also able to taste America’s tastiest new healthy snack, Cello Whisps. Cello Whisps have gained a strong national following among health conscious consumers who look for healthier snack options. Even the cheese experts love Cello Whisps; their delicious flavor earned the second-place award at the 2015 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.
Cello Whisps Parmesan Cheese Crisps – Cello Whisps Parmesan Cheese Crisps are an innovative snack made entirely of one delicious ingredient — 100 percent pure Parmesan cheese. Made with the award-winning Cello Copper Kettle Parmesan Cheese aged 14 months, Cello Whisps provide health conscious consumers of all ages with a healthy snack alternative that also taste great. Cello Whisps are all-natural wholesome crisps baked into flavorful, airy, crispy bites. They are an excellent source of protein and calcium, are gluten-free, and one serving is just 100 calories.
“We’re very excited about the success we achieved at the show and can’t wait to participate in the Summer Fancy Food Show in June. We will be showcasing our new Yellow Door Creamery Hand-Rubbed Fontina and Yellow Door Creamery Brilliant Blue cheeses at the summer show,” added Fischer. “We pride ourselves in offering new and innovative cheese products into the specialty market.”
Investment bank Harris Williams & Co. has announced the sale of PANOS brands, LLC (PANOS) to Hammond, Kennedy, Whitney & Company, Inc. (HKW). PANOS is a leading provider of branded consumer foods in a wide variety of growing categories. Known for its unique portfolio of brands, the company has consistently expanded its footprint over the last few years with a focus on providing consumers with high quality, great tasting and better for you products in the specialty, natural, organic and mass grocery channels. Harris Williams & Co. served as the exclusive advisor to PANOS, a portfolio company of High Road Capital Partners (High Road).
“PANOS’ management has executed numerous brand development initiatives to establish PANOS as a leading, differentiated portfolio of trusted consumer brands,” said Glenn Gurtcheff, a Managing Director at Harris Williams & Co. “The company’s on-trend product offerings, new product development capabilities, and diversified customer base garnered significant interest in the market. We believe management has a terrific partner in HKW, and we are looking forward to the company’s continued success.”
PANOS’ unique portfolio of natural and specialty food brands include Andrew & Everett, KA-ME, MI-DEL, Sesmark, Amore and Chatfield’s. PANOS was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Rochelle Park, New Jersey.
High Road is a private equity firm focused on lower-middle market transactions. High Road was formed in 2007. The company focuses on niche-leading companies with revenues of $10 million to $100 million and EBITDA of $3 million to $10 million. Once acquired, High Road works in partnership with management to take the companies to the next level through a combination of organic growth initiatives and add-on acquisitions.
HKW is a private equity firm founded in 1903 with offices in Indianapolis and New York. Since 1982, HKW has sponsored 51 platform transactions of lower-middle market companies throughout North America, as well as 56 add-on acquisitions.
Investment banking services are provided by Harris Williams LLC, a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC, and Harris Williams & Co. Ltd, which is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Harris Williams & Co. is a trade name under which Harris Williams LLC and Harris Williams & Co. Ltd conduct business.
This January FreshOne welcomed the new year by celebrating its tenth anniversary. FreshOne was founded in 2006 with the commitment to provide consistently fresh, delicious, high-quality foods to retailers nationwide. The company work with its partner suppliers to provide custom, fresh food solutions as both a product producer and direct store distributor.
FreshOne’s unique logistics capabilities include a new fleet of temperature-controlled trucks and the latest logistics technology to ensure the most streamlined and fresh processes possible for every client on every delivery. Customers are able to manage each step of the process through FreshOne’s proprietary web based order management system, which makes the process of providing fresh food to customers and maximizing profits easy for retailers. FreshOne continues to implement the most rigorous safety and freshness standards to generate strong sales results based on turnkey solutions for all of its customers.
“We truly value our customers and thank them for their continued confidence and trust in our solutions. These past 10 years have been rewarding as we fulfill our purpose while adhering to our core values. Our recent entry into the grocery and higher education channels leads us to believe the next 10 years will be even more exciting,” said FreshOne President Don Janacek.
During 2015 FreshOne experienced a record year for sales and profits. Matt Yost, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, attributes this growth to FreshOne’s ability to maintain an innovative line of fresh, prepackaged grab-and-go and home meal replacement products, data-driven solutions that increase the customer’s bottom line and a custom distribution network that gets products to retailers quickly, efficiently and cost effectively. The research and development team is constantly working on new and innovative products to introduce to the market, including health-oriented items as well as seasonal items that are on trend with consumer demands and regional preferences. “Whether the goal is to attract premium customers, discount shoppers or someone in between, FreshOne builds programs that are the right fit for the retailer who wants to do fresh grab-and-go in a world-class manner,” Yost said.
FreshOne products are now available in major convenience chains, supermarkets and college campuses across the country. This year FreshOne will be commissioning a new fleet of trucks with a brand-new look in addition to hiring new sales personnel.