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Chocolate Companies Do Good Deliciously

By Lorrie Baumann

Guilt is not among the ingredients for this year’s introductions of specialty chocolates. Along with interesting flavors, chocolatiers are bringing products to the market that have a good story to tell to consumers with a wide range of concerns about which chocolate treat they can enjoy in good conscience.

Chuao Chocolatier’s new Enamored line of organic Fair Trade chocolates in three fruit-forward flavors with floral notes: Raspberry Rose, Coconut Hibiscus and Blueberry Lavender. As their names suggest, Raspberry Rose is made with radiant raspberries sugared with rose petals, Blueberry Lavender is made with blueberries lightly infused with lavender, and Coconut Hibiscus offers creamy coconut with a hint of hibiscus.

The line was created by the brand’s Master Chef and Co-Founder Michael Antonorsi as a tribute to women. “With the Enamored Collection, we wanted to create a product that celebrated ‘you,’ because who you are is enough,” said Antonorsi. “Spreading joy is the intention behind everything we do, and with this new collection we hope to bring a moment of joy to every person who experiences it.”

The Enamored line launched in June, and a percentage of sales goes to Girls, Inc., which shares the brand’s ideals of empowering women. “Girls Inc. is focused on empowering girls to discover their strengths and thrive,” said Judy Vredenburgh, President and CEO of Girls Inc. “This includes helping them build confidence and a positive self-image. We are thrilled to partner with Chuao Chocolatier as they launch this new line that celebrates women and inspires them to do just that.”

Chuao Chocolatier’s new line of bars are made with non-GMO ingredients. The suggested retail price is $7.00. For more information, visit Chuao Chocolatier’s booth at the Summer Fancy Food Show or visit

Abdallah Chocolates is at the Summer Fancy Food Show with flavors we’ve seen before from the company, including its Caramel Almond Coconut, Sugar Free Caramel, Pecan Grizzly and English Toffee chocolates. The absence of a new flavor is due to the company’s construction this year of a new 90,000 square foot facility that’s been taking attention away from product development for the past several months, said National Sales Manager Madonna Schmitz.

The company is expecting to move into its new facility late this summer and to have the production lines running by the first of September, she added. For more information, visit the company’s booth at the Summer Fancy Food Show or visit

Sulpice Chocolat is a start-up company that’s sticking with the traditional flavors of a high-quality peanut butter cup but adding a boost of nutrition. A three-piece serving includes 7g of protein and 3g of fiber – attributes we associate more with nutrition bars than with candy, but this is very definitely a treat that feels like an indulgence. “We’re trying to make the candy aisle better for you,” said Anne Shaeffer, half of the husband and wife team that founded Sulpice Chocolat. For more information, call 630.301.2345 or visit

Laima Chocolates’ Cheese Chocolate is made in Latvia with white chocolate and real cheese. The company also makes a full line of dessert-flavor chocolates, including Creme Brulee, Key Lime Pie and Tiramisu covered with dark chocolate. A 3.5-ounce bar of the Cheese Chocolate retails for $4.99. It’s been sold in the U.S. for many years in ethnic markets, and it’s been more widely offered by Aero-Cos for the past four or five years. Distributed in the United States by Aero-Cos International, the Laima Chocolates products are made by Orkla Confectionery & Snacks.

Heavenly Caramels Coconut Caramels, Pecan Caramels and Vanilla Sea Salt Caramels covered with chocolate are the newest product introduction from Utah-based J. Morgan’s Confections. A 4.2-ounce bag retails for $3.49 to $3.99.

The Heavenly Caramels line also includes several products that aren’t covered in chocolate and that feature flavors you wouldn’t necessarily associate with caramel, including Cinnamon Caramel, Old English Licorice Caramel, Coconut Caramel, Caramel Apple, Vanilla Sea Salt Caramel and Butter Caramel. Each 4.7-ounce bag of these varieties retails for $3.49. For more information, call 801.688.4999 or visit

This story was originally published in the June 2016 issue of Gourmet News.

Satisfying Snacks for the Nutrition Conscious Consumer

By Lorrie Baumann

Natural foods manufacturers have been very busy this year thinking up ways to cater nutritious snacks for a generation that’s making frequent snacks a regular part of their eating plan. This new generation of better-for-you snacks launched at this year’s Natural Products Expo West, held March 9-13 in Anaheim, California, offers clean labels, nutrition density and bright, savory flavors.

Wilde Bars, for instance is a line of Paleo-friendly meat snacks that will appeal to carnivores looking for a protein boost. Each slow-baked lean meat bar with superfruits, vegetables and ancient grains contains just 100 calories and delivers 10 grams of protein with low fat and low sodium. The bars are made with a proprietary baking process that allows the use of lean meats such as premium chicken and turkey – the bison and beef bars are made with sirloin – rather than the fatty cuts often used for other meat bars. The bars’ shelf life is 12 months, and they retail for $2.49 to $2.79.

Caveman offers similar Paleo-inspired meat snacks for protein-craving snackers. Three flavors of Chicken Primal Bites – Sun-dried Tomato and Kale, Toasted Sesame Ginger and Habanero Green Chile – deliver 30 grams of protein for a 2.5-ounce pouch that contains 2.5 servings. The bite-size snacks are made of pure chicken infused with other healthy ingredients to make a meat snack that the company considers a little more accessible than jerky. Each pouch retails for $6.99, and the snacks have a 12-month shelf life.

Caveman also launched a line of protein bars five months ago that’s doing very well with consumers, according to Chief Marketing Officer Jim Taschetta. “It really is revolutionizing the protein bar market,” he said. “You can use Paleo principles to make really delicious foods. You don’t have to sacrifice.” These are no-compromise protein bars with no preservatives and no added sugars. Unlike many of the protein bars on the market, the protein in these comes from chicken rather than whey or soy isolates. Chicken, which has a lower carbon footprint and requires less water than beef or bison, also has a milder flavor that doesn’t compete with spices and other ingredients that provide variety. The Blueberry Pepper flavor, for instance, is made from chicken, blueberries and spices, and that’s all, Taschetta said.

A new flavor, Honey BBQ, launches in May. “It’s one of the most popular flavors on the mainstream market, but we’ve come up with it with really clean ingredients,” Taschetta said. Each bar retails for $2.89.

For those who want protein without meat, GrandyOats offers a line of organic snacks from its solar-powered plant in Maine. Garlic Herb Cashews and Maple Roasted Cashews are the top-selling products in their line of roasted nuts, while High Antioxidant Trail Mix is the company’s best-selling trail mix.

The Maple Roasted Cashews are made with locally sourced maple syrup, and the High Antioxidant Trail Mix was voted the #1 Quick Fix food by Sierra and Mother Earth News magazines. The trail mix combines goji berries, mulberries, jumbo raisins, cranberries, almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds, and a 1/4-cup serving delivers 4 grams of protein in a 150-calorie snack.

GrandyOats’ move into its new solar-powered facility will allow the company to dedicate a portion of its plant as a gluten-free facility, and we can expect to see a whole gluten-free line from the company soon, including all of its bulk roasted nuts and trail mixes.

HempsGood offers three flavors of a snack product called HempSeed Bhang: Thai Coconut Lemongrass, Southwest Barbecue and Sweet Cinnamon. These flavored hemp seed products are packaged in “stickpacks,” pouches about the size of a candy bar from which the crunchy mix of unshelled and shelled hemp seeds is poured. HempSeed Bhang is gluten free, vegan and low in sugar, and each 20-gram stickpack delivers 7 grams of protein as well as Omega 3, 6 and 9 oils. HempSeed Bhang is a natural source of dietary fiber and has no artificial ingredients.

popchips are a healthier alternative to fried potato chips. The newest varieties, popchips RIDGES are crinkle-cut potato chips with 55 percent less calories and 72 percent less fat than ordinary ruffled potato chips. The four newest flavors are Salted, Cheddar & Sour Cream, Tangy Barbeque and Chili Cheese. popchips RIDGES are packaged in two sizes: the 3-ounce bag retails for $2.99 and the .8-ounce single-serve size retails for $1.19.

Natierra delivers crunch without compromise with seven flavors of Chia Crunch. These gluten-free and non-GMO disks are made from freeze-dried chia seeds and superfoods for crunchy texture and intense flavor without added sugar. They’re gluten free, organic and fair trade with 90 calories and 2 grams of protein in a single-serve pouch that retails for $4.99.

This story was originally published in the May 2016 issue of Gourmet News.

KeHE Appoints Chief Financial Officer

KeHE Distributors, LLC (KeHE) has named Timothy J. Wiggins as its new Chief Financial Officer, effective July 11.

In his new role, Wiggins will be responsible for leading all aspects of KeHE’s finance function and strategic planning, as well as business unit and subsidiary performance. He will also serve as a member of the board of directors of World Finer Foods, a KeHE subsidiary, and as a member of the advisory board to Tree of Life Canada.

“After an extensive nationwide search, we are pleased to welcome Tim Wiggins to the team,” said Brandon Barnholt, President and CEO, KeHE. “Tim brings a depth of financial experience in the public and private sectors that will be valuable as we continue to drive shareholder value. Just as important, Tim is an excellent cultural fit due to his commitment to the development of people and a desire to help us live out our mission and values.”

“I am delighted to be joining such an outstanding organization,” added Wiggins. “KeHE’s mission, vision and values resonate deeply with me, and I look forward to contributing to this important work.”

Prior to joining KeHE, Wiggins served as senior vice president and chief financial officer at DeVry Education Group. He is a CPA and holds a Bachelor of Arts in accounting from Michigan State University.

For more information, visit

Junior’s Cheesecake Gains Traction at Retail

By Lorrie Baumann

Renowned New York bakery, Junior’s Cheesecake and Desserts, is gaining traction in the retail marketplace after opening a 103,000 square foot baking facility in Burlington, New Jersey, that gave the company the capacity to expand beyond supplying its own restaurants with cheesecakes that have been consistently voted New York’s best.

“We’re really excited about the progress that Junior’s has made in the past year. We have successfully transitioned our business from our Brooklyn facility to a state-of-the art facility in Burlington, New Jersey,” said Alan Rosen, the company’s third-generation Owner. “The best part is that we have more room to make our desserts the same way we have in Brooklyn for more than 65 years. I can proudly say that the recipe has not changed one ounce.”

New York has voted Junior’s cheesecakes the best the city has to offer every year since the early 1970s, and Junior’s is still using the same cheesecake recipe developed by Rosen’s grandfather, Harry Rosen, who opened his first restaurant on election day in 1950 with the idea that if Junior’s was going to be a great New York restaurant, it needed to serve great cheesecake.

Junior’s still operates four restaurants, soon to be five, as well as the bakery. Three are in New York City – one in Brooklyn, one in Times Square and one in Grand Central Terminal. The fourth is in Foxwoods, Connecticut, and there’s one coming in Boca Raton, Florida. Junior’s also has satellites in South Korea and in the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.

“Over the past year, we have found ourselves in both bakery sections and frozen sections, depending on the needs of the retailer. Wegmans, Kroger, Tops Friendly Markets, ACME Markets, Stop & Shop – we are well represented in the New York market, including upstate,” Rosen said. “We are growing, but we still listen to the needs of our customers. In the past six months, we’ve gained retail distribution in over 1,500 stores, and we look forward to bringing to the whole country what New Yorkers have known forever – you haven’t really lived until you’ve tasted cheesecake from Junior’s.”

New for this year, Junior’s Cheesecake is featuring its six-inch Apple Crumb Cheesecake, seasonal specialties, and of course, traditional New York cheesecakes in 10 varieties. In addition to cheesecakes, Junior’s Cheesecake and Desserts also offers layer cakes, loaf cakes, shortcakes and tiramisu as well as seasonal specialties for any sweet occasion. “We are a full line bakery,” Rosen said. “We even customize items for special customers.”

Making Cannoli an Everyday Snack Experience

Golden Cannoli is a 40-year old second generation family owned business and makers of premium cannoli shells, chips and fillings. It is continuing to expand with great success in all trade channels with the production of ‘The Original Cannoli Chip,’ a crispy snack chip. The company plans to make cannoli “an everyday snack experience.”

Golden has found great success in the bakery department with cannoli chips and dip over last three years, with sales growing over 100 percent per year. This item has created more cannoli awareness and offered opportunities for continued expansion into other market locations. With the launch of the cannoli chip, the entire cannoli category has improved across the country, with Golden leading the industry.

The snack chip is sold in 5-ounce and 14-ounce bags, and the chips contain no artificial ingredients, no trans fats, no preservatives and are nut-free. The product will be sold as a retail snack in supermarkets, delis and in specialty departments coast to coast. Golden Cannoli intends to launch “limited batch” flavors throughout the year and continue to innovate far beyond expectations.

Besides its quality cannoli products and packaging, the company has been recognized for impeccable customer service, commitment to quality and on-time deliveries. Golden plans to launch these snack chips coast to coast in the third quarter of 2016, and offers support in development, private label and creative solutions for point of sales.

For more information, email Owner and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Valerie Bono at

Columbus Eases the Charcuterie Board

Not only are charcuterie boards easy to prepare ,  they work for every season. Whether a spring brunch, a summer pool party, or the ever-busy winter holidays , they are always a great option for entertaining.

Sometimes building a charcuterie board can be a bit intimidating. Where do you start? Columbus makes it easier for you with its Charcuterie Sampler, which provides a variety of four delicious salami : Calabrese, Genoa, Italian Dry and Sopressata. These four styles give diverse flavor profiles that range from a slow mild heat to fresh garlic and even hints of fennel. Both the Italian Dry and Sopressata are a thicker cut, creating a mouth-feel akin to a hand-cut slice (without the work!). All you need to do is add some accompaniments .  The key is variety and balance with a focus on foods that complement each other without overwhelming the palate.

Calabrese is a zesty salame made with red bell peppers. Enjoy it with a hard cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano. Wash it down with an IPA or a Syrah.

Genoa is a mild salame seasoned with wine and garlic. Add a softer cheese, like fontina or fresh goat cheese for a different texture. They go well with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc or Pilsner.

Italian Dry is the company’s San Francisco classic salame that pairs well with a hard sheep-milk cheese like pecorino romano. This combination works well with Pinot Noirs, Pilsners and Pale Ales.

Sopressata brings flavors of sweet fennel and chili pepper. Combine with a harder cow cheese like grana padano. Savor it with a glass of Pinot Grigio.

You can also include other delicious cured meats like prosciutto or coppa to your board. Here are some other suggestions for your mouth-watering charcuterie platter:

  • Crunchy breads and crackers: These should be plain so as not to compete for the many flavors on the board. Favorites: Toasted plain baguette, pita bread, water crackers and bread sticks.
  • Spreads: Both creamy and seeded mustard versions are good choices. Sweet and savory jams with caramelized onion flavors or deep fruity notes are also welcome partners. Be sure to select flavors that aren’t overwhelming. Favorites: Fruit chutney, fig jam, hummus or a white bean dip.
  • Olives and pickled vegetables: Always great additions. Cornichons and pickled radishes work very well.
  • Fresh seasonal fruits are welcome too. In the winter, dried fruits including apricots and figs are great complements.

That’s it! Just start with the best craft meats, include complementary cheese, breads and spreads that provide different textures and flavors, pop open bottles of wine and beer, and enjoy the gathering.

Nestle Professional Applications Offered to Deli Operators

At the annual International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) Show in Houston, Texas, Nestlé Professional® featured four key culinary and insight driven categories in its booth, designed to help deli operators create a destination that competes with restaurants.

“People want to be wowed wherever they go, and at Nestlé, we are driven by this simple truth,” said Todd Muller, Business Development Manager at Nestlé Professional. “With culinary expertise and support plus extensive market knowledge and insights, we are equipped to help delis and bakeries provide restaurant-quality offerings that meet the evolving tastes — and expectations — of consumers.”

According to Datassential, 84 percent of consumers are interested in purchasing supermarket deli “meals at home” at least one day a week. To support deli operators cater to these customers and maximize margins by repurposing extra protein to cut down waste, Nestlé Professional launched Home Meal Solution Kits at the IDDBA show.

Varieties include: Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese, Stroganoff and Tuscan Style Cavatappi. Another new product line was showcased: Minor’s® Ready to Flavor™ bases, and sauces concentrates. These products are tested Ready-to-Eat, which means they are edible without any additional preparation to achieve food safety. Operators can now add the trusted Minor’s flavor to hot or cold applications without the added step of cooking or equipment restrictions.

The third corner featured Nestlé® Branded Dessert Ingredients customers know and enjoy. Nestlé’s consumer-loved dessert toppings make great additions to traditional and innovative bakery items that command premium price points. Operators can elevate bakery items and drive sales by adding variety and brand familiarity with quality ingredients, including: Butterfinger®, Nestlé® Crunch® and Toll House® Morsels.

For the final corner of the booth, Nestlé Professional worked with Datassential to provide one-on-one insights-based consultation with the Firefly tool. This tool indexes more than 1.3 million foodservice locations, and operators were able to enter their ZIP codes and see the top trending flavors in a given market. Nestlé representatives then take that data and create personalized Radius Reports to support customers in finding profitable opportunities.

Senate Passes GMO Labeling Bill

The U.S. Senate has passed  a new national standard for labeling food that contains ingredients from genetically modified crops (GMO). “The compromise bill passed by the Senate doesn’t make advocates of labeling genetically engineered foods particularly happy, but is a relief to food producers fearful of a patchwork of state labeling laws,” said Creighton R. Magid, a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney and head of its Washington DC office. “The bill would prohibit states, counties and cities from enacting their own disclosure standards for genetically engineered food.  Vermont’s labeling statute, which went into effect July 1, would be preempted.”

NASDA President and Nebraska Director of Agriculture Greg Ibach issued the following statement on the bill’s passage: “We are one step closer to staving off a fifty-state patchwork of GMO labeling laws. We urge the House to take swift action to finalize a national labeling system to provide consumers with information about these critical technologies. NASDA Members will be working with their delegations to get this bill across the finish line next week. While these provisions will allow for consumers to have access to additional information it is important to remember science has again and again proven the safety of genetic improvements to allow farmers to produce the safest food possible for consumers in our nation and around the globe.”

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 bill won the endorsement of the Organic Trade Association after it included language assuring that organic producers will be able to label their products as non-GMO, according to a letter from Laura Batcha, the OTA’s Executive Director, and Melissa Hughes, its board President.



Fiesta Mart Acquires Minyard Food Stores

Houston-based Fiesta Mart, L.L.C. is acquiring 11 Minyard Food Stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex from RLS Supermarkets, L.L.C. Fiesta is a specialty grocery retailer known for its international offerings that cater to the diverse communities served by their stores. With the Minyard Food Stores acquisition, Fiesta will now operate 70 stores across Texas.

“We are excited to welcome Minyard Food Stores to the Fiesta family. This action reinforces the strategic growth plan we put forth early last year,” stated Michael Byars, Fiesta CEO. “Our entire Fiesta team has worked together to move the brand forward organically, and now through acquisition we continue on our growth plan.”

Byars has personal ties to Minyard, working for the company from January 2005 through January 2009, ultimately serving as CEO and President of Minyard for more than three years. He joined Fiesta in 2015 and has focused the company on reinvigoration of its core consumer promise, “To provide consumers the freshest quality products and extensive assortment, at the value they need to celebrate food and family every day.”

In early 2015, Fiesta was purchased by ACON, an international private equity investment firm. “ACON is pleased to add Minyard Food Stores to the Fiesta team as part of our strategic vision to grow the Fiesta brand,” remarked Andre Bhatia, a Managing Partner of ACON. “Our prior supermarket investing experience and success will further strengthen Fiesta’s position in the markets we serve.”

The newly acquired Minyard store locations will continue to be supplied by current supplier AWG, along with Fiesta’s supplier, Grocery Supply. The Minyard stores will be transitioning to Fiesta over the next several months. Additional terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board Promotes Abby Despins to Director of National Product Communications

Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) has named Abby Despins to the position of Director of National Product Communications, where she will spearhead national public relations and social media campaigns for WMMB.

Despins has been with WMMB since 2014, serving as Public Relations Manager. Despins brought nearly a decade of experience in public relations, social media and strategic marketing communications in a variety of agency, corporate and nonprofit roles. Since joining WMMB, she has worked with cheese companies, food bloggers and industry media to share WMMB’s message on a regional and national level through targeted social media and public relations efforts.

In her new position, Despins will manage national product communications for the Wisconsin cheese and dairy industry, including consumer social media and events as well as foodservice, retail and consumer media relations.

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