By Richard Thompson
On Highway 202, just across the valley from Chateau Ste. Michelle, in the northern woodland region of Washington, stands the Sky River Mead and Honey Wine Meadery. Nestled comfortably off the scenic green-way of the Sammamish River Trail since 2012, this award-winning Washington meadery has tantalized customers with its line of quality meads and honey wines – including its flagship product, SOLAS – through its tasting rooms, community engagement and guiding principle that “in life, you get to make your own cubicle.”
“We only make mead.” says Denice Ingalls, President and Wine Maker at Sky River, “We keep it simple and try not to make it too complicated. We like to keep things relaxed.”
First opening in 1997 in the foothills of Stevens Pass in the Cascade Mountain Range, Sky River Meadery debuted its first bottle, SOLAS, in 1999, but eventually moved to the Woodinville Winery district in Washington in 2012 to what Ingalls considers to be “a little Washington Napa Valley,” as interest in mead grew. It was in this region that Ingalls and her sister, Glenda Downs, who joined the company in 2005, grew up, valuing the craft of working with honey as an ingredient in gourmet breads and home breweries. “If there was any place to reintroduce [mead], it would be Seattle.” says Ingalls, “We found a building, started with a blank slate and got the ball rolling by making a nice tasting room.” The space is so big, according to Ingalls, that the sister team sublets space in the two-building facility to a couple local grape wineries, Icon Sellers and Pleasant Hills, that serve out of their facility.
Both Ingalls and her sister took an unorthodox path into the mead business, but now that they’ve found it, they wouldn’t give it up for the world. Ingalls graduated from Pepperdine University in California, earning a Bachelors of Arts in Economics and after years of working alongside her father-in-law who ran the operations of a honey packing plant, remembered learning of mead in an Old English literature course she took years before, starting her journey into mead making, she says. Now she is involved in every step of the process, from selecting the honeys that will be used and dealing with the hefty paperwork that comes with running any business to collaborating on packaging and teaching customers about mead itself.
Downs graduated from Western Washington University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Non-Profit Administration and Fine Arts, and worked in the restaurant and marketing industry. Currently handling outside sales, Downs is responsible for sales and marketing, social media, the tasting room and the company website, sharing her knowledge of mead making with customers as she learns.
Sky River offers 10 different varieties of mead – with nine currently available – that range from traditional honeyed meads to fruit-inspired honey wines for those who are looking for a beverage that isn’t as naturally sweet.
The Sky River Sweet Mead is reminiscent of a fine German Riesling and is enjoyed as a delicate aperitif whose flavor notes are heightened with a touch of cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamon. The Sky River Semi-Sweet Mead hints of pear and is best served with the herbal flavors of pan-Asian and Mediterranean dishes, while the Sky River Dry Mead’s subtle honey flavor pairs perfectly with Thai and Indian cuisine. A 750 ml bottle costs $14.50, but a half case or a full case is also ready for purchase for $87 (six bottles) and $174 (12 bottles).
The traditional Brochet Mead that Sky River offers has a darker, richer quality due to the honey being caramelized before fermentation and exhibits a shadowy, sweet and alluring experience that is great on a summer evening, according to Ingalls. The Ginger mead has a sassy ginger note that harmonizes with the honey base into a fresh taste that zings with a spicy finish. “Our Rose mead is the ‘boudoir’ wine, luscious and indulgent, and pairs beautifully with meals where there are a lot of pistachios, like Persian and Middle Eastern foods,” says Ingalls. Both the Sky River Ginger Mead and the Brochet Mead are available in a 750 ml bottle for $16.95, $101.70 for a half case and $203.40 for a full case of 12 bottles. The Rose Mead starts at $17.95 for a 375 ml bottle and $107.70 and $215.40 for a half and full case respectively.
SOLAS, the meadery’s flagship mead, is a tribute to Old World meads. Using saturated, smoky whiskey barrels from Dry Fly[TM] Distillery, SOLAS is a very sweet mead that combines honey and wheat whiskey flavors and is definitely an indulgence that should be sipped. Available for $25.95 per 750 ml bottle, $155.70 per half case and $311.40 for a full case.
The Sky River Raspberry Honey Wine has warm honey notes that are offset by the lush raspberry flavor, making for a versatile beverage that pairs well with a pork roast and berry chutney or a very rich cheese cake. The Sky River Blackberry Honey Wine goes well with salmon, cheesecake or even just on its own. “This [honey wine] goes well with food or without food,” says Ingalls. Both honey wines retail for $15.50 for a 750 ml bottle, $93.00 per half case and $186 for a case of 12 bottles.
Ingalls speaks with a folksy wisdom when talking about why people purchase her mead, “We’re the grandaddy of the mead world….We’re still out plugging because we know what we’re doing.”
Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States, donated 50,000 pounds of food to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington to support their food pantries and emergency food programs throughout the archdiocese. The donation is part of a 150,000-pound donation equally distributed to food pantries and emergency food programs through Catholic Charities in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. in honor of His Holiness Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.
“Supporting our communities and those who need help the most has always been a part of who we are and what we do at Goya Foods,” said Rafael Toro, Director of Public Relations. “We believe in the work of Catholic Charities and know that our food donations go a long way in providing a warm meal to those who are hungry during the holiday season and throughout the year. For us, it’s not just about giving a donation, but it’s about making a difference and inspiring others to do the same.”
“Catholic Charities served more than 123,000 men, women and children last year right here in the Washington, DC region,” said Msgr. John Enzler, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. “While we help people with many different needs in their lives, it almost always involves helping families put food on the table. I am so thankful to Goya for choosing to Walk with Francis and partner with Catholic Charities.”
The donation will help stock the shelves in several locations run by Catholic Charities, including the food pantry at the McCarrick Family Center in Montgomery County, the Southern Maryland Food Bank in Waldorf, Maryland, and several food pantries run in partnership with local parishes.
By Micah Cheek
The potato may be a bland vegetable, but new sizes and varieties are spicing up the spud sector. While russet and white potato sales are declining, sales of more varied sizes and types of potato are increasing. “There are a lot more SKUs of potatoes of potatoes being offered right now,” says Sarah Reece, Global Retail Marketing Manager for the United States Potato Board.
The greater variety in the potato market is in part due to the slump in traditional potato popularity. After briefly plateauing from 2010 to 2011, potato consumption has been on the decline, with the decline centered on russets. “They’re still a little over half of potato volume, but they continue to lose volume,” says Don Ladhoff, Director of Fresh Sales Marketing. “Other potatoes are growing and outperforming the category. Small potatoes are doing even better.”
Tiny tubers offer a certain novelty that appeals to more adventurous customers. “It’s something new to the category. It’s interesting and fun to take home to the family,” says Reece. According to a study by the United States Potato Board, an increase in the frequency of potato consumption has been driven by working parents and active seniors. These groups have also boosted sales of colored potatoes. “With the interest in premium varieties and smaller potatoes, we’ve been planting more of these red varietals,” says Leah Brakke, Director of Marketing for Black Gold Farms. Black Gold Farms has focused on red potatoes because of the consumer perception of red potatoes as a more valuable and healthy option.
Small spuds have proven effective for in-package cooking, including preseasoned roasting pans and microwavable bags for steaming. Roasting has become a more popular option for petite potato preparation both with and without value-added packaging. “Millenials are 30 percent more likely to prepare potatoes by roasting,” says Ladhoff.
The trend toward smaller sizes has extended past potatoes themselves. Smaller packaging sizes of potatoes have been selling better than the traditional five to 10 pound bags, reflecting a greater change in purchasing habits. “[Customers] are trying to shop for what they need. 51 percent of Millenial shoppers buy for one meal at a time. Smaller potatoes fit into that trend where I want to cook enough potatoes for one night,” says Ladhoff. “From what we hear from retailers, it’s less about portion control, and more about reducing waste.”
When it comes to perusing the grocery store, there’s a plethora of different factors that can lead to picking one item over another. One factor that’s been getting its fair share of media attention and in-store callouts is “local.” Americans are largely split on the importance of choosing locally grown/sourced items, with half (50 percent) saying it’s an important factor in their purchasing decisions and an equal and opposite half (50 percent) saying it’s not.
This puts buying local behind a number of other factors, as strong majorities of Americans say things like sugar content (69 percent), fat content (66 percent), sodium content (64 percent), and calorie count (64 percent) are important considerations in choosing one item over another. The perceived importance of buying local is more on par with whether items are antibiotic/hormone free (53 percent) or contain artificial colors/flavors (50 percent), and is well ahead of whether items are organic (34 percent).
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,225 U.S. adults surveyed online between October 14 and 19, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.
Buying local: the what and where
When looking at different departments within a grocery store, Americans don’t appear to believe they’re all created equal when it comes to the importance of purchasing local foods. The produce department ranks highest, with two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans saying it’s important they buy locally grown/sourced food there. Over half also feel it’s important to buy local in the dairy (56 percent), bakery (55 percent), and meat (52 percent) departments. Roughly four in ten feel it’s important to purchase local in the deli (43 percent) and seafood (39 percent) departments, while roughly one in four say it’s important to do so in the frozen foods (26 percent) aisle. “While consumers appear to care more about purchasing locally grown fresh food compared to non-fresh food, this may be a result of the larger assortment of local options available in the fresh departments,” says Sherry Frey, Senior Vice President with The Nielsen Perishables Group.
And just where exactly are Americans shopping for these local options? Traditional grocery retailers (46 percent) and farmers’ markets (44 percent) are the top destinations for local product purchases. Just over a quarter visit farm stands (27 percent), while fewer than one in five say big box retailers (18 percent) and club stores (16 percent). Fewer still opt to make use of food cooperatives (8 percent), Community Supported Agriculture (sometimes called “CSAs” or “Farm Shares” – 5 percent) or an online source (4 percent).
Whether or not they buy local themselves, Americans have a few thoughts on how locally sourced foods compare to their non-local counterparts. Majorities believe local food purchases support both the local economy as a whole (69 percent) and individual local businesses (63 percent), along with being fresher (68 percent).
Around four in ten say buying local enables them to understand where the food comes from (39 percent) and say that it tastes better (37 percent). “Buying local is yet another way consumers seek to better understand where their food comes from, and presents an opportunity for manufacturers across the store to be even more transparent about all aspects of their products including sourcing, processing, and packaging,” says Frey. Just under a third believe local food is higher quality (32 percent) and healthier (31 percent), while around one quarter say it’s better for the environment (25 percent) and it’s safer (24 percent). While buying local is known for many things, it’s not always known for being cheap. Just one fifth (20 percent) say buying local costs less compared to non-local options.
But which of these factors actually make a difference at checkout? Among the eight in ten (81 percent) Americans who ever shop for locally sourced/grown food, supporting the local economy is the top reason for doing so (39 percent), followed by the food being fresher (34 percent) and supporting individual local businesses (32 percent).
What does “local” mean?
“Local” in and of itself calls to mind a geographic region, but there’s no particular definition and results suggest that this perception can vary based on the product. When asked how far a product could come from and still be considered local, majorities say it must be within their state or closer for each food type: baked goods (77 percent), dairy (74 percent), produce (72 percent), and meat (68 percent).
And when local isn’t an option…
No matter how strong one’s proclivity might be for purchasing locally sourced or grown options, sometimes it’s just not possible. Among local purchasers, 62 percent say they’ll purchase a non-local version of a product when they can’t find a local option while shopping.
Nearly three in ten (28 percent) aren’t willing to give up so easily, and will instead look for a local version of the product at a different location. One in ten (10 percent) say they’ll throw in the towel and refrain from purchasing the product altogether.
The holiday season is a busy time for the Wisconsin dairy industry. According to data collected by Information Resources, Inc.’s (IRI) custom database for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB), cheese companies and retailers continuously see an increase in sales of Wisconsin cheese and dairy products each December. In the 2014 season, cheese sales jumped 21 percent in the week before Thanksgiving and 34 percent in the week before Christmas. Sales were also up 50 percent or more for many cheese varieties, including asiago, Alpine-style cheese, brick, brie, butterkase, camembert, cold pack, cream cheese, edam, fontina, mascarpone and ricotta.
“We expect this year to be no different with many cheese companies poised to capitalize on the holiday season with unique product offerings and increased sales and marketing efforts,” says James Robson, CEO of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Introductions of limited edition cheese varieties exclusively for the holiday season remain popular for 2015.
Most notably, the highly anticipated Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands Cheese Company in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, returns after a one-year hiatus. This exclusive cheese is hand crafted from seasonal raw cow’s milk and aged for 60 days. It retails for approximately $30 per round and is expected to sell out by Christmas.
Sales of flavored cheese varieties are also on the rise, and many Wisconsin cheesemakers have released cheeses perfect for holiday entertaining and gift giving. Consumers can find unique flavors like Peppermint BellaVitano from Sartori in Plymouth, Wisconsin; Marieke Truffle Gouda from Holland’s Family Cheese in Thorp, Wisconsin; Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar from Carr Valley Cheese Company in La Valle, Wisconsin; and Cinnamon Apple Pie Heritage Cheddar made by Henning’s in Kiel, Wisconsin.
For those looking for unique gift ideas, many retailers offer a variety of holiday gift baskets that can be easily ordered online or by phone. A list of cheese companies, creameries and specialty stores offering mail order cheese and gift baskets can be found at www.EatWisconsinCheese.com/MailOrder. WMMB also offers customizable holiday-themed Wisconsin cheese promotions to aid retailers in their marketing efforts during this busy time of year.
Brio features a creamy, richness rivaling that of premium ice creams, with half the fat and 65 percent less saturated fat. For consumers wanting healthier fats in their diet, Brio is the only ice cream featuring balanced Omega 3-6-9s.
“We are serious about ingredient quality,” says Co-founder Ron Koss. “Brio is made with fresh, whole r-BST-free milk from Wisconsin…. Our flavors feature Madagascar vanilla, organic sea salt caramel, Alphonso mango, ripe strawberries, real coffee and dark cocoa.” Five flavors include Coffee Latte, Mellow Dark Chocolate, Spring Strawberry, Tropical Mango and Vanilla Caramel.
Brio is non-GMO, certified gluten free and low glycemic. There are no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners. For all of its satisfying richness, Brio has only 165 calories in a 4-ounce serving and just 17 to 19 grams of sugar. With 6 grams of protein and a suggested retail price of $1.99 for a 4-ounce cup, Brio is on trend with consumers seeking protein-rich snacks.
Brio ice cream is a product of Nutricopia, Inc., a Vermont-based company owned by aio Group of Hawaii. Brio offers consumers a smart new way to upgrade their ice cream, to a product that is both richly delicious and surprisingly nutritious. It is currently available in supermarket chains including Foodland and KTA, at specialty market chains including Central Market and numerous specialty and natural stores.Brio is distributed by KeHE.
Maple Leaf Foods has launched a formal animal care commitment that articulates the principles, goals and actions the company is taking to become a leader in animal care.
“As the largest meat protein company in Canada, we hold ourselves to a high standard of animal care,” said Michael McCain, President and CEO. “This requires building a strong culture of animal wellbeing, advancing continuous improvement within Maple Leaf and across the industry, and holding ourselves accountable for performance and progress. We will provide the necessary organizational focus and resources, with a steadfast commitment to advancing the humane and science-based treatment of animals.”
Maple Leaf Foods will enhance animal wellness practices in a manner consistent with the Five Freedoms, the most widely accepted global standard for responsible animal care. They include: freedom from hunger or thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury or disease; freedom to express normal behaviors; and freedom from fear and distress. These will be advanced through the following four pillars of its animal care program:
By Richard Thompson
Consumers are getting more comfortable about purchasing groceries online, and retailers who sell groceries both online and in-store are reaping the benefits. Across all demographics, consumer perceptions over increased costs and perishable product risks have declined, and as more retailers offer online services, more consumers are taking advantage of them, according to the recent A.T. Kearney report, “Capturing the Online Grocery Opportunity.”
Retailers who have adopted omnichannel messaging – engaging customers both in-store and on electronic devices – have seen more customers order groceries online for delivery or pick-up, says Michelle Cote, Vice President of Data & Insights at MyWebGrocer, a digital solutions provider that offers the most technologically advanced grocery solutions to brands and retailers.
“Today’s omnichannel experience [for consumers] is the 21st century version of catalog shopping,” says Cote. Combining in-store advertising with online services, omnichannel solutions take shape as digital marketplaces that bring small-batch stores into the consumer limelight, provide apps like Allrecipes.com on mobile devices to let consumers shop on their own time and create virtual landscapes that compliment traditional brick and mortar experiences.
“Grocery is one of the last verticals to go omnichannel, but growing consumer adoption is occurring because online services are becoming more widely available and, as a result, consumers are using it more reliably,” says Cote. She notes that consumer adoption of online services has grown by double digits (15 to 20 percent) in the last three or four years.
As the entire e-commerce market develops, grocery shoppers have grown past the need to show up in person to pinch the produce with many preferring to shop on their smartphones. “Consumers are ready to use shopping alternatives that are habitual and work for them.” says Cote, “As retailers offer flexible options like click and collect, delivery and email alerts – and become more digitally active – people are becoming trained in using grocery retailers online.”
Even for hesitant consumers who say they avoid online shopping because of perceived higher costs and questions over freshness, the A.T. Kearney study found that those views are softening and that paying more for home delivery was worth the price of convenience. “What we found is that now, around 80 percent of respondents surveyed would be willing to pay for home delivery instead of going to the store for pickup – even though the majority still visit stores to shop,” says Randy Burt, Co-author of “Capturing the Online Grocery Opportunity” and Partner at A.T. Kearney.
Burt and his colleagues at A.T. Kearney have studied consumer participation in online grocery purchases and noted that while the online market currently represents around two to three percent of the total food industry, that number is projected to increase to around 16 percent by 2023. As retailers interact with omnichannel shoppers with personalized offers, pricing and promotional strategies tied to shopping preferences and past purchases, they will create integrated experiences for every shopper regardless of where and when they shop or what device they are using, according to the report.
“The market is starting to appreciate the value of buying groceries online.” says Lior Lavy, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer for Artizone, a specialty grocery delivery company. “And at the same time, the market is also starting to appreciate buying sustainable foods from local vendors.”
Artizone is an online farmers market and home delivery service whose mission is to provide farmers and small store owners a direct connection to consumers who are looking for a diverse selection of locally produced groceries that can be delivered straight to their home. “We do whatever it takes to keep artisan shops from having to rely on the mainstream market.” says Lavy, “Even though walk-in marketing is still significant, our site can reach customers 30 or 40 miles away.”
When asked about the company’s biggest purchasers, Lavy pulls no punches and simply says, ‘Everyone.’”
“The elderly population uses us because they need the help; the [Millennials] use us because of the local sustainable movement and, of course, foodies,” he adds.
Lavy has watched the development of his artisan delivery service grow for the last five years, originating in Dallas at the end of 2010, opening a second facility in Chicago in 2012 and, most recently, opening a third facility in Denver earlier this year. Its success, he says, comes from the delivery logistics and online placement that his company focuses on, allowing the local producers to focus on bringing the best quality product to the table. “Currently we work with about 100 different local farmers and stores in the Dallas area, 120 in the Chicago area and around 13 or 14 in the Denver area.” says Lavy, “It takes some time to get to 100.”
While dried groceries and packaged foods still represent the majority of online purchased products, the share of purchased perishables is continuing to grow, according to A.T. Kearney. Currently, Artizone offers a selection of products that range from Holy Cow Beef – extra lean, grass-fed ground beef – for $8.79 a pound to Inglehoffer Dijion Stone Ground Mustard for $6.72 a bottle, providing gourmet products at prices that compete with brick and mortar specialty food retailers. “We are proud to say we don’t have any uplift on the prices for the consumer, I think we are better than Whole Foods,” say Lavy.
Earlier this year, Artizone received the Tech Titan Award, a technology adaptation award, in Dallas for its use of current technology services that keep delivered food prices similar to the cost groceries would be if purchased at a brick and mortar store.
Cote sees the recent adoption of buying groceries online as a positive sign that will not go away anytime soon. As long as customers have a wide range of choices on how they purchase groceries, there will always be a market for anyone selling food products online.
Burt understands this as well: “Shoppers want to transact when, where and how they want to…it’s the current incarnation of the ‘customer is always right’.”
White Coffee’s packaging innovation, BioCup®, was honored last month as a finalist in the 2015 World Beverage Innovation Awards for the Best Environmental Sustainability Initiative category. BioCup, one of the leading entries, captured the ecological niche for wholly biodegradable pods. The award ceremony was held on Wednesday, November 11 at BrauBeviale, one of the largest trade shows for the global beverage industry, held in Nuremberg,Germany.
The awards feature 26 categories including “Best Juice” to “Best Functional Drink,” to “Best New Beverage Concept”; plus categories for brands; ingredients; packaging; design; manufacturing and processing; sustainability; and marketing and communications. BioCup was selected from 360 entries representing 40 countries.
With increased growth in single serve coffee offerings, comes increased responsibility for waste disposal. The revolutionary compostable and biodegradable single serve packaging offers 90 percent degradation after six months. “We are very proud to be honored by the international beverage community for BioCup,” says Jonathan White, Executive Vice President for White Coffee Corporation. “White Coffee is committed to be a leader in the industry in minimizing the effect of its activities on the environment.”
White Coffee presented the line of BioCup packaged coffees under the White Coffee brand. White Coffee’s Bio-degradable and Compostable Organic Single Serve Coffee BioCup is available in 11 flavors: Colombian, Breakfast Blend, French Roast, Full City Roast, Mexican High Grown, Peruvian, Rainforest Blend, Hazelnut, French Vanilla, Sea Salt Caramel and Chocolate Morsel.
White Coffee’s BioCup is available in retail outlets nationwide and offered in 10-count and 80-count boxes. The cups are 2.0 compatible, for use with the Keurig® system and similar coffeemakers.
McCormick & Company, Incorporated has unveiled its annual McCormick Flavor Forecast revealing the tantalizing trends that will shape culinary exploration and innovation – in home kitchens, at restaurants and on retail shelves – across the globe for years to come.
Among the emerging trends is a spotlight on underexplored Southeast Asian fare – Malaysian and Filipino – and the evolution of our insatiable appetite for spicy. Also featured are pulses which serve as a protein-packed canvas for delicious flavors – fitting as the United Nations celebrates 2016 as the International Year of Pulses.
“Since its inception in 2000, Flavor Forecast has been tracking the growing interest in heat and identifying upcoming spicy flavors including chipotle, peri-peri and harissa,” said McCormick Executive Chef Kevan Vetter. “Our latest report shows the next wave of this trend is complemented by tang. Look for Southeast Asian sambal sauce powered by chilies, rice vinegar and garlic to take kitchens by storm.”
Emerging Trends and Flavors Identified by a global team of McCormick chefs, food technologists and flavor experts, these trends offer a taste of 2016 and beyond:
1. Heat + Tang – Spicy finds a welcome contrast with tangy accents to elevate the eating experience.
2. Tropical Asian – The vibrant cuisine and distinctive flavors of Malaysia and the Philippines draw attention from adventurous palates seeking bold new tastes.
3. Blends with Benefits – Flavorful herbs and spices add everyday versatility to good-for-you ingredients.
4. Alternative “Pulse” Proteins – Packed with protein and nutrients, pulses are elevated when paired with delicious ingredients.
5. Ancestral Flavors – Modern dishes reconnect with native ingredients to celebrate food that tastes real, pure and satisfying.
6. Culinary-Infused Sips – Three classic culinary techniques provide new tastes and inspiration in the creation of the latest libations.
“Flavor Forecast is a catalyst for innovation,” said Vetter. “Around the world this year, we’re launching 56 new consumer products inspired by Flavor Forecast trends, and we’re working with our customers across the food industry – from chain restaurants to beverage and snack producers – to help them do the same.”
For mouthwatering recipes, images and more ways to explore this year’s top flavors, visit FlavorForecast.com.