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Members of Organic Community Begin Registering Websites Under “.organic” Domain

Global registry services provider Afilias recently announced the launch of its newest top-level domain “.organic.” As of September 15, members of the organic community have been able to register website names under the “.organic” domain through Afilias. 

Interest in organic products is growing rapidly worldwide. However, terms like “natural” and “healthy” are often used interchangeably with “organic” on the Internet and elsewhere, causing consumer confusion. The “.organic” domain strives to reduce consumer confusion by provisioning a dedicated, protected place on the Internet for providers of bona fide organic products and services. Unlike open domains like .com and .net, the “.organic” domain limits eligibility to domain owners who have verified their organic credentials. This means consumers can have confidence in sites that have a “.organic” address.

“Given the demand for authentic organic products and services, the arrival of the ‘.organic’ domain will be welcomed by both consumers and providers of organic goods and services,” said Roland LaPlante, Senior Vice President and CMO for Afilias. “For the first time, consumers can now find organic sites on the Internet that are verified and reliable.”

The “.organic” addresses are only available to verifiably organic farmers, producers, manufacturers, co-packers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers and official organic certifiers. Eligibility also extends to other organic-oriented entities such as restaurants and trade organizations that may not be certified but can meet special criteria tailored to their role in the community.

For more information about how you can register your company or organization for a “.organic” web address, visit www.get.organic.

As Government Regulators Have Their Say, Specialty Food Industry Looks for Ways to Influence Public Policy

Rush Creek Reserve from Cheese Co.

Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands Cheese Co.

By Lucas Witman

In an announcement that shocked many in the American specialty cheese community, Andy Hatch, co-owner and head cheesemaker at Wisconsin’s Uplands Cheese Co., recently sent an email to cheesemongers and distributors stating that his company would not be producing its celebrated Rush Creek Reserve for at least the duration of the year. Rush Creek Reserve is a soft-ripened raw cow’s milk cheese inspired by the French cheese Vacherin Mont d’Or. The company’s decision not to move forward with production of the cheese comes amid the FDA’s ongoing vacillation over the safety of raw milk cheeses. Although Rush Creek Reserve’s 60-day aging period fits within current federal guidelines for the safe production of raw milk cheeses, the FDA has made it clear that it is considering revising this rule and requiring a longer aging period. In exiting the market before this potential rule change goes into effect, Rush Creek Reserve has become what could be the first of many casualties in an emerging battle over American-produced raw milk cheeses. 

“Is there a way that we can be more focused and maybe get a lobbyist group to help really push the sort of cheese agenda in Washington and really make changes,” asked Steve Gellert, World’s Best Cheeses’ Vice President of Business Development, at the recent American Cheese Society Conference. “I think a lot of people … want to see the changes happen, they just don’t know what to do about it other than bumper stickers.” As specialty cheese companies like Uplands Cheese Co. face the negative implications of government policies that they openly disagree with, affected parties are asking if there is more that they can be doing to directly influence those policies and work with federal officials to create a regulatory environment that protects their industry as well as the health and safety of the American consumer.

Many individuals within the larger specialty food landscape are already actively involved in lobbying legislators and regulators and advocating for public policy changes on the state and federal level. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the food and beverage industry spent over $30 million on lobbying in 2013 and directly employed 329 lobbyists. The top spenders included Coca Cola ($5.9 million) and PepsiCo ($3.7 million), but a number of industry trade groups, including the National Restaurant Association, the American Beverage Association and the International Foodservice Distributors Association also do their part to influence public policy.

In recent years, a number of food industry trade groups have demonstrated the power that their industry can exert on public policy. The American Meat Institute, for example, has been influential in shaping the USDA’s requirements regarding how meat is labeled for sale in this country. And the Grocery Manufacturers Association has been a key voice in ongoing public discussions over how best to eliminate childhood obesity, serving as an industry partner for First Lady Michele Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign. Food industry lobbying and public policy advocacy groups have been instrumental in shaping everything from GMO-related legislation to government subsidies and import tariffs.

A relatively new lobbying and public advocacy organization, the American Olive Oil Producers Association was founded less than two years ago. In that short time, the organization has become an important tool in protecting the interests of U.S.-based olive oil producers at home and abroad. Already in its short life span, the AOOPA was able to work with U.S. Rep. David Camp of the House Ways and Means Committee to launch an official investigation into the domestic olive oil industry. That investigation resulted in an independent government report that came out in August 2013 that discusses those issues in detail.

“We’ve been making great strides working with our government and recognizing the challenges that face our industry,” said Kimberly Houlding, Executive Director of the AOOPA. “We want to make sure that we have a fair and honest market.”

The cheese industry itself is not a stranger to public policy advocacy. Established in 2000, and recently re-launched, the non-profit Cheese of Choice Coalition has been an important resource in advocating for the rights of American consumers to purchase and consume raw milk cheeses. After the FDA proposed changes in 1999 to its regulations concerning the production of raw milk cheeses, the Cheese of Choice Coalition stepped in as a voice for the industry, and it was an important player in protecting raw milk cheeses from effectively being abolished during that time.

“The point of the organization was to allow consumers to still choose their cheese, because there was a threat to change the aging time for raw milk cheeses,” said Sara Baer-Sinnott, President of Oldways, parent organization of the Cheese of Choice Coalition. “[We] support the production of artisan, traditional and raw milk cheeses and we do this through education, alliance, advocacy, consumer outreach and community engagement.”

Those who support organizing as an industry in order to advance the interests of specialty food in Washington argue that this type of coalition-building is necessary to collectively establish shared interests and to serve as a unified voice in advancing those interests. “If there is not an industry voice – one unified voice to speak to elected officials – there is going to be someone else filling that voice,” said Houlding. “In our case, that was importers and foreign producers … In many cases we do not have the same views as importers and foreign producers.”

In addition to serving as a unified voice of an industry, the AOOPA and other specialty food interest groups also have an important role to play in protecting the interests of consumers. “Consumers deserve an honestly labeled product. We need to provide them the assurance that they are receiving an honestly labeled product,” said Houlding.

The Cheese of Choice Coalition similarly serves as an advocate for consumers. Brad Jones, Program Manager for the Cheese of Choice Coalition worries what would happen if consumers suddenly lost access to the products they love. “Let the consumers have the right to purchase, consume and enjoy that cheese,” he said.

In addition, as many specialty food professionals strive to approach their industry scientifically, developing fact-based approaches to food production and food safety, these individuals are at the same time looking for ways to communicate the scientific data they have developed to those who have the power to effect change. The formation of a lobbying or special interest group can be of service to this goal as well.

 “We focus on bringing science-based information to consumers and to policy makers, taking complicated material and making it understandable for consumers and bringing the experts together with policy makers,” said Baer-Sinnott.

When it comes to specialty cheese in particular, those critical of forming a dedicated lobbying or public policy interest group argue that resources are scarce, and those resources are perhaps better spent on developing new products and getting them to consumers. Houlding, however, argues that for her organization, money spent has been worthwhile. “I think it’s an important use of resources, and certainly from an olive oil perspective and how our market is structured, if you don’t have a voice in Washington and you’re not working to educate your elected officials regarding challenges your industry may face … somebody is going to fill that void,” she said. “There’s something to be gained in creating relationships with the federal government … If you have somebody in Washington or at least you’re speaking as a unified industry voice, maybe you can get ahead of some of those issues and prevent some of those things.”

With FDA officials announcing at the recent ACS Conference a commitment to working with the specialty cheese industry as it moves toward developing new industry-specific regulations, industry representatives are now contemplating how best to pursue this ongoing dialogue. This is a question that is particularly important to the Cheese of Choice Coalition. “I think looking back 14 or 15 years and comparing it to today, there is more dialogue,” said Baer-Sinnott. “It’s a very hopeful thing, and that puts the Cheese of Choice Coalition and other organizations … in a position where it’s really possible to make a difference.”

Arrowhead Farms Cocktail Mix Gift Sets

4-Arrowhead FarmsFILL-GWArrowhead Farms is the passionate company behind an extensive line of artisanal cocktail mixers and salad dressings. The company offers a variety of cocktail mix gift sets that are the perfect treat to present to any cocktail loving party host. Arrowhead Farms’ Complete Cocktail Mix Gift Set features the company’s cult-classic Hellfire Club Bloody Mary Mix, the spicy Spitfire Margarita Mix and the company’s three newest mixers: Dark Harbor Southside Mix, Mexican House Margarita Mix and Giovanni’s Nectar of the Gods Bellini Mix. Each mix contains 25 delicious ounces. The Complete Cocktail Mix Gift Set comes in Arrowhead Farms signature gift packaging. In addition, Arrowhead Farms offers a number of other gift sets, including the Ultimate Deluxe Decadence Gift Set (five cocktail mixers and three salad dressings), the Morning After Cocktail Mix Gift Set (Hellfire Club Bloody Mary Mix and Nectar of the Gods Bellini Mix) and the Margarita Cocktail Mix Gift Set (Spitfire Margarita Mix and Mexican House Margarita Mix).

For more information on Arrowhead Farms or to see a complete list of the products the company offers, visit www.arrowheadfarms.com.

Beerology a Must-Read for Beer Lovers

3-BeerologyFILL-GWMirella Amato’s tome Beerology is a must-buy gift for anyone who enjoys the pleasure of a pint. It bills itself as the ultimate unpretentious guide to understanding and enjoying the world of beer. There is truly a beer for every food, mood and occasion, and with the growing number of beer festivals and microbreweries popping up worldwide, beer is finally getting the attention and appreciation it deserves. For fans of this complex beverage, the overwhelming choices, brewing styles and traditions can be confusing to say the least. Enter Amato, one of only seven Certified Master Cicerones in the world. With an advanced brewing certificate to her name, readers are in expert hands as they navigate the multifaceted world of beer, guided by Amato’s refreshingly accessible style. The book is broken down into fun, easy-to-read chapters starting with an introduction to beer and progressing into a complete guide to properly tasting the beverage, as well as tips for throwing beer parties, making beer cocktails and pairing beer with food.

For more information on Mirella Amato’s Beerology, visit http://beerology.ca.

Hella Bitter’s Craft Your Own Bitters Kit

2-Hella Bitters FILL-GWBrooklyn, N.Y.-based Hella Bitter’s new Craft Your Own Bitters kit combines a passion for craft, creativity and delicious cocktails into an innovative kit that enables any cocktail enthusiast to make his or her own unique bitters at home. Seeking to change the way people think about what they drink, the Craft Your Own Bitters Kit makes it easy to add a touch of bitterness to everything from the perfect old fashioned to homemade marinades. With sophisticated modern palates craving bitter flavors, the kit helps consumers imagine up new flavor combinations that they might not have yet considered. The Hella Bitter Craft Your Own Bitters kit includes a custom funnel, a fine mesh steel strainer, two infusion jars, four dropper bottles and two spice blends – an aromatic blend and a citrus blend. The Craft Your Own Bitters kit offers an artisanal handcrafted alternative to the mass-produced bitters that have their place at nearly every home bar.

For more information on Hella Bitter’s Craft Your Own Bitters kit or to view the company’s other products, visit http://hellabitters.com.

Craft Beer Explorer Variety Pack

1-Craft BeerExplorerFILL-GWCraft Brew Alliance, an independent craft brewer, recently announced that its second Craft Beer Explorer Variety Pack is now available in markets across the United States. The newest Craft Beer Explorer Pack, a concept which was introduced earlier this year, features exclusive limited-release beers from Kona Brewing, Redhook Brewery and Widmer Brothers Brewing. The hand-selected, small batch beers are available nationally only in this cross-brand package, offering beer drinkers a unique opportunity to try special release beers from three different craft breweries. The latest version of the package includes Kona Lemongrass Luau Blonde Ale, Redhook Fat Chance Light IPA and Widmer Brothers Double M.A.C. Session IPA. The Craft Beer Explorer Variety Pack features seasonally relevant specialty beers that are typically on tap at the brewery’s pubs but not yet available in broader distribution. For instance, many of the popular and unique craft beers from Kona Brewing in Hawaii never make it to mainland retail shelves. In this way, the Explorer Pack creates a unique opportunity for CBA to introduce new beers outside of their home markets.

For more information, visit www.craftbrew.com.

Pamela’s Products Earn Non-GMO Status

PamelasPamela’s Products is celebrating its versatile All-Purpose Flour – Artisan Blend and classic Biscuit & Scone Mix for earning Non-GMO Project Verified status.

Pamela’s high standards for creating delicious, gluten-free foods have always placed as much importance on what goes in its gluten-free baking mixes, cookies and snack bars, as what gets left out; pledging to consumers:

  • No artificial additives
  • No high fructose corn syrup
  • No GMOs – the brand is working closely with its vendors to assure the quality and source of all its ingredients

In addition to the all-purpose flour and scone mix, the company has nine SKUS pending verification – many of which should be approved in the coming months.

Chefs Shelf Spices and Rubs Bring International Flair to the Table

Chefs Shelf-PSFBased in Chicago, Illinois, Chefs Shelf was founded to supply professional chefs and aspiring culinary gurus in the United States with fine foods and specialty ingredients. Chefs Shelf spices and rubs are inspired by flavors from around the world and were hand-selected by Food Network celebrity chef Ben Vaughn. Spice varieties include Spanish rosemary, Coromandel chili powder, Allepo turmeric powder and savory crusting spice. All are manufactured in Chicago.

Artisan-made in small batches to retain their unique quality and ethnicity, each spice is based on a familiar classic, with a twist to create new flavor combinations. “We are committed to continually gathering distinctive ingredients and sharing their applications in the kitchen to enhance flavor, taste and aroma of all things food,” said Vaughn.

For more information about Chefs Shelf, visit www.chefsshelf.com.

Coffaro’s Baking Company Gluten-Free Biscotti

Biscotti SeattleGourmetFoods-PSFSeattle Gourmet Foods is a gourmet food manufacturer based out of Kent, Washington. It is comprised of 11 national brands, producing a variety of items ranging from breath mints to jams and preserves to soups, chocolates and baking mixes. One of the company’s brands, Coffaro’s Baking Company, specializes in traditional, Italian-style biscotti, including gluten-free options.

The Coffaro’s family base recipe for their biscotti has remained unchanged since it was first introduced in the early 1900s in Somerset, New Jersey. The main difference between Coffaro’s biscotti and other biscotti types is that Coffaro’s uses pure olive oil instead of butter. This allows the biscotti to be lower in saturated fats and cholesterol-free.

Gluten-free flavors are available in 6-ounce boxes and include cranberry almond, lemon vanilla and chocolate chip. Regular flavors available in 6-ounce boxes include cranberry orange, caramel, mocha hazelnut and chocolate cherry. Almond with anise, almond with cherries, hazelnut with orange zest and pistachio with lemon zest come in 8-ounce boxes. All flavors come 12 per case.

For more information on the products that Coffaro’s Baking Company and Seattle Gourmet Foods offer, visit www.seattlegourmetfoods.com.

Cluck ‘n Moo Burgers with Kale

ClucknmooThe Cluck ‘n Moo Burger with Kale is a new spin on the company’s original half-chicken, half-beef burger. The Cluck ‘n Moo Burger with Kale is infused with America’s favorite superfood, kale, in the already healthier burger alternative. The product retains the flavor and juiciness of the original Cluck ‘n Moo burger while incorporating the nutritional benefits of kale, providing consumers a healthy and satisfying alternative to a typical calorie-filled beef burger.