Get Adobe Flash player

North American Tea Championship Winners Named

The North American Tea Championship  – the only independent and professionally-judged tea competition in North America – named the 16 best, premium hot teas from the fall 2014 harvest. The evaluation was held Feb. 26-27 in Las Vegas, Nevada, and all of the high-quality winning teas are commercially available in the marketplace.

Companies that took home an esteemed first-place award include: The Tea Kings; Glenburn Tea Direct; Mountain Tea Company; Garden to Cup Organics; Nepali Tea Traders; Chico Chai; Florapharm Tea-USA LP; and La Creme Coffee & Tea.

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

North American Tea Championship first-place winners include:
(Company/Website, Name of the Winning Tea, Category)

Honorees will be featured at the North American Tea Championship Winners Tasting Circle at World Tea Expo (,May 6 – 8, 2015 at the Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, California.

The next North American Tea Championship will be held in June 2015 for an evaluation of iced teas. To inquire about entering the competition, e-mail

Natural Products Expo West and Engredea Shatter Attendance Record

The 35th annual Natural Products Expo West, the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products event, took place March 4-8 at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. The event grew 7.2 percent, bringing together an inspired community of over 71,000 industry members, with more than 2,700 exhibiting companies, including 634 first-time exhibitors. The event is produced by New Hope Natural Media.

Co-located with Natural Products Expo West was Engredea, the event to source new ingredients, packaging, technologies, equipment, and services for cutting-edge products; and the Fresh Ideas Organic Marketplace, an innovative outdoor event that combines a traditional farmers’ market feel with the business-building power of a trade show.NPEW Photo 1

Due to demand, New Hope expanded the event’s exhibit space to encompass the entire Anaheim Convention Center campus. In addition to traditional Exhibit Halls, new exhibitors showcased new products at the Hilton Hotel Anaheim, which also offered an extra day of exhibits on March 5. NEXT Forecast estimates the natural and organic products industry is expected to grow to $252 billion by 2019.

First time exhibitor, Keith Mullin, Founder of Zippy’s based in La Jolla, California said, “We launched a new product at Natural Products Expo up in the new products area at the Hilton. We had some really high-quality conversations with retailers and received great feedback about how they perceived our product and how we can expand and grow with their companies.”

“Thanks so much for having us; we had a really great time at Expo West. We love the new changes this year! Loved the Thursday hot products at the Hilton, loved seeing all of the new things coming out and are excited to come back next year! See you in September for Expo East!,” added Beth and Amy Soergel of Naturally Soergel’s, a natural foods and products store based in Wexford, Pennsylvania.

Matt Stearn, Project & Social Media Manager of Derma E based in Simi Valley, California commented, “As a company that has been coming for over 30 years, we have to say that this is our best Expo West ever! Everybody has been so awesome and we are ecstatic about the audience that we saw this year.”

This year the conference program was extended to four days of robust education. The program offered a full docket of education topics as well as keynote presentations from Mark Bittman, food journalist at The New York Times, regular guest on the Today Show and author of How to Cook Everything series and VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 and Dr. David Perlmutter, MD, FACN, ABIHM, board-certified Neurologist, fellow of the American College of Nutrition and New York Times bestselling author of Grain Brain.

Many companies were recognized with awards at Natural Products Expo West.

The official Natural Products Expo West “Best of West: Press Award” went to Justin’s Mini Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. Runners up include: Noosa Yoghurt, LLC’s Vanilla Yoghurt and Brandstorm Inc.’s Dark Chocolate Covered Chia Seeds

The winner of the NEXT Accelerator Natural Products Business School Pitch Slam was Loliware, which produces exquisitely designed and delicious edible cups.

New Hope’s team of editors and analysts identified the five macro trends influencing the marketplace. They include:

Transparency advancements: Consumers are increasingly demanding to know what is in their food, and brands are responding by using technology and other innovations to provide greater transparency and traceability for their products.

Ancient Wisdom Gets Wiser: Brands continue to innovate by producing simple, delicious products that take minimal processing to new levels and contain short lists of nutrient-dense ingredients.

Paleo 2.0: Paleo-positioned products were even more prevalent. The newest Paleo offerings are popping up in every product category, from English muffins to chocolate.

Packaging Innovated: From edible cups to packages featuring famous cookbook authors, the packaging innovations made advancements in sustainability, consumer education and shelf stability.

Protein Invasion: Responding to consumers’ insatiable hunger for protein, natural and organic brands are packing new offerings with protein in every conceivable form.

“Advancements in transparency, clean product development and sustainable packaging created a rich environment of inspiring product innovation at this year’s Expo West,” said Carlotta Mast, Executive Director of Content and Insights, New Hope Natural Media.

Expo West and eTown hosted a sold out benefit for Just Label It to help fight for federal mandatory GMO labeling. The evening of musical entertainment and interviews included performances by Ziggy Marley and Aimee Mann.

Natural Products Expo East 2015 will return to the Baltimore Convention Center, September 16-19, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Natural Products Expo West 2016 is scheduled to take place March 11-13, 2016 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California.

Unified Grocers Relaunches Springfield Brand With $10,000 Kitchen Makeover Sweepstakes


Unified Grocers introduced its redesigned Springfield logo and packaging to shoppers with the kickoff of a multifaceted 10-week consumer campaign featuring a $10,000 Kitchen Makeover Sweepstakes.

The relaunch of one of Unified’s flagship brands celebrates Springfield’s award-winning modern look and features a new tagline — “Right Quality, Right Price, Right at Home” — in point-of-sale materials, billboards, radio, print and digital advertising. The campaign also features a new Springfield website, a dedicated Facebook page and other social media.

In addition, shoppers are introduced to the Springfield Makeover Team through a series of fun YouTube videos. “The Springfield Makeover Team’s mission is to help bring the great value and amazing quality of Springfield to shoppers’ homes,” says Executive Director of Corporate Marketing JoAnn Murdock.

The team’s work includes visiting nearly 100 different member stores over the next eight weeks to sample Springfield products, hand out coupons and giveaways, and generate buzz around the brand.

“We designed the campaign so all our retailers — regardless of size — can participate in some fashion. In addition to extensive retailer ad/display activity and Makeover Team visits, we have do-it-yourself Springfield demo kits, coupons, mailer and website artwork, point-of-sale materials, and more,” said Murdock. “Even the single store operators that won’t have visits from the Makeover Team can promote the sweepstakes and benefit from all of the mass media and POS.”

The Kitchen Makeover Sweepstakes will give away a $10,000 grand prize and a number of other cash prizes.

Unified’s Springfield brand originated in 1947 in Southern California and has grown to include more than 1,100 SKUs. Springfield products can be found at independent grocery stores in central and Southern California, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico. In addition to Spingfield, Unified’s private label brands include: Cottage Hearth, Golden Creme, IGA, Natural Directions, Special Value, and Western Family.

Unified teamed up with San Francisco-based Murray Brand Communications to redesign and refresh the Springfield packaging, make it relevant to today’s consumers and to attract new shoppers to the brand. Earlier this month, Graphic Design USA magazine named the new Springfield logo and packaging a winner in the 2015 American Package Design Awards.


Domino Debuts Born Sweet Zing Stevia Sweetener


Victory is here for sugar substitute users seeking perfectly sweet, real product solutions for their daily sweetening needs. The launch of Born Sweet™ Zing™ Stevia Sweetener makes it easy for shoppers to avoid unwanted calories when sweetening beverages and foods.

Zing LaunchZing Zero Calorie stevia sweetener will delight consumers with its delicious, clean, sweet taste. It provides a great tasting, zero calorie sweetener, made with only real ingredients of high quality stevia leaf extract and dextrose – nothing artificial. Available in packets and in an easy-spoon jar, Zing Zero Calorie stevia sweetener is perfect for mixing into and sprinkling onto favorite beverages and foods every day.

For those consumers who choose to bake with a sugar substitute made from real ingredients, Zing Baking Blend provides a delicious option. At only five calories per serving, Zing Baking Blend, a stevia and pure cane sugar blend, is for calorie-conscious baking enthusiasts looking for a sweetening alternative. A convenient, easy-pour canister makes for quick measuring and will delight bakers with its exceptional performance, baking and browning just like sugar and with pure sweet taste.

“We are certain that these new stevia sweeteners will appeal to the youthful, calorie-concerned, and wellness-informed consumer who demands great tasting food and beverages. Both the Zing Zero Calorie stevia sweetener and the Zing Baking Blend are for those who want to cut back on calories when sweetening, without sacrificing delicious taste,” said Brian O’Malley, Chief Executive Officer and President of Domino Foods, Inc. “Domino Foods, Inc. has a long tradition of providing outstanding products in the sweetener category and we believe Zing Stevia Sweeteners are no exception. Our expectations are that the new sweeteners will become an essential part of daily routines as well as holiday baking experiences for years to come,” O’Malley added.


United Fresh Seeking a Few Great Produce Managers

If you know an outstanding retail produce manager, nominate them for the 2015 United Fresh Retail Produce Manager Awards. This program pays special recognition to produce managers on the front line, working everyday to increase sales and consumption of fresh produce.

This year, 25 produce managers will be honored for their commitment to:
  • Innovative Merchandising
  • Produce-Related Community Service
  • Company Recognition
  • Commitment to Customer Satisfaction
The winners and their Corporate Produce Directors will receive FREE travel and registration to United Fresh 2015 in Chicago and be recognized at the Retail-Foodservice Celebration Dinner.
“The impact of this program goes well beyond the award.  We have seen first-hand the pride and confidence that our Produce Managers gain through this achievement for their hard work – it helps make them stronger produce professionals,” said Mike Tipton, Director of Produce/Floral Operations, Food City.
Click here for more information about the program contact Jessica Mosley, Director of Education, at 202.303.3417.

International Participation Grows Seafood Expo

Seafood Expo North America/Seafood Processing North America, formerly the International Boston Seafood Show/Seafood Processing America, has expanded significantly to strengthen its position as the largest seafood trade event in North America. The event is taking place March 15-17, 2015 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

For the first time in its history, the business-to-business exposition will exceed 200,000 net square feet. Diversified Communications, producer of the event, cited international exhibiting companies as a key area of growth.

“Reports state 91 percent of seafood in the United States is imported from other countries, showing promise to international companies looking to expand their foothold. Regionally, there is notable influx in new participation from Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, Morocco and Spain,” said Liz Plizga, Group Vice President for Diversified Communications. “The increase in participation signifies the importance of Seafood Expo North America for companies, worldwide, looking to penetrate this market.”

More than 20,000 seafood professionals participated in the exposition in 2014. The thriving event serves as an avenue for buyers sourcing seafood products and related services. The exhibition is also complemented by an educational conference program, master classes, culinary demonstrations, an oyster shucking competition and the Seafood Excellence competition.

“While the expo is designed as a platform for buyers and suppliers to network and do business in just three days, the special onsite activities provide them with an opportunity to enhance their experience at the event,” said Wynter Courmont, Event Manager. “It is truly exciting to see this event continue to prosper.”

In 2014, 84 percent of the visitors surveyed indicated the intent to purchase as a direct result of the exposition. The visitors’ survey also revealed that the top three objectives for attending were to meet with existing suppliers, find new suppliers and compare products.

UNFI Picks up True Solution Protein Shakes

True Solution Protein Shakes will now be available at stores across the country, thanks to new partnership with UNFI. Solid sales growth and a strong demand for plant-based protein shakes convinced the leading independent national distributor of natural, organic and specialty foods to take True Solution national.

“We are very excited that UNFI sees the potential for this new product to succeed nationally,” says company founder Joe Semder. True Solution meets a clear demand for ready-to-drink, allergen free protein shakes. “It’s lower in sugar, contains more protein and no artificial ingredients. We believe that True Solution is well-positioned to meet growing demand for this type of product,” says Semder.

True Solution comes in two flavors, vanilla and chocolate. Well-known Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert gave it his Hit of the Week award, saying, “This is actually a delicious and very nutritious beverage. The chocolate flavor is excellent, the mouthfeel is perfect.”

Whole Foods Mid-Atlantic and Rocky Mountain regions, Lassens, and Dave’s Marketplace along with many other retailers have already picked up True Solution. The company expects strong interest at Natural Products Expo West next week in Anaheim, California.

True Solution was launched in 2014 by food industry veterans Joe Semder and Matt Cobb, who saw a need for an alternative to shakes laden with artificial ingredients, high sugar and problematic proteins. True Solution was formulated to fulfill a growing need for both young and old. The company is based out of Thousand Oaks, California.

Saputo Launches Joan of Arc Goat Cheese Medallions

Saputo Specialty Cheese is excited to announce the launch of a new item!

JOA-5oz-Goat-Medallion-BagJoan of Arc® Goat Cheese Medallions are the newest extension to the brand’s line of traditional and flavored goat cheeses. The single-serve medallions are conveniently packaged as five 1-ounce individual portions in a single 5-ounce bag.

Joan of Arc goat cheeses are made with the freshest and highest quality goat milk collected from independent family farms and feature a mild and tangy flavor with a noticeably fresh aftertaste. The new goat cheese medallions provide a portion-controlled single serving of fresh and creamy chèvre perfect for on-the-go lunches and snacks. Serve with crackers, dried fruit and nuts for a filling meal or pair with crisp white wines for a well-rounded treat.

Retailers interested in placing orders for the new item can contact a Saputo Specialty Cheese sales representative by e-mail at or by phone at 1.800.782.0741.


Avocados From Mexico to Promote Fruit and Vegetable Consumption to Teens

Avocados From Mexico (AFM) has announced it is a founding supporter of FNV, a new brand that promotes fruit and vegetable consumption to teens and moms using the same relentless, compelling and catchy marketing that major consumer brands do.

The collaboration was announced this week during the Partnership for a Healthier America’s (PHA) Building a Healthier Future Summit, one of the nation’s premier gatherings of health experts, policy makers and business and industry leaders committed to ending childhood obesity.

“AFM is proud to be a founding supporter of FNV,” said Alvaro Luque, President, Avocados From Mexico. “Mexico is the leading supplier of avocados in the United States, representing nearly 70 percent of all avocado volume, and we are proud to drive awareness of this versatile and nutrient-dense fruit.”

Support of FNV reinforces Avocados From Mexico’s position as a leading superfood brand in the produce category. AFM’s year around availability affords it the opportunity to continuously connect with consumers about the multiple benefits of consuming avocados. In February, AFM became the first fresh produce brand to broadcast an ad and implement a fully-integrated digital campaign during the most popular football event of the year; earning widespread acclaim and social media buzz while generating over 1 billion impressions.

Avocados From Mexico is committed to advancing consumer education about the benefits of avocados and their important role in a nutritious diet. As the category leader, it is incumbent upon AFM to reach out to consumers about this information in a variety of ways. The brand is partnering with a registered dietitian to reach consumers throughout the year, and recently launched interactive content to promote the nutritional benefits of avocados on its website and social channels.

“We know that avocados are a super food, so it’s no surprise that Avocados from Mexico is a founding supporter of Team FNV, which will change the way that fruits and vegetables are marketed to families,” said Lawrence A. Soler, President and CEO of the Partnership for a Healthier America.

To learn more, visit the Avocados From Mexico Facebook page,, or website,

Can Coffee Reduce Your Risk of MS?

Drinking coffee may be associated with a lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a just-released study  that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 67th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, April 18 to 25, 2015.

“Caffeine intake has been associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and our study shows that coffee intake may also protect against MS, supporting the idea that the drug may have protective effects for the brain,” said study author Ellen Mowry, MD, MCR, with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

For the study, researchers looked at a Swedish study of 1,629 people with MS and 2,807 healthy people, and a U.S. study of 1,159 people with MS and 1,172 healthy people. The studies characterized coffee consumption among persons with MS one and five years before MS symptoms began (as well as 10 years before MS symptoms began in the Swedish study) and compared it to coffee consumption of people who did not have MS at similar time periods. The study also accounted for other factors such as age, sex, smoking, body mass index, and sun exposure habits.

The Swedish study found that compared to people who drank at least six cups of coffee per day during the year before symptoms appeared, those who did not drink coffee had about a one and a half times increased risk of developing MS. Drinking large amounts of coffee five or 10 years before symptoms started was similarly protective.

In the US study, people who didn’t drink coffee were also about one and a half times more likely to develop the disease than those who drank four or more cups of coffee per day in the year before symptoms started to develop the disease. “Caffeine should be studied for its impact on relapses and long-term disability in MS as well,” said Mowry.

The study was supported by the Swedish Medical Research Council, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg, AFA, and Swedish Brain Foundations, the Swedish Association for Persons with Neurological Disabilities and the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute on Aging.

Gourmet News

Follow me on Twitter