By Lorrie Baumann
Coached by a generation of chefs with television shows, consumers have learned to ask for fresh, local and organic products. Grocers are now teaching them to look for those at the grocery store as well as the farmers market.
“I think people are buying local now more than ever,” said Pat Brown, CEO of the Natural Markets Food Group, which includes Mrs. Green’s Natural Market, Planet Organic Market and Richtree Natural Market restaurants in New York, the Mid-Atlantic, Chicago and Canada. Consumers are asking more questions now about where their food comes from, Brown said. “It forces the hand of the retailer to go out and get that product…. Organic sales are growing at a high rate as well, but the consumer is interested in buying food in their neighborhood from people who grow it in their neighborhood.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, total local food sales last year amounted to $6.1 billion, of which only $1.31 billion in sales occurred directly from farmers to consumers through farmers markets, u-pick farms and farm stands. Sales from farms that passed through the hands of intermediates – restaurants, distributors and retailers – grew from $2.7 billion in 2008 to $3.35 billion in 2012.
In the nationally representative 2011 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends Survey conducted by the Food Marketing Institute, more than four out of five of the surveyed grocery store shoppers reported that they purchased local foods occasionally, while almost one out of 10 says they purchased local foods whenever possible. The Specialty Food Association reported in its “The State of the Specialty Food Industry 2015” report that, according to specialty food manufacturers, “Local and all-natural products continue to be the most interesting to consumers. More than half of the manufacturers cited ‘local’ as a claim that interests consumers most today, with almost half of them expecting growth in local products over the next three years. “
Those who buy local foods are doing it because they want food that’s fresher and tastes better, and they want to support their local economy rather than because they’re concerned for the environmental impacts of transporting food long distances. In a 2012 study, scientists found that grocery shoppers were more willing to pay extra for food labeled “local” than they were for foods labeled “certified organic,” “certified fair trade” or with a note about the food’s carbon footprint.
Some of those shoppers, particularly those who are white, upper to middle class and convinced that their buying habits can “make a difference,” are looking to farmers markets to supply their desires for fresh, local food – mainly produce – driving growth in the number of farmers markets across the country by 180 percent between 2006 and 2014. In 2014, the USDA counted 8,268 in the United States. State and local governments are encouraging the trend too. As of 2014, 26 states had state farmers’ market associations designed to provide the markets with technical assistance, and there were 65 state and regional or local Buy Fresh Buy Local chapters in 21 states organizing outreach events and local food guides to promote locally produced food and farmers.
Grocers have taken notice. Almost three quarters of the retailers surveyed by the Specialty Food Association said that “local” is of great interest to consumers today, with more than half of them saying that they expect growth in that segment over the next three years. “Over the past five to six years, the focus on local, natural and organic has really taken hold among food retailers,” said Jim Hertel, Managing Partner for food retail consultants Willard Bishop.
Natural Markets Food Group has begun contracting directly with local farmers to provide produce to its markets in the Northeastern U.S. “At the peak of the season in the Northeast, we will be 65 or 70 percent local produce. That farmer used to sell produce in farmers markets… It’s exactly why we’re growing, that we’re able to create relationships with local farmers and bring their product in,” Brown said. “Other markets are doing the same thing.”
The Rising Tide Floats All Boats
While not necessarily local, sales of organic products are following the consumer preference for fresh, trustworthy products. “That’s true both of natural foods retailers as well as more traditional mainstream food retailers, whether it’s Walmart, which has significantly ramped up emphasis on organics, especially value-priced organics,” said Hertel. “There’s been a recognition by retailers that consumers are interested and also that it’s an area where the margins are greater, so profits are greater.”
Sales of organic food in the United States totaled $35.9 billion in 2014, an 11 percent increase from the previous year, according to the latest data from the Organic Trade Association, which reported that total U.S. sales for organic products amounted to more than $39 billion in 2014, breaking previous industry records.
Sales research by the OTA shows sales trends for organic products growing at double digit rates for several years, compared to about a 1.5 percent projected growth rate for other foods. “The growth rates of traditional product lines are much smaller,” Hertel said. “The Millennial generation is very interested in healthy eating, and to them, that means natural and organic as well as less processed food.”
The majority of American households in all regions of the country now make organic products a part of their supermarket and retail purchases, according to the new research from the Organic Trade Association.
Retailers report that the demand for organic produce that prompted entry into the market by Walmart and Kroger is causing stress on the supply chain and making it harder for smaller retailers who have less buying power to compete for supplies that are limited by the amount of acreage that farmers have dedicated to certified organic growing methods and the length of time it takes to obtain organic certification on new fields. “The supply chain for organic product has become difficult at best because the bigger chains are getting into the market. The demand is causing outages and shortages occasionally,” said Brown. “Bigger growers are pleased because it’s easier and cost-effective to contract out an entire crop to a large buyer. The buying power of a big company like that impacts those who’ve been selling product for a long time.”
Imports of organic produce from Mexico are helping to ease the shortages and meet the demands of American consumers who’ve been long trained to expect their grocers to supply whatever food they want whenever they want it. “There’s a lot more organic farming in Mexico now than even five years ago,” Brown said. “There are gaps in some products, but generally, you can get organic produce year-round now because there’s so much organic production in Mexico now.”
The makers of Wholly Guacamole® brand have added Avocado Verde 45 cal Minis to their line of products. The new minis pack all the flavor of tomatillos, hand-scooped avocados, jalapeno peppers, and cilantro of the brand’s popular Avocado Verde dip in 2-ounce containers. The Avocado Verde 45 Cal Minis are the seventh flavor in Wholly Guacamole brand’s lineup of fan-favorite mini cups.
“Consumers are continuing to explore the variety of Mexican flavors and recognize the health benefits of avocados, so we asked ‘What’s the next thing they need?’” said Terrill Bacon, Senior Brand Manager of Wholly Guacamole brand. “Our fans love our Avocado Verde dip, so creating a mini cup was the perfect solution to help them continue exploring the culinary landscape at home and on the go.”
The new minis will appear on grocery shelves in the coming months and can be purchased in 4- or 6-pack product sizes. The 4-count suggested retail price is $3.99-$4.99 and the 6-count is $5.29-$5.99, depending on the retailer. Like all Wholly Guacamole products, the Minis are all natural, gluten free, dairy free and kosher certified.
Sunshine International Foods just announced the addition of five new flavors to its existing line of pasteurized flavored Sesame King Tahini pastes. The new flavors include Olive Oil, Honey, Garlic, Cajun and Chocolate. Each flavor is rich in proteins and vitamins, made with no additives or preservatives, peanut free, trans fat free, gluten free, kosher certified and non-GMO.
Sunshine International Foods is the only manufacturer to pasteurize its tahini to ensure a clean, healthy and safe product for consumer usage. The new flavors are the direct result of the success and consumer acceptances of the company’s Sesame King Roasted and Light Roast flavored tahini.
Sesame King Tahini pastes are made from 100 percent pure ground sesame seeds. The sesame seeds are shipped directly from the farms to the Sunshine International Foods facility and are sifted, hulled, roasted and ground to perfection. Each Sesame King Tahini is all natural, with a subtle, delightful aroma, rich with texture and delicious taste. Sunshine International Foods mechanically hulls its sesame seeds, meaning no chemicals or hulling agents are used during the manufacturing process.
“We are very excited to be introducing our new five flavors of Sesame King Tahini pastes to retailers and consumers across the United States,” said Emile Maroun of Sunshine International Foods. “Consumers and retailers are looking for safe, new, exciting and innovated healthy products, and we believe that our Sesame King Tahini pastes meet and exceed those expectations.”
Sesame King Tahini pastes provide consumers with a powerful nutritional food choice that packs a kaleidoscope of superior flavors and the following healthier inclusions:
“As a leading manufacturer of tahini, our never-ending goal is to produce tahini products that taste great and provide consumers with a healthy food choice. Healthy is good. Healthy and tasty is fantastic,” added Maroun.
Sesame King Tahini pastes come in 16-ounce plastic jars and are available in the following seven delicious flavors:
Sesame King Roasted Tahini – This tahini flavor can be used for a variety of savory and sweet recipes. It’s the perfect complement for hummus, sauces, dressings and can really enhance the taste of any type of seafood, chicken or lamb dish. Eat straight from the jar for a healthy alternative to peanut butter.
Sesame King Light Roast Tahini – This tahini flavor is a fan favorite. Just the right amount of roasted flavor that is perfect for mixed green salads, cold noodle salads, as a marinade or as a mix for coleslaw.
Sesame King Garlic Tahini – This tahini flavor is the perfect complement to an array of dishes and takes fish, chicken or lamb into the next stratosphere.
Sesame King Olive Oil Tahini – This tahini flavor is perfect for those unique salads and sauces and is a true enhancer for roasted potatoes and vegetables.
Sesame King Cajun Tahini – This tahini flavor packs a powerful punch of pungent flavor and aroma that takes seafood, chicken or lamb to the next level. Try it as a topping or dip and see where its lands on your dipping meter.
Sesame King Honey Tahini – This tahini flavor delivers an irresistible flavor that is sure to tame the biggest sweet tooth and is the perfect healthy alternative to halvah.
Sesame King Chocolate Tahini – This tahini flavor is so versatile and delicious it can be used as a dip, as a spread on toast, drizzle it on your favorite vegetables, or eat straight from the jar.
Sesame King Tahini can be found at such fine retailers as Whole Food Markets, Market Basket, Restaurant Depots and many other fine markets and specialty health food stores or order online at www.sesameking.com.
Pereg Gourmet, a producer of premium, natural spices and spice blends, bread crumbs, ancient grains and quinoa products, will introduce GMO-free, gluten-free quinoa flour at the Summer Fancy Food Show, June 28-30, 2015.
In addition to Pereg’s latest offering, quinoa flour, Pereg has been a leader in introducing a full line of quinoa products including quinoa pasta, quinoa pops cereal, and pre-seasoned quinoa side dishes to North America.
“Quinoa is a gluten free-product, perhaps the fastest growing market segment in the food industry today. While cutting out gluten from one’s diet may seem like a difficult and limiting task, fortunately, Pereg offers many healthy and delicious products that are naturally gluten-free. With our variety of quinoa gluten free products, and recipes for tasty preparation available on our website, consumers can enjoy many delicious foods while maintaining a healthy diet,” says Gil Schneider, Pereg Gourmet President.
Pereg Gourmet was established in 1906, and is a family owned business, based in Clifton, New Jersey. The company first became known for pure and natural spices and spice blends, more than 60 in all, from traditional favorites to exotics from around the culinary world.
Beyond spices, Pereg produces lines of flavored basmati rice, couscous, farro, salad toppings and salad spreads. All Pereg products are kosher certified by the Orthodox Union (OU), are dairy and lactose-free as well as all natural, with no additives or preservatives. Many are also certified gluten-free and non-GMO.
Dairy producer Clover Stornetta Farms is launching a new line of premium ice cream made from fresh organic Clover milk and cream. These 12 new, decadent flavors will debut as a six-month exclusive placement in local independent grocers and Whole Foods Market®.
“Giving Whole Foods Market and our independent stores an exclusive, serves our mission to support businesses with like-minded philosophies,” says Clover President & CEO Marcus Benedetti. “Craft ice cream is booming. The farming principles behind our nutritious milk coupled with interesting ice cream flavors and partnerships will put Clover’s best dairy foot forward.”
Each quart is made with organic milk from happy, humane-certified Clover cows living on family-owned dairy farms. Every scoop is blended with the best quality local ingredients to create these new flavors: Chocolate Nirvana (made with fair trade Organic TCHO Chocolate in Berkeley), Straight Up Vanilla, Mint to Be, Hoppy Hour (using Bear Republic Brewing Company’s Racer 5 IPA® from Cloverdale), Cowlifornia Sweet Cream, French Press, Eat Your Milk & Cookies, Strawberry Shindig, Creamy PB&C, Pistachio Perfecto, Petaluma Pothole (in honor of our hometown’s roads) and Tempt Me Toffee (made with San Francisco’s Charles Chocolates English Toffee).
The reveal of Clover premium organic craft ice creams will kick off with in-store samples, signage and a strategic radio campaign with social media messaging, and PR that reflects Clover’s core values of farm-fresh, sustainability, family, animal welfare and superior quality.
Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit, a frozen treat made from fruit, filtered water and organic cane sugar, has expanded product distribution for its Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops™ to almost 2,000 placements nationwide this summer. Noteworthy accounts include 25 Bay Area region Whole Foods stores, almost 500 Kroger’s stores, HEB’s, Ahold’s Giant Carlisle, Fresh & Easy Markets, Mrs. Green’s Natural Markets, New Season’s Markets, Gelson’s Markets, Rosauers Supermarkets, Mother’s Markets as well as leading boutique health food stores such as Erewhons and Lambs Markets. In addition, Chloe’s will be available at select Costco locations this summer.
Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co. delivers direct to retailers as well as through its national distribution channels, with distributor partners including UNFI, DPI Specialty Foods, Jake’s Finer Foods, as well as regional kosher distributors throughout the country.
“Consumers can now find Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops throughout the country, just in time for summer,” said Michael Sloan, CEO and Co-Founder. “Our Soft Serve Fruit Pops taste incredible and are made with just fruit, water and a touch of organic cane sugar, making a refreshing snack or guilt-free treat. This is why we have seen exponential growth across all retail channels: big box, national grocery chains, specialty retailers and health food stores. We are extremely excited that with our expanded footprint with these new retailers, customers will easily be able to find Chloe’s!”
Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops are available in five varieties – Dark Chocolate, Mango, Pineapple, Raspberry and Strawberry. At only 60 calories and with just 13-15g of sugar, Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops are free of preservatives, additives, high fructose corn syrup and stabilizers. In addition, Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops are free of dairy, gluten, fat, and the eight major allergens and are certified kosher pareve and vegan. Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops are also Non-GMO Project Verified.
Consumers can find a single flavor four-pack box of Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops on shelf for a suggested retail price of $3.99 – $4.99. A 16 pack of Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops, which includes eight Mango and eight Strawberry Soft Serve Fruit Pops will be on shelf at select Costco locations this summer for an MSRP of $12.99.
In addition to retail, Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops are available through the wholesale food service channel, with distribution via Sysco, US Foods, UNFI, Cheney Brothers, specialty distributors such as Reliant Food Service, Southwest Traders, MRS Bakery Distribution Corp, Fortune Fish and Gourmet, and ice cream distributors across the U.S. Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Pops and Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit mix are approved products into leading food service providers, including Compass Group USA, Sodexo and Aramark.
By Lorrie Baumann
Polska Foods is bringing a traditional pre-Soviet Polish culinary staple to American grocers’ freezer cases. The young California company goes to great lengths to make its Organic Potato Cheese Pierogi, Mushroom Cabbage Vegan Pierogi with Sauerkraut, Organic Spinach & Feta Pierogi and Savory Beef & Pork Pierogi from high-quality organic ingredients and time- and labor-intensive methods to produce products that honor the culinary traditions of Chief Operations Officer Tomasz Piszczek’s Polish grandmother, says Bridget McQueen-Piszczek, the company’s CEO.
McQueen-Piszczek discovered pierogi when her new husband, Tomasz Piszczek, took her to Poland to meet his family in 2010. “Everything we ate at his parent’s farm was from the garden, the fields, or wild-picked from the neighboring forest – even the meat we ate was from a neighbor,” she says. “When I had their pierogi with all the fresh ingredients, I thought, this is incredible.” Piszczek’s parents and grandmother didn’t speak any English, and McQueen-Piszczek didn’t speak any Polish. “We ended up communicating through the food,” she said. “Good food allowed us to share a moment of love and appreciation when the language barrier prevented us from connecting.”
“When I came back to California, I said that we had to get some of these pierogi,” she continued. “We tried everywhere, even went to the East Coast, to delis where there were lines out the door.” But none of those pierogi compared to the ones made by her grandmother-in-law in Poland with thin delicate dough and stuffed with savory fillings. So finally, the Piszczeks decided that they were just going to have to learn how to make their own. They asked Piszczek’s grandmother for her recipes. “We started out making it just for ourselves, but when you make pierogi, you make a lot and you want to share them,” McQueen-Piszczek says. Dinner parties with friends turned into requests from friends and family members for a chance to buy the pierogi for their own tables, and then that turned into sales at local farmers markets and then a sale to the local Whole Foods market. “We just kept taking one step after the other, and then one day you wake up and think, Wow, we’ve got a whole company,” McQueen-Piszczek says.
It took a year after the Piszczeks decided to make the pierogi for the farmers market to find the right ingredients. “We visited the farms and the plants of all ingredient providers to guarantee quality and authenticity. Some of the ingredients, such as the cheese, had to be custom made to mimic the quality you find in Poland,” McQueen-Piszczek says. “Today we work with one of the only local organic mills in the Bay Area. Starting with exceptional ingredients is essential to gourmet pierogi, and all our pierogi are made fresh and flash frozen to preserve the flavor, texture, and nutrients.”
The Potato Cheese and Mushroom Cabbage Sauerkraut Pierogi were the first on the market. The Savory Beef & Pork Pierogi were added later because customers were asking for it, and the Organic Spinach & Feta Pierogi were added to the line as a more Americanized version of the traditional dish. “You see Spinach Feta pierogi in Poland today, but it’s not a flavor from many generations ago,” McQueen-Piszczek says.
The Potato Cheese Pierogi are certified organic and use handcrafted farmers cheese. The filling includes organic potatoes, organic caramelized onions, whole grain organic millet, roasted garlic, and fresh herbs. McQueen-Piszczek says that she occasionally gets questions about whether the inclusion of millet in the pierogi filling is quite authentic, but it’s true to the traditional Old World recipes from past generations. “The millet gives it more fiber and also has a nutty flavor. It’s a very old, ancient grain, and a lot of pierogi just had millet in them. It was used before potatoes,” she says. There’s a whole-wheat version and one made with unbleached, organic wheat flour.
Mushroom Cabbage Pierogi with Sauerkraut are made with a recipe that’s several centuries old and is the kind of pierogi that Poles eat during the Wigilia Christmas Eve vigil, when traditionally, people didn’t eat meat while they waited for Christmas Day. “It’s the tradition of giving something up in order to gain. Religious tradition has changed, but this flavor is still very popular year round,” McQueen-Piszczek says. “This recipe is from our family in Poland, from many generations of eating at Christmas-time. When Polish natives try this flavor for the first time, you can see in their facial expressions that this is the way their grandmother made it, and many tell us they haven’t had it for 20-plus years. We get that a lot.”
They’re vegan, and raw, fermented gourmet sauerkraut is the key ingredient, McQueen-Piszczek says. “ The second key is a slow cooking process where you caramelize the onions, and slowly cook all the herbs and vegetables together for hours, creating a complex, well-balanced flavor. We make pierogi just like home – no short cuts in our processing.”
The Organic Spinach Feta Pierogi are award-winning and vegetarian, made from organic spinach, organic caramelized onions, portabello mushrooms, roasted red bell peppers and feta cheese in a whole-wheat organic dough. They offer 16 grams of whole grains per serving. Savory Beef & Pork Pierogi are made with organic white flour, hormone- and antibiotic-free minimally processed beef round and pork along with caramelized onions, whole-grain organic buckwheat, crimini mushrooms, roasted garlic, smoky paprika, spicy peppers and herbs in a tomato base. “You almost don’t need a topping on the beef and pork ones,” McQueen-Piszczek says. “We used the best-sourced meats and ingredients that you can get.”
Native to Louisiana, but appreciated nationwide, Frontier Soups™ gluten-free, non-GMO New Orleans Jambalaya Soup Mix contains saffron- and turmeric-seasoned calasparra rice and peppers in the mix. Home cooks add broth, ham, tomatoes and shrimp for an authentic taste of the French Quarter in just 30 minutes.
Suggested retail price: $5.95-$6.49 for 4.5 ounce package.
Call Frontier Soups at 800.300.7687.
The countdown is now on to Free From Food/Ingredients 2015 – which will showcase the very latest in “free from” products from across Europe and beyond on June 4 and 5 in Barcelona. The doors will open on the third edition of the two-day exhibition with hundreds of exciting food and drink products – from gluten free to nut free, going on display. Exhibitors include Warburtons, Mrs Crimble’s, and Nature’s Path from the UK, Fishmasters from Netherlands, Wellaby’s from Greece, Mulino Marello from Italy and Oskri from the USA.
Mrs Crimble’s will use Free From Food/Ingredients 2015 to herald a new sub brand: Gluten Free….and Good For Me. Launching in May, the first products to hit the shelves will be three varieties of Italian pasta with sauce and three new cereal bars. Pasta with sauce is the first combination product available from Mrs. Crimble’s within “free from,” with corn pasta and dried sauce.
Nature’s Path will be exhibiting its range of gluten free breakfast cereals. Wellaby’s from Greece will be showcasing an innovative “free from” baked snacks including its award-winning Lentil Chips. Italy-based Mulino Marello will be exhibiting stone ground gluten free flours while Slendier, from Australia, will be highlighting its Calorie Clever range – “free from” pasta, noodle and rice alternatives. Meanwhile Britain’s biggest baker, Warburtons, will be showcasing products from its award-winning Newburn Bakehouse range – gluten-, wheat- and dairy-free wraps and gluten free cracker thins.
“There will be a stunning, innovative and diverse range of products on show at Free From Food/Ingredients 2015 – which really does make it an exhibition not to be missed. It just goes to show that the Free From market is growing at an incredible pace – with more exciting products now available than ever before – right across the ‘free from’ spectrum. The presence of exhibitors such as Warburtons at Free From Food/Ingredients 2015, highlights how hugely important the Free From category is,” said Ronald Holman, Exhibition Director.
Divino USA, Inc. has entered the U.S. frozen dessert market with its distinctive line of Italian handcrafted gelato-filled fruit. The company is poised
to continue on the current trajectory of rapid growth in this country, having already secured national distribution available through KeHE, Haddon House, Nature’s Best and UNFI. Unlike any other gelato on the market, Divino is made from fresh Southern Italian fruit that is hand-picked near the Divino factory on the Amalfi Coast. The fresh fruit pulp is blended with volcanic waters from neighboring Mount Vesuvius, sweetened with natural sugar and lemon juice, and then filled into the halved fruit shell and frozen to a delicious single serving.
Divino varieties include Amalfi Lemon, Roman Kiwi, Ciaculli Tangerine, Apulian Peach and Black Diamond Plum. Each single serve item contains about 100 calories, and all are gluten-free certified, fat free and Non-GMO Project Verified. Each unit is individually packaged in a colorful box and includes a serving tray and spoon, allowing for easy display and grab-and-go. The fruit shell containing the gelato is also completely edible. The product has a shelf life of approximately 12 months. Divino calls its frozen treats ‘gelato’ because in Italy, both ice cream and sorbet fall under the gelato category.
Divino is available in natural foods stores, as well as select grocery and specialty stores across the country, with rapidly growing national distribution, and retails for approximately $3.99-$4.49 per single serving. For more information, visit www.lovedivino.com.