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Rogers Family Co. Files Lawsuit Against Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. For Alleged Anti-Competitive Single Serve Coffee Market Conduct

The Rogers Family Company, a family-owned, Lincoln-Calif.-based roaster, packager, grower and seller of gourmet coffee products, has filed a lawsuit against Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., formerly known as  Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.  and successor to GMCR’s former wholly-owned subsidiary, Keurig, Inc. in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California for violations of federal and California antitrust and unfair competition laws.

Rogers’ lawsuit follows its victory in a ruling March 12 by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  The Court of Appeals rejected Keurig’s appeal and affirmed the U.S. District Court’s 2013 decision (District of Massachusetts) that granted Rogers summary judgment that it did not infringe Keurig patents and that Rogers’ OneCup single serve product is unique.  The Rogers Family Company (www.rogersfamilyco.com) launched OneCup – which uses a mesh filter instead of a plastic brewing pod – in fall 2011. The Rogers family last year launched OneCup BIO which is 97 percent biodegradable.

“We filed this lawsuit to end Keurig’s anticompetitive practices which deny consumers access to our and other competitors’ products,” said Rogers Family Company President Jon B. Rogers. “Our goal is to ensure that consumers in the single-serve coffee market have access to a free and open marketplace, in which they are provided the opportunity to select a wide range of products based upon whatever factors are most important to them, such as price, quality, and commitment to social and environmental responsibility.  No single company should be permitted to control consumer choice or prices through illegal, anti-competitive conduct.”

In the suit which will seek damages as determined by the trial,  The Rogers family alleges that Keurig has used its monopoly power in the single-serve coffee brewer and coffee pod markets to require its distribution partners to enter into exclusive anticompetitive agreements designed to maintain Keurig’s monopoly power by excluding competition.  In addition, Keurig has announced plans to launch a new line in 2014 of Single-Serve Brewers – Keurig 2.0 – that Keurig has stated will contain lockout technology to prevent Keurig 2.0 brewers from functioning with competitors’ coffee pod products. According to Keurig, the Keurig 2.0 brewers would replace its existing lines of Keurig brewers that function with competing coffee pod products.  In addition, Rogers’ lawsuit alleges that Keurig has made false, disparaging comments about Rogers’ coffee pod products and has already begun to try to persuade distributors and retailers not to purchase Rogers’ and other competitors’ coffee pods based on representations that they will not function with the forthcoming Keurig 2.0 brewers.

The Rogers Family Company asserts that Keurig’s actions have harmed and will continue to harm consumers by restricting consumer choice and by allowing Keurig to impose supra competitive prices for its pod products.

The legal case – which involves a $4 billion coffee company approximately 25 times larger than the relatively small Rogers Family Co. – has been followed nationally because of the high stakes not only for the industry but also for consumers.  The single-serve market is the fastest-growing segment of the multi-billion dollar coffee industry which is second only to oil as a commodity.

Keurig filed its lawsuit against Rogers in 2011.  And on May 24, 2013, U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor, IV of the District of Massachusetts ruled that Rogers did not infringe the three patents asserted by Keurig.  Keurig appealed to the Federal Circuit.

“When Keurig sued us they told our customers and the industry that our products infringed their patents, that we copied their design and that consumers should not use our products,” added Jon B. Rogers. “I said that the Keurig complaint was without merit and the court agreed with my assessment and granted judgment in our favor on all claims.  This is a great victory not only for our customers but for all coffee consumers.”

KeHE Awarded with Roundy’s Chairman’s Award for Outstanding DSD Service

On February 26, 2014, KeHE Distributors was honored to receive the Roundy’s Chairman Award for Outstanding DSD Service. This year’s award ceremony was held during Roundy’s Vendor Summit in Chicago, IL. KeHE was one of seven vendors who received a Chairman’s award, and was amongst an impressive group of award winners that included large consumer packaged goods companies. These awards go to companies who have gone above and beyond the call of duty over the course of the previous year.

“We believe this award is a reflection of the entire KeHE team, from the field to our corporate offices,” stated Jack Porter, Executive Vice President of Sales. “We are so proud of the work they do, day in and day out, to support the success of Roundy’s by providing best in class service,” he continued.

Roundy’s, based in Milwaukee, Wisc., is a retail grocery company operating 163 stores and 99 pharmacies across the Midwest. The company currently operate five retail banners: Pick n’ Save, Copps, Rainbow, Metro Market, and Mariano’s. Founded in 1872, Roundy’s has grown to be a leading grocer in the Midwest with nearly $4.0 billion in sales and more than 20,000 employees.

Terlato Adds Rioja’s Bodegas Valdemar to Luxury Wine Portfolio

Terlato Wines has entered into a partnership to import the wines of Bodegas Valdemar, an innovative, award-winning, producer from the iconic Spanish appellation of Rioja.

The agreement with Bodegas Valdemar caps a search by Terlato for a Rioja winery possessing the elements the company has identified as keys to success in the U.S. luxury wine market: family ownership, superior estate vineyards and a keen focus on the highest quality wines.

“We have found an ideal partner in Rioja,” said Terlato Wines Chief Executive William A. Terlato. “In a very traditional appellation, the Valdemar family has shown how a bold approach to grape-growing and winemaking can deliver critically acclaimed wines. We’re excited to expand U.S. distribution and develop the full potential of their wines in the U.S.”

Just last August, Terlato entered into an import partnership with the Priorat winery Marco Abella. With the addition of Bodegas Valdemar, Terlato’s renowned portfolio now also features a selection of acclaimed Spanish wines.

Terlato will feature wines from two Bodegas Valdemar lines: Conde de Valdemar and Inspiracion Valdemar. Wines from both lines have earned spots on Wine Spectator‘s prestigious Top 100 wines list for the past two years consecutively: The 2010 Inspiracion Valdemar Seleccion ranked in 2013, and the 2011 Conde de Valdemar White Rioja ranked in 2012.

The Conde de Valdemar wines reflect three traditional Rioja classifications: Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Tempranillo forms the backbone of all the wines, with grapes sourced from estate vineyards in the higher elevation of Rioja Alta, the flatlands of Rioja Baja and the rolling hills of Rioja Alavesa.

Inspiracion Valdemar, a “winery within a winery,” was created by Carlos and Ana Martinez-Bujanda, following in the footsteps of innovation set by their father, Jesus, who in the 1980s was a leader in bringing temperature-controlled fermentation to Rioja. The new facilities for Inspiracion Valdemar provide the means to cool the grapes, carefully select bunches and berries, use small fermentation tanks and experiment with a wide range of oak types.

Hain Celestial Extends Garden of Eatin’ Brand

The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. has introduced Garden of Eatin’®Butternut Squash Corn Tortilla Chips to the Garden of Eatin’® brand of tortilla chips made with organic yellow corn. These crunchy, gluten-free snacks feature a unique blend of butternut squash and organic yellow corn lightly seasoned with sage and a hint of roasted onion and are one of the first butternut squash flavored corn tortilla chips on the market.

“Our introduction of Garden of Eatin’ Butternut Squash Corn Tortilla Chips represents another step in our goal of providing great -tasting tortilla chips made with organic corn to the market,” said Jared Simon, Director of Marketing for Snacks at Hain Celestial. “We’re excited to introduce this distinctive new flavor that balances sweet with savory and gives our consumers a fun, interesting alternative in the corn tortilla chip aisle.”

Garden of Eatin’ Butternut Squash Corn Tortilla Chips join the growing line of Garden of Eatin’ brand corn tortilla chips, which also includes Garden of Eatin’ Blue Corn Tortilla Chips, Garden of Eatin’ Sweet Potato Corn Tortilla Chips, Garden of Eatin’ Black Bean Corn Tortilla Chips and more than a dozen other varieties, all made with non-GMO ingredients and all Non-GMO Project verified.

Crumbs Bake Shop, Inc. Names New Officers

Crumbs Bake Shop, Inc., New York based cupcake specialty retailer, has announced that its board of directors has appointed Frederick G. Kraegel as Chairman of the board of directors. The company also announced that Edward M. Slezak has been appointed as permanent Chief Executive Officer and Ronda S. Kase has been named Secretary.  Slezak has been leading the company as interim Chief Executive Officer in addition to his duties as General Counsel and Kase has been serving as Assistant Secretary in addition to her duties as Corporate Compliance Officer. Slezak is also a member of the company’s board of directors.

Slezak joined the company in August 2013.  Prior to assuming the role of Interim Chief Executive Officer on January 1, 2014, Slezak served as the company’s chief legal officer and Secretary.  Prior to joining Crumbs Bake Shop, Slezak served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Aeropostale, Inc., a mall-based specialty retailer.

No Kid Hungry Campaign Issues Challenge to Nation’s Leaders

The No Kid Hungry campaign today challenged America’s leaders to connect 1 million more low-income children in this nation to school breakfast over the next two years. Currently, just over half of our nation’s kids who need a free or reduced-price breakfast are getting one.

“Eating a healthy breakfast dramatically changes kids’ lives,” said Academy Award-winning actor, Jeff Bridges, national spokesperson for the No Kid Hungry campaign. “Too many kids are starting the day too hungry to learn. Today we’re challenging the nation to join us in connecting a million more children to breakfast in the classroom in the next two years.”

Schools are ground zero for seeing hunger and experiencing its effects. In a recent survey conducted by the No Kid Hungry campaign, three out of four public school teachers say they currently have kids in their classrooms who are struggling with hunger.

School breakfast is a critical but underutilized national program that bears a direct impact of children’s academic achievement and health. Research conducted by Deloitte Consulting shows that when kids consistently eat breakfast at school, attendance rates improve and math test scores rise up to 17.5 percent. Parents, kids, and school leaders cite reasons such as stigma of eating breakfast alone in the cafeteria, signaling you are poor (unlike lunch, where all kids eat together); transportation problems (buses not delivering kids to school in time for breakfast); and misperceptions about the value of serving breakfast in new ways (such as serving it in the classroom as part of first period) as reasons why more low-income kids aren’t getting this vital meal as intended.

“Making sure kids are eating a daily breakfast is a big step toward ending childhood hunger,” said Share Our Strength Founder and CEO Bill Shore. “It’s time we close the breakfast gap.  We can unlock better health and academic achievement for all our kids through simple acts like moving breakfast to be an integrated part of the school day.”

The No Kid Hungry campaign currently works with elected officials, corporate leaders, school officials, and others in the non-profit community on innovative strategies like moving breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the classroom. The new website, NoKidHungry.org/Breakfast, has tested strategies, advocacy tools and research that can help communities more rapidly connect more low-income children to this critical morning meal.

Since the launch of the No Kid Hungry campaign, 2 million more low-income kids are getting a healthy school breakfast and states including Maryland, Colorado, Arkansas and Texas have passed legislation to ensure more kids get breakfast in school daily. New legislation is pending in states like Nebraska and New Jersey.

Kronos Foods Names Howard Eirinberg as CEO

Kronos Foods, Inc., a privately held manufacturer of premium gyros and other Mediterranean and specialty foods, has named Howard Eirinberg, 54, as the company’s Chief Executive Officer.

Eirinberg, who succeeds long-time Kronos CEO Michael Austin, now Chairman of Kronos Food Corp., joined Kronos in 2011 to lead all sales and marketing initiatives for the company’s wide-ranging operations in meat, bakery, dairy, dessert, restaurant and distribution. Eirinberg has grown Kronos’s sales by launching new products like chicken shawarma into the club and foodservice channels.

“The continued popularity of Mediterranean cuisine combined with emerging healthy and convenient eating trends has provided us with a unique opportunity to expand our foodservice presence while also introducing our products into a variety of other markets, including retail, club and convenience stores,” Eirinberg said. “Kronos’s dedicated team of skilled professionals is fully committed to bringing innovative and delicious new product options to foodservice and beyond.”

Before joining Kronos, Eirinberg, who has more than 30 years of food industry experience, previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Vienna Beef, Ltd., the iconic Chicago-based manufacturer of hot dogs, sausages and other specialty foods, where he oversaw the company’s national food service and retail businesses. During his six-year tenure at Vienna Beef, Eirinberg was instrumental in successfully launching new products into new channels, developing new customer segments, and enhancing the company’s brand awareness. Previously, he ran the foodservice division of Fresh Express, Inc., a fresh-cut vegetable processor, and held senior sales and marketing positions at salad dressings manufacturer Richelieu Foods, Inc. and food conglomerate The Quaker Oats Co.

Eirinberg holds a bachelor of science degree in marketing from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and a master’s degree in business administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

CrossCountry Marketing Signs New Lines

Sharon Britton, owner of CrossCountry Marketing, a specialty food broker located in Central Virginia, is now partnered with Straw Propeller, GalloLea Pizza Kits, World of Chia, and Red Truck Beef Jerky. Britton and her team are excited about adding these outstanding food lines to their list of other exceptional lines represented by the company. A complete list of food lines can be viewed at www.xcmarketing.com. For questions or inquiries, contact Sharon at sharon@xcmarketing.com.

Safeway-Albertsons to Merge

Safeway Inc. and Albertsons have announced a definitive agreement under which AB Acquisition LLC  will acquire all outstanding shares of Safeway. The merger agreement was unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of Safeway.

AB Acquisition is the owner of Albertson’s LLC and New Albertson’s, Inc. and is controlled by a Cerberus Capital Management, L.P.-led investor group, which also includes Kimco Realty Corporation, Klaff Realty LP, Lubert-Adler Partners LP, and Schottenstein Stores Corporation.

Safeway shareholders are expected to receive total value estimated at $40 per share.

Albertsons’ Chief Executive Officer Bob Miller stated, “This transaction offers us the opportunity to better serve customers by adapting more quickly to evolving shopping preferences in diverse regions across the country. It also brings together two great organizations with talented management teams. Robert Edwards and his team have done an outstanding job in positioning Safeway’s core business for success, by investing in its stores and creating innovative strategic marketing programs that contribute to shareholder value. Working together will enable us to create cost savings that translate into price reductions for our customers. Together, we will be able to respond to local needs more quickly and deliver outstanding products at the lowest possible price, more efficiently than ever before.”

“This merger is one of several actions we have taken in recent months as a result of our strategic business review. The combined value of the transactions described above is expected to deliver a premium to Safeway’s shareholders of 72 percent from one year ago, and 56 percent over the share price six months ago,” said Robert Edwards, President & Chief Executive Officer of Safeway Inc. “Safeway has been focused on better meeting shoppers’ diverse needs through local, relevant assortment, an improved price/value proposition and a great shopping experience that has driven improved sales trends. We are excited about continuing this momentum as a combined organization. We look forward to working with Bob Miller and the rest of the Albertsons team as we proceed together on a path towards becoming an even stronger organization.”

Best Premium Hot Teas Named

The North American Tea Championship (NATC)  has named the 22 best, premium hot teas from the fall 2013 harvest. The evaluation was held Feb. 20-21 in Las Vegas, Nev., and all of the high-quality winning teas are commercially available in the marketplace.

Companies that took home an esteemed first-place award include: Black Tusk Trading; Florapharm Tea; Garden to Cup Organics Ltd.; International Tea Importers, Mountain Tea; Naivetea; Octavia Tea; QTrade Teas & Herbs; Sipping Streams Tea Company; TeaSource, LLC; Tea Xotics, LLC; and Walters Bay.

Garden to Cup Organics led the championship with the most wins, including four first-place honors, four second place wins and a third place recognition. This new player in the market, driven by seasoned tea experts, is a wholesale supplier of ethically sourced, loose-leaf organic teas based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. The company’s teas are carefully selected, directly from organic tea gardens across the world, and hand-blended in micro-batches to produce the highest quality products. Garden to Cup Organics offers wholesale, custom blending, private and white label opportunities.

“The North American Tea Championship is an excellent platform to showcase quality teas, and we’re thrilled to have received the most wins in this recent evaluation,” said Raj Teja, one of the principals of Garden to Cup Organics. “And the best part of this competition is that it’s independent and judged by professional members of the tea community with stringent standards. For us, the timing of these wins perfectly coincides with the expansion of our distribution across North America.”

NATC Cupping Coordinator Mo Sardella, of The G.S. Haly Company in Redwood City, Calif., noted, “For this competition, there was a noticeable increase in quality and uniqueness within the blended and flavored tea and herbal categories. The flavored and blended products, which are experiencing steady growth within the specialty tea industry, have quickly become the most popular categories at the NATC. Within these categories, the judges noticed a significant increase in custom blends that include good quality specialty teas and herbs, as well as premium ingredients regarding flavoring, decorations and other botanicals. This is a noticeable increase from previous NATC events, in which most blended and flavored products were of varied quality, with less refinement and overall harmony in the finished product.”

All NATC tea submissions were evaluated blind and through organoleptic analysis of the following characteristics: dry leaf, brewed color, brewed aroma, brewed flavor, brewed mouth-feel and brewed harmony. An overall numerical value on a 100-point scale was then calculated based on the ratings of each characteristic. Winners were determined by rank.

“Congratulations to all of the teas that stood out and took first place prizes,” said David De Candia, one of the NATC evaluators and tea buyer at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. “The North American Tea Championship continues to gain exposure in the marketplace, attracting some of the finest teas for review. Certainly, winners of this competition are experiencing the benefits of being an NATC-winner, such as heightened recognition for quality and taste, additional buyer interest and increased sales.”

A complete list of first, second and third-place winners of the North American Tea Championship is available at teachampionship.com.

North American Tea Championship first-place winners include:

Black Tusk Trading,  Blended Oolong Tea, Osmanthus Blossoms

Black Tusk Trading, Traditional Ti Kuan Yin, Ti Kuan Yin Private Reserve

Florapharm Tea, Darjeeling, Organic Darjeeling Jungpana

Florapharm Tea, Earl Grey Tea, Manhattan Natural

Garden to Cup Organics Ltd., Blended Black Tea, Black Rose Garden

Garden to Cup Organics Ltd., Flavored Black Tea, Lychee Black Tea

Garden to Cup Organics Ltd., Jade Ti Kuan Yin, Nanyan Tiequanyin

Garden to Cup Organics Ltd., Yunnan, Yunnan Golden Tip

International Tea Importers, Assam, Mangalam Assam

International Tea Importers, Keemun, Keemun Hao Y

Mountain Tea, Bai Hao/Oriental Beauty, Oriental Beauty

Mountain Tea, Green Oolong Tea, LiShan

Naivetea, Flavored Oolong Tea, Passion Fruit Oolong

Naivetea, Green Jasmine Open Leaf, Jasmin Bao Zhong

Octavia Tea, Dark Oolong Tea, Phoenix Mountain Dancon

QTrade Teas & Herbs, Chai, Sweet Chai

QTrade Teas & Herbs, Green Jasmine Pearl, Jasmine Pearls

Sipping Streams Tea Company, Aged/Baked Oolong Tea, 1999 Muzha Formosa

TeaSource, LLC, Breakfast Blend, Ceylon Lumbini Est. Burning Sun FBOPF

TeaSource, LLC, Black Tea, Jin Jun Mei

Tea Xotics, LLC, Flavored Rooibos Blends, Santa’s Cup

Walters Bay, Black Tea CTC, Walters Bay English Breakfast

Honorees will be featured at the North American Tea Championship Winners Tasting Circle at World Tea Expo (WorldTeaExpo.com), May 29 – 31, 2014 at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, Long Beach, Calif.

The next North American Tea Championship will be held in April 2014 for an evaluation of iced teas. Entries will be accepted in early April. To inquire about entering the competition, e-mail kaye.polivka@fwmedia.com.