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The Continuing Resource Gap For Specialty Meat Producers

By Micah Cheek

Jeanie Alderson is trying to solve a puzzle that is still confounding many of the country’s alternative meat producers: Getting her meats from her ranch to customers’ tables. Large meat processors cannot process a small farm’s meats profitably, and small meat processors are in short supply.

“We have the best grass, the best country and the best cattle, but we’re far away from everyone,” says Alderson. The Montana rancher and co-owner of Omega Beef raises grass-fed and –finished wagyu beef, to the tune of 30 to 40 carcasses a year. “The places where big agribusiness is happening, those processors won’t even look at us,” says Alderson. This size of production constitutes a fraction of what a major slaughter house would process in a year, far too little for a larger slaughter house to cut at a profit. The nearest USDA-inspected processor that will work in Omega Beef’s volumes is Quality Meats of Montana, approximately three hours away. This long drive through the Montana steppelands, combined with deliveries after processing, takes a large cut of the company’s profit margin. Unfortunately, slaughtering at an uninspected processor isn’t an option. Going without the USDA stamp would mean losing the business of their retailers, their distributor and any out-of-state customers. “Basically the only people we would be able to sell to would be individual customers in Montana,” says Alderson.

The issue of finding size appropriate processors is not limited to beef. Les Miller, Food Producer at Wheatstem Meadows Farms in South Dakota, has encountered difficulties with pork and chicken as well. Miller has found a pork processor within 50 miles, but the expansion of his business is beginning to push the processor’s capacity. Miller is also raising chickens, but can’t find a facility to slaughter them in. “That’s the problem I’m facing with the broilers,” Miller says. “The closest [processor] I could find was in Minnesota. There’s nothing in South Dakota.” Miller is legally allowed to slaughter chickens in a limited capacity without an inspected facility, but that poultry can’t be sold across state lines. “Under federal law I can do 1,000 [per year], but it still isn’t like the USDA certification,” says Miller.

Groups like the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, a network of agricultural advocacy groups, are involved in changing policies to make access to USDA-inspected facilities more available, but Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director with the NSAC, says the results do not come easily. “A number of farmers, frustrated by this lack of policy, are starting their own processing facilities. How do you get inspectors to these plants? That’s a huge bottleneck,” Hoefner notes. This issue has become a top concern for the National Sustainable Ag Coalition. “With the federal government, most policies are going to become one size fits all,” Hoefner adds. “We’re looking for ways to make the regulatory regime fit.” One such legislative change has allowed select state-certified processors to operate as USDA-approved facilities, increasing the number of processors with the USDA’s stamp of approval.

Another potential answer is the implementation of mobile slaughter units. These are large trailers that are essentially a certified facility on wheels. They are driven out to farms. According to the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network, there are approximately 20 MSUs in operation in the country, operating in 14 states. Hoefner notes that the MSU system is still finding its place in the market. “It’s a little bit too early to tell there,” says Hoefner. “As the market develops, maybe the market will be viable.” MSU’ could be a future key to beef and poultry operations. “I would love for my animals to not have to leave, and end their lives here,” says Alderson.

Champagne Shipments to U.S. Increase for Third Consecutive Year

The Champagne Bureau, USA announced today that 20,508,784 million bottles of Champagne were shipped to the United States in 2015, an increase of 6.61 percent from 2014. This marks the third consecutive year of growth in Champagne shipments to the United States.

“It is wonderful to see U.S. consumers buying Champagne at record numbers. The strong growth represents the real excitement consumers have for Champagne and highlights the important role Champagne plays in the growing U.S. wine market,” said Sam Heitner, Director of the Champagne Bureau, USA. “As more Americans drink wine, they are placing more value on wines that come from unique places. This desire to understand where their wines come from is a key to building long-term connections with consumers and why we like to remind all that Champagne only comes from Champagne, France.”

The United States is the second largest export market for Champagne, trailing the United Kingdom, which imported 34,153,662 bottles in 2015. Worldwide, Champagne shipments totaled 312,531,444 bottles, an increase of nearly 2 percent over last year.

More than merely a type of wine, Champagne is a unique winemaking region with a long history of winemaking expertise. In fact, its historic hillsides, houses and cellars were recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Therefore, to earn the right to label their bottles with the “Champagne” name, the growers and producers of the Champagne region adhere to strict grape growing, harvesting and winemaking regulations. In recent years, the region has also been lauded for its environmental leadership, launching a comprehensive carbon reduction effort that has already reduced the region’s carbon footprint and establishing a new environmental certification for wine growers and producers to quantify their environmental sustainability and advances.

Candy Companies Agree Not to Advertise to Young Children

The Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), in partnership with the National Confectioners Association (NCA), has announced a new self-regulatory initiative that promotes responsible advertising to children. Under the Children’s Confection Advertising Initiative (CCAI), participating companies agree to not advertise directly to children under age 12. CCAI is modeled after the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), another CBBB-administered self-regulation program.

Six companies that make popular brands of candies are the charter participants of CCAI: Ferrara Candy Company; Ghirardelli Chocolate Company; Jelly Belly Candy Company; Just Born Quality Confections; The Promotion in Motion Companies, Inc.; and R.M. Palmer Company. They have pledged to not engage in confectionery advertising that is primarily directed to children under age 12 or to advertise their candy in school to children from pre-kindergarten through 6th grade. They join six other confectionery companies – American Licorice Company; Ferrero USA; The Hershey Company; Mars, Incorporated; Mondelez International; and Nestlé – that are CFBAI participants that do not advertise directly to children.

“CCAI follows the same principles as CFBAI, but is designed for small-to-medium size confectionery companies and has fewer administrative requirements than CFBAI,” said Maureen Enright, director of CCAI and deputy director of CFBAI. “All CCAI participants are making the same commitment – to not engage in child-directed advertising. CFBAI will independently monitor compliance and will publish periodic compliance reports, as it does for CFBAI.”

“Better Business Bureau has always felt that smaller companies can be just as much a part of the self-regulatory success story as major corporations,” said Mary E. Power, President and CEO of CBBB. “This latest initiative is yet another example of how responsible companies can join together to efficiently regulate themselves. We are delighted to build on CFBAI’s success, we appreciate NCA’s partnership on this effort, and we look forward to working with them to grow the program.”

“America’s leading confectionery companies are committed to marketing their products responsibly, and participating in this program further solidifies that commitment,” John H. Downs, Jr, NCA President and CEO, said. “The candy companies that are members of CCAI and CFBAI make the majority of the candy on store shelves in the U.S.”

CCAI’s core principles are available at www.bbb.org/CCAI.

A Slice of Parma, Italy Comes to Portland, Maine — This Month

Giovianni Bianchi, owner of the famed prosciutto producer Pio Tosini of Parma, Italy is coming to Portland, Maine, and will be slicing and serving his Parma ham (Prosciutto di Parma) at three locations during the week of March 20.

Thursday, March 24 will find Giovanni at Middle Street Italian eatery Piccolo. Piccolo will be serving a five-course tasting menu with wine and beer from Parma’s Emilia-Romagna region. For reservations and more information, visit http://piccolomaine.com.

Friday March 25, 7-10 p.m. Rocking Prosciutto at UFF—music and food collide! Bianchi will be slicing tastes of this magnificent ham, aged in traditional curing cellars for 500 days. Not only does Bianchi make great prosciutto, but he is also the front man for a punk/blues band Dead Horse Bones. Listen to him play, while tasting Pio Tosini Prosciutto di Parma accompanied by bites of Parmigiano Reggiano and Spanish Finca Pascualete cheeses, and Potter’s Crackers. Free to the public.

Capping off the weekend, on Saturday March 26, are two happenings. First is Prosciutto Palooza at Rosemont 559 Brighton Avenue. For dinner, Pio Tosini’s exceptional Parma ham will be paired with seasonal, locally sourced produce and meats. And of course, Rosemont will be pouring Italian wines to accompany the meal. For reservations and more information, visit http://rosemontmarket.com

Later that evening at Bramhall on Congress Street, you’ll find Bianchi exchanging his slicer for a guitar creating a different Italy meets Maine experience.

Pio Tosini Industria Prosciutti S.p.A. was founded in 1905 in Langhirano (Parma), Italy, by Pio’s father, Ferrante Tosini. Today, the company continues to be 100 percent family owned and operated, led by Nicola Ghersetich and Giovanni Bianchi, Pio Tosini’s grandsons. Nicola and Giovanni are the fourth generation to carry on the Tosini family traditions in curing pork meats. As in past eras, it is the human hand that makes the magic of Pio Tosini’s prosciutto di parma. Even with the aid of modern technology, at Pio Tosini, the human hand does the work every step of the way: trimming, salting, sugnatura (covering the surface with softened lard and salt) and the deboning—on demand—the final product.

Each ham is branded with the Tre Giande (three acorns) trademark harkening to ancient times when acorns were a favorite foraged food of pigs. Over the centuries, Italians have penned in their pigs due to the small size of the plots of land. But these pigs were, and Pio Tosini pigs are today, fed an ingredient crucial to prosciutto di parma—whey discarded from the production of the region’s Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

To meet Giovanni by video, visit https://vimeo.com/130817589

Top Food Industry Leaders Guide the Nation’s Only Exclusively Regional Food Show to Its Next Generation

A collaborative group of top food industry leaders in Central California’s San Joaquin Valley came together to celebrate the formal launch and open registration for the 2016 Fresno Food Expo that will take place July 27-28, 2016. Now in its sixth year of operation, the expo has evolved into a standalone 501(c)6 nonprofit organization under the newly announced oversight of a 13- member board of directors, with current daily management services provided by David Nalchajian, Inc. The announcement took place on Monday, March 14, 2016 at Fresno-based Sunnyland Mills, a valued Expo exhibiting sponsor and America’s oldest producer of premium bulgur wheat.

Board members leading this charge have been involved in the Fresno Food Expo since its inception serving in various advisory capacities including Chairwoman of the Board and City of Fresno Mayor, Ashley Swearengin; Vice Chairwoman of the Board, Agnes Saghatelian, President of Valley Lahvosh Baking Company; Board Secretary, Vincent Ricchiuti, Director of Operations for Enzo Olive Oil Company; Board Treasurer, Denver Schutz, Technical Services Manager of Gerawan Farming; Mark Ford, President of JD Food; Mike Grazier, President of Busseto Foods; Helen Chavez-Hansen, Owner and President of La Tapatia Tortilleria, Inc.; Jimmy Maxey, Chairman of Certified Meat Products; Chuck Nichols, President of Nichols Farms; Rod Noll, Vice President of the Western Region for US Cold Storage; Justin Parnagian, Sales Director for Fowler Packing Company; Fred Ruiz, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Ruiz Foods; and Bill Smittcamp, President & CEO of Wawona Frozen Foods.

Originally developed as an economic development initiative by the City of Fresno in 2011, the expo has since emerged as the nation’s only exclusively regional food show bringing together growers, processors, manufacturers and industry service providers with buyers from around the world. Since its debut, the expo has heightened the awareness of the region’s food production industry and watched new, innovative businesses emerge and new industry collaborations form as a direct result of the show. It has introduced 226 different food and beverage companies to new customers and hosted 1,825 different qualified buyers, including over 100 strategically recruited international buyers. With this impressive track record, the 2016 expo already has nearly 50 percent of the show floor filled with returning exhibitors.

“Through the insight of these top food industry leaders over the past five years, the Fresno Food Expo has brought the region together in incredible ways not just as an agricultural community, but as a food community,” said David Nalchajian, General Manager of the Fresno Food Expo. “We are excited to build upon our success as a show and we look to forward to further capitalizing on industry successes in every category to increase awareness of our food production industry and celebrate its quality, its diversity, its uniqueness, and its value on both a national and international scale.”

Unlike any other trade show, the Fresno Food Expo offers the opportunity for local, regional, national and international buyers to connect with the actual Presidents and CEOs behind some of the nation’s largest food industry companies with the invitation to explore products in every category and learn from budding food entrepreneurs who migrate to the region.

“A third-generation, family-owned and operated business, we are the oldest manufacturer of bulgur wheat in the world and pride ourselves in purchasing 90 percentage of our raw materials from right here in the Valley,” said Steve Orlando, President of Sunnyland Mills. “For our company, the Fresno Food Expo provides an invaluable opportunity for networking, to share ideas and to be a part of something bigger than ourselves as we see businesses come together with one common goal of not just growing their own company or sector, but the entire food production industry throughout the region.”

Innovation stemming from Central California’s San Joaquin Valley will continue to be celebrated through the New Product Awards presented by Baker Peterson Franklin CPA, LLP, which has debuted over 125 new products from Valley-based companies since the showcase began in 2013, launching new trends and concepts. Last year’s New Product Award winners Molucca Chocolate (People’s Choice Award Winner – Craft Chocolate Bars) and Top O’ The Morn Farms (Buyer’s Choice Award Winner – Farmstead Sweet Cream Butter) were also in attendance at Sunnyland Mills to help the Fresno Food Expo Management and Board of Directors celebrate the launch of this year’s effort and plans for growth into the future. Other past products entered into the awards range from new packaging for fresh fruits and vegetables to flavor-infused water, wines and craft beer. Applications for the 2016 New Product Awards are available to interested companies now and the deadline for submissions will be July 1, 2016.

Also returning to the expo will be the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award, a legacy award that was created in 2015 to support the mission of the Fresno Food Expo through mentorship and guidance from the founder behind one of the largest food manufacturing companies in the region. Named in honor of Fred Ruiz, founder of Ruiz Food Products, Inc. and now Fresno Food Expo Board Member, this award honors companies who have the same vision and qualities that took Ruiz Foods from a small, family start-up to the largest frozen Mexican food manufacturer in the United States. In its inaugural year, Rosa Brothers Milk Company, also in attendance for the announcement at Sunnyland Mills, was named the Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award winner following a remarkable 300 percent growth since launching its glass bottled milk at the 2012 Fresno Food Expo.

Applications for the 2016 Fred Ruiz Entrepreneurial Award are available now and will be due July 1, 2016.
“Through our awards programs, mentorship, educational training and a shared vision for the future for the thriving food industry that exists here, the Expo is connecting companies big and small from different sectors of the industry in an unprecedented way,” said Fred Ruiz, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Ruiz Foods. “By acting as a resource for the region’s food community, this collaborative initiative deepens the celebration of food production and the personal experience food inspires while promoting increased business growth, connectivity and commerce for the overall region.”

The 2016 Fresno Food Expo will take place July 27-28, 2016 with site tours and an opening reception for pre-registered buyers, followed by a trade show. To commemorate the evolution of the Fresno Food Expo, a new logo and website have also been introduced.

Registration is currently open for buyers and exhibitors. More than 150 exhibitors and 950 key pre-qualified international and domestic buyers are expected to participate. Noted buyers already registered for the 2016 Fresno Food Expo include Whole Foods, Vallarta Supermarkets, Save Mart Supermarkets, Food 4 Less, Tony’s Fine Foods, JD Food, Saladino’s Foodservice and more. Registration forms and additional information is available at www.FresnoFoodExpo.com. Public ticket sales to the “Epicurean Evening” event filled with sampling and discovery will launch in May.

Haggen Excited to Start Next Chapter as Part of the Albertsons Family of Companies

Haggen today announced its enthusiasm for Albertson’s LLC’s (Albertsons) proposed plan to purchase 29 Haggen stores, 15 of which will continue to be operated from Bellingham, Washington, under the Haggen banner, pending bankruptcy court approval and closing of the transaction.

“We are excited about the opportunity to have the backing of Albertsons and look forward to be part of the Albertsons grocery family. Haggen has been a part of the Pacific Northwest and the Bellingham community for more than eight decades and we will continue the traditions of operating great Haggen stores focused on community involvement, fresh Northwest products and great service,” said Haggen Chief Executive Officer John Clougher.

The new Haggen business unit will consist of 14 historic Haggen stores and one converted location in Oak Harbor. The remaining 14 stores, which were previously divested by Albertsons, will transition over time back to the Albertsons banner. All stores will benefit from the revitalized investment plan under Albertsons ownership.

“Our customers can be assured that the Haggen focus on sustainably sourced and locally produced products will not change. Haggen has operated as a partner to the communities it has so proudly served and will continue to do so. We thank our dedicated stores crews, loyal customers, vendors, partners and others that have supported us. We are looking ahead to a promising future,” Clougher said.

The bankruptcy court will consider approval of the sale agreement on March 29, 2016.

ALDI Strengthens Senior Management Team As Fast-Paced US Expansion Continues

ALDI Inc. has promoted Brent Laubaugh, Vice President, Saxonburg division, to Co-president of ALDI in the US, joining David Behm and Chuck Youngstrom, who continue in their roles as Co-presidents. All three Co-presidents report to Jason Hart, CEO, ALDI.

Laubaugh, whose promotion is effective March 28, 2016, has been with ALDI for more than 20 years, holding a variety of roles of increasing responsibility throughout his career.

“ALDI has a different style when it comes to grocery shopping and that differentiation has helped make us one of the fastest growing retailers in the US,” said Hart. “To support our significant expansion, it was important that we strengthen our leadership team to ensure our success. With the addition of Brent to our team, we have the right leaders in place to continue growing the ALDI business.”

ALDI is in the midst of its accelerated expansion plan that, by the end of 2018, will bring fresh, high quality groceries at everyday low prices to more than 45 million customers each month. To reach its aggressive goals, ALDI will create more than 10,000 new jobs at its stores, warehouses and division offices from coast to coast and invest more than $3 billion to pay for land, facilities and equipment. When completed, ALDI will have nearly 2,000 stores, marking a close to 50 percent increase in only five years.

Weis Markets Announces Fourth Quarter Results

Weis Markets, Inc. has announced its fourth quarter sales increased 2.8 percent to $734.1 million while its comparable store sales increased 2.8 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

For the thirteen week period ended December 26, 2015, the company’s net income increased 21.0 percent to $16.6 million compared to the same period in 2014. Fourth quarter earnings per share increased 19.6 percent to $0.61 per share compared to fourth quarter 2014. During the same period, the company’s operating income increased 24.5 percent to $25.8 million.

Year-to-Date Results

For the 52-week period ended December 26, 2015, the company’s sales increased 3.6 percent to $2.9 billion while comparable store sales increased 3.7 percent compared to the 52-week period ended December 27, 2014. Year-to-date net income increased 9.1 percent to $59.3 million while earnings per share increased 9.4 percent compared to 2014. The company’s year-to-date operating income increased 11.6 percent to $90.8 million compared to 2014.

“In 2015, our overall results benefited from strategic pricing investments and the ongoing improvement of our store assortments by market,” said Weis Markets Chairman and CEO Jonathan Weis. “In addition, improved store level, supply chain and store support efficiencies helped us deliver a better customer experience, which helped us increase customer traffic and our overall market share.”

popchips Introduces All-New Ridges Line with Big Crunch and Bold Flavor

popchips inc. has announced one of the company’s boldest product innovations to date with the introduction of an entirely new product line called Ridges. popchips spent several years experimenting with its innovative process of combining heat and pressure to create an extraordinarily crunchy and bold tasting ridged chip. The new Ridges line rolls out to retailers nationwide in June in four taste bud-tempting flavors: salted, tangy barbeque, cheddar & sour cream and chili cheese.

“The new Ridges product was created to appeal to consumers who love crunch in their chips,” said popchips CEO Dave Ritterbush. “The texture of Ridges allows the boldness of our flavors to shine and delivers a big crunch you wouldn’t expect from a chip that is never deep fried. For the first time ever, there’s a big crunch, bold flavor ridged chip that tastes every bit as good as deep fried but with significantly less fat and calories.”

popchips found that seven out of 10 better-for-you shoppers were seeking more crunch in their snacking, which Ridges were specifically created to deliver. What’s more is that chip for chip, popchips Ridges contain 72 percent less fat and 55 percent less calories than the leading ridged chip brand. They are also gluten-free, kosher, contain no artificial preservatives, no synthetic colors, no cholesterol and zero grams of trans fat.

In addition to the launch of Ridges, popchips is simultaneously introducing entirely new packaging for the brand, prominently pronouncing flavor front and center. Ridges packaging will be black, a stark contrast to original popchips, which will now feature off-white packaging. Both will have bright pops of color and graphic imagery. The brand created the new packaging to give original popchips and Ridges their own unique look, while making it easy for consumers to differentiate between the two on shelf.

Ridges will be available in both a single-serve bag and a share bag at leading retailers nationwide. In addition to the four new Ridges flavors, original popchips come in nine delicious varieties: sea salt, barbeque, crazy hot, sour cream & onion, sea salt & vinegar, sweet potato, cinnamon twist sweet potato and organic kettle corn.

KeHE Announces B Corp Certification with Signing Ceremony

KeHE Distributors, LLC (KeHE) announced its status as a Certified B Corporation (B Corp) at Natural Products Expo West 2016, the world’s largest natural and organic products tradeshow with nearly 100 B Corps exhibiting and 70,000 people in attendance.

The announcement is a culmination of a year-long rigorous assessment of KeHE’s community, environmental, governance and employee practices conducted by the nonprofit B Lab.

“KeHE is in business for more than just profits. As a Certified B Corporation, KeHE proudly joins a community of companies committed to using business and economic success to be a force for good,” said Brandon Barnholt, President and CEO, KeHE Distributors. “Our business culture emphasizes personal integrity—fostering an environment where employees feel valued and encouraged to achieve their best selves. The B Corp certification further validates KeHE’s core purpose: We SERVE to make lives better™.”

To announce KeHE’s B Corp certification, Barnholt led a toast with Chief B Keeper Ben Anderson and representatives from the B Corp community, including Cabot, Dr. Bronner’s, Ethical Bean Coffee, King Arthur Flour and Mamma Chia. After the toast, KeHE executives and guests were “first signers” of a giant B Corp Declaration of Interdependence (more than 21 feet wide) at KeHE’s booth. A “B Happy” Hour followed the toast and signing ceremony as the show opened to all conference attendees.

“B Lab is honored to have KeHE join the more than 1,600 corporations that we have certified as B Corps,” Anderson said. “KeHE is exemplifying the collective spirit of the Certified B Corps, and we’re thrilled to see this collaboration heighten KeHE’s announcement and show the power of the community.”

In fact, KeHE scored high marks for its community initiatives and employee stewardship in the B Impact Assessment. Through its KeHE Cares program, the company donates 10 percent of its profits to charity and encourages participation in charitable activities in the U.S. and international communities. KeHE’s benefits package also includes paid time off for employees to volunteer. An employee stock option plan (ESOP) provides KeHE employees with company stock ownership.

Natural Products Expo West took place at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif. from March 11-13, 2016. Visit KeHE’s B Corp profile to learn more: https://www.bcorporation.net/community/kehe.

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