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Meijer Commitment to Local Craft Breweries Creates More Than $100 Million in Economic Impact

Meijer began carrying its first craft brew more than 20 years ago. Today, Meijer remains committed to the growing industry and the up-and-coming local breweries across the Midwest.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based retailer’s commitment to local craft breweries represents an annual economic impact of more than $100 million across the Midwest. Meijer expects to stay on par with its projected double-digit volume growth in craft beer sales, as the retailer has experienced over the past three years. With respect to Michigan-based craft beer alone, Meijer reports it has seen a 20 percent increase across its six-state footprint so far this year, said Rich O’Keefe, Meijer Senior Buyer, during a recent exclusive roundtable gathering of some of the best craft beer breweries in southeast Michigan.

“We attribute this growth to establishing a great dialogue with craft beer breweries throughout Michigan and cultivating their popularity across our retail foot print,” said O’Keefe at Atwater Brewery in Detroit. “The consumer response has been tremendous. It proves that the thirst for Michigan craft beer is apparent throughout our retail markets. We are proud of the great products Michigan-based breweries produce and look forward to expanding the availability and building the popularity of other great regional breweries.”

Meijer gathered together several Detroit and Michigan-based brewery owners and founders at Atwater Brewery to discuss product trends and the state of the local craft beer industry. The event kicked off local in-store tasting events with area craft “brewlebrities” on site at select Meijer stores.

Participants included:

Joe Short: Founder/Owner of Short’s Brewing Company
Mark Reith: Owner of Atwater Brewery
Eric Briggeman: Vice President/General Manager of Rochester Mills Brewery
Kyle VanDeventer: Sales Manager of Griffin Claw
John Leone: Owner/President of ROAK Brewing Company
Tony Grant: Owner of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, North Peak Brewing Company and Northern United Brewing Company
Chase Kushak: Co-Founder/CEO of Founders Brewing Company
Matt Moberly: Director of Business Insights of Bells Brewery
“The concept of craft beer – especially in Detroit – has grown quickly from a garage hobby to a viable economic engine for Detroit and Michigan,” said Peter Whitsett, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing for Meijer. “We are proud to celebrate the craft masters who drove this industry to where it is today in Detroit. Their commitment to quality and craftsmanship is fueling demand for craft beer in and around Detroit.”

Meijer began carrying its first craft brew – Bell’s Oberon – 20 years ago at a single Kalamazoo store, and today sells more than 550 different craft beers from 220 local breweries across the retailer’s six-state footprint. Of those, 40 are produced by Detroit or southeast Michigan breweries. Meijer continues to partner with local craft brewers to expand their distribution. In fact, Michigan craft beer sales account for 31 percent of the retailer’s craft beer sales and 10 percent of the retailer’s total beer sales.

“Being in the same room with this group of craft brewlebrities – knowing their histories and the how far they’ve come is truly amazing,” said Shannon Long, Producer and Co-host of “Pure Brews America,” who moderated the roundtable discussion. “I think what makes them great is that they are focused on their core and not the next hot thing. They don’t need to follow a trend because they are the trend. “

Your Brand Tells a Story About You and Your Customer

By Lorrie Baumann

Your store’s brand, encapsulated by the stories you tell about yourself and your business, can be a powerful tool for connecting with customers, according to design and branding consultant Debbie Millman. “Take your branding seriously. People see branding as devil’s work, that you’re creating a false image in the market, that it’s based on lowest common denominator and lies, and that is not the case,” she said during a presentation at this year’s Natural Products Expo East, held September 22-24 in Baltimore, Maryland. “You want to uncover your origins and share that in a way that is authentic and compelling…. You have to capture the imagination of your consumer in a very quick way.”

Millman is also the host of the “Design Matters” podcast, the first and longest running podcast about design. Over the past 11 years, the podcast has garnered a million downloads a year and a Cooper Hewitt National Design Award. iTunes named it one of the best podcasts of 2015.

The concept of branding first became legally recognized with the passage of trademark legislation in 1876. Bass Ale was the very first trademarked brand. “I love what this says about us as a species,” Millman said. Bass Ale’s trademark application was rather quickly followed by what may be the first example of product placement: the painting “A Bar at the Folies-Bergere” by Edouard Manet. Painted in 1882, the work includes depictions of a couple of ale bottles with their Bass Ale labels clearly visible.
Brands as we know them are late 19th-century products of the Industrial Revolution, with mass manufacturing of goods that began to be distributed beyond face-to-face transactions between the individuals who made them and the individuals who used them. Brands were what guaranteed the purchasers that they were getting an identifiable, distinguishable product, even though they didn’t know personally the individuals who made it. “Stories about brands were meant to inform us, to describe what it is we were receiving,” Millman said. “Part of it was a sort of guarantee that the things we were buying were safe and unadulterated. We were supposed to be able to have the security of knowing that we were interacting with a product that would keep us safe.” Early brand leaders were Ivory Soap, Campbell’s Soup and Coca-Cola.

In about 1920, products started coming onto the market that looked very much like other products already on the market. Pepsi followed Coca-Cola; Quaker Oats was followed by other breakfast cereals. Since some of these new products’ appearance or performance weren’t easily distinguishable from their forerunners, marketers began finding other ways to distinguish their products from others, and they started creating characters that would entertain and create relationships with consumers. Betty Crocker was a complete fabrication; Uncle Ben wasn’t a real person, and yet consumers developed real relationships with brands based on the way they understood these characters. “You could relate to and project onto a character, and these stories about brands engaged us,” Millman said.

Around 1965, brands began to say more about the consumers who bought them than about the products behind them. Brands like Levi’s, Nike and Marlboro didn’t say as much about the pants, shoes and cigarettes as they did the consumers who were wearing the Levi’s jeans and the Nike sneakers and smoking the Marlboro cigarettes. “Stories about brands reflected us, what we wanted other people to believe about us,” Millman said.

Then around 1985, brands like Disney, Apple and Starbucks began to stand for an experience rather than a specific product, and consumers began responding, not just to the specific item that carried the brand but to the way that having that item made them feel. “This is when brand zealots were born,” Millman said. “Stories about brands emotionally transformed us.”

“Why as a species are we so compelled by this?” Millman asked. “Why do we form tribes of our own around brands?”

She noted that nearly every species of animals on the planet prefers to congregate, organizing into some kind of pack for safety and comfort. Humans are not different in this respect, Millman said, pointing to scientific studies that have shown that given the choice between being held by his mother and not fed or being fed but not held, a baby will choose the connection with his mother. “If the baby has to choose between starving to death and being held, the baby will always choose to be held,” Millman said. “We feel happiest and most secure when our brains resonate with others.” Our symbols, including our brands, have been ways to facilitate this congregation – before there were military uniforms, flags identified that place on the battlefield where our fellows could be found, just as today, a product bearing the Apple brand identifies its owner as a member of a particular tribe.

Beginning in about 2005, the leading brands were no longer just identifying concrete, physical products and had begun to be about the ways we connect with each other. Think Facebook, Twitter. They’re means by which we tell each other our stories, regardless of the physical devices through with we do that these days. “The more popular brands of the moment are all around stories,” Millman said. “Now we’re being inundated with reality stories in everything we watch.”

That being the case, Millman advises that we make sure that we’re telling the authentic stories that will help others connect with us and that will help them feel that they are accepted as they are rather than judged for their flaws. “To create brands, help people feel connected and accepted and okay as is,” she said. “If you can capture that acceptance, you will likely grow your brands really quickly. I see a huge social shift about accepting as is.”

“Communicate something in your brand that will help consumers make a difference in their lives,” she added. “You must be absolutely, positively authentic. You can’t make these stories up. Consumers today have a very strong BS meter, and they know when they’re not being told the truth.”

Wixon Donates to Help Build Meat Science Laboratory

Wixon, a manufacturer of seasonings, flavors, and technologies for the food and beverage industry, has made a five-year commitment to donate $250,000 to the construction of the new University of Wisconsin-Madison Meat Science Laboratory.

Ground was recently broken on the 67,540-square-foot building, with occupancy expected in spring 2018. The current meat laboratory, built in 1931 with additions in the 1950s and 1970s, did not have the space or facilities to meet current industry and research demands.

According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Meat Science Laboratory website, the mission of the new facility is four-fold:

  • Train the next generation of meat industry leaders with cutting edge insightfulness and technologies;
  • Support innovative research interests through interdisciplinary collaborative efforts;
  • Provide outreach education to foster the production of wholesome meat products for the consuming public and;
  • Economic development of the meat industry.

A lecture/demonstration suite, a biosafety lab suite, teaching and research offices, and an expanded retail space will be included in the building. The retail shop will be in the entry atrium of the new building and will be open daily, providing the public an opportunity to buy meat and poultry products, plus learn about meat.

“We are very excited to play a role in championing pioneering research, providing outreach instruction, supporting the economic development of the meat industry, and educating future meat industry leaders,” Wixon President Peter Gottsacker. “As a provider of spices and seasonings to the meat industry for more than 100 years, Wixon and all of its employees are proud to join other companies and individuals in helping to keep UW-Madison at the forefront of meat science, which will provide benefits now and for generations to come.”

KIND Bars Healthy Again

By Lorrie Baumann

The Food and Drug Administration has decided that the agency will not enforce a regulation that the agency has interpreted to limit the use of the word “healthy” on food labels in a way that excludes products like some of KIND’s nut and seed bars. The new guidance from the FDA represents only the agency’s current thinking on this topic, and it’s intended to fill a gap between changing understanding about the role of fats in a healthy diet and a regulation that many said was stuck in the past.

Under the new guidance, FDA will allow foods to say they’re “healthy” on their labels if they’re not low in total fat but have a fat profile that’s predominantly mono and polyunsaturated fats or contain at least 10 percent of the daily value of potassium or vitamin D in the amount of the food that would be customarily consumed. “We’re encouraged by the speed of progress within the FDA and see this as a notable milestone in our country’s journey to redefine healthy,” said KIND Founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky.

This change in thinking comes partly as a result of KIND’s urging the agency to take another look at the issue after the FDA sent the company a warning letter in March that the labels of its KIND Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot, Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut, KIND Plus Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein and Kind Plus Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants bars were misbranded because the labels included the word “healthy.” Under the FDA rules at that time, a food had to contain no more than 15 percent of its calories from saturated fat, and the agency noted that the products didn’t meet that criterion. The FDA had a few other quarrels with the labels – among them that KIND had listed its address as its post office box instead of its street address. KIND fixed its labels to comply with FDA requirements, resulting in a stand-down from the agency with a closeout letter on April 20. “The FDA concluded that KIND satisfactorily addressed the violations contained in the warning letter,” according to the agency.

Following receipt of the closeout letter, KIND requested confirmation that it could use the phrase “healthy and tasty” in text clearly presented as the company’s corporate philosophy rather than in the context of an actual nutrient claim for any particular product. “The FDA evaluates the label as a whole and has indicated that in this instance it does not object,” the agency decided, and then followed up with a notice that the newest nutrition research, reflected in the “2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines,” as well as a citizen petition requesting a reevaluation of regulations regarding nutrient content claims suggested that the time had come for the agency to take another look at the issue.

KIND reinstated the word “healthy” on its wrappers. “Earlier this year, the FDA closed out a warning letter issued to KIND in March 2015 affirming that we could use healthy on our wrappers again – just as we had it before – in connection with our corporate philosophy,” said Justin Mervis, KIND’s Head of Regulatory Affairs.

The agency’s next step will be a re-evaluation of the regulatory criteria for use of the implied nutrient claim “healthy” in light of the latest nutrition science and the current dietary recommendations and the seeking of input on how to update the existing regulations for this claim. ”The FDA has posed a number of important questions for comment, and in our continued efforts to advocate for public health, we’re actively convening experts to help provide answers grounded in current nutrition science,” Lubetzky said.

In the meantime, KIND won’t be taking advantage of the FDA’s decision not to enforce current rules, according to Mervis. “At the moment, we have no plans to use healthy in other contexts in reliance of the FDA’s enforcement discretion,” he said. “For us, healthy has always been more than just a word on a label – it’s a commitment to making wholesome snacks that consumers can feel good about putting in their body.”

Millennials Choose Organic

America’s 75 million Millennials are devouring organic, and they’re making sure their families are too. Parents in the 18- to 34-year-old age range are now the biggest group of organic buyers in America, finds a new survey on the organic buying habits of American households released recently by the Organic Trade Association (OTA).

Among U.S. parents, more than five in 10 (52 percent) organic buyers are Millennials. And this influential and progressive generation is stocking their shopping carts with organic on a regular basis.

“The Millennial consumer and head of household is changing the landscape of our food industry,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “Our survey shows that Millennial parents seek out organic because they are more aware of the benefits of organic, that they place a greater value on knowing how their food was grown and produced, and that they are deeply committed to supporting a food system that sustains and nurtures the environment.”

OTA has partnered with KIWI Magazine to conduct surveys of the organic buying patterns of households since 2009. This year’s survey marks the first time that generational buying habits have been studied. The survey looked at Millennials (born between 1981-1997, currently age 18-34 years), Generation-X (born between 1965-1980, currently 35-50 years old), and Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964 and currently 51-69 years old).

Compared to Millennials who account for 52 percent of organic buyers, Generation X parents made up 35 percent of parents choosing organic, and Baby Boomers just 14 percent.

OTA’s “U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs 2016 Tracking Study,” a survey of more than 1,800 households throughout the country with at least one child under 18, found that more than eight in ten (82 percent) U.S. families say they buy organic sometimes, one of the highest levels in the survey’s seven-year lifetime. The number of families never buying organic has steadily decreased, going from almost 30 percent in 2009 to just 18 percent today.

Organic and Living Green
While 35 percent of all families surveyed said that choosing organic products is a key part of their effort to live in an environmentally friendly way, a greater percentage of Millennials said buying organic is a key eco-conscious habit than any other generational group. For 40 percent of Millennials, choosing organic is an integral part of living green, versus 32 percent of Generation Xers and 28 percent of Baby Boomers.

Organic buying continues to be on the rise across the generations. Forty-nine percent of all households surveyed said they are buying more organic foods today than a year ago.

Knowledge about organic is also growing across the generational spectrum of parents, but Millennials in particular are likely to view themselves as very knowledgable about organic products, with nearly eight in 10 (77 percent) reporting that they are “well informed” (34 percent) or “know quite a bit” (44 percent). With that knowledge comes a great deal of trust for the organic label. Parents’ trust in organic labeling is the strongest and highest among Millennials, with 54 percent saying they have confidence in the integrity of the organic label. Almost 60 percent of Millennial parents say they have a “strong connection” with the label and feel the organic label is an important part of how they shop for food.

“The Millennial shopper puts a high premium on the healthiness and quality of the food they choose for their families,” said Batcha. “This generation has grown up eating organic, and seeing that organic label. It’s not surprising that they have a greater knowledge of what it means to be organic, and consequently a greater trust of the organic label.”

Organic sales in the U.S. in 2015 posted new records, with total organic product sales hitting a new benchmark of $43.3 billion, up a robust 11 percent from the previous year’s record level and far outstripping the overall food market’s growth rate of 3 percent, according to OTA’s “2016 Organic Industry Survey.” Of the $43.3 billion in total organic sales, $39.7 billion were organic food sales, up 11 percent from the previous year, with non-food organic products accounting for $3.6 billion, up 13 percent. Nearly 5 percent of all the food sold in the U.S. in 2015 was organic.

Fermentation Fervor Drives Market for Perfect Pickler

By Lorrie Baumann

perfect-pickler-imageThere’s been a surge of consumer interest in fermenting foods over the past few years, fueled in part by scientific research into probiotics, prebiotics and gut health in general and aided by the increasing availability of pre-prepared vegetables in grocers’ produce departments. Leading the way in this is fermentation guru Sandor Katz, author of “Wild Fermentation” and “The Art of Fermentation.” “I got a reputation, and my friends started calling me ‘Sandor Kraut,’” he said.

That surge in interest has created a market for products like the Perfect Pickler, a do-it-yourself kit that enables consumers to make an unlimited supply of affordable fermented vegetables with no spillage or odors and with a minimum of counter space. The Perfect Pickler kit includes an airlock that prevents odors and spillage and simplifies the process. “There are no spills, no odors; it’s completely foolproof,” said Perfect Pickler Owner and Fermentation Visionary Wendy Jackson. “There’s no managing through the process This is just load it, lock it, leave it. Every time it’s foolproof. Fast and easy results.”

“Our kit is an affordable option. It only takes four days and it’s foolproof,” she added. Perfect Pickler has two products in the line, the Master System, which supplies everything the consumer needs to make fermented vegetables on the countertop except a wide-mouth Mason jar, the vegetables and water, and an add-on system that allows users to ferment in two jars at once. “This reflects the demand from customers who were looking to do two at the same time, maybe one jar with curried cauliflower and one with sauerkraut,” Jackson said.

The actual fermenting process is very simple – it’s a matter of chopping vegetables into small pieces, or buying ready-chopped vegetables, adding salt to create a brine and submerging the vegetables under the brine to keep them away from oxygen, then waiting while anaerobic bacteria do their work. In this oxygen-free environment, natural bacteria digest the natural sugars in the plant material and manufacture lactic acid, which discourages the growth of the kinds of microbes that cause food poisoning and adds its own flavor. Four days later, the sauerkraut or kimchi in the Perfect Pickler jar is ready to eat. It’s essentially the same process that’s also used to make wine, beer, yogurt and cheese.

“Almost everybody in every part of the world eats and drinks the products of fermentation every day,” Katz said. “Fermented foods are integrated into culinary traditions in every part of the world.” Jackson herself has traveled to Africa and to India to teach fermentation workshops in places where that local culinary tradition had died out over time. Her workshops gave them back the skills to recreate traditional foods from their own culture. “Even in India it was gone,” she said. “It was amazing to connect with the people.”

Historically, fermentation has been regarded as a practical strategy for preserving extremely perishable foods. Fermentation predates recorded history: human beings learned early that if they could control the microbial changes that happen naturally to foods, they could make it last longer. “The alternative is that food decomposes into a ugly mess that no one would want to eat,” Katz said. “I have dabbled in every realm of fermentation, but I am not an expert…. Indigenous cultures around the world – that’s where the real experts are.”
Katz noted that the most frequent questions he hears as he travels the country speaking and teaching about fermentation is about whether the beginning fermenter runs a risk of making himself sick. Katz says no, that fermenting raw vegetables actually makes them safer. “People project all kinds of fears on fermentation,” he said. “There never has been a single case of illness or food poisoning from fermented vegetables.”

Much of the recent interest in fermented vegetables has resulted from greater understanding of the complexity of the microbial communities that exist within the human body and within the gut in particular. Katz noted that the cells in each of our bodies that carry our own DNA are actually outnumbered by the bacteria living inside each of us. “They’re not parasites. They’re not freeloaders. They contribute to our functionality,” Katz said.

These bacteria are thought to be part of our natural defenses against harmful bacteria, and some research suggests that there may be a connection between our mental health and the health of these gut bacteria in ways that aren’t currently understood, according to Katz. He noted that widespread chlorination of drinking water has deleterious effects on gut bacteria, decreasing its biodiversity, and consumption of probiotics is a strategy for remedying this, he said. “If we’re really interested in cultivating biodiversity, we need to consume different kinds of fermented foods and beverages,” he said. “Bacteria are not our enemies. They are our ancestors and our allies and they give us wonderful foods.”

Eataly Surrounds Customers with Italian Food Culture

By Lorrie Baumann

dscn1408Half the sales for the Eataly store on Fifth Avenue in New York City come from dry grocery, while the other half are rung up at the store’s five restaurants. “We didn’t know that in the beginning,” Lidia Bastianich told an audience at the 2016 Dairy-Deli-Bake Seminar & Expo in May. “People really like this combination.”

Eataly is owned by a partnership of Founder Oscar Farinetti, who started the concept in 2007 with a 30,000-square-foot store in Torino, Italy; the B & B Hospitality Group, which includes Lidia Bastianich, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich; and Adam and Alex Saper. Since then, the group has grown to include a store in Chicago, a second store under development in New York’s World Trade Center and planned stores in Boston, Los Angeles and Sao Paulo Brazil.

Lidia Bastianich is the host of PBS’ “Lidia’s Kitchen” television program and the author of 10 cookbooks as well as the owner of a specialty line of pastas and sauces. She opened her first restaurant in 1971 and moved into writing cookbooks from there. Julia Child discovered her and mentored her through the development of her television program. “One thing leads to the next,” she said.

The opportunity to be part of the grocery business came along with a meeting with Oscar Farinetti, who had opened his store in Torino and was eager to find the right partners to open a store in the United States. He found New York restaurateurs B & B Hospitality Group and the Saper brothers, and together, they opened the 50,000-square-foot Eataly store on New York’s Fifth Avenue in 2010. “We found the space, we liked the location,” Bastianich said. The store now gets 50,000 visitors a day, making it one of New York City’s major tourist attractions. “You have a glass of wine, and you travel around and shop,” Bastianich said. “How civilized is that?… It’s relaxed buying.”

The store is built around La Piazza, a hub and meeting place “where people can claim their space,” Bastianich said. Around La Piazza are salumi and cheese counters, bakery, enoteca, ice cream shop and coffee counter tucked between restaurants that use as their ingredients the same products that are sold on the retail floor. “It is embracing the customer 360 degrees,” Bastianich said. “We are the guarantee behind those restaurants.”

dscn1423The salumi and cheese counter sells 200 to 300 pounds of American and Italian artisan cheese per day. The fresh mozzarella sold at Eataly is stretched on the premises from curds purchased from local artisans. Vegetables on the produce counters are fresh and seasonal, mostly local, with some imported Italian produce. A vegetable butcher on staff can clean the customers’ vegetable for them, so that a customer might pick out the week’s vegetables and then have a snack at the crudo restaurant that’s right there next to the produce counters and consult with the chef about what to do with the purchased produce once it’s at home. “Our target audience is everyone,” Bastianich said. “It’s a 360 degree concept of food from source to preparation and making the consumer a winner…. You need to make the customer feel like they have learned something and they can do it. And if not, they have the opportunity to learn it again in our store.”

Fish, both at the fish counter and in the restaurant, is seasonal and local. “It has to be fresh. The smell when you come to the fish counter should be clean,” Bastianich said. The fishmonger on duty will scale and fillet the customer’s purchase.
The meat counter features a lot of secondary cuts, and the animals from which it came were sustainably raised. “We check all of our producers,” Bastianich said.

The Eataly Bakery and Focacceria makes more than 11,000 loaves of bread per week. “And we sell it. We use it also in our restaurants,” Bastianich said. “Tastings of everything are so important in the store.”

The cooks behind the pasta-making counter make 5,000 pounds of fresh pasta per week. “A lot of it is taken home,” Bastianich said. “We also offer all of the time the opportunity to discuss pasta.” Eataly’s La Pasta restaurant and the La Pizza restaurant right next to it are the two most popular in the store. “We sell 3,000 pizzas a week, easily,” Bastianich said.

The pizza operation is conducted in partnership with Rosso Pomodoro, which built the ovens, and the only type of pizza sold is Neapolitan, which has a crust that’s a little puffier and a little wet in the middle compared to the Roman-style cracker-type crust that’s more familiar to New Yorkers. “You have to send a message. You can’t be everything to everybody,” Bastianich said.
Monthly promotions in the store focus on one of Italy’s 20 food regions at a time. “They are encouraged, demanded to bring in special products from the region,” Bastianich said. “We do have a lot of authentic small producers that have those authentic flavors.”

The La Scuola cooking school has event year-round with food and wine courses, demonstrations and lectures from renowned chefs. A typical class might feature three to four recipes with paired wines, for an experience that the school tries to make a complete immersion in the cuisine even though it’s not hands-on. The store also uses its various spaces as catering venues as well as spaces in which to hold educational and cultural events, often to raise funds for local charities. “You cannot be in business and be isolated from the community where you are doing business,” Bastianich said. “Life is too short. You have to eat well…. You need to be strong and stand your ground because America is ready. They love it.”

Cheese + Provisions Purveys the Funk in Denver

By Lorrie Baumann

cheesepro_9161Steve and Kim Duty’s customers at Denver’s Cheese + Provisions love the funk, and Owner/Cheesemonger Steve Duty loves them right back. “Every [Denver] neighborhood seems to have its favorite categories. The neighborhood I’m in seems to really love washed rinds and blues, which is a cheesemonger’s dream,” he said. “Here, the funkier the cheese, the more interested the folks are.”



“We’ve had to trim back the Alpine collection because our customers want the funky stuff,” added Co-owner Kim. The couple opened their 940 square-foot shop in the Sunnyside neighborhood of northwest Denver on December 15, 2015, just in time for the last bit of the winter holiday trade, after construction delays that finally forced them to cram about six weeks of work into the last two and half weeks of opening. They slept in the store a few of those last few nights just to get that extra 15 minutes of sleep, then opened to greet a rush of customers who’d been waiting for a specialty cheese shop to open in their neighborhood. “We opened with a bang and had amazing sales all the way through January, and it put us on a solid financial footing,” Kim said. “It was worth it, but I don’t necessarily recommend it.”

“We’ve been really very happy with the reception we’ve gotten from our neighborhood and from the city at large,” she added.
The couple, married now for 25 years, took the road less traveled to both their cheese shop and to Denver itself. Neither is originally from Denver.

Steve started working in restaurants right out of high school, then attended the Culinary Institute of America to gain his credentials as a chef. Then he did what young chefs then and now frequently do right after graduation from CIA – he headed for New York to stage. From the New York restaurant scene to a brief stop in Arkansas to help with a family restaurant to many years in Washington, DC. But one day, he decided to pursue his love of controlled fermentation and ended up getting a job as the winemaker and general manager at a He spent five years at the winery, with Kim acting as the part-time marketing director, until the winery’s owners discovered the truth of the old saying that if you want to make a small fortune with a winery, the way to do that is to start with a big fortune. By that time, Steve and Kim had had enough experience of the countryside to know they wanted to stay on the land.

“At one point, I said, ‘If you wanted to do something of your own, what would it be?’ He said, ‘It’s always been cheese,’” Kim tells the story. So, naturally, they bought a 25-acre farm and started a sheep dairy.

“He turned me into a foodie very deliberately over the years,” the story continues. “My passion is the people and the animals. He comes to it through the food first, and I come to it through the farm and the animals and what the people are doing.”
That part of the story ends just about the way you’re already starting to suspect. “We were not good sheep farmers. It’s just too difficult to take those cute lambs to slaughter. And you really do need kids to make it work!” Kim said.

They operated the sheep dairy into 2007, when they decided to get away from that hard, hard life for a while and take off for Nepal to celebrate Kim’s 40th birthday with a hike to the Mount Everest Base Camp. The Himalayas have always been a place for spiritual reflection and self-discovery. What Steve and Kim discovered was that they wanted to stay near the mountains after they’d returned home to the U.S.

So they moved to Colorado, to a fast-growing city where the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains rises out of the plains in a dramatic backdrop to destiny, and Steve went to work at Whole Foods and then a few other local cheese shops. Kim kept the day job she’s had for nearly 20 years running the communications department for a DC-based trade association, commuting back and forth between DC and Denver, and together they waited until they thought that Denver’s interest in artisanal cheeses was strong enough to support another cheese shop. “Denver’s food culture has exploded, with new chefs coming into the city and the population growing at the rate of 1,000 new residents a month,” Kim said. “The city is transforming pretty dramatically.”

They found a shop in a gentrifying neighborhood with a growing population of Millennials who share the foodie culture of their peers. “They feel that good food comes first,” Kim said. “They might buy $30 worth of cheese when they’re having trouble paying their rent.”

“The neighborhood itself is full of young families, but the shop pulls customers from all over the city. Word seems to have spread,” Steve added. “The core demographic from the neighborhood is in the 30s, who are the adventurous folks, plus the older people who have been fortunate enough to travel overseas.”


Cheese + Provisions’ offering focuses on high-quality American cheeses and salumi as well as a careful selection of accompaniments, with emphasis on locally produced products. Steve works in the shop with one full-time employee, while Kim keeps her day job, helps in the shop on weekends and evenings when special occasions are scheduled and does the shop’s marketing and newsletters. Steve does the cheese and salumi buying, working directly with a number of American artisan cheesemakers. Kim focuses on buying the dry goods. “I really like interacting with the dry goods producers,” she said. “Once we started digging into the Colorado products, we realized that we have an abundance of good food producers here in the state.”

Part of the shop’s model is that customers can trust Steve’s experience as a chef to guide them in selecting their cheese. “We focus on American artisan cheese. We also focus on telling the stories behind these cheeses. Being former cheesemakers ourselves, we understand the difficulty and the passion and dedication it takes. You certainly don’t do it for the money,” Steve said. “We focus on American artisan rather than European. We want to showcase what America can really do these days. We’re competitive with the best of European cheeses. We’re not constricted by the DOP restrictions of European cheeses. The philosophy is bringing in interesting cheeses that pique my interest and the interest of the public at large.”

Customers have responded enthusiastically, allowing Steve to lead them toward bolder choices like washed rind and blue cheeses. “I like them to have a story, and something like a washed bloomy certainly has a story behind it. Rock Hill Creamery in Utah – the woman has six cows, and when she sends a wheel, it comes with a picture of the cow that made the milk,” Steve said. “When I find a cheese like that, I pounce on it.”

“We’re bringing cheeses into Colorado that have never been in Colorado before,” Kim said. “We’re trying to help cheesemakers be successful and to expose those who live in Denver to quality cheeses. It’s a passion of ours.”

Jelly Belly Trolls Collection Debuts

The hair-raising excitement over the DreamWorks motion picture Trolls continues as Jelly Belly Candy Company introduces the Trolls Collection. This new line, inspired by the movie’s heartfelt story and the Trolls’ fun and unique personalities includes a variety of delightful packages of Jelly Belly® jelly beans featuring the pint-sized stars of the film. The Jelly Belly Trolls Collection is available now.

The 4.25-ounce Jelly Belly Trolls Gift Box is bound to be a hot holiday item. Each compartment is filled with Jelly Belly beans to represent a lovable lead character: a mix of Berry Blue and Cotton Candy for the fashion twins Satin and Chenille, Mixed Berry Smoothie for practical Branch, Jewel Very Cherry for exuberant Poppy, Orange Sherbet for upbeat DJ Suki, and Blueberry for adorable Biggie and his sweet companion, Mr. Dinkles. Shipping in 12-count cases.

The 1-ounce bags in their playful packaging are wonderful treats for any occasion. Each bag, perfectly sized for on-the-go snacking, features one of four main characters: Poppy, Branch, DJ Suki or Biggie with Mr. Dinkles. Shipping in mixed 24-count caddies.

Both the 2.8-ounce Grab & Go® bags and 7.5-ounce Gift Bags make wonderful gifts for the upcoming holidays and beyond. The Grab & Go bag showcases whimsical character art of Poppy, Branch and Biggie with Mr. Dinkles. The Gift Bag features lead duo Poppy and Branch, and the bag’s vibrant pink foil-like finish appeals to shoppers as a truly special gift. The Grab & Go bags ship in 12-count caddies, and the Gift Bags ship in 12-count cases.

All bags in this charming collection are filled with the Hugfest Mix, an assortment of Berry Blue, Jewel Very Cherry, Lemon, Lime and Orange Sherbet Jelly Belly bean flavors.

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