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Kroger Opens Culinary Innovation Center

Kroger has opened its Culinary Innovation Center in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio.

“Kroger’s new Culinary Innovation Center is an exciting state-of-the-art test kitchen and education center,” said Daniel Hammer, Kroger’s Vice President of Culinary Development and New Business. “As we focus on redefining the customer experience and developing talent through food inspiration and uplift, as outlined in Restock Kroger, this R&D lab will allow us to accelerate product development for Our Brands, produce new recipes for Prep + Pared Meal Kits, explore new restaurant concepts, host food tastings and focus groups, and increase our associates’ culinary knowledge.”

Kroger commenced construction on the 12,000-square-foot, LEED-designed center in March 2017. The commercial kitchen features multiple cooking stations, spaces and capabilities, including technology that allows video streaming of educational sessions to Kroger associates across the country.

Kroger introduced its first restaurant concept Kitchen 1883 in November 2017 and launched its Prep+Pared Meal Kits earlier in the same year, which are available for purchase in stores and through ClickList. Kroger has plans to rapidly grow the footprint of Prep+Pared Meal Kits in 2018.

“Kroger has operated grocery stores since 1883; we know food. People will always eat, but the way they eat will always change. Our new Center is one more tool we have to keep our pulse on customer trends and expand our foodie culture,” said Hammer.

Meijer Offers New Meal Inspirations

Meijer’s new Meal Inspirations draw on the culinary skill of creating a classic mirepoix, defined as a flavorful mixture of diced vegetables and seasonings. Plus, Meal Inspiration kits are designed to inspire at-home chefs to create their own unique recipes.

Each of the four new Meal Inspiration kits offers three recipes included on the peel-away label. The recipes call for minimal additional ingredients and each recipe is ready in under 40 minutes with no chopping of vegetables.

  • Southwest Blend – This is a blend of black beans, chick peas, sweet corn, diced tomatoes, peppers and onions. This is a great base for any Southwestern or Mexican-inspired dish.
  • Asparagus & Mushroom – Asparagus’ bright vegetal taste complements the earthiness of mushrooms. Together they create a powerful umami flavor combination.
  • Ham & Vegetable – If you’re craving something a little heartier like potatoes au gratin, this flavorful diced mix of ham, onions and green, yellow and red peppers will add a savory punch.
  • Rosemary Vegetable – This combination of rosemary sprigs, diced carrots, celery and onions makes a great flavor base for an oven-roasted meal, such as a beef roast or braised chicken.

Meijer also introduced four new vegetable kits called “Roasters” that are perfect for roasting. Each kit has cooking instructions and all ingredients are included to prepare. The customer simply needs to add olive oil and roast.

  • Young Potatoes with Scallions & Mushrooms
  • Chimichurri Sweet Potatoes & Cauliflower
  • Herb Roasted New Potatoes with Bacon
  • Mediterranean Style Green Beans.

Expo West Offers Products to Woo the Health-Conscious Consumer

By Lorrie Baumann

The Climate Collaborative’s second annual Climate Day program will take place this year on Wednesday, March 7 as part of Natural Products Expo West, which will take place March 7-11 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Exhibits located in the convention center’s new North Halls will be open March 8-10, while exhibits in the Main Halls will be open March 9-11. The North Halls are located across the plaza from the Anaheim Convention Center Arena, in space formerly occupied by a convention center parking garage. More than 3,000 vendors are scheduled to exhibit at the show.


Fishpeople will be among those companies exhibiting in the North Hall this year. The company, founded in 2012, produces seafood entree kits as well as a line of seafood bisques and chowders packaged in ready-to-eat pouches that have drawn attention from outdoor enthusiasts, who appreciate that the shelf-stable pouches provide a chef-inspired gourmet meal that can be heated in about 90 seconds and enjoyed on-the-go right out of the pouch, according to company CEO Ken Plasse.

Fishpeople’s seafood entree kits are designed to meet the needs of consumers who don’t trust seafood or don’t trust themselves with seafood, either because they don’t know where the fish is coming from and how it’s caught or because they think that fish is difficult to prepare. “You spend a lot on a nice piece of fish, and people are afraid of screwing it up,” Plasse said, adding that these factors help explain why two thirds of the seafood consumed by Americans is ordered in restaurants.

Fishpeople seafood kits are offered in four varieties: Meyer Lemon & Herb Panko Wild Alaskan Salmon Kit, Cajun Shrimp & Sweet Pepper Wild Alaskan Salmon Kit, Chipotle & Lime Wild Alaskan Cod Kit and Garlic Parmesan Potato Wild Alaskan Cod Kit. Sold from the grocer’s freezer case, they’re designed to solve all those consumer fears. The company’s website offers traceability information for each product, so consumers can go to the website to find out more about how, where and by whom the fish was caught, and the kits offer all the components necessary to turn the kit into an entree for two. “We’ve taken that fish and provided a custom topper and foolproof instructions so you get great results every time,” Plasse said. “In addition to two portions and the recipe card, we provide a foil for each fish to keep the moisture inside for a tented baking – you stop the drying and overcooking. You get a lot of flexibility [on the exact cooking time].”

“The entire experience from the minute you open the box is about 20 minutes,” he added. Actual baking time for the kit after it’s thawed is about 10 to 12 minutes, and although the company recommends cooking the thawed fish, the kit can also be prepared right out of the freezer. Each of the two servings is packaged individually, so the consumer can cook the kit one serving at a time if desired.

The seafood kit is the most recent addition to the Fishpeople range of products that also includes a line of chowders and bisques packaged in single-serving packages that can either be microwaved for 90 seconds or heated in a boiling water bath. In either case, the soups can be eaten right out of the pouch. Varieties include Wild Crab Bisque, Alder Smoke Wild Salmon Chowder, Wild Seafood Bouillabaisse and Razor Clam Chowder. A dairy-free soup will be launched this fall.

The suggested retail price for the single-serve soups is $4.99, while the seafood kits that serve two retail for $9.99.

Wild Garden

Ziyad Brothers Importing will be exhibiting its Wild Garden products in Hall E at Expo West. The company has a new line of simmer sauces and marinades that will capture the interest of Millennial consumers who are looking for convenient ways to bring authentic ethnic flavors to their tables. The line includes Tunisian Shakshouka Simmer Sauce, Chermoula Marinade, Chicken Shawarma Marinade and Beef Shawarma Marinade. The Tunisian Shakshouka Simmer Sauce is packaged in an 8.8-ounce pouch and is made from ripe tomatoes, onions, red peppers, garlic and spices with simple instructions for preparing the breakfast dish that has a cult following among New York hipsters and food bloggers. The cook pours the contents of the pouch into a small skillet and brings it to a simmer, then uses a spoon to create wells in the sauce in which to drop in eggs for poaching. A few minutes later, breakfast is served. The sauce is also an excellent base for poaching fish or shrimp, according to Ziyad Executive Chef Maher Chebaro, who developed the recipe for the Wild Garden sauce.

Munk Pack

Munk Pack is also among the exhibitors in Hall E at Expo West, where the company will be showcasing its lines of Protein Cookies and Oatmeal Fruit Squeezes. Both product lines are manufactured in the U.S. with several nutrition and safety certifications: they’re gluten free certified, kosher, Non-GMO Project Verified and vegan certified.

Munk Pack targets its products to active adults, said co-Founder and co-CEO Michelle Glienke. “The brand is meant to elicit a love for the outdoors and appeal to people’s love of nature, as well as encourage active and healthy living. Our products are also for any on-the-go purpose,” she said. “You can keep them in your purse or grab them on the way out the door.”

The Oatmeal Fruit Squeeze, which is available in five varieties, was the first product line for the company that launched into retail in April 2015. Co-Founders Michelle Glienke and Tobias Glienke were living in New York City at the time and felt like they didn’t have a good option for a quick grab-and-go breakfast that was made with real food ingredients. “At the time we were making a lot of smoothies and oatmeal, but it was time-consuming and messy,” Michelle said. “We discovered the pouch packaging, which enabled the cooked food to be packaged without fillers or preservatives, and it would keep for a long time. We decided that the innovation we wanted to bring to the market was an adult nutrition product, in this packaging format, to be eaten on the go.”

Munk Pack Oatmeal Fruit Squeeze is sold nationally in major grocery retailers and is available in Apple Quinoa Cinnamon, Maple Pear Quinoa, Peach Chia Vanilla, Blueberry Acai Flax and Raspberry Coconut. They retail for $2.49. The company’s Protein Cookies, launched last year at Natural Products Expo West, are available in four varieties: Double Dark Chocolate, Coconut White Chip Macadamia, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin Spice. They retail for $2.79.

Chosen Foods

Chosen Foods will be bringing a new flavor of Avocado Oil to Hall E, extending its product line into the flavored oil space as well as a “very allergy-friendly” mayonnaise. Specifics will only be available closer to show time, so keep an eye on Gourmet Newswire for more details. Gourmet Newswire will also offer its readers the first look at Naturally Healthy, the Gourmet News special supplement covering a much wider range of the products and brands exhibiting this year at Expo West. If you’re not already a subscriber to Gourmet Newswire, which arrives in email in-boxes each Tuesday, you can subscribe at – just tell the website that you want the weekly Gourmet Newswire.


Toufayan will be bringing gluten-free chips, gluten-free cookies and organic items to Hall E. Those will include Toufayan’s Organic Pita Bread, Organic Naan, Organic Garlic Naan and the brand-new Smart Pockets, which are square “bread wallets” for sandwiches. “There really isn’t anything like it in the marketplace,” said Richard Gilfert, National Sales Manager for Toufayan. A package of six Smart Pockets will retail for $2.99 to $3.99.

Lundberg Family Farms

Grounded Snacks’ Baked Grain Bites will be in the Lundberg Family Farms booth in Hall C at Expo West. These snacks made from brown rice, sorghum and amaranth are made in Richvale, California, and offered in 4-ounce bags in five flavors launching at Expo West: Vanilla Chai, White Cheddar & Jalapeno, Smoky Sweet BBQ, Aged Parmesan and Garlic & Herb. The 4-ounce bag retails for $3.49. Single-serve packaging for Baked Grain Bites will also be reaching store shelves this summer.

They join a Grounded Snacks product range that already includes whole grain chips in a variety of flavors made from rice and quinoa and sold nationwide.

Brooklyn Crafted

In Hall A at Expo West, Brooklyn Crafted will be showing its ginger beers, including the line’s new extension, packaged in 7 fluid-ounce bottles, in the BCGA Concept Corp. booth. Brooklyn Crafted is a line of ginger beers that launched last year with Extra Spicy Ginger Beer, Sugar Free Extra Spicy Ginger Beer and Sugar Free Ginger Ale in 12-ounce bottles. The ginger beers are spicier versions of the company’s Bruce Cost Ginger Ale, BCGA Concept Corp’s initial product line. “All of our products carry fresh, unfiltered ginger, so when you look at the bottle, it looks like there’s sediment in the bottle, which is the fresh ginger,” said Keli Roberson, the company’s Marketing Director.

The Brooklyn Crafted ginger beers kick up the ginger flavor a notch with the addition of organic ginger extract. They create great cocktail mixers that work well in recipes for a Dark and Stormy or a Moscow Mule – a cocktail trend that’s still spreading across the country. “They’re very refreshing, while offering the healthy components of ginger,” Roberson said.

As the name suggests, the Brooklyn Crafted products are made in Brooklyn, New York. Last October, the company launched Brooklyn Crafted Mini Bottles, a line of the craft ginger beers packaged in 7-fluid ounce bottles. They’re available in four flavors: Traditional, Earl Grey, Lemon & Lime and Mango. The Mini Bottles retail for $1.49 per bottle.

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