Get Adobe Flash player

A&P Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Petition

By Lorrie Baumann

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc., better known as A&P, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York just before midnight on July 19. The company previously filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2010.

According to the company, A&P has also sold about 120 of its stores for approximately $600 million and has secured financing of $100 million. “For the majority of our customers, we do not expect this to have any impact on your shopping experience,” the company said in a statement on its website.

“The vast majority of our stores are operating normally and will be fully stocked during this process. While some stores will close in the near-term, the vast majority will continue providing customers with the same high-quality products and exceptional customer service. We will also continue to honor all existing customer promotional and loyalty programs,” the statement continued.

According to its bankruptcy petition, A&P currently has assets estimated to be worth more than $1 billion and also has liabilities in excess of $1 billion. The company’s largest creditor is C & S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., which is owed more than $39 million. Next is McKesson Drug Co., which is owed more than $8 million, followed by Facility Source, LLC, which is owed $6.7 million. Coca-Cola Enterprises is owed $4.8 million, and Mondelez Global LLC is owed $3.2 million.

World Cocoa Foundation and Mars, Incorporated Team to Provide School Lunches in Cote d’Ivoire Cocoa Communities

The World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and chocolate maker Mars, Incorporated, officially inaugurated the first of 11 planned school cafeterias in the heart of Côte d’Ivoire’s major cocoa-growing region.  Mars Global Chocolate President Jean-Christophe Flatin, as well as other senior leaders from Mars, was on hand for the opening ceremony, which is part of a visit to the region to see the results of Mars’ Vision for Change program.

The cafeterias will help ensure that children of cocoa farmers in Bobouo can attend school in a healthy environment that encourages learning and increases the likelihood that the children will remain in school.  The community of approximately 2,000 people is located 270 kilometers (170 miles) from San Pédro, the world’s largest cocoa-exporting port.  The jointly funded WCF and Mars initiative focuses on providing children with the opportunity to attend school in their own communities and enhances school infrastructure.

According to Flatin, “Mars Global Chocolate is committed to improving the farms and communities for cocoa farmers and their families within Cote d’Ivoire.  It is gratifying to see the excitement of this community and their support in making this canteen a reality for their children. I am confident it will have a positive influence on education within the community.  I’m also pleased to see another result of our long term relationship with WCF.”

In addition to the school cafeteria, latrines and hand-washing facilities are being installed. By providing lunches and sanitation facilities, the school and others like it will serve as a magnet for children. Better facilities also mean that children, and especially girls, are more likely to stay in school, instead of dropping out. During its most recent academic year, the primary school in Bobouo had an enrollment of 127 pupils, including 62 girls.  According to recent studies, approximately 71 percent of children in cocoa-growing households in Côte d’Ivoire attend school, a 12 percent increase from five years ago.

“WCF is very happy to partner with Mars and the community of Bobouo on this important project, which will help provide crucial educational opportunities for children who grow up in cocoa-farming families,” says Bill Guyton, WCF President.

The initiative in Bobouo was made possible by WCF’s privately-supported Cocoa Community Development Fund and the Vision for Change program of Mars, Incorporated.  Vision for Change provides training and other inputs to farmers through an innovative approach to extension and couples this effort with community development activities.  Together these work to improve cocoa farming as a sustainable source of income for farmers in the region.  It was initiated in 2010 through an agreement with Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Agriculture. The Cocoa Community Development Fund supports community-identified projects in Côte d’Ivoire and scientific research where WCF and WCF member-supported programs are currently active. The fund does this by providing grants in three core areas: Community Challenge Grants, Cocoa Family Scholarships, and Cocoa Research Exchanges.

Star Market Celebrates 100 Years in Greater Boston

For 100 years Star Market has been shining bright in Greater Boston and surrounding areas. This year, 2015, marks the celebration of a century of commitment to quality products, friendly service, dedicated employees and being “Greater Boston’s Favorite Local Supermarket.”

“For 100 years, Star Market has been part of the fabric of Boston, a city that is very important to our long history and exciting future.  On behalf of Star Market, I would like to thank the city of Boston and local communities for helping us reach this amazing milestone,” said Shaw’s & Star Market President Jim Rice.

Founded in 1915 in Watertown, Massachusetts, Star Market operated with core values such as hard work, family, and a principle of serving the customer first.  As the company grew and soon added another location in Newtonville, it became known for the outstanding customer service of the Star Market employees.

“Our employees are the key to the success of Star Market and have made it the iconic brand it is today.  Together, our Star Market Store Directors and Operations Specialists have more than 1,000 years of service.  And we have employees who have been with the company for 40, 50, and even 60 years,” Rice said.

Beginning this month, Star Market kicks off the anniversary festivities, which will go until the end of 2015.  From July until the end of December, the company will celebrate the anniversary with special offers and fun events that feature Star Market employees and local community partners.

Kroger Releases 9th Annual Sustainability Report

The Kroger Co. has published its 9th annual sustainability report. The report includes an expanded focus on sustainable supply chain, and also reports progress on key priorities such as moving facilities toward zero waste, increased sourcing of sustainable seafood and building energy efficient stores.

“This report celebrates the completion of our first set of sustainability goals, established in 2009, and begins to chart our course for the future,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s Chairman and CEO. “We believe reducing our environmental footprint and being a good corporate citizen is a continuous learning process. We have a strong foundation because of the commitment of our associates to serve each and every customer every day and to be good stewards of our communities and planet.”

Kroger, one of the world’s largest retailers, employs nearly 400,000 associates who serve customers in 2,626 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, Harris Teeter, Jay C, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith’s. The company also operates 780 convenience stores, 327 fine jewelry stores, 1,342 supermarket fuel centers and 37 food processing plants in the U.S. Recognized by Forbes as the most generous company in America, Kroger supports hunger relief, breast cancer awareness, the military and their families, and more than 30,000 schools and community organizations. Kroger contributes food and funds equal to 200 million meals a year through more than 100 Feeding America food bank partners. A leader in supplier diversity, Kroger is a proud member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber’s Million Dollar Club.

Marin French Cheese Company Honors Jim Boyce on Saturday August 15, 2015

Founded in 1865, Marin French Cheese is celebrating 150 years of fine cheesemaking in its historic Hicks Valley location. To mark this milestone the company has held events throughout the year for trade partners, loyal customers and friends in the community. The coming event on Saturday August 15 is set aside as a celebration and remembrance of Jim Boyce. Boyce purchased Marin French Cheese Company in 1998 and operated it until his untimely death in 2010. Boyce catapulted Marin French to international fame with a first-time gold medal award for an American Brie in a prestigious 2005 European competition.

The August 15 tribute event will be open to the public at no charge. The full-day event takes place outdoors on the grounds surrounding the creamery from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The event features a few of Boyce’s passions – art, music and great cheese. Central to the event is the exhibit and sale of contemporary local art curated by Art Contemporary Marin, a nonprofit contemporary arts organization that Boyce helped found. Original works from 12 featured artists will be on display and for sale through Sunday the 16th. On Saturday, guests can enjoy market-style samplings of artisan cheese and beverages while music from the Copeland Creek Jazz Quintet and John Burdick Band plays outdoors on the lawn.

Founded by Jefferson Thompson in 1865, Marin French was owned and operated by Thompson family descendants until the family sold the business in 1998 to Jim Boyce, an organic cattle rancher, architect and land developer from Bishop, California. He appreciated the unique Hicks Valley “terroir” of the cheese and the burgeoning growth in artisan cheesemaking across the U.S. in the early 2000s. He increased the number and types of cheeses being made, improved and expanded the factory and retail store, energizing the brand, Rouge et Noir, with national marketing and distribution. Under his leadership, Marin French became the first U.S. cheese company to win a gold medal and best of class award in a European competition – the 2005 World Cheese Awards in London.

Beyond his contribution to the resurgence in cheesemaking, Boyce and his wife, Kris Otis, created a nonprofit organization with local arts leaders, Art at the Cheese Factory, now known as Art Contemporary Marin. The exhibits featured art they loved – contemporary painting and sculpture by artists from the North Bay. Thousands attended the exhibits, expanding the experience of visiting the Cheese Factory to an elegant, educational celebration. Following Boyce’s death in 2010, Marin French Cheese was sold to Rians, a respected French family cheesemaking business. Rians completed Boyce’s expansion activities, updated the production areas with state-of-the art equipment and is committed to the future of this venerable 150-year-old local institution.

A Sauce Republicans and Democrats Can Agree On

Sapore Oil and Vinegar, LLC. Co-Founders Renee and John Farr launch Bipartisan Barbecue Sauce into the Washington, DC Political arena.

After years of enduring bickering and disagreements, the Washington, DC market needed something that both parties —  Republicans and Democrats — could agree upon: a great-tasting barbecue sauce made with fresh ingredients, with a little spice and a lot of humor. So says Renee Farr, Co-founder of Sapore Oil and Vinegar on Capitol Hill and creator of their new product, Bipartisan Barbecue Sauce. The former catering sales manager first used her ingenuity to spice up Capitol Hill with a line of spices and gourmet foods sold exclusively at her retail store.

farr sauce“We wanted a sauce that was a little different, but that still met our high standards of flavor. So we went big – big on flavor and big on political satire,” Farr said. The bottle label suggests you use the sauce “liberally or conservatively,” but diplomatically adds, “Independents will like it too!”

“Not only does it take a light hearted poke at Capitol Hill, but it’s addictively delicious. Bipartisan Barbecue Sauce is a tomato/molasses-based sauce with a kick of ancho chiles and chipotle. It’s especially good on pork and beef, and takes grilled chicken and shrimp to whole new level.”

“My husband, [Co-founder] John Farr and I sourced an amazing product and designed the branding. We’re initiating a homegrown campaign to market this product in the Washington D.C. area. Thanks to that effort, you will find Bipartisan Barbecue Sauce in other local stores beside Sapore this summer,” Farr said.

The sauce is available in one variety: Original Bipartisan Barbecue Sauce, 16 ounces, retailing for $9.95

Natural Grocers to Open 100th Store

Natural Grocers will open its fifth store in Arizona on Tuesday, August 11—making it the company’s 100th store nationwide. The store, which opens at 8 a.m., is located at 13802 North Scottsdale Road Unit 110, in Scottsdale.

As part the of the August 11 grand opening, Natural Grocers will have a ribbon cutting ceremony at 7:45 a.m. and will then distribute mystery gift cards to the first 100 customers in line. The store will also offer a tasting of healthy and delicious food from the Paleo Wraps class. In addition, the all-female, Scottsdale-based mariachi band, Mariachi Pasión, will perform live on opening day from 7:30 a.m. – 10:30 am.

Family Values Drive Missouri Community Company


By Micah Cheek

Wind & Willow, founded in 1991, was born out of a small rural community in southwest Missouri. Its close-knit crew, comprising three generations of workers, sounds more like a family than a company. Everyone from office workers to truck drivers is given snacks for taste testing. In the summer, the staff’s monthly lunch is moved outside for grilling. Potluck turkey dinners are standard practice for Thanksgiving. This sense of camaraderie is reflected in Wind & Willow’s products, which are made for sharing with friends and family. The company produces mixes for dips, soups, and cheese balls.

Convenience and flexible recipes are a primary focus for Wind & Willow. Soup mixes require only water and heat to make a meal and include options for adding ingredients or changing the cooking style. Dip mixes are suggested for use in seasonings, vinaigrettes, and biscuits. These alternate recipes are a hallmark of Wind & Willow’s production team. New recipes are featured weekly on the company’s Facebook page, the test kitchen is always creating new ways to use the products, and annual staff contests are held to discover new possibilities for mixes. Renee Tettenhorst, Co-owner of Wind & Willows, says, “We like to think about each product being almost like a recipe box of ideas included with the mix.”

A line of gluten-free products was created in response to Co-owner Sheila Renard’s diagnosis of celiac disease. “We’ve always had several products that do not contain gluten in the ingredient list, but of course we became much more conscious of the concept at the time,” says Tettenhorst. The gluten free line is now produced in a separate facility from any wheat products, and independently lab tested for traces of gluten. The resulting products are crafted to be as tasty for gluten eaters as they are for those who are gluten free.

In January, Wind & Willow added a pickle mix to its portfolio. It was an instant hit, especially with the company’s workers. Now there are always a few jars hidden in the staff refrigerator.

The pickle mixes are sold in mason jars to use for the pickling. The only necessary additions are fresh vegetables, vinegar, and boiling water. The vegetables pickle in under 10 minutes. Tettenhorst says, “What we’re finding is that people start out with one jar. Then they try another flavor. And then they buy several jars for gifts and refill bags for themselves!” Their newest introductions are tailored for the fall and winter months. Salted Caramel Hot Dip, Wind & Willow’s first sweet hot dip, is ideal for topping apple slices or pumpkin pie. The White Cheddar and Mushroom Soup Mix has been a hit in taste testing, and comes with a wide variety of recipe ideas. Tettenhorst is excited about the possibilities for this mix, saying “You can simply add water or add meat, veggies, herbs, cheese, [or] whatever you want to make it truly your own unique creation.”




To-Go Food Packaging to Save the Planet


By Lorrie Baumann


World Centric is just going into production with a line of compostable packaging for prepared foods made out of fiber that’s grown in the USA and turned into clamshells and covered plates in an American factory under American environmental regulations and sustainability ethics. They comply with the regulations of an increasing number of cities across the country that now require take-out food to be served in packaging that can go into municipal composting facilities instead of into the landfill.

The new containers are made by World Centric, which was started in 2004 as a nonprofit organization. “For us, the business initially was a result of trying to support a nonprofit mission of raising awareness of social and environmental issues,” says World Centric Founder Aseem Das. “We have kept a lot of those values for making change and trying to do our part, in whatever small way, to create a better world and make a difference…. Packaging was opportunistic. We were looking around for a way to support the nonprofit, for products and services that would be sustainable and beneficial to the environment or services that help mitigate social disparities that exist in the world.”

World Centric is headquartered in Petaluma, California, and in those days “polystyrene,” known commonly by the brand name, Styrofoam, had already become a bit of a dirty word in California. Cities around the state were becoming concerned about the material’s durability in the environment and the expense of picking it up off beaches, and they started passing bans on the material. “In 2005, we were at the Green Festival in San Francisco. We were so busy because everybody was so interested in compostable packaging as an alternative to Styrofoam,” Das remembers. “People just got the concept of compostable packaging. There was a fair amount of interest in it.”

Interest was so great that, gradually, Das started spending more time running the business and less time tending to the nonprofit organization. Finally, after some soul-searching, Das decided in 2009 to end the nonprofit organization and become a for-profit enterprise while keeping many of the same values that propelled him into business in the first place. World Centric was registered as a certified B corporation in 2010 and a California Benefit Corporation in 2013. The company donates 25 percent of its profits to organizations that address social and environmental issues.

Back when Das was deciding that he needed to focus all his attention on the business of making a profit, Scott Coye-Huhn and a group of business partners were exercising their own combination of idealism and profit motive with a plan to create biomass reserves for renewable fuels. They were looking at marginal farmlands around the U.S. that might be able to grow a perennial crop even if they couldn’t support annual crops like corn or wheat. The thought was that they’d plant once, harvest a crop year after year, and use the plant fibers as biomass to make fuel. “A perennial gives sustainable characteristics; you use much less fuel, much less chemicals, create less erosion,” Coye-Huhn says. “That’s the game-changer here.”

They found that an Asian plant called Miscanthus would grow in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, where farmers had land that wouldn’t grow an annual crop. Coye-Huhn and his partners worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get the plant certified for planting in the U.S., after demonstrating that Miscanthus doesn’t make viable seed and can’t become an invasive pest, and started signing up farmers who needed an income from fallow farm lands. “It’s a big deal. The average age of U.S. farmers is almost 60 years,” Coye-Huhn says. “When you plant a crop that grows for 20 years, it solves a lot of problems that come with transitioning family farms from one generation to the next.”

Along the way, the focus changed from using the plant fiber as biomass for fuel to finding other ways to use it. “Why packaging? The capital to build a full-scale pulp mill is significant, but we can do something like this on a much smaller scale,” Coye-Huhn says. “Consumers are asking for this kind of packaging. We learned from our research and development that we can make a pretty darn good package.”

Coye-Huhn and his company, Aloterra, then went looking for somebody who could sell the packaging if they made it and found World Centric, which by that time had a decade of experience importing compostable packaging from Asia and distributing it to customers in the U.S. and which shared the sense of conscientious capitalism that motivated Aloterra. “Getting into distribution is monster work, filled with holes you can fall into. World Centric is good at selling and distributing the product,” Coye-Huhn said.

The new packaging made by Aloterra and marketed by World Centric will start coming off the line this August. World Centric is offering it first to the company’s existing customers but will start taking orders from new customers shortly. “We sell a lot of products and we are nationwide. The products are currently made in Asia. For us, we’ll be replacing those products with the ones that Scott will be making,” Das says.

“These jobs can never be exported. The economics implode if you try to truck biomass more than 50 or 75 miles,” Coye-Huhn adds. “Technically we’re reshoring here. We’re moving jobs from Asia for this manufacturing plant.”



Bissinger’s Chief Chocolatier, Dave Owens

“Going to work every day is an honor,” says Vice President of Taste and Chief Chocolatier at Bissinger’s, Dave Owens. “The opportunity to build upon 350 years of tradition provides a wonderful incentive as I approach each day and every piece of chocolate crafted at Bissinger’s.”

Bissinger’s has been crafting confections since the time of Louis XIV, when he declared the company “Confiseur Imperial” or Confectioner to the Royal Empire, in 17th Century France. No other chocolate company, let alone company known to Bissinger’s, has such a long-standing legacy. Commitment to crafting premium, indulgent and beautiful confections is always the task at hand. This tradition has been the same for three and one half centuries.

Owens brings an extraordinary range of talent and depth to the company, including executive chef and partner at award-winning restaurants. He has a deep respect for the integrity and proper sourcing of ingredients, an exceptional culinary sense and a praiseworthy passion for natural foods and sustainability. Confectionery innovations have won Bissinger’s sofi Awards from the Specialty Food Association. The categories were best chocolate and best confection.

In his free time, Owens has two children and a wife who is also in the food industry, employed as a food stylist. Owens also enjoys helping philanthropic organizations like the March of Dimes, Habitat for Humanity, St. Louis Area FoodBank and has contributed to Taste of the NFL and Taste of the Nation.

At work, Owens is passionate with the company’s involvement with the Rainforest Alliance. Because not all cocoa is responsibly farmed, Bissinger’s works with them to ensure its superior cocoa beans are grown on farms in the Cote d’Ivoire esteemed for exceptional taste. The Rainforest Alliance promotes environmental responsibility, social equity and economic viability for farming communities. For more than 25 years, it has been working to conserve biodiversity and ensure livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior.

Owens say it is deeply rewarding on both a professional and personal level to be a part of a company that shares his values to in sourcing premium ingredients that not only make for an indulgent and delicious taste, but also are good for our people and the planet. “Our mission is not to be the biggest, but the finest chocolatier,” said Owens. “The word ‘finest’ doesn’t just refer to the quality of the chocolate. It also encapsulates working for a company that has a social and environmental consciousness.”

Gourmet News

Follow me on Twitter