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Organic Dairy Farmer Challenges Everything We Know About Making a Great Cup of Coffee

Coffee culture has always romanced the origin of the bean, the roasting method and the brewing technique. But an Organic Valley dairy farmer, Gerrit van Tol, recently set out to prove that the secret to a great cup of coffee is pasture-raised cows.

Mr. van Tol launched the first ever Organic Valley coffee shop in the trendy NoLita neighborhood of lower Manhattan. But the shop only served organic half & half. Slightly confused customers could order Organic Valley Half & Half in three sizes: “Lil Bit,” “Double,” and “Lotta.” All pours were just $2 — and then visit the condiment bar to add coffee for free.

“People who love a rich and creamy cup of joe have been using Organic Valley Half & Half to make the best cup of coffee for over 20 years,” explained van Tol, who managed the store opening and served as head cream barista after traveling from his farm in Washington State. “But at most coffee shops you have no idea what kind of cream you’re pouring into your coffee, or if it’s even organic. It just made sense that we should have our own coffee shop that focuses on what we think is the most important ingredient.”

Over a sunny weekend in April, the Organic Valley coffee shop served hundreds of delighted – and surprised – New Yorkers. Organic Valley has posted several videos online that capture the scene and document van Tol’s trip from the placid pastures of the farm to the busy streets of New York City.

“We live in a time when the world’s biggest taxi company, Uber, doesn’t own a single taxi. Airbnb doesn’t own a single bed and breakfast,” van Tol playfully pointed out. “At Organic Valley we happen to make the world’s best coffee. We just don’t make coffee.”
A quarter of all Americans use half & half in their coffee at home and 30 percent use it when they’re in a restaurant. Organic Valley is the number one national half & half brand. The Organic Valley coffee shop also offered customers the opportunity to try the only flavored organic half & half available in the US, Organic Valley’s Hazelnut and French Vanilla.

It was van Tol’s first visit to New York City, and Organic Valley’s first concept store. “New York City is one of the cooperative’s strongest markets,” said Tripp Hughes, Director of Brand Management at Organic Valley. “So New Yorkers appreciate the rich and delicious half & half that comes from our family farms and the organic cows that graze there on green pastures.”

Plant-Based Protein Products Projected to Continue Market Growth

By Greg Gonzales

Ask vegans where they get their protein these days, and eyes are sure to roll. Consumers, especially millennials, are adding more plant-based proteins to their diet than ever before. Their reasons vary, but tend to include health, sustainability and ethical concerns. “At the current trends of food consumption and environmental changes, food security and food sustainability are on a collision course,” says a 2014 American Society for Nutrition study. “Policies in favor of the global adoption of plant-based diets will simultaneously optimize the food supply, health, environmental and social justice outcomes for the world’s population.” Whatever their reasons for incorporating more plant-based protein into their diets, plant-based alternatives are one of the biggest trends this year.

According to Mintel’s 2016 Global Food and Drink Trends report, the increase in novel protein sources appeals to a wider variety of consumers, and indicates that the “alternative” marketplace might take over the mainstream animal-based market. As early as 2013, Mintel reported that more than one-third of U.S. consumers had purchased a meat alternative such as Tofurky or Beyond Meat. Seventy percent of Millennials consume meat alternatives a few times a week, with one-third of them consuming a meat alternative daily.

Some of them are switching to plant-based diets, or not eating as much meat, as a health choice. Recent research from the World Health Organization and other institutions have linked processed meat and red meat consumption to colon cancer, and other forms of cancer. Meat is also rich in saturated fats and sodium, which is bad for heart health when it dominates the diet. According to a Harvard study, replacing these fat-rich meats with foods rich in polyunsaturated fats, like nuts or seeds, reduced heart disease risk by 19 percent. Another study, from Imperial College London, showed that reduced meat consumption also helps prevent obesity in the long term. In addition, a look at the nutrition facts on meat versus peas or beans shows that the latter can provide more fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals without the extra fat the former adds. Reducing meat intake and substituting vegetables provides all the daily dietary requirements.

Consumers have also reduced their meat intake in the name of animal welfare and environment. For example, more than 8 billion chickens were slaughtered for meat in 2014, most of them living in cages too small to move around in. Some argue that this kind of pain and suffering of the animals is enough for them to make the switch, though consumers might also point to environmental factors as well. Chef and Restaurateur Dan Barber writes in his book, “The Third Plate,” that “Fixtures of agribusiness such as five-thousand-acre grain monocultures and bloated animal feedlots are no more the future of farming than eighteenth-century factories billowing black smoke are the future of manufacturing.” Barber argues in interviews, books and Ted Talks that agriculture, cooking and nature go hand-in-hand, that foods produced along with the local ecosystem are sustainable and even taste better.

Reasons for eating more plants and less meat aside, available alternatives to animal proteins run the gamut of protein sources. Quorn‘s patties and strips get their protein from a fungus to mimic the taste and texture of chicken, while Gardein’s formulation for chicken, fish and burgers do the same using vital wheat gluten. Beyond Meat’s products use a variety of sources, including pea protein, to mimic meats like chicken and beef. Vegans can still enjoy their morning eggs with Follow Your Heart’s VeganEgg, a completely vegan egg product made from algae that cooks up in a pan just like the real thing. Bean burgers, mushrooms, jackfruit, tempeh, tofu, seitan and texturized vegetable protein are just some of the other ways consumers are pushing meat proteins further off their plates. From Paleo to vegan and gluten-free, there’s something for every individual.
“People need the information so they can make their choice, even in the space of non-meat proteins,” said Minh Tsai, Founder and CEO of Hodo Soy. “Even now, there’s a lot of choices. With information, both in terms of what it tastes like and what the ingredients are, customers will have that info and make the right choice when it comes to taste, and when it comes to health.”

Demand Spurs Farmers to Consider the Organic Option

By Lorrie Baumann

American consumer demand for fresh, organic produce is creating the market that’s encouraging more farmers to convert land to organic production, according to Laura Batcha, Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association, and John Reganold, Regents Professor of Soil Science & Agroecology at Washington State University. “I’m hearing from a lot of the certifiers focusing on farm level operations that 2015 was their biggest year ever for new applications. There is an awareness of the supply crunch,” Batcha said. “There are produce companies that are going out and talking to farmers about transitioning because they do need the supply of organic.”

Consumer demand for organic produce has been growing rapidly, and the result has been that the U.S. has become a net importer of organic produce. The available trade data suggests that we’re importing produce during the winter season when it’s not available within the U.S., Batcha said. The exception to that is tropical products like bananas and mangoes, which can’t be grown in the mainland U.S. Coffee is the organic crop that’s most commonly imported into the U.S.

The United States is also a major importer of organic corn and soy livestock feed. “We’re relying on overseas production that could be done in U.S. except that we don’t have the growers,” Batcha said.

On the other hand, American organic farmers are also finding new markets outside the U.S., especially for products like carrots and apples, and the value of those exports to a world that’s hungry for organic produce is helping keep those farmers in business. “The U.S. is a major supplier of fresh fruits and vegetables to the world, and the world is looking for organic products,” Batcha said. “The exports really do help with profitability. They tend to be able to get a premium, … and that helps to sustain the industry.”

Many of those export crops are being produced on family farms, even if their individual crops are not large, according to Batcha. “Even the big players for strawberries are pulling their supplies from smaller family farms,” she said. Foreign demand for organically grown almonds and walnuts has also provided economic opportunities for family farmers, she added.

The Organic Trade Association is encouraging more American farmers to convert their land to organic production to meet the demand and is experiencing some success, although most of that is coming from younger farmers. The average American farmer, though, is about 58 years old. “There are a number of reasons for that. Farmers get more resistant to change once they reach about 40,” Reganold said. “To change a system from conventional to organic might happen more with younger people. Organic farmers tend to be younger, and maybe that reflects young people being more willing to change…. When I talk to organic, conventional, or other farmers, that issue comes up: we need more young people. Getting young people involved is not easy.”

“We’ve been talking about the supply issue for about a year and a half now. I’m at the point where I’m starting to feel a little hopeful. We’ve seen a lot of innovative partnerships happening within the supply chain to encourage farmers to go organic,” Batcha added. “Farmers are embracing a lot of different models in agriculture – organic being one of them. Younger folks are open to new ideas, and they’re experimenting. The desire is there for the vocation and the lifestyle, but there’s also the desire and the expectation to actually make a living doing it. Organic provides the opportunity to create a different financial model to get through that succession. We’re just going to see more of it.”

One obstacle is that transitioning land from conventional to organic production is a three-year process that involves compliance and documentation for a whole new set of regulations. “It takes time because you have to document and you have to answer questions for certifications,” Reganold said. He added that, despite the headaches of dealing with the rules, he’s finding more farmers who are committed to a process that offers benefits for their soils as well as a future for their farms. “A lot of us are anti-regulation – we have farmers who want to regulate themselves,” Reganold said. “[They’re saying,] ‘It’s okay to check my records.’”

“The success rate goes up dramatically for farmers who have a support system for knowledge transfer. Organic systems are more information intensive. If you’re going from conventional to organic, you’re losing the arsenal of chemicals and you have to learn how to manage without that. Your weed environment might change, your disease environment might change. You have to plan ahead because you don’t have instant solutions to the problems that come up,” Batcha said. “The imbalance between supply and demand always comes with a lag, particularly in agriculture, where you can’t accurately forecast three years out. We’re going to live in an environment when you’re short or long. We’re really trying to prepare now for new policies that can support growers when they’re transitioning. We seem to have gotten the attention of USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] on that issue.”

33 Smart & Final Store Locations Acquired From Haggen Now Open for Business

Smart & Final, one of the longest continuously-operating food retailers in the U.S., has announced that all 33 lease locations it acquired in December 2015 which were operated under the Haggen banner are now open as Smart & Final Extra! stores.

The transition and re-opening of the 33 stores was a considerable undertaking that has allowed Smart & Final to make significant strides in achieving its Project 100 Initiative goal of opening 100 new stores over the next four years. In opening the 33 stores, Smart & Final has increased its presence in the important Los Angeles and Orange County markets, and doubled store count in the California Central Coast and San Diego.

Each store opening created more than 50 new jobs, with Smart & Final hiring more than 1,900 associates to support the 33-store increase. Additionally, in line with its promise to give back to the communities in which it operates, for each new store opened, Smart & Final’s Charitable Foundation™ made donations to local nonprofits, resulting in over $140,000 in philanthropic donations. Furthermore, through its “First Street First Percent” campaign, Smart & Final will donate the first one percent of net profits from the sale of its private label brand First Street® in US-based Smart & Final banner stores to the Smart & Final Charitable Foundation, which supports local nonprofits such as Boys & Girls Clubs, food pantries and Little League organizations.

Smart & Final offers a one-stop shopping experience where businesses, clubs and organizations, as well as household shoppers, can fulfil their grocery needs while also stocking up on thousands of club-size products, all without a membership fee. All new stores feature Smart & Final’s Extra! format, which includes expanded frozen, deli and meat sections, a full produce section, organic and natural food products, high quality perishables and meats, a wide selection of private label offerings, and unique products such as self-serve bulk goods by the pound and oven-roasted chicken. The company is also testing new merchandising initiatives including hot bakery, sushi and cut fruit offerings in select stores.

“The positive growth and momentum Smart & Final has experienced is a true reflection of our consistent focus on value, quality and convenience which has not gone unnoticed by today’s savvy shopper,” said Chief Executive Officer Dave Hirz. “I’m excited that these 33 new stores provide an opportunity for Smart & Final to reach more customers with our unique offering, broad range of products and dedicated staff, and am confident that our brand promise will continue to give us a competitive edge in this market. I truly appreciate the dedication and effort of our associates to achieving this incredible milestone and want to welcome all of the new associates that have joined our team,” Hirz added.

Between January 20 and May 11, 2016, Smart & Final opened 11 Smart & Final Extra! stores in the San Diego area, seven in Los Angeles County, four in Orange County, three in Ventura County, four in the Central Coast, and two in the Inland Empire, all of which were formerly operated under the Haggen banner, and one additional non-Haggen location in Sacramento County.

Currently, Smart & Final operates 306 stores in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada and Idaho, including 251 Smart & Final banner stores, 160 of which are Smart & Final Extra! format stores. As part of Project 100, the company plans to open 100 new stores over a period of four years, in line with its 10 percent annual unit growth plan, and to hire at least 5,000 new employees to staff those stores over the next four years. Smart & Final is approximately one year into Project 100, and almost one-third of the way towards meeting its goal of 100 new stores. Several more stores are slated to open this year.

Beaverton Foods Wins Four Gold Medals at World-Wide Mustard Competition

Oregon’s 87-year-old specialty condiment manufacturer took home a grand total of eight awards; four of them gold medals – at the 21st annual World-Wide Mustard Competition. The event involved more than 100 judges at the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin. The global competition has included entries from as far away as Japan, Greece and Sweden.

Barry Levenson, curator of the National Mustard Museum, noted in an email: “The rest of the world is ‘yellow with envy’ of Beaverton’s long dominance at the World-Wide Mustard Competition.”

Beaverton imageBeaverton won gold medals for Inglehoffer Sweet Hot Mustard in the Sweet Hot category, Inglehoffer Ghost Pepper Mustard in the Pepper Hot (Scorching Hot) category, Inglehoffer Hot Horseradish Mustard in the Horseradish/Wasabi category and Beaver Cranberry Mustard in the Fruit category. The company was awarded silver medals for Beaver Brand Dusseldorf Mustard in the Classic Hot category and Inglehoffer Horseradish Wasabi Mustard in the Horseradish/Wasabi category and bronze medals for Inglehoffer Sweet Hot Mustard in the Pepper Hot (Mild to Medium) category and Inglehoffer Creamy Dill in the Herb/Veggie category.

Domonic Biggi, CEO of Beaverton Foods, said the fourth generation family-owned and operated company is proud to be a long-time participant in the renowned international mustard competition. “It’s humbling to say we have won more than 150 medals at this annual competition,” he said. “We are especially pleased that our new Inglehoffer Ghost Pepper Mustard was selected for a gold medal. Additionally, we’re grateful that culinary experts around the world like our products.”

The annual competition is open to all commercial mustard producers and agents worldwide. There are 16 flavor categories of which there are gold, silver and bronze awards given to the contestants. Since 1995, judges consisting of chefs, food writers and mustard aficionados have blind tasted the mustards in the competition.

Cypress Grove Wins 13 Prizes at California State Fair

Cypress Grove won 13 prizes at the 2016 California State Fair Commercial Cheese Competition. Cypress Grove’s Truffle Tremor and Fromage Blanc were each awarded a prestigious Best of California prize, in addition to eight gold medals and three silver medals for several other cheeses.

Not ones to be left out of the fun, the other winners include: soft-ripened Humboldt Fog Grande and Mini, Truffle Tremor Mini, and Bermuda Triangle; and fresh cheeses Purple Haze, Sgt. Pepper, Ms. Natural, PsycheDillic, and Herbs de Humboldt.

“National and international awards carry a lot of prestige, but come on(!), Cali is our home and when you win two categories and 13 total awards – it feels really, really good. We are thrilled,” says Bob McCall, Cypress Grove Sales Director. “I am particularly proud that Fromage Blanc took ‘Best of California’ in the soft goat cheese category. This product is the basic building block of all we make, so being the best reflects positively on our entire line.”

A panel of 12 qualified judges tasted and evaluated 169 California cheeses in advance of the July State Fair. The 2016 California State Fair runs July 8-24.

Artisanal Cheese Partnership Springboards Creativity for Cabot Creamery

By Lorrie Baumann

Cabot Creamery’s partnership with Cellars at Jasper Hill won an American Cheese Society first-place award for Cabot Clothbound Cheddar Select and another first place for Cabot Clothbound Cheddar last July and now is inspiring new Cabot Creamery cheeses created for distribution in mainstream grocers, says Craig Gile, New Product Manager for Cabot Creamery.

The recipe for the clothbound cheddars was developed jointly by Cabot Creamery food scientists and Cellars at Jasper Hill Cheesemaker Mateo Kehler and was designed to make a cheese with a sweet, nutty finish. Cabot Creamery’s large production capacity made it possible to produce large quantities of the cheese – as much as 5,000 pounds a month, depending on market demand, which peaks during the winter holiday season. The cheese is aged for a few months at Cabot Creamery and then sent over to The Cellars at Jasper Hill for affinage, packaging and eventual sale to specialty cheese shops, where it fetches around $25 a pound for wheels aged 12 to 14 months. The difference in scale between the two companies means that while Cabot Creamery can make massive amounts of cheddar cheese for the mass market and take advantages of the economies of scale that come with that kind of production, which depends a great deal on consistency, The Cellars at Jasper Hill can take a small percentage of that product and lavish a great deal of attention on it to produce a product that commands a premium price for its uniqueness. Cabot Creamery also gains access to the artisanal cheese market as well as the cachet of having its name on award-winning cheeses sought after by cheesemongers. “Not only do we get a link to that artisanal cheese world, it gives Cabot the reputation that we’re able to make the artisanal cave-aged product as well,” Gile said.

As the partnership has prospered, though, it’s had some additional effects as Gile, who moved over from managing Cabot’s warehousing and grading to new product development, has had the chance to share knowledge with Jasper Hill Cheesemakers Mateo and Andy Kehler. “We’re each pursuing different areas of what we’re trying to do, and we’ve learned a lot from them,” Gile said. “We’re getting a lot of insight into what the artisanal base is looking for and finding paths to the customers that shop at these cheese shops.”

“I really like what that whole cheese shop environment brings to us,” he continued. “It’s a place to launch new cheeses, to get honest feedback about what you’re working on, to get their feedback from customers…. What I like about the cheesemonger role is that we have people selling it who have passion about the product and can tell the story about it. It’s another challenge for us to come up with products that are exciting…. You have to convince cheesemongers that you have an exciting, interesting, and high-end product.”

Founders_x_Legacy-7That insight into the artisanal cheese market has inspired the cheesemakers at Cabot Creamery to apply that information as well as knowledge about new cheese cultures as they’re figuring out how they can use their existing cheddaring equipment to make new cheeses with different taste profiles. Instead of just adding new flavoring ingredients to existing cheeses, they’ve begun developing the recipes to create entirely new cheeses that the company is able to produce in quantities large enough to target the lines at mainstream delis. These cheeses, which Cabot has dubbed its Founder’s Collection, aren’t intimidatingly different from the mainstream, but they’re definitely designed to appeal to the novice turophile who’s ready to take a step up from the cheeses he’s used to picking up at the supermarket. “These are aimed at the deli counter,” Gile said. “We didn’t want to launch four new cheddars, so we’ve got three cheddars and another unique cheese…. We were looking for a way to add genuine value to the product, not just to make it look pretty.”

The Cabot Creamery Founder’s Collection includes Cabot Private Stock, which has the familiar tang of the New England-style cheddar that consumers expect from Cabot Creamery but with a stronger Northeastern bite to it.

AdirondackAdirondack is made in the New York facility acquired with the 2003 acquisition of McCadam Cheese Company by Agri-Mark, the dairy farmer cooperative behind Cabot Creamery. Aged 1.5 to two years, it’s similar to Cabot Private Stock but made with the McCadam original stock cheese with its tangier citrus bite that lends a unique flavor profile compared to Cabot’s Vermont cheddars.

LambertonLamberton is similar to Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, except that it’s packaged in plastic rather than with cloth bindings. The name is a nod to one of Cabot’s original founding farmers, and the cheese has a buttery sweetness overlaying the traditional flavors of a strong yankee cheddar.

The last is Orne Meadows, which is completely different from most milk cheddars. It has powerful nutty notes redolent of a Grana-style Alpine cheese with a subtle New England sharpness to it. “That one, we don’t actually call it a cheddar on the package,” Gile said. “ We just say it’s a unique Vermont cheese.”

Wild Planet Foods Embarks on Land-Based Products

Wild Planet Foods is venturing off-sea into the development of land-based food with the launch of its new Organic Roasted Chicken Breast.

chickenMoving from fin to feather, the new Organic Roasted Chicken Breast is the first non-seafood item in Wild Planet’s line. While this is a new category for the company, the addition fits harmoniously with Wild Planet’s mission to provide consumers with food options that are healthful for the body and wildly good for our planet. Wild Planet’s Organic Roasted Chicken Breast features USDA Certified Organic Free-Range Chicken raised on an organic diet — featuring non-GMO corn grown on land that is free of chemicals fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

“Our new chicken, along with all future land-based items that will follow from Wild Planet Foods, is sourced from organically operated farms— which is essentially the land-based equivalent of pole and line fishing,” said Founder of Wild Planet Foods Bill Carvalho. “At Wild Planet, we believe there is really no difference between being a steward of the land as well as the sea. It’s a known fact that chemical runoff from conventional farming practices has had a negative effect on our waterways which ultimately lead to our oceans — creating dead zones that make it impossible for sea life to survive. Offering products like our new Roasted Chicken Breast not only allows Wild Planet the privilege of supporting and advocating for organic farms and farmers, but it’s also a step towards keeping our waterways and oceans healthy and supportive of a viable, healthy marine environment.”

Wild Planet’s new Organic Roasted Chicken Breast contains only two ingredients — chicken seasoned with sea salt. There is also a no salt added version available. Wild Planet Organic Roasted Chicken Breast provides 40 percent more chicken than other 5-ounce can offerings, due to the fact that only Wild Planet roasts their chicken without the addition of added water, liquids or fillers that are commonly found in other brands. The flavorful, natural juices remain to provide a delicious rotisserie taste. This new Organic Roasted Chicken Breast can be used to make sandwiches, soups, burritos, and is an especially great salad topper.

Wild Planet’s Organic Roasted Chicken is available nationwide in supermarkets and natural food stores for a suggested retail price of $5.49. For more information about Wild Planet Foods, visit their website at www.wildplanetfoods.com.

New Meat Topped Pizzas from American Flatbread

American Flatbread has expanded its premium line and entered a new product category with three new meat topped pizzas – Pulled Pork & Pineapple, Pulled Pork, Pineapple & Jalapeño and Uncured Pepperoni & Uncured Bacon. These new pizzas are a great alternative to takeout pizza and make delicious, restaurant quality last minute dinners for families on the go.

American Flatbread’s pizzas are premium handmade flatbreads that are wood-fired in earthen ovens and are made with organic and all natural ingredients. They are made with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors. The flatbreads have a light, crisp and flavorful bite.

Uncured Pepperoni & Uncured Bacon – Crispy bacon and pepperoni with a tangy organic tomato sauce on a handmade flatbread.

Pulled Pork, Pineapple & Jalapeño – Sweet pineapple, fiery jalapeno with smoky pulled pork, barbeque sauce and organic tomato sauce on a handmade flatbread.

Pulled Pork & Pineapple – Sweet pineapple, smoky pulled pork, barbeque and organic tomato sauce on a handmade flatbread.

The pizzas are available in 10-inch and 12-inch. The 10-inch pizzas retail between $6.99 – $7.99 and the 12-inch pizzas retail between $8.99 – $11.99. The new American Flatbread pizzas are available in select retailers across the country.

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