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Organic Trade Association Names New Board Members

Melissa Hughes, General Counsel and Director of Government Affairs for dairy cooperative Organic Valley, has been re-elected as President of the Organic Trade Association’s Board of Directors by fellow board members as part of the association’s 2016 general member election. This is the third year in a row for Hughes to serve as OTA President after being re-elected by OTA membership to serve her second three-year term on the board.

Missy_Speaking.jpg“I am honored by this vote of confidence from OTA membership and from my fellow board members,” said Hughes. “The organic sector has many challenges to tackle, and organic has to have a voice at the table to effectively address those challenges. OTA’s hard work has given us this voice, and I’m optimistic we’ll continue to help organic strengthen and advance.”

Other officers announced at OTA’s Annual Meeting held September 21 in Baltimore include Kim Dietz of J.M. Smucker Company as Vice President—USA, Sarah Bird of Bhakti Chai as Secretary, and Tony Bedard of Frontier Co-op as Treasurer.

In the recent election, Leslie Zuck of Pennsylvania Certified Organic was also re-elected, while Doug Crabtree of Vilicus Farms was elected to his first term on the board.

The OTA Board selected Marci Zaroff of Under the Canopy to fill an appointed term, and Ryan Benn of Alive Publishing Group Inc. has been appointed for another year by the Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA) to represent Canadian interests on the OTA Board for a one-year term.

Completing the board are Samantha Cabaluna of Earthbound Farm, Jesse Laflamme of Pete and Gerry’s Organics, David Lively of Organically Grown Company, Melody Meyer of UNFI,  Kelly Shea of WhiteWave Foods and Perry Clutts of Pleasantview Farm.

“The diversity of the OTA Board reflects the diversity of OTA membership,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. “Our board members are all visionaries, as is every member of OTA. We have laid out an ambitious plan for organic for the next 15 years, and I know our board will get us closer to achieving that vision.”

OTA thanked departing board members Rick Collins of Clif Bar & Company and Dag Falck of Nature’s Path for their contributions while on the board.

OTA is a membership organization, and its trade members have the opportunity to nominate and elect members of the board of directors. OTA elections are held in rotating cycles with new members serving three-year terms. In 2017, there will be three elected and two appointed seats. Anyone interested in adding their name to the slate should contact OTA.

Also during OTA’s Annual Meeting, Carmela Beck of Driscoll’s received OTA’s 2016 Member of the Year Award. This special recognition, driven by OTA staff and endorsed by OTA’s board, was created to honor a truly engaged member.

AnnualMeeting_Carmella(1).jpgOver the years, Beck has proven to be a world-class member of the trade association. Each year, she leads Hill visit teams as part of OTA’s Policy Conference and is an enthusiastic supporter of Organic PAC. She has been an Annual Fund volunteer, and a valuable contributor on the international front, joining an OTA mission to Mexico to educate the Mexican government, industry and consumers on the U.S. organic industry and the National Organic Standards Board. She has been an active participant in OTA-led trainings with the Mexican SAGARPA and SENSICIA agencies, and co-presented with OTA at Expo Orgánico, Mexico’s largest organic-only event.

“Driscoll’s has been a long-term OTA member and I have been an active member since 2010. Driscoll’s Organic Program has grown to 15 percent of our business and will only continue to dramatically increase in the coming years. As OTA members we have relied heavily on the OTA for its leadership, expertise, advocacy, education, marketing and messaging capabilities,” said Beck. “I am very honored by this recognition, and I look forward to continuing our collaboration and our life’s work.”

AnnualMeeting_Group.jpgOTA’s Annual Meeting and the annual Organic Leadership Awards dinner this year were held at the Columbus Center in Baltimore in conjunction with Natural Products Expo East. The event drew hundreds of OTA members to pay tribute to outstanding OTA members and to celebrate the strongest growth in OTA membership in five years.  A total of 216 organic farmers and organic businesses have joined OTA in the twelve months since the 2015 awards dinner. OTA membership now represents more than 8,500 organic businesses and operations in every state of the union, from small organic producers to major growers, from local family-run organic operations to nationwide companies.

October the Month to Celebrate Cheese, Glorious Cheese

The sixth annual American Cheese Month celebration kicks off October 1, with events and promotions taking place nationwide throughout the month. Launched by the American Cheese Society in 2011 to highlight the nation’s burgeoning artisan, farmstead, and specialty cheese industry, American Cheese Month is a celebration of the incredible quality and diversity of cheeses made by American producers.

The American Cheese Society will commemorate American Cheese Month in its hometown of Denver, Colorado, at the Great American Beer Festival, where more than 500 pounds of artisan and specialty cheese will be sampled to consumers alongside craft beer. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has also shown his support for American Cheese Month by issuing an official proclamation and publicly declaring that he is Pro-Cheese. Viewers can watch this video of Governor Hickenlooper, along with a series of Cheese Party campaign videos that offer a lighthearted take on this campaign season, on the American Cheese Society’s Vimeo site.

Nora Weiser, Executive Director of the American Cheese Society, said, “As more and more consumers seek out high quality, local foods, regional cheeses from around the country are growing a loyal following.” There are over 900 such cheesemakers in the U.S., and the quality of their cheeses is seen in the awards they garner around the world. “These cheesemakers are passionate, hard-working, and incredibly creative,” said Weiser. “It is an exciting time in this nation’s food scene, as the fruits of their labor are embraced so strongly.”

Revenue from sales of Cheese Party merchandise and select American Cheese Month events in October will support the nonprofit American Cheese Education Foundation. The Foundation is funding the first comprehensive survey of the U.S. artisan and specialty cheese industry.

Anyone with a love for cheese is encouraged to participate in American Cheese Month. A dedicated website and events calendar offer ideas for cheesemakers, retailers, distributors, chefs, enthusiasts, and others to get involved. Cheese lovers can also network on the American Cheese Month Facebook page and share photos of their celebrations on Twitter (#AmCheeseMonth, @CheeseSociety, @theCheeseParty).

If you would like to hold an American Cheese Month event, or if you are interested in learning more about partnership opportunities, contact the ACS office: 720.328.2788 or

American Cheese Month is made possible with support from Gourmet Foods International.

2016 International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) Returns With Its Biggest Show Ever

The 2016 International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE)—the largest and most comprehensive event in the Western Hemisphere for the grain-based food industry—returns to the Las Vegas Convention Center October 8-11, where 20,000+ bakery professionals with gather to network, learn and check out the latest innovations in baking supplies, ingredients and equipment from more than 900 leading manufacturers and suppliers covering more than 700,000 square feet of exhibit space.

“We’re excited for attendees and exhibitors alike to see what’s new at IBIE with programs that facilitate increased networking, more opportunities for hands-on learning and an endless supply of inspiration,” said Michael Cornelis, Chair of IBIE. “IBIE is proud to bring together all segments of the grain-based food industry. We’ve revamped old favorites and added some fresh, exciting features to the mix for 2016 to ensure everyone—whether their first time visitors or show veterans—has a truly exceptional experience.”

A host of stimulating new and returning features will create an even more engaging experience for attendees and exhibitors. Highlights include:

  • The All-American Tailgate serves as the official kick-off event, taking place on the opening night of IBIE, October 8 at 4:30 p.m., and provides an incredible opportunity for networking with key colleagues and suppliers from around the globe. Held right on the show floor, tickets include unlimited drinks, tailgate-style food, music, interactive games and, of course, sports on big screens.
  • The Idea LAB serves as a hive for innovation and includes the Innovation Spotlight Theater featuring a curated display of the industry’s latest advancements, as well as an “Ask the Experts” answer bar.
  • The Innovation Showcase brings the latest advancements to the forefront in a cutting-edge display in the convention center grand concourse.
  • IBIE has developed—in conjunction with the Global Gold Chain Alliance (GGCA)—a new pavilion on the show floor dedicated to cold storage solutions and innovations, as well as presenting warehouse, construction and transportation options.
  • The American Cake Decorating Demo Theater and The ONE Demonstration Theater by Revent feature free daily demos by celebrity chefs and big-name cooking pros showing off their skills and latest techniques, right on the show floor.

An expanded educational program highlights the latest techniques and proven strategies for streamlining wholesale operations, improving product quality and increasing profits. The 90+ sessions are designed for professionals of all levels and backgrounds.

More than 20 new seminars will focus on the most relevant issues facing the industry today, featuring expanded content for upper management. This year’s speakers are well-known subject matter experts and business moguls that run the largest bakeries in the world, including Todd Hale, Lee Sanders and Ramon Rivera. as well as business moguls who run the largest bakeries in the world.

The education program begins on October 7, the day before the Baking Expo™ opens, with RPIA’s Business of Baking for Beginners seminar and the Tortilla Industry Association’s two-day Technical and Management Conference, which addresses operation skills, safety regulations, quality control, plant efficiency and best practices for the baking industry’s fastest growing market segment.

Education seminars at IBIE 2016 are organized into targeted tracks: AIB Technical, Retail, Bread Bakers Guild of America, International, Management, Sales & Marketing, Ingredients & Processes, Food Safety & Sanitation and Retail Hands-on (Cake & Pastry Decorating). Sessions are held daily from 8:30 a.m. to Noon and in the evening to give attendees plenty of time to explore the latest innovations on the Expo floor.

Popular returning features including: B.E.S.T. in Baking Program, The Great American Pie Festival, PMQ Pizza Village and RBA’s 15th Annual Pillsbury Bakers’ Plus Creative Decorating Competition.

For more information, or to register for IBIE 2016, visit

Unified Grocers CFO Mike Henn to Retire; Christine Neal Named New CFO

Unified Grocers, Inc.’s Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer Michael F. Henn will retire effective September 30. Effective October 1, Christine Neal will be promoted to the position of Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer.


Mike Henn joined Unified last October following the retirement of Richard J. Martin. “It’s been a privilege to work with a great management team that has accomplished so much in the past year to position the company for solid growth going forward,” he said. “While personal circumstances have driven my decision to step back from a full time role, I will continue to assist the company in a more limited capacity as it transitions to new financial leadership.”

“Unified was extremely fortunate to have Mike on the team to guide us through a period of transition and to set the financial foundations for the next phase of the company’s growth,” said Unified President and CEO Bob Ling. “I’m grateful that he will continue to support the company going forward. Mike has played an important role, and all of us at Unified wish him well.”

Christine Neal has agreed to defer her own planned retirement to accept the CFO role while the company commences a search process for the CFO position, providing a seamless transition for the financial management function of the company.

“Christine is a very talented executive with a strong track record of leadership in finance and strategy, and excellent knowledge of our company,” said Ling. “In addition to her proven financial management skills, she has been a key driver of the company’s new strategic plan, which we expect to finalize soon.”

“It’s an honor to take on the role of Chief Financial Officer at this important time in Unified’s history,” said Neal. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to play a larger role as we look to grow the business and enhance the success of our members.”

As CFO and Treasurer, Neal will be responsible for finance, accounting, information systems, internal audit (administrative responsibility) and strategic planning. She is also President of Unified’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Grocers Capital Company (GCC).

Neal joined Unified in 2003, and in her previous roles she was responsible for finance, treasury, strategic planning and human resources. Prior to the joining the company, Neal acquired a wide range of financial experience within the food industry, including serving for several years as a financial consultant to Unified. She also served as chief financial officer for the California Restaurant Association, the largest state restaurant and hospitality trade organization in the United States, and was controller for Gelson’s Markets, a premier upscale grocery retail chain in Southern California. Neal began her career at the Cincinnati office of Arthur Young & Company, where she worked for eight years as an accountant and audit manager.

Neal currently serves on the board of directors of the National Cooperative Bank. She has previously served on the board of directors of the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) and the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the American Red Cross. She earned her bachelor of science degree in accountancy and finance from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and is a certified public accountant.

Verde Farms Hires New Execs to Propel Growth

After exceeding $50 million in revenue in 2015, Verde Farms, a leading supplier of grass-fed, grass-finished beef for both retail and food service, invests in the company’s next phase with the hires of two food industry veterans to the leadership team. Guiding the sales and marketing divisions, Joe Koch has joined the company as Vice President of Sales, and Pete Lewis has joined as Vice President of Marketing. Both are newly created positions and happen in tandem with additional hires that have doubled the company size. Koch and Lewis will report directly to Co-founder and CEO Dana Ehrlich and will be key drivers in Verde Farms’ growth strategy.

Well established in the food industry, Koch, who has a background in sales, trade marketing, and category management brings more than 20 years’ experience with consumer brands in highly competitive categories. He previously led the sales teams at Harry & David and Dole Fresh Vegetables, along with stints at Frito Lay and Kraft. Koch joins Verde Farms as the company prepares to launch new product lines which will introduce Verde Farms’ grass-fed beef to a new audience of conscious consumers. As Vice President of Sales, Koch and his team will be responsible for increasing distribution of the entire portfolio in wholesale and foodservice channels nationwide.

With a passion for the natural, organic and better-for-you food and beverages, Lewis is an accomplished marketer with extensive experience in the food industry. Of his 22 years working with consumer brands, Lewis spent eight years growing Stonyfield Farms’ presence in the organic dairy market. He also led the marketing teams at Lightlife Foods, Backyard Farms, and Jasper Wyman & Son. Lewis brings to Verde Farms his expertise in creating and cultivating authentic brand to consumer relationships.

“We had a very successful 2015 and it’s clear the company is poised to take an even bigger lead in the rapidly growing grass-fed industry,” commented Verde Farms’ CEO and Co-founder Dana Ehrlich. “We are all very excited to welcome Joe and Pete and to work alongside them as Verde Farms continues to charter new territory.”

The hires come as Verde Farms transitions to a new location in Woburn, Massachusetts. The new space is double the size of the former office to account for the growing team and to foster future product development and increased client services. Embracing the energy of a tech start-up as opposed to a traditional food producer, Ehrlich wanted a modern space that cultivates innovation and reflects the company’s mission to democratize the consumption of grass-fed beef.

Oberto Beef Jerky Launches Trail Mix Product Line

Oberto Beef Jerky will expand its product portfolio this month as it enters the trail mix category with the launch of Oberto Trail Mix. Oberto’s entry is part of the company’s bigger mission to provide more delicious, convenient, and “better for you” snacking product forms featuring the unmatched lean protein power of its Oberto Beef Jerky. The first three Oberto Trail Mix flavors – Original Beef, Spicy Sweet Beef, and Teriyaki Chicken — are now rolling out to select retailers nationwide.

The introduction of Oberto Trail Mix comes as the beef jerky and trail mix categories are both seeing explosive growth. Combined U.S. retail category sales of jerky and trail mix exceed $3 billion, with explosive growth this yea, according to Nielsen ScanTrak.

Oberto Trail Mix has been in development for more than a year. At Oberto’s integrated research and development lab and U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed manufacturing facility in the Seattle area, the company developed a proprietary blend that guarantees delicious, tender jerky while adding premium nuts, seeds, fruit and dark chocolate. Oberto’s innovative trail mix not only satisfies hunger, but delivers high protein without artificial ingredients.

David Lakey, Oberto’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, said this is a natural expansion of the Oberto Brand. “Active consumers want more protein in their snacks. Loyal Oberto Beef Jerky consumers also eat a lot of trail mix, and our research indicates they’re very interested in this new snack option while on the go.”

To support the launch of Oberto Trail Mix at retail, Oberto has created a range of in-store merchandising vehicles, including shelf talkers and aisle and counter rack displays. It will also promote the new line through digital and social media marketing – including contests and branded content featuring its line-up of major-league athletes.

Top Retailers, Distributors Recognized for Beef Excellence

From grilled steaks to burgers to delicious roasts, consumers seek top-quality beef cuts and rely on local grocers to help them serve their favorite family meals. At this year’s Certified Angus Beef ® Annual Conference, held in Tucson, Arizona, these retailers and distributors from around the globe were honored as beef leaders. The retailers and distributors gathered with family Angus cattle ranchers to nurture their focus on delivering premium beef.
“We are proud to partner with these companies and congratulate their ongoing successes,” says John Stika, the beef brand’s President. “Every time they recommend the Certified Angus Beef brand, they embrace our family ranching heritage and dedication to quality from farm to table.”

Giant Eagle, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, earned the retailer of the year award. Through its focus on bringing top-quality beef to customers, Giant Eagle held a store-wide grilling event and featured roasts for the holidays. Promotions included social media, targeted e-mails and weekly recipes. Stores offer beef that’s cut fresh in-store, as well as specialty burgers, beef kabobs and Certified Angus Beef brand prime cuts. Circular features also included buy-one, get-one opportunities. Giant Eagle’s focus on premium beef earned loyal customers and the top retail sales volume increase award.

Price Chopper and Market 32, based in Schenectady, New York, earned the award for retail marketer of the year for a large chain. Creative promotions year-round feature the Certified Angus Beef brand, which anchors the meat case at all Price Chopper and Market 32 stores. For example, the summer grilling promotion included in-store, print, television and radio promotions leading customers to the meat case, where their beef can be cut to order. Collaboration between the meat team, marketing team and the brand’s staff also introduced top-quality ground beef, helping Price Chopper to also receive a top five sales volume large-chain retailer award.

Foodland Super Markets, in Hawaii, was named the retail marketer of the year for a small chain. The retailer developed comprehensive marketing programs that made the Certified Angus Beef brand the focal point of the meat case and front-page features. Meat department staff were trained to approach customers to discuss beef cuts and meal solutions, which aligned with a campaign inviting customers to meet Foodland’s in-house beef experts. Radio ads, coupons and social media also added sales, which led to a top five sales volume small-chain retailer award.

Meijer, Grand Rapids, Michigan, was named the retail value-added products marketer of the year. Meijer is an innovator in offering Certified Angus Beef brand products in all categories: fresh meats, convenience items, frozen foods and deli meats. The retailer regularly features them in the circular, store signage, advertising and social media. Training programs for meat department staff provide customers with meal solutions.

Reasor’s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, received the retail brand extension marketer of the year award. Stores offer a selection of premium fresh cuts, including Certified Angus Beef brand prime and some dry-aged steaks. Deli and convenience meats also give customers more options for mealtime. Informed meat staff help customers choose beef cuts. Videos with cooking tips and the semi-annual “fill your freezer” sales also help customers enjoy great-tasting beef year-round.

DeMoulas Market Basket, Tewksbury, Massachusetts, was named the retail rising star. Custom marketing materials throughout stores and monthly cooking demonstrations with coupons and recipes lead customers to the meat case. DeMoulas has also been offering a wider selection of fresh beef cuts since introducing Certified Angus Beef brand products two years ago.

Hays Supermarkets, Wynne, Arkansas, received the retail rookie of the year award for its year-long focus on introducing Certified Angus Beef brand products to customers. Throughout the year, Hays stores featured the brand in promotions and focused on offering ground beef to shoppers as a quality advantage in the market.

Centro Cuesta Nacional in the Dominican Republic was recognized as the international retail marketer of the year. The single-store retailer uses a comprehensive marketing plan to offer a wide selection of Certified Angus Beef brand cuts. Billboards, print advertising in major publications, social media and in-store promotions explain beef quality and lead customers to the meat case.


New Bone Suckin’ Cajun Seasoning

bone-suckin-cajun-seasoning-smallThe new Bone Suckin’ Cajun Seasoning from Ford’s Gourmet Foods, the Bone Suckin’ Sauce folks, is the perfect blend of spices and herbs along with the right amount of heat. It makes your food taste great, gets friends talking and coming back for more! Use generously for Cajun food that’s “Bone Suckin’ Good!”

Bone Suckin’ Cajun Seasoning is a blend of spices, smoke paprika, dehydrated garlic and onion with salt and celery seed. It contains no MSG for GMOs. It’s all natural, gluten free and Paleo, and it’s good on seafood, poultry steaks, pork, pasta, french fries, rice, vegetables and gumbo.

Taste it in booth #2326 at Natural Products Expo East.

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