By Lorrie Baumann
As both a retailer and a wholesale meat processor, Rastelli Foods Group is in prime position to observe how the American grocery landscape is evolving. Rastelli Foods Group supplies meat in the wholesale market to grocers and meal kit delivery services up and down the East Coast of the U.S., provides meat for U.S. military installations overseas, ships directly to consumers across the U.S. and operates two New Jersey specialty grocery stores, a 6,000-square foot store originally opened in Deptford as Rastelli’s Meat Stop and then remodeled and reopened five years ago as Rastelli Market Fresh and a new 40,000 square-foot specialty grocer in Marlton.
Ray Rastelli, III is the company’s Vice President and son of the Founder who started Rastelli Meat Stop about 40 years ago and grew it into one of the premier meat suppliers on the East Coast. His father, also Ray Rastelli, is still very active in the business and likely to be recognized by the QVC shoppers who see him pitching fresh and frozen meats four to six times a week on their televisions. The QVC sales are part of a direct-to-consumer mail-order operation that delivers 50,000 to 60,000 packages, mainly fresh and frozen meat and seafood products, both to those QVC shoppers and to customers who come directly to the company’s website. “We started our e-commerce platform in 2009,” Rastelli says. “For the first few years, we sold a few thousand packages a month. Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen a significant, significant increase.”
From this vantage point, Ray Rastelli, 33, is seeing a trend that’s corroborated by marketing researchers. U.S. government figures document that about half of Americans’ food dollars are now spend on food prepared in restaurants, and even when Americans eat at home, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing the same kind of cooking that their grandmothers did. “The biggest thing I see that’s really changing in the past two years is the evolution of the at-home delivery companies,” Rastelli said. “Some of the retailers we work with are trying to come out with their own version of that – meal kits right at the front of the store. Those companies are definitely taking market share.” According to market research firm Packaged Facts, there are now more than 150 meal delivery kit services operating in the U.S. and over the past few years, these businesses have raised more than $650 million in venture capital. Most of these meal kit delivery services are targeting young professionals and families with children who live in urban areas.
Americans between the ages of 25 and 55 are increasingly comfortable ordering their food online, and and cooking it at home, often in the form of meals that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. Women now spend less than an hour a day on food preparation and cleanup, while men still spend an average of less than half an hour a day working in the kitchen, according to 2015 statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Rastelli says his company’s online customers tend to be foodies who care about the quality of the food they’re getting. “They’re definitely people who are really engaged in food, not people who are just looking to put something on the plate,” he said.
He says they’re increasingly likely to see organic and all-natural foods as healthier options. “Five years ago, organic and all-natural would be one one hundredth of the business,” he said. “These days, it’s between 30 to 45 percent of the product we manufacture.”
Rastelli, who started work sweeping floors in his father’s business when he was 10 years old, then became a regular employee on the night shift while he was a sophomore in high school, now sees these trends playing out in the company’s two retail stores. The original Rastelli Market Fresh was converted from a 6,000-foot Rastelli’s Meat Stop store five years ago. Designed as a kind of hybrid between Whole Foods and the previous store, but with a lot of prepared options, the business at the new store inspired the company to expand with a second, bigger location in Marlton, New Jersey, about a half-hour drive from Philadelphia.
The new Rastelli Market Fresh is more of a prepared food store with a pantry of specialty items than a full-service grocer, with almost half of its business professional customers stopping in to eat in the store rather than purchase a basket of food to take home and cook. The store includes several made-to-order restaurant-type concepts – there’s no hot-line buffet – including a pizza stand, sushi restaurant, a taqueria and a Craftwich sandwich shop. Customers order from any of the concepts and the store’s deli counter from a self-service kiosk that prints out a ticket for the customer, who waits only about 2-1/2 to 3 minutes for a meal that’s made from scratch. “It’s set the world on fire in that area,” Rastelli said. “It’s been beyond our expectations.”
Of the 20,000 customers a week who come through the store and check out with an average $38 purchase, fully 9,000 to 10,000 of them came to eat at the 150-seat cafe/lounge or to pick up a single meal to take home with them. According to research reported by the Washington Post in 2015, less than 60 percent of suppers served at home in 2014 were actually cooked at home, and although that trend stalled a bit during the recession, Americans began picking up takeout again as the economy improved.
The single most popular concept in the Marlton Rastelli Market Fresh store is a create-a-plate offering in which customers select a protein from several choices that might include a chicken breast, a filet mignon, a grilled salmon portion and a lamb chop and then add two sides from a menu of 10 selections to put together a total customized meal priced at $8.99. The concept has lines of customers waiting every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Rastelli said. “We package it up for them and off they go.”
The retail stores also act as a product development lab for products offered by the company’s online and wholesale operations. For instance, recipes for pre-marinated steaks and chicken breasts, which are extremely popular items, are pilot-tested in the retail stores, where Rastelli and other family members will spend time on the weekends talking to customers about whether they like what they’re eating. If not, the recipe goes back for more work until there’s general agreement that the company has a really good product before it’s mass-marketed to Rastelli’s online customers and to other grocery retailers. “We’re finding that grocery stores are just shifting to what people are looking for. “People still have to eat,” Rastelli said. “We try to cater to business professionals who are in a jam and trying to get dinner for their families because they worked late.”
By Lorrie Baumann
A new study highlights the cost for American cheesemakers and the entire dairy industry if European rules restricting the use of the “feta” and “parmesan” names were to be enforced in the United States as well. The only real good news in the report is that although small and medium-sized firms would be significantly pressured by lower cheese prices, they might be able to survive by marketing their niche and specialty cheeses. The report was funded by the Consortium for Common Food Names, a dairy industry group.
According to Informa Economics IEG, a market research firm specializing in the agriculture industry, the adoption of rules prohibiting American companies from using the “feta” and “parmesan” names would diminish demand for American-made cheeses now sold under those names, and the negative impacts could also affect American-made cheeses labeled Asiago, Gorgonzola, Romano, Havarti, Neufchatel, Fontina and Muenster. Eventually, those restrictions could also affect Brie, Mozzarella, Ricotta, Camembert, Gouda, Raclette, Edam, Provolone, Burrata, Emmentaler and even Cheddar cheeses.
Under European Union regulations, only cheesemakers in the specific geographic area in which certain cheeses originated are allowed to use names that have been ruled as geographic indicators. At present, there are 250 cheeses that have been granted such protection in the EU or are in the process of acquiring it. If U.S. cheese manufacturers were forced to adhere to these regulations, they’d likely be required to suspend use of names that have commonly been used in the U.S. for decades. The report suggests that the only U.S. cheeses that we can assume will never be affected by such restrictions are those sold as blue cheese, Monterey Jack, Baby Jack, Brick, Swiss, Colby, Baby Swiss and processed cheeses like Velveeta or Kraft Singles.
If these restrictions were to be imposed in the U.S. the immediate impact might be to reduce consumption of U.S.-produced cheeses by 578 million pounds, or 5 percent of total U.S. cheese consumption in 2015. At current market prices, that would be worth about $2.3 billion. Delayed impacts would be even greater, with consumption of U.S.-produced cheeses possibly falling by a projected 1.71 billion pounds.
Those drops in demand for American cheeses would have a significant effect on the U.S. dairy industry as a whole, with the possible effect that milk prices to the dairy farmers could fall by significantly over a 10-year period. That would put some dairy farmers out of business and reduce the size of the nation’s dairy cow herd. “The lower dairy prices do boost domestic consumption of other dairy products, and it does increase exports, but not nearly enough to offset the drop in cheese consumption,” according to the report.
Overall, the consumer reaction if the only mozzarella cheese they could find in their supermarket was imported from Italy and their cheddar could only come from Britain would trigger a sharp contraction in the U.S. dairy industry. The report predicts that dairy farm revenue could fall by 5.5 percent to 12.7 percent over three years, leading to revenue losses of $5.8 billion to $13.2 billion.
Natural Grocers will open a new Ogden, Utah store on Wednesday, December 14. The new 18,000 square foot store will open at 8 a.m. and is located at 270 12th Street. This will be the company’s sixth store in the state of Utah. Natural Grocers also plans to open a South Jordan store in early 2017.
Schweid & Sons, a family-owned, fourth-generation ground beef purveyor supplying premier food service and retail operations across the nation, will be opening a new, cutting-edge ground beef processing facility in College Park, Georgia in early 2017, in response to the increased consumer demand for Schweid & Sons’ products.
“We are thrilled to announce the opening of a Schweid & Sons ground beef processing facility in the Atlanta area,” said Jamie Schweid, President. “The facility represents a major milestone for Schweid & Sons. We are thrilled at the growth that we have experienced over the last year, and look forward to continuing to provide the best-tasting, highest-quality burgers to food service and retail operations around the U.S.”
The new, 66,000 square foot facility will utilize state of the art equipment to produce high-quality fresh and frozen products; cut down transportation time for customers located in the South, South Central and lower Midwest regions of the United States; and ensure fresher product on a quicker timeline. Schweid & Sons expects to start shipping from this facility in early 2017.
McCormick & Company, Incorporated has agreed to acquire 100 percent of the shares of Enrico Giotti SpA (Giotti), an Italian flavor manufacturer located in Florence, Italy.
Giotti is well known in the industry for its innovative beverage, sweet, savory and dairy flavor applications. Annual sales are approximately 53 million Euro (56 million U.S. dollars).
The acquisition of Giotti expands the breadth of value-added products for McCormick’s industrial segment including additional expertise in flavoring health and nutrition products. McCormick plans to acquire the business for a cash payment of approximately 120 million Euros (127 million U.S. dollars), subject to certain closing adjustments.
Lawrence E. Kurzius, President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, “The acquisition of Giotti is another important step in the execution of our growth strategy. McCormick is a leading flavor supplier to packaged food companies and multi-national restaurants, and this acquisition expands the breadth of our value-added flavor solutions in Europe with strong and innovative R&D capabilities. With this acquisition, we add greater scale to our already substantial industrial segment business in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.”
Rogue Creamery’s Echo Mountain Blue and Mount Mazama were both awarded silver medals at the 29th Annual World Cheese Awards in San Sebastian, Spain. The World Cheese Awards is the largest and most respected competition of its type in the world. There were 260 judges who gathered to taste and score more than 3,000 cheeses from 31 different countries this week. “It’s wonderful to be in a place to share the message of giving thanks at the holiday tables of the families and friends of cheese lovers from this international audience. It’s a great recognition to have our passion and sustainable practices reinforced at the World Cheese Awards, as Echo Mountain is ranked once again among the world’s finest blue cheeses,” said David Gremmels, Rogue Creamery Cheesemaker and President.
This was the seventh time in the last 10 years that Rogue’ Creamery’s Echo Mountain Blue has been honored with a medal in the mixed milk category at the World Cheese Awards for placing among the top three cheeses in the world, including a gold medal in Dublin in 2008.The remarkable taste of this award-winning blue reflects a montage of rich flavors made from the combination of this unique regional blend of grass-based, hormone free cow and goat’s milk.
The flavor is clear, crisp, brilliant and complex with its subtle hint of goat’s milk. Brightly hued veins traverse the body of this cheese, infusing it with a bold, earthy flavor. It has a semi-soft texture with a silky- smooth mouth feel and tangy finish.
Schuman Cheese has just launched a new flavor of its beloved crisp snack with Cheddar Cello Whisps, an all-natural, rBST-free, gluten-free, high-protein snack. This flavorful, protein-rich snack hit the shelves this month nationwide.
“As a company, our mission is to enhance everyday eating experiences with the highest quality cheese. With Cheddar Cello Whisps, we were able to provide consumers with a new delicious way to enjoy our hand-crafted artisan cheddar,” said Ilana Fischer, Vice President of Innovation and Strategy at Schuman Cheese. “In fact, cheddar cheese ranks as the top flavor requested in the US, so this innovation made perfect sense. Making Cheddar Cello Whisps was the natural choice for the next flavor in the Whisps portfolio.”
The newest flavor was called for by Cello Whisps lovers who loved the Parmesan-flavor Whisps and wanted another choice. Cello Whisps has already received recognition in the industry with several awards including a gold at the 2016 World Cheese Contest.
“The space is inundated with fake ingredients and unhealthy choices, and Cello Whisps brings a uniquely wholesome and delicious option for those wanting a better-for-you cheese snack,” continued Fischer. “What better way than to use our expertise in artisan cheese to bring a pure cheese snack to the market.”
Cheddar Cello Whisps are a real-cheese snack that won’t leave orange fingers and regret behind it. They provide consumers with a delicious, protein-rich treat that does not consist of a long list of unfamiliar ingredients. The snack is all-natural, gluten and wheat-free and provides an excellent source of calcium with 10 grams of protein and zero percent carbohydrates per serving. It’s easy to enjoy them as-is or toss them on a salad or appetizer plate for flavor and crunch.
Cello Whisps are available to purchase throughout the U.S. in Costco, Publix, Shoprite, Stop & Shop, Amazon.com, and many others. To learn more about Cello Whisps’ new product, Cheddar Cello Whisps and Schuman Cheese visit CelloWhisps.com and SchumanCheese.com.
Di Bruno Bros. has launched two new cheese spreads– Pinot Grigio & Fig or Smoked Gouda & Beer with Pimentos. These two unique flavors are the first new spreads added to the lineup in over a decade!
Di Bruno Bros. cheese spreads are made with real Wisconsin cheddar, and are inspired by family recipes. They are sold in the Philadelphia retail shops, in national grocery partners and on dibruno.com to ship anywhere in the country.
The line of spreads includes six other options: Spicy Abbruzze, Roasted Garlic & Herb, Port Wine, Gorgonzola, Provolone & Chianti, and Cheddar & Horseradish.
Emilio Mignucci, third-generation owner and Vice President of Culinary Pioneering says, “Our customers across the country, and especially Philadelphia, love the original six spreads and people were asking for more. I’m excited that we were able to bring them two incredible new spreads…. We think our grandparents would be proud. And, while it’s a proud moment for us, it’s been even more fun for us to work together with our team and create something new and delicious for our customers.”
This spring’s New England Made Giftware & Specialty Food Show will take place at the Portland Sports Complex in Portland, Maine, from Saturday, March 18 through Monday, March 20, 2017. Admission is complimentary for qualified buyers of wholesale giftware, specialty food, and home furnishings.
The New England Made Giftware & Specialty Food Show features unique, locally-made goods from 350 businesses from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The Show offers specialty gift and gourmet food retailers an entree into the wide world of artisanal merchandise produced in the region, including everything from apparel to pottery and glassware to artisanal food products.
“New England Made has been presenting quality locally made giftware and specialty food products for 33 years to the wholesale market. This year New England Made will present our largest show ever with 350 companies in Portland, Maine,” said New England Made Show Producer Stefa Normantas. “With the cancellation of the Boston Gift Show in 2017, New England Made is even more important to retailers and local companies. Our regional show has a national reputation for quality and craftsmanship. Retailers from around the country are discovering why our show continues to have significant growth. It’s a place to find truly unique items for their shops while meeting the artists and craftsman who make each product right here in New England.”
Over 95 percent of the buyers who attended last fall’s New England Made Show said they would recommend the event to a colleague or friend.
“We were blown away by the number of exhibitors and their unique products. We thought that the show was extremely well run in every aspect. We ended up purchasing several exciting new lines for our store!,” said buyer Brad Sevaldson, Owner of Wiscasset, Maine’s BIRCH Home Furnishings & Gifts.
Exhibitors also find participation in the Show a highly rewarding experience.
“The New England Made Giftware and Specialty Food Show has helped me over fifteen years of wholesaling to grow my business. It would have taken me countless hours and dollars to find regional (and some beyond New England) wholesale buyers,” said exhibitor Betsy Hanscom, Owner of Maine Warmers. “The show looks great, the quality of the goods exhibited is excellent, and the show is well managed and staffed with caring people.”
Registration for qualified buyers is open now.