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Something New Under the Greek Sun

By Lorrie Baumann

It’s not often that a story about a food product for the American market begins with an ancient Greek philosopher, but this one does. That’s because a Greek philosopher, Theophrastus, who lived between 371 and 287 B.C. wrote a book in which he told us how the Greeks propagated olives. Which means that the Greeks have been taking olives seriously as a food crop for at least that long. That’s important today because a new entrant into the olive category, Alive & Well Olives, have introduced olives into the American market using the same traditional methods that might have been observed by Theophrastus.

Alive Well Olives for webUnlike other olives on supermarket shelves or in olive bars today, Alive & Well Olives are naturally-cured by lacto-fermentation, the same process that turns cabbage into sauerkraut and milk into cheese. As a result, Alive & Well Olives contain natural probiotic lactobacillus cultures that remain active in the olive flesh and in the brine. “There is something new under the sun, even if it’s something that existed a thousand years ago,” says Greg Leonard, a Founding Partner of Alive & Well Olives who’s intent on livening up a category that even he is used to thinking of as totally mature. Ancient, even.

Leonard and four other partners started the company two years ago with the idea that they wanted to bring a product to market that would fit with the values they’d espoused through their careers in the natural products industry. Leonard himself spent over 40 years as a senior executive for Tree of Life, a natural and specialty foods distributor that’s now part of KeHE. “I certainly understand the challenges of going to market and enjoy navigating that path thoughtfully and in a collaborative way with retailers to get to the consumer,” he says. “If you had asked me three years ago when this notion of developing a branded product line came up in conversation, olives probably wouldn’t have made the list…. What we quickly came to realize was how little we – or most people who enjoy Mediterranean food – really understood about how virtually all olives today are grown and processed. Our ‘aha moment’ was the realization that … in the 50s and 60s, the traditional growing and processing techniques were replaced by chemical-based processes designed to speed time-to-shelf and extend shelf life.” Most commercially produced olives found on grocery shelves or in olive bars are pasteurized and often lye-cured to accelerate the fermentation process, according to Leonard. Black olives are either dyed using ferrous gluconate or subjected to rapid cures that are accelerated through artificial means. “Speeding up the process reduces the cost and the curing time to weeks instead of the months required by natural fermentation,” Leonard says.

Alive & Well Olives are grown in Greece on small family farms and village farming cooperatives. The olives stay under the care of the same group of growers throughout the curing process until they’re packed. In contrast to commercially produced olives, Alive & Well Olives are organically and sustainably grown, non-GMO verified, harvested by hand, naturally fermented and probiotic, and authentic and traceable back to the groves in which each olive variety is grown. Alive & Well Olives are packaged in the original mother brine in which they were cured. “The mother brine itself is loaded with probiotics and can be used in salad dressings, or in pasta dishes. It adds a nice, round olive flavor to the dish, and you’re getting those additional health benefits that come with the probiotics in the mother brine,” Leonard says. “To a large degree, it was the fact that these olives had such a robust story and long list of on-trend benefits that caused our team, Legacy III Partners, to go into this particular product category.”

In contrast with most of those other olives, Alive & Well Olives still have the pits in them, which improves their flavor and prevents the tissue damage to the olives that occurs when the pits are removed. Alive & Well Olives, packaged in glass jars, are sold in the fermented foods section of the refrigerator case. They’re offered in six varieties: Kalamata, which offers pungent earthy aromas and the supple nutty accents of the classic Kalamata flavor; Chalkidiki, a firm green olive with crispy, savory and peppery notes that pairs well with sweet accompaniments; Atalanti, which has a complex balance of sweet and savory flavors; Green Rovies, with a rich and buttery flavor with a long finish and a bitter aftertaste; Black Rovies, which offer subtle flavors of peach and pear and end with acidic and balsamic notes that balance out the richness; and Green Mix, which includes a blend of Kalamata, Atalanti, Chalkidiki and Green Rovies. The company guarantees a minimum of six months of shelf life from delivery to retail.

Dallas Gourmet Gold Specialty Food Awards Call for Entries

Dallas Market Center is calling for entries for the nineth annual Dallas Gourmet Gold Specialty Food Awards to be held at Dallas Market Center during the Total Housewares and Gourmet Market, June 20-26. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of Dallas Market Center’s Gourmet Market, in addition to milestone anniversaries of many of its exhibitors.

The Gourmet Gold Specialty Food Awards celebrates exceptional manufacturers in the gourmet products industry exhibiting at Dallas Market Center. With more than 1,000 product lines of gourmet food and accessories featured in the Gourmet Market in the World Trade Center, gourmet maintains a strong presence at Dallas Market Center as resources in the category continue to expand.

June 2018 Gourmet Gold Specialty Foods Awards categories are:

• Best Baked – cookies, cake, breads, mixes
• Best Beverage – hot or cold
• Best Condiment I – sauces, rubs, seasonings
• Best Condiment II – oils, vinegars, dressings
• Fruit Confit – jams, jellies, preserves, marmalades
• Best Soup/Chili
• Best Chocolate Candy/Dessert
• Best Non-Chocolate Candy/Dessert
• Best Snack – dips, salsas, nuts
• Best Healthy Lifestyle – organic, gluten free, sugar free

Food entries are judged based on taste, originality, and packaging. Participation is limited to current Gourmet Market exhibitors or temporary exhibitors for the June market. Participants may enter in up to two categories; entry fee is $50 per entry or two for $75. Click here to enter before the deadline of Friday, May 21, 2018.

Judging will take place Thursday, June 21 and winners will be revealed during an awards ceremony and cocktail reception on Friday, June 22, in the World Trade Center Atrium at 6 p.m.

For three decades, Gourmet Market at Dallas Market Center has been the buyers’ resource for “everything gourmet.” Featuring more than 1,000 product lines from specialty food and beverages, kitchen and wine accessories, housewares, casual tabletop, and gifts for all occasions. It is the only permanent showroom in the gourmet industry open daily between markets with full time staff on site.

The 30th Anniversary of Gourmet Market brings with it many milestone anniversaries for its exhibitors as well. The following exhibitors will be honored during the Gourmet Gold Specialty Food Awards during June Total Housewares and Gourmet Market:

  • Carmie’s Kitchen, 1988
  • Lammes Candies, 1988
  • Redstone Foods, 1988
  • Sweet Shop USA, 1988
  • Claudia B Chocolates, 1996
  • Indianola Pecan House, 1997
  • Lois Roush, 1997
  • Pelican Bay, 1997
  • New Canaan Farms, 1998
  • Great San Saba River Pecans, 1999
  • Neighbors Coffee, 1999
  • Quintessential Chocolates, 2000
  • Holiday Tins & Containers, 2001
  • Prairie Thyme, 2001
  • Coffee City, 2002

For more information visit Gourmet Gold Awards. For a complete list of events, visit the Dallas Market Center website.

Organic Trade Association Wheels in Artillery for Court Battle on Animal Welfare Standards

The Organic Trade Association this week ratcheted up its court battle against the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the agency’s failure to put into effect new organic livestock standards, with two of America’s most influential animal welfare groups joining the association in its ongoing legal fight to uphold the integrity of organic standards.

In a new filing that revised the original complaint against USDA to reflect the department’s move to withdraw the rule, the Organic Trade Association was joined by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) as co-plaintiffs in the suit.

USDA on March 13 announced its intention to withdraw the final regulation on May 13, contending that the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) gives the National Organic Program the authority to regulate only veterinary medications, not animal care, welfare or production standards. The Organic Trade Association’s amended complaint — filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia — argues that this new claim by USDA is a “novel and erroneous” view of OFPA that “conflicts with every prior administration’s approach to rulemaking under the OFPA and the National Organic Standards Board.”

“We welcome the critical support of our friends in the animal welfare community in standing up against the Administration’s attack on this important organic standard,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “In USDA’s attempt to kill this fully vetted final regulation, they’ve taken a radical departure from conclusions reached over more than 20 years of rulemakings regarding organic livestock care, and have assumed an aberrant view that has no historical basis or legal justification.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is North America’s oldest humane organization with roughly 2.7 million supporters nationwide. The Animal Welfare Institute is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people, and has sought to improve the welfare of farm animals since the early 1950s.

The Organic Trade Association is also challenging USDA’s assertion that it does not have to consult with the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) — the advisory board to the National Organic Program established by OFPA – before withdrawing the regulation.

“The organic standard-making process established by Congress requires consultation with the National Organic Standards Board to make or amend existing organic standards,” said Batcha. “The day the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final regulation was published, it became the regulation of the National Organic Program. Withdrawal of this regulation requires NOSB’s consultation and review.”

The Organic Trade Association said that USDA continues to flagrantly disregard and refuse to consider the overwhelming support from the public for the organic animal welfare rule.

“USDA knows the public overwhelmingly supports the implementation of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) regulation. Indeed, in its announcement to withdraw the rule, USDA noted that out of the 72,000 comments it received, over 63,000 opposed the withdrawal of the final rule, and that only 50 supported its withdrawal,” said Batcha. “But despite the clear evidence of the public sentiment, USDA is acting against the will of the public, and the will of the organic sector.”

The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule was published on Jan. 19, 2017, after more than a decade of extensive public input and a thorough vetting process. Before the final withdrawal, the government had attempted six times – either through the rulemaking process or through court filings — to delay the implementation of the rule.

The regulation addresses four broad areas of organic livestock and poultry practices: living conditions, animal healthcare, transport, and slaughter. Most importantly, it stops the use of “porches” from being allowed in organic poultry production and requires producers to give their poultry access to the outdoors.

The Organic Trade Association filed its lawsuit against USDA last September over the department’s delays in the implementation of the OLPP regulation. The lawsuit argues that USDA violated the Organic Foods Production Act by failing to consult with NOSB on the rollback of the final organic standard, and unlawfully delayed the effective date of the final livestock standards developed by industry and in accordance with the established rulemaking processes. The suit also argues that USDA issued its repeated delays without the required public process, and that USDA ignored the overwhelming public record established in support of these organic standards. Those arguments still stand.

Since the filing of the lawsuit, support for the legal action against USDA has grown. A host of organic stakeholders representing thousands of organic farming families, organic certifiers and organic policymakers – along with leading retail brands and groups speaking out for millions of consumers — have supported the suit as declarants harmed by the USDA action. The declarants include:

  • George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative;
  • Gina Asoudegan, Vice President of Mission and Innovation Strategy for Applegate;
  • Jesse Laflamme, co-founder of Pete & Gerry’s Eggs;
  • Robynn Schrader, CEO of National Co+op Grocers;
  • Kyla Smith, Chair of Directors for the Accredited Certifiers Association (ACA);
  • Tom Chapman, Chairman of the National Organic Standards Board and Director of Ingredient Sourcing at Clif Bar & Company.

In addition to the lawsuit’s co-plaintiffs, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) filed a separate lawsuit on Jan. 12 against USDA for withdrawing the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices regulation. HSUS is the largest animal protection group in the country with some 10 million members.

“Support for our lawsuit is rapidly growing,” said Batcha. “Being organic is a choice, and all of our organic stakeholders – from farmers to retailers – work hard every day to voluntarily abide by organic standards. They want clear consistent standards. Consumers want clear consistent organic standards. We call upon the government to act responsibly as the steward of our federal organic program. That is what the organic community wants, what consumers expect and what the law mandates.”

View the complete amended complaint from the Organic Trade Association.

Find it HERE first!

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