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Lifeway Foods Inaugurates Kefir Production at New Waukesha Facility

Lifeway Foods, Inc. has announced the beginning of kefir production at the former Golden Guernsey dairy plant in Waukesha, Wisconsin, that it acquired in May 2013 to increase its manufacturing capacity. Lifeway has been processing raw milk and producing its own bottles at the plant for more than a year, following major renovations as well as food safety certification of the upgraded facility.

With the global market for probiotics expected to reach $52.34 billion by 2020, the company plans to capitalize with its 170,000-square-foot plant that will more than quintuple the combined manufacturing capacity of Lifeway’s three existing facilities to support ongoing growth in the company’s kefir business. The company plans to produce its top-selling products in Waukesha, taking advantage of both the large space and new high-speed manufacturing equipment to meet the demand for nutritious products from consumers throughout the country.

The Waukesha plant currently employs moire than 40 people, of whom more than 25 percent are former Golden Guernsey employees who lost their jobs after a bankruptcy filing closed the 58-year-old business.  Lifeway purchased the shuttered plant for $7.4 million.

“We acquired the Golden Guernsey plant because we urgently needed more production capacity,” said Julie Smolyanksy, President and CEO of Lifeway Foods. “Renovating the building to meet our specific manufacturing and packaging needs has been a top priority, and the start of kefir production in Waukesha is an important milestone that will help drive the next chapter in the company’s growth.”

ACS Announces New Certified Cheese Professionals

One hundred eighty-seven (187) individuals passed the American Cheese Society’s fourth Certified Cheese Professional® Exam, which was held on July 29, 2015 in Providence, Rhode Island. This class of ACS Certified Cheese Professionals® (ACS CCPs®) includes individuals from 51 different companies in the United States and Canada. They join an elite group that now totals 595 individuals who have earned the prestigious ACS CCP credential. A complete directory of ACS CCPs is available at http://tinyurl.com/acs-ccps.

Each ACS CCP receives an official lapel pin, embroidered patch, and a certificate, along with the right to call themselves an ACS Certified Cheese Professional® or ACS CCP®. ACS CCPs are required to demonstrate continued active participation and professional development within the cheese industry to maintain their credentials, and they must recertify every three years. “We are not only proud of these distinguished individuals and their professional achievement, but also of the industry’s adoption of the ACS CCP designation as the standard for cheese professionals”, says Nora Weiser, Executive Director of the American Cheese Society. “The entire cheese industry – from cheesemaker to consumer – benefits from the understanding, education, and professionalism of ACS CCPs. They are a testament to the growth, quality, and passion of today’s American cheese scene.”

The Certified Cheese Professional Exam encourages high standards of comprehensive cheese knowledge and service for professionals working in all areas of the industry. The exam is based on the knowledge and skills required to successfully perform cheese-related tasks in a range of different jobs. Testing encompasses a broad range of topics including raw ingredients, the cheesemaking process, storing and handling cheese, selecting distributors, marketing and communicating about cheese, nutrition, and regulations and sanitation.

Due to tremendous interest in the exam, ACS will offer two seatings in 2016: a small seating will be offered on January 16 in San Francisco, California, and a larger seating will take place on July 27 at the 33rd Annual ACS Conference & Competition in Des Moines, Iowa. Cheese professionals who meet the eligibility requirements outlined on the ACS website are encouraged to apply early. Applications will be accepted for the San Francisco exam between September 30 and November 30, 2015. Applications will be accepted for the Des Moines exam between January 1 and March 31, 2016. Space is limited. To learn more about the ACS Certified Cheese Professional Exam, visit www.cheesesociety.org.

Smithfield Foods Expanding Dry Sausage Facility

Smithfield Foods’ Cudahy, Wisconsin, facility, which produces the company’s Patrick Cudahy brand as well as additional Smithfield branded products, has broken ground to expand its existing facility by 12,500 square feet, adding four new smokehouses and two dry rooms. The new space will increase production capacity by 3 million pounds annually and allow for four additional dry rooms when future sales demand more volume. The expansion is scheduled to be complete in March, 2016. Smithfield will continue making various salami and pepperoni products at the dry sausage facility.

This marks the second major expansion to the facility this year, as the facility also broke ground in April on a new $12 million bacon slicing plant. The 17,000-square-foot plant includes four slicing lines that will increase Smithfield’s bacon capacity by approximately 10 million pounds annually. The plant is expected to be fully operational by October.

Conventional Grocers Losing Ground with Millennials

Revamped grocery store environments and new food shopping formats prove that Millennials are having a profound impact on the food shopping landscape. According to the report, “Food Shopping in America,” by MSLGROUP and The Hartman Group, Millennials’ food purchase decisions are driven by their unique consumption patterns, constraints on budget and spontaneity. These factors differ from older generations and offer brands major challenges and big opportunities to attract these shoppers.

“Millennials are more spontaneous and adventurous than previous generations in their interactions with food and beverage,” says Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group. “Millennials’ strong ties to technology and new ways of engaging with food and beverage occasions make this generation’s shopping and dining habits worth watching, not just for clues about what young adults want but for ways that Millennials are influencing changes across generations.”

The report finds that traditional grocery’s less differentiated positioning is gradually losing ground to the better value and convenience often found in mass/super channel. Among Millennials, mainstream grocery’s position is particularly precarious. Less than 10 percentage points separate the two channels (63 percent of Millennials shop at mass/super vs. 69 percent at mainstream grocery). Millennials are also more likely than older generations to shop two or more stores on each visit to purchase all of the items they need.

“Brands must adapt to connect directly with the Millennial shopper,” says Steve Bryant, MSLGROUP Director of Food and Beverage Marketing. “Millennials value companies that are authentic and transparent, and are more willing to connect with companies that try to address their needs. Marketing efforts should focus on carefully tailored, personalized communications, with a focus on both convenience and affordability.”

Understand and Attract the Millennial Shopper

Budget Limits Choice
Millennials face more budget constraints than Gen X or Boomers+. Nearly half (49 percent) said household budget limitations were the top issue making shopping more difficult. Millennials’ median household income ($37.5K) is significantly lower than that of Gen X ($62.5K) or Boomers+ ($72.5K).

Connect with Millennials on Mobile Devices
Millennials are active and connected shoppers – most (70 percent) use their mobile devices while shopping for tasks like checking a shopping list kept online or on their device, contacting another family member, searching for a coupon and finding a recipe. This creates an opportunity for brands to connect with them via mobile commerce.

Personal Recommendations are Key
While price has the most impact on Millennials’ food choices, they also highly value personal recommendations from friends and family as well as peer reviews when making purchase decisions. Personalized marketing efforts that leverage referrals from Millennials’ own social networks will be more effective than endorsements from an outside source.

Unique Mix of Items in Their Cart
Millennials tend to purchase a unique mix of prepared, convenience items, such as frozen pizza, as well as specialty items, such as baby and pet foods, organics, dairy alternatives and sports drinks.

About the Report
“Food Shopping in America” is a nationally syndicated report published by MSLGROUP and The Hartman Group. The report is an in-depth exploration into how consumers plan, decide, shop and divide their loyalties in the era of unlimited choices and blurring of channels.

Raymond W. Kelly Joins Hain Celestial Board of Directors

Raymond W. Kelly has been elected to the board of directors of the Hain Celestial Group, Inc. effective August 13, 2015.  Kelly, who served as the Police Commissioner of the City of New York for 14 years, has been President of Risk Management Services for Cushman and Wakefield, Inc. since March 2014, which offers clients tailored solutions to manage and mitigate risks around the world.  In his role he focuses on helping clients identify potential vulnerabilities to prepare and manage risk across critical areas including physical and cyber security, crisis management, due diligence and site selection as well as emergency preparedness.

“We are honored to have Ray join our board of directors,” commented Irwin D. Simon, Founder, President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Hain Celestial.  “Ray’s worldwide range of experience and insight into critical issues facing companies today will make Ray a valuable addition to our board of directors.”

Prior to joining Cushman and Wakefield, Kelly had a 50-year tenure in public service, as one of the worlds’ most well-known and highly esteemed leaders in law enforcement.  In New York City, he established the first counterterrorism bureau of any municipal police department in the country as well as a global intelligence program and established a real-time crime center, a state of the art facility using data mining.  He also served as Commissioner of the U.S. Customers Service and as Undersecretary for Enforcement at the U.S. Treasury Department, where he supervised the department’s enforcement bureaus including the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.  He holds a BBA from Manhattan College, a JD from St. John’s University School of Law, an LLM from New York University Graduate School of Law and an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in addition to numerous honorary degrees.

With the addition of Kelly to Hain Celestial’s Board of Directors there are now eight board members.

Kroger Announces Creation of Two Supermarket Divisions in Texas

The Kroger Co. has announced the establishment of two new supermarket divisions, a Dallas division and a Houston division. Previously, both markets were served as part of Kroger’s Southwest division.

Kroger also announced that Dana Zurcher has been promoted to serve as President of the company’s new Dallas division. Bill Breetz, who has been serving as President of the Southwest division since 2002, will continue to oversee operations in Texas and Louisiana for the remainder of the year, and serve as President of the new Houston division.

“Kroger is committed to growing and serving our customers in the great state of Texas, and in our important Louisiana markets,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s Chairman and CEO.

The company has previously outlined capital investment plans of approximately $700 million in Dallas-Fort Worth and $500 million in Houston over the next three years.

“We see opportunities for growth in both Dallas and Houston thanks in large part to Bill’s leadership the past 13 years,” McMullen added. “This move will bring resources closer to our store teams, customers and communities.”

Kroger’s new Dallas division includes 105 stores in the Dallas and Fort Worth markets and in the Shreveport and Alexandria, Louisiana area. The new Houston division includes 109 stores in the greater Houston region, as well as stores in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Dana Zurcher Named President of New Dallas Division

Dana Zurcher, currently Vice President of Operations for the Southwest division, has been promoted to President of Kroger’s Dallas division, effective October 1.

“Dana’s experience spans several retail divisions, and she understands nearly every aspect of our business,” said McMullen. “She is an exceptional leader who is known for helping associates discover their full potential. We are excited to have Dana lead our team inDallas.”

 Zurcher brings 30 years of leadership experience to her new role. She began her Kroger career in Indianapolis store management in 1985. She served in a number of leadership roles in the Central division, including store manager and district coordinator. In 2002, she was named a district manager in the company’s Fry’s division in Phoenix. In 2008, she was promoted to director of operations for the Ralphs division in Los Angeles, where she served until she was promoted to vice president of operations for Kroger’s Mid-South division in 2011. She has served in her current role since 2013.

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.

Sir Kensington’s Announces $8.5 Million in New Funding

Condiment company Sir Kensington’s has announced the completion of a $8.5 million Series A equity financing round. In five years, Sir Kensington’s has become the fastest growing condiment brand in Whole Foods and is the ketchup of choice for hundreds of restaurants and hotels nationwide, including the Ritz Carlton, Bareburger, PJ Clarke’s, and The Spotted Pig.

All of Sir Kensington’s ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard products are Non-GMO Project Verified and are made with simple, whole ingredients. Funds will be used to accelerate distribution growth in the North American natural grocery and foodservice channels, expand product offerings and make key hires.

Led by Verlinvest, the investment demonstrates the continued commitment of Verlinvest to early stage growth capital investments in emerging consumer businesses. Verlinvest’s previous investments in the U.S. include innovative consumer product brands, including category pioneers vitaminwater, Vita Coco, popchips, Hint, and Sambazon.

“We’re excited to support Sir Kensington’s growth ambitions in the US and internationally,” said Verlinvest’s Chairman, Frederic de Mevius. “We look forward to furthering this brand’s reach as the leading premium condiment company.”

Alongside Verlinvest, private investors in the round include individuals with entrepreneurial experience in consumer products, restaurant hospitality and consumer marketing. These investors include Mike Kirban, Founder of Vita CocoDavid Barber, Co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns; the Co-founders of Sweetgreen through SWTLF Ventures; Andrew Essex, Founder of Droga5; and Chris Burggraeve, former Global CMO of AB InBev. Burggraeve will also join the company’s board to provide strategic marketing guidance to the growing brand.

“With Verlinvest’s investment, we’re looking forward to continue bringing choice to the condiment market.” said Mark Ramadan and Scott Norton, Co-Founders of Sir Kensington’s. “Through this partnership, we’ll be able to take what we’ve done at a small scale and bring it to more people than ever.”

America’s Pig Farmer of the Year Competition to Award Humane Treatment

Building on its commitment to grow consumer trust in all aspects of U.S. pork production, the National Pork Board announced an expert judging panel that brings a new, broad-based and transparent approach to selecting its first-ever America’s Pig Farmer of the Year.

Members of the five-member panel include Dr. Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of American Humane Association; Carlos Saviani, Vice President of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) U.S. food team; Mitzi Dulan, a registered dietitian and nationally recognized nutrition and wellness expert to the Kansas City Royals; Chris Soules, a Farmer from Arlington, Iowa, and television star from “The Bachelor” and “Dancing with the Stars;” and Dr. Jodi Sterle, an Associate Professor of Animal Xcience at Iowa State University and nationally known youth advisor in livestock exhibition.

“We are very pleased to have such a diverse and impressive group of experts to judge the finalists in the very first America’s Pig Farmer of the Year Award,” said Derrick Sleezer, National Pork Board President and Pig Farmer from Cherokee, Iowa. “It was important to our farmer leaders that we create a unique judging panel that was not only objective, but brought a whole new level of diversity of views to the table. And with this group, we think we accomplished that goal.”

Looking forward to the finalist judging slated for September 1, Ganzert said, “As an animal lover and the leader of the country’s first national humane organization, I am honored to have been asked to serve as a judge for America’s Pig Farmer of the Year. American Humane Association celebrates all those, including our nation’s farmers, who care for animals and work hard to ensure they are treated humanely. Today, more than ever it is important not only to point out where progress is needed, but to recognize when we get it right. I look forward to learning about these farmers who are working to give America’s families food that is safe, affordable, abundant and in line with their values.”

Joining Ganzert on the judging panel will be WWF’s Saviani, who said, “I’m really excited for the opportunity to participate in this new award and to learn more about how the pork industry and pig farmers are concerned, dealing with and addressing sustainability.”

The entire expert panel of judges will gather in Chicago to fulfill their duties. They will judge an on-farm video produced at each of the four finalists’ farms and then conduct an in-person interview with each one. The public can view each finalist’s video and cast its vote for its favorite farmer from Sept. 1 through 10 by going to www.americaspigfarmer.com. The final winner will be announced October 7.

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