Get Adobe Flash player

Columbus Foods and Top Chef Fan Favorite Fabio Viviani Hit the Road to “Meat Up” With Fans Across the Country

Two Italian favorites are teaming up as Top Chef fan-favorite Fabio Viviani joins Columbus Foods for its “Meat Up” food truck tour, inviting Americans to explore the simple Italian goodness of premium salumi and deli meats.  They’re hitting the road this April and May, spending a week each in Scottsdale, Salt Lake, Boston, New York Metro and New Orleans, as part of the company’s long-standing tradition of local market retail promotions.

With thriving restaurants in Los Angeles and Chicago, Fabio is a shining star in the culinary world following a successful stint on season five of Bravo’s hit television show Top Chef and the New York Times bestselling cookbook ‘Fabio’s American Kitchen’. “I grew up making salumi with my grandmother in her kitchen in Florence, Italy,” he recalls. “I love the fact that Columbus was founded by Italian immigrants and shares my dedication to the traditional process and simple Italian goodness found in the salumeria, or Italian delicatessen. It’s an honor and a privilege to work with a brand that is equally inspired by the Old World craft that has informed my life and career.”

Beginning April 9, Columbus and Fabio will woo the crowds at four top-tier events including the Scottsdale Culinary Festival, Boston’s MayFair, Mother’ s Day Weekend at the New York Botanical Garden and the NOLA Food & Wine Experience, showcasing Columbus’  broad variety of salumi and deli meat offerings. While in town, Columbus will also share samples from its branded food truck at local grocery retailers – the full schedule and details can be found at www.ColumbusMeatUp.com.

“Fabio bridges traditional Italian heritage with today’s contemporary lifestyle. His approach to recipe creation – dishes that are simple to prepare and full of flavor – is a perfect complement to Columbus. We’re looking forward to him engaging consumers and providing ideas for meals they can create at home.” said Michael Cruz, director of marketing at Columbus Foods.

Win a chance to cook with Fabio

From April 9 – May 30, consumers can stop by the “Meat Up” tour or visit www.ColumbusMeatUp.com to enter to win a trip to Los Angeles, two nights lodging and a cooking session with Fabio at his Moorpark, Calif. restaurant, Café Firenze.

 

Chocolat Frey AG Acquires SweetWorks, Inc.

Chocolat Frey has acquired a majority of the stock of SweetWorks, Inc. retroactively as of January 1, 2014. Headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y., SweetWorks operates a production plant in Buffalo with approximately 200 employees, and also owns a subsidiary, Oak Leaf Confections Co., in Toronto, Ontario, Canada that employs around 250 workers. SweetWorks will continue to operate as an independent group of companies and their production facilities and staff will remain in place. Current owner and CEO Philip Terranova will continue as President of SweetWorks. The purchase price is undisclosed.

SweetWorks and Chocolat Frey pursue comparable business models with the production of high quality chocolate and chewing gum. The assortment structures of the two companies complement each other strategically. Mutual synergies can be found along the entire value chain.

All of the North American market activities of Chocolat Frey and SweetWorks will be combined under a single management. With the acquisition, Chocolat Frey is strengthening its market presence in the United States and Canada.

Six Percent of Americans Eat the Easter Bunny’s Feet First

 The Easter bunny is on his way, and he’s got a sweet tooth. Nearly 83 percent of parents plan to include candy and chocolate in their Easter baskets this year, according to a nationwide survey by the National Confectioners Association (NCA). Additional popular items in the basket include non-edibles, such as crayons, stuffed animals and books (73 percent).

Total U.S. confectionery sales this Easter season are projected to be $2.26 billion – up four percent from 2013 – due to three extra weeks of merchandising. About 81 percent of survey respondents said they will share or gift candy during America’s favorite springtime holiday.

“The survey indicates that kids and adults alike continue to celebrate the Easter holiday by enjoying one of life’s great treats: candy. And with 87 percent of parents planning to buy or create Easter baskets for their children, the long-standing tradition lives on,” said NCA Executive Vice President Alison Bodor.

“Candy has a special place in American culture,” continued Bodor. “It’s what many people enjoy at holidays and other celebrations. And studies show that consumers know how to ‘treat right.’ Research suggests that candy comprises only 2.2 percent of the average diet.”

Holiday Purchasing Trends

NCA’s survey determined new insights about Americans’ buying preferences and habits:

  • The power of the in-store experience during holidays. More than half of adult consumers (51 percent) are influenced by holiday displays to purchase seasonal candy.
  • Playing the name game. Brand names influence 71 percent of Americans’ candy purchases.
  • Keeping it classic. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed say they are influenced by the classics or popular choices when buying seasonal candy.
  • Spring brings kindness. Seventy-eight percent of Americans often buy Easter candy to share with friends, family or colleagues.

Easter Traditions

The tradition of the Easter bunny began with the Easter Hare in Germany, who would leave brightly colored eggs for children on Easter morning. In the 18th century, the tradition of the Easter Hare came to the United States and eventually evolved into the Easter bunny we know today. Now, chocolate bunnies are the most popular items in Easter baskets, and are paired with other favorites, like jelly beans and marshmallow treats. How eggs-cellent!

Survey results related to the chocolate Easter bunny include:

  • Solid choice.  About 66 percent of Americans prefer solid chocolate bunnies over hollow ones.
  • All ears. What’s that you said? Eighty-nine percent of respondents believe the proper way to eat a chocolate Easter bunny is ears first. Roughly six percent go for the feet, and five percent begin with the tail.
  • The age-old question. Which came first – Easter bunny or the Easter egg? A slight majority of survey respondents (52 percent) say the Easter bunny came before the Easter egg. Talk about splitting hares!

Jelly beans remain a seasonal classic – more than 16 billion of them are made for Easter each year in the United States. Cherry is the most popular jelly bean flavor among survey respondents (24 percent). Strawberry is another top favorite (19 percent), while licorice, lemon and grape collectively are enjoyed most by 35 percent of Americans. Surprisingly, about 22 percent of those surveyed prefer an “other” flavor. Perhaps the Easter bunny voted for carrot!

Visit www.CandyUSA.com/Easter for more sweet information on candy, Easter and celebration ideas.

You may also keep up with NCA on Twitter (@CandyUSA) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/NationalConfectionersAssociation).

Growing Craft Soda Market Giving Adults a Nostalgic New Way to Treat Themselves this Summer

By Lucas Witman

Few adults are without fond childhood memories of summertime soda pops and icy cold root beer floats. Even all grown up, it is difficult to imagine enjoying a plate of barbecue without a frosty soft drink on the side. And when hosting a group of adults, it is likely that soda is finding its way into some of your favorite summertime cocktails. Yet, despite the ubiquity of bubbly beverages, soft drinks are undoubtedly a guilty pleasure—something to be splurged on and perhaps regretted later. Craft soda companies are attempting to change this, however, introducing gourmet sparkling beverages to U.S. consumers that offer tastier, more wholesome alternatives to the grocery store 12-pack staples.

When it comes to today’s soda marketplace, more and more companies are reaching out to adult consumers with products and flavors specifically designed to appeal to their unique grown-up palates. “I think palates are changing, and people want better solutions,” said Carleton Johnson, founder of Joia All Natural Soda. “I think all of us have been trained now by Starbucks and these premium coffee houses to expect something better with more taste and more complexity.”

“We’re not diet. We’re not positioned as ‘zero’ in any way,” said Steve Hersh, President of GuS Grown-Up Soda. “We’re really more about taste. The less sweet taste is designed to appeal to a grown-up who’s outgrown Nehi or Hawaiian Punch.”

There are a number of ways that companies like Joia and GuS are designing sodas that appeal especially to adults. Perhaps the most significant change that gourmet soda companies are introducing to their products to make them more attractive to this demographic is making them slightly less sweet. GuS’ recipes involve 40 percent less sugar and calories than what goes into a traditional soda, and Joia sodas contain as little as 15 grams of sugar per serving, compared to 40 or more in mainstream sodas.

In addition to creating slightly drier beverages, gourmet soda companies are also endeavoring to make their products with more natural ingredients. “High-fructose corn syrup, high sugar and full-calorie beverages and even diet sodas are on the downslide, but people still like bubbles, especially during dining occasions,” said Hersh. “I don’t think people are saying that carbonation is bad. It’s just the ingredients in mainstream sodas that are the no-no.” For this reason, GuS chooses to eschew artificial ingredients in its products, flavoring its sodas with real juice, natural extracts and pure cane sugar.

One craft soda company that has broken new ground in producing a beverage made entirely from the natural ingredients so popular among 21st century American consumers is Spindrift. All Spindrift sodas and seltzers are made with fresh, raw, unpasteurized juice combined with sparkling water and cane sugar. “There’s a lot of natural sodas out there, but what we learned is that nobody has done anything with fresh juice,” said Shelly Haygood, Vice President of Sales and Business Development for Spindrift. “By using a fresh juice, the taste is just so much brighter, and just the idea of fresh comes through. Really, everyone who tries it is excited, because it’s something different.”

By focusing on making a product with juice, squeezed from freshly harvested, regionally grown produce, Spindrift is able to capitalize on another consumer trend, popular among modern consumers: the push for seasonality. Perhaps a first in the industry, Spindrift recently debuted a seasonal pomegranate flavor, produced from fruit harvested on a small California farm. The soda was available on the West Coast only for a short time while the pomegranates were in season.

Joia All Natural Soda has found its own unique way to appeal to modern bubbly beverage enthusiasts, creating a product line that creatively combines fruit, herb and spice flavors in ways not erstwhile seen in the soda aisle. “Our point of difference is we are a fruit, herb, spice company, so it’s grapefruit-chamomile-cardamom, blackberry-pomegranate-ginger, lime-hibiscus-clove,” said Johnson. “Because of the fruit and herb/spice combinations, they’re less sweet. It’s all natural, so they’ve just got a nice, much fresher, cleaner taste. They’re a little more complex. We talk about layers of fresh flavor.”

GuS Grown-Up Soda has taken a different approach in crafting its products, opting to appeal to adults’ nostalgic affection for classic American flavors like cola, root beer and ginger ale. “It’s enough of a broad range that we’re not trying to create really esoteric flavors that are maybe not as approachable and that you’d need to educate someone about,” said Hersh. “One doesn’t need to be educated about cola, root beer, ginger ale or lemon soda. For the most part, ours is an adult-oriented, natural twist on everyday soda flavors.”

One thing that unites Joia, GuS and Spindrift is the companies’ collective appreciation for cocktails. Each company offers a number of suggestions for how best to use its products in mixing up the perfect drink. GuS, for example, recommends combining its Meyer lemon soda with rum and mint to prepare its spin on the classic mojito: the GuS-ito. One can also mix GuS ginger ale with sake and lime to make a NaGuSake. Spindrift advocates mixing its low-calorie seltzers with vodka to create the perfect skinny cocktail. And Joia offers a diverse array of products that mix perfectly with everything from vodka to gin to rum to tequila.

With craft sodas growing increasingly popular among today’s consumers, more and more restaurants are now offering their clientele the option of these lower calorie, all-natural artisan sparkling drinks. According to Hersh, his company’s products are particularly good for pairing with food, as they are not particularly heavy on sugar and thus do not overwhelm the palate. Today, GuS sodas are available in restaurants around the country, including a number of famed American eateries such as The French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon Bakery.

Haygood similarly argues that her company’s products are a perfect addition to any restaurant menu. For her, the care that goes into crafting Spindrift products more accurately reflects the care that restaurants put into their menus. “Where we’re doing really well, and where our focus has been, is fast casual restaurants or where people eat lunch,” she said. “We go in and we see that there is incredible care taken with ingredients for salads, sandwiches, beautiful breads. And then at the end there’s a beverage that doesn’t really match. I go in and I say we make our beverages like you make your food, and there’s this instant connection.”

For gourmet soda companies, making specialty sparkling beverages is truly a craft in the most essential definition of the word. Just as innovative food companies have transformed the landscapes of beer, ice cream and chocolate, taking the products to a truly gourmet level, craft soda companies are doing the same with soda. “With craft beers and other craft types of things, people are looking for more complex flavors,” said Johnson. “You see herbs and spices going on in ice creams and crackers and all sorts of stuff. I think people’s palates are just becoming more and more complex.”

Spring Green Wisconsin Colby wins Best in Class at 2014 World Championship Cheese Contest

Arena Cheese’s Spring Green Colby won Best of Class at the 2014 World Championship Cheese Contest.   Team Arena, led by Cheesemaker Bill Hanson, will be proud to accept the medal and blue ribbon at the awards banquet to recognize this team’s continual striving for excellence.   “We are honored to be recognized as the best among so many fine cheesemakers who make Colby.  We’ve been making authentic Colby cheese traditionally for over 15 years,” stated Bill Hanson, a Wisconsin cheesemaker for over 25 years.   The World Championship Cheese Contest is the largest technical evaluation of cheese and butter in the world. This year, 2,615 entries from 22 countries were entered into 90 categories.

The story of Colby Cheese is one of American ingenuity and abundance of quality ingredients.  In 1885, a cheesemaker by the name of Joseph P. Steinwand in the Wisconsin town of Colby was working on a cow’s milk Cheddar cheese in his creamery.   He experimented by washing his curds in cold water. This slight change in the cheese making process created a new cheese that was like Cheddar but creamier, softer and with a milder, more buttery flavor…the cheese we now enjoy as Colby.

Spring Green Colby cheese, crafted  in Arena, Wisc. by Arena Cheese, garnered another high honor by being re-certified for an additional year under the BRC Global Food Standards guidelines with an A rating, the highest possible, as part of the Global Food Safety initiative.  “As retailers and consumers are demanding more safety in the food we eat, Arena Cheese is proud to be working at the very highest standards and for being acknowledged for this effort,” says Cheesemaker Bill Hanson.

Arena has earned 13 national awards since 2002 and took home an award this year for Fresh Cheddar Curds in addition to the Best in Class award earned by the Spring Green Colby. In total, 257 cheese companies entered 1,794 different products for judging.

Arena Cheese is one of Wisconsin’s oldest cheese plants.  This creamery is located in the Wisconsin River Valley within the lush, green rolling hills of the Spring Green area, made famous by visionary architect, Frank Lloyd Wright as well as by Arena’s delicious cheeses.   Arena Cheese also makes deli horn mild Gouda, a natural hardwood Smoked Gouda and longhorn and deli horns of Colby/Jack.

 

Natural Products Association Names New CEO

The Natural Products Association (NPA), a non-profit trade organization dedicated to the natural products industry, today announced that Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., will be its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Fabricant has worked as the Director of the Division of Dietary Supplement Programs at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the past three years, and prior to that was Vice President of global government and scientific affairs for NPA, including serving as Active CEO for several months in 2009.  

NPA is the largest and oldest organization representing the entire natural products industry, with more than 2,000 members in all 50 states and internationally, accounting for over 10,000 retail, manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution locations of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids.

“We couldn’t be more pleased that Dr. Fabricant will be returning to NPA. His service to this association in the past, coupled with the invaluable experience he has gathered at FDA, make him the perfect choice to lead our association in this era of growth,” said NPA President Roxanne Green. “He knows the industry as well, if not better, than anyone. NPA is committed to ensuring that the public knows what is truly natural, that our members understand the complex rules and regulations governing our industry, and that policymakers get the facts. As the foremost industry expert on natural products and dietary supplement issues, Dr. Fabricant will help us achieve those goals.”

“NPA is the leading association in the industry, and my top priority is ensuring NPA remains the premiere organization for advocacy and regulatory engagement.  NPA is made up of leaders, and we are going to dedicate ourselves to strengthening that leadership position through hard work and membership growth. Now is the time to take our productivity to the next level, and that is precisely what we will do,” said Fabricant.

Fabricant has published extensively and is internationally recognized both for his regulatory and governmental public health expertise and natural products research. He is a sought after speaker, regular guest on national news programs and has testified before Congress. He was awarded the FDA Commissioners Award for his service on several different initiatives. His service at FDA required him to direct agency policy, public affairs and regulatory action regarding regulation of the $32+ billion (USD) dietary supplement industry, a commodity used by over 180 million Americans daily.

Dragon Fruit Jin+Ja Named sofi Award Finalist

The Specialty Food Association has notified Canada Enterprises LLC, the creator of Jin+Ja, that Dragon Fruit Jin + Ja is a 2014 sofi™ Awards finalist for Outstanding Cold Beverage. There were 2,025 entries across all 30 Awards in Part 1.

Gold Winners will be determined in a special tasting by 200+ buyers at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City on Sunday, June 29 and Monday, June 30.  Gold Winners will be announced that Monday, June 30, at a red-carpet ceremony hosted by noted chef Dominique Ansel.

Jane’s Dough Foods to Exhibit at Gluten & Allergen Free Expo

Coming off a successful exposition of its newest gluten-free pizza at Natural Products Expo West in March, Sonoma Flatbreads by Donatos® is continuing to rise. The emerging new brand will exhibit at the Gluten & Allergen Free (GFAF) Expo in Schaumburg, Ill., on April 12-13, 2014. The Gluten & Allergen Free Expo, which attracts more than 20,000 gluten-free and allergen-free consumers each year, is hosting the first iteration of its six-city tour this year in the Chicago area. The expo features presenters who are experts in the gluten and allergen free space and is touted to be the largest gluten free exposition in the United States.

GF Pepperoni Glamour 2Appealing to everyday and gourmet pizza lovers alike – and to those who like to personalize their pizza – the newest offering to join the Sonoma Flatbreads line of gluten-free pizzas is Chicken and Fire Roasted Peppers. This 12-inch pizza has a net weight of 18.88 ounces and includes a special crushed red pepper spice packet.

GF Pep 1Exhibiting at Gluten & Allergen Free Expo is timely for Jane’s Dough Foods, an independent, family-owned company celebrating more than 50 years of business, as the company is innovating the way consumers think about gluten-free pizza. “We are redefining gluten-free pizza by combining the flavors and ingredients that speak to today’s consumer with 50 years of restaurant industry know-how,” says Alan Hoover, General Manager of Jane’s Dough Foods, maker of Sonoma Flatbreads. The pizza features antibiotic-free chicken that was fed a vegetarian diet and is minimally processed. The pepper trio includes fire roasted green, red, and yellow bell peppers. A rich tomato sauce and lightly smoked provolone round out the offering. Made with “simply honest ingredients,” there are no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives in any of the Sonoma Flatbreads line. Each serving of the new pizza flavor provides 14 grams of protein. The suggested retail price is $8.99.

DF MAVENS Signs on with 5W Public Relations to Promote Dairy-Free Ice Cream Brand

 5W Public Relations, one of the 25 largest independent public relations firms in the U.S., has added DF MAVENS  to its diverse roster of food and consumer packaged goods clients. DF MAVENS is a new and delicious dairy-free ice cream created by Malcolm Stogo, one of the world’s leading ice cream experts.

A dairy-free dessert unlike any other, DF MAVENS products provide a treat that everyone can enjoy – vegans, lactose intolerant and anyone who loves eating ice cream. Combining the finest and healthiest ingredients from around the world, DF MAVENS comes in three main varieties including soy, coconut and almond. All products are dairy-free, gluten-free, do not contain preservatives or cholesterol and are Kosher.  No Sugar Added options are also available and all products come in flavors such as Madagascar Vanilla Bean, Del Lago Chocolate, Peanut Butter Fudge Mash, New Orleans Salted Praline, Mocha Almond Chip, Mint Almond Cookie and many more.

“We are thrilled to be working with the DF MAVENS team,” said Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5W Public Relations.  “As a leader in the food space, 5W will utilize our team’s unparalleled work ethic and creativity to develop unique campaigns, and generate maximum exposure among consumers for this innovative brand and its exceptional dairy-free products.”

Nick Lachey Joins Lindt GOLD BUNNY Celebrity Auction for Autism Speaks

Nick Lachey, television personality, multi-platinum recording artist, loving husband and father, joined premium chocolatier, Lindt USA, to launch the fifth Lindt GOLD BUNNY Celebrity Auction and help raise awareness for autism, a cause close to his family. Lachey, who shared his personal connection to autism, joined the exclusive line-up of nearly 100 celebrities participating in this year’s auction by donating autographs.  One hundred percent of proceeds from the celebrity-signed Lindt GOLD BUNNY figures will benefit the world’s leading autism research and advocacy organization, Autism Speaks. This year, Lindt will make a matching donation.  Now through April 14, fans can bid on celebrity-signed porcelain Lindt GOLD BUNNY figures – from Kelly Clarkson to Sarah Jessica Parker, Tom Brady and Seth Meyers – and give back this Easter.

“It’s an honor to help launch this year’s Lindt GOLD BUNNY Celebrity Auction and support a cause very close to my family,” said Lachey.  “My younger brother, Zac, was diagnosed with autism as a child, and we’re continuously inspired by his perseverance and strength.  Autism affects so many families, and Lindt is offering simple ways to get involved this Easter and help give back.”