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Celestial Seasonings Unveils Refreshed Tea Packaging

Celestial Seasonings new logo Celestial Seasonings®, a brand of The Hain Celestial Group, Inc., has unveiled its fresh new brand look and feel–including refreshed tea packaging that highlights the brand’s heritage and a new, contemporary logo.

“We’re excited to introduce our refreshed packaging to consumers since we think the new boxes are an even better reflection of the Celestial Seasonings® goodness inside,” said Tom Arcuri, vice president of sales and marketing at Celestial Seasonings, Inc. “We kept the elements that our consumers loved from our previous boxes and built upon them to appeal to an even wider audience.”

The refreshed packaging blends many of the heritage elements for which the brand is known–including commissioned tea box art featuring iconic characters like Sleepytime® Bear–with a contemporary design. Consumers will find the same high-quality teas inside–the brand has not changed any of its recipes and continues to source its ingredients and blend its teas according to its strict “Blended With Care: From Seed to Sip” standard for purity and quality.

Celestial Seasonings maintains its strong belief in social responsibility, so its refreshed packaging will continue to feature an earth-friendly design. The brand’s cartons are still biodegradable and recyclable, and its signature tea bag omits strings, staples and individual wrappers–saving 3.5 million pounds of material from landfills every year.

The first Celestial Seasonings teas in refreshed packaging are available on store shelves now, with the full new shelf set expected to be in place by the fall. All items will also available at the Celestial Seasonings Online Store.

Snack Food Makers Turn to Clean Ingredients, Adventurous Flavors

 

By Lorrie Baumann

The global market for snack foods is now worth about $36 billion according to market research firm IBISWorld, which also reports that the industry is benefiting from the introduction of more healthy snacks and favorable product pricing. Over the next five years, the snack food industry is predicted to continue growing as the economy strengthens and people have more disposable income to spend, leading them to trade in their junk food for premium snack foods that meet their criteria for the flavorful foods with simpler ingredients labels that they’re seeking out for their meals.

There’s a lot of talk about a cleaner label. We’ve been seeing a lot more requests, and customers are coming up with their own lists of what they don’t want to see,” says AnnMarie Kraszewski, a food scientist at Wixon, which makes foods and flavorings used as ingredients by a wide range of product manufacturers. The companies with which Wixon works are asking for recipes that avoid anything artificial, anything that sounds more like it came from a chemistry laboratory rather than a pantry, she said. “It makes formulating a little more difficult, but in terms of the end product, it comes out rather nice, and the consumer likes to see the label, and so they feel better about the product…. Usually the customer tells us a profile they’re looking for. You try and make something that tastes fresh, whether that’s with herbs, unique chile peppers, things that make it a little more interesting. The bulk of the profiles that come in are savory, but there’s a lot of interest in sweet-heat or sweet-savory – a combination like maple and thyme, for instance.”

Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Chocolate Toffee

Laurie & Sons is a start-up company that’s making its Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Chocolate Toffee in La Marqueta, an East Harlem commercial kitchen incubator sponsored by New York City. The product received the 2015 sofi Award for Outstanding Chocolate, and it’s the first chocolate-enrobed crisp licorice toffee confection using real licorice root, according to Founder and Owner Laurie Pauker. The product is on the sweet side of the snack food continuum, and Pauker intends to keep her company’s product line of toffees and brittles firmly targeted at that category rather than among the gourmet gifts because Pauker and her three sons, who are the company’s chief product testers, believe that the era of calorie-dense, nutrition deficient snacks has passed. “It might be sweet snacks or might be savory snacks, but it’s all things made with good ingredients. The predecessors are no longer acceptable,” she said. “I think we’re moving more in that direction anyhow. People are snacking more than ever, and those foods need to be made better. They need to meet higher standards.”

The product line includes a couple of flavors of brittles that are baked rather than kettled: Toasted Almond Brittle and Mayan Spice Brittle. “It lets us make the product in a way that incorporates brown rice flour instead of some of the sugar. It’s incredibly light. It’s lower calories, but you feel like you’ve had something tasty and satisfying,” she said. “Portion control is easy because the pieces are sized to let you know what you’re eating, and they’re packaged in resealable pouches so you can take them with you.”

The candy that excited the sofi Award judges was inspired by a candy that Pauker’s grandfather used to give her when she was a little girl. “It was fantastic and it was chewy,” Pauker says today. “One of the things we’ve focused on is putting flavor in toffee. It’s a great vehicle for flavor and spice.” The Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Chocolate Toffee is gluten free and flavored with bold black licorice underlined with freshly ground star anise and a little bit of pernod, a combination that lends depth to the flavor of the toffee. It’s made without corn syrup, preservatives or food coloring. The chocolate coating amplifies the licorice flavor, and each piece is topped with black Hawaiian lava salt to add crunch as well as flavor. “That took several months of experimenting to balance the right ratio of black licorice to star anise, but I think we found the right balance,” Pauker says. “As for the ‘dangerous’ part of the name, it’s dangerous because it’s so good and also because black licorice should not be eaten in great quantities. It’s like absinthe in that way. It has a little bit of a dangerous side to it.”

fusion JERKY

On the savory side of snacking, KaiYen Mai set out last year to make meat jerky that had the soft texture of the products made in her family’s company for the past 50 years but with modern flavors and ingredient labels that were cleaner than those of many of the jerky products already on the market. Her family had been making jerky in the United States for 35 years and in Taiwan before that, and when it came time for her to take over the family business, she decided to venture out with a new brand as well as keeping the family’s existing product lines on the market. Thus, fusion JERKY, which offers all natural, minimally processed beef, pork, turkey and chicken jerky in bold flavor profiles and with a soft texture that appeals to women and children as well as men, came to be. Basil Citrus Artisan Beef Jerky, Chipotle Lime Artisan Beef Jerky, Garlic Jalapeno Artisan Pork Jerky, Island Teriyaki Artisan Pork Jerky, Chili Basil Artisan Turkey Jerky, Rosemary Citrus Artisan Turkey Jerky, Lemon Pepper Artisan Chicken Jerky and Basil Citrus Artisan Chicken Jerky are offered in 3-ounce bags that sell for $6 to $7. They are made without preservatives or MSG and are gluten free. “It’s a clean label, so when you read the ingredients, you can actually read and understand it,” Mai said. There is currently not an organic product in the line because using all organic ingredients would make the product price-prohibitive in its market, she added. “We’re one of the first ones to do a natural chicken jerky. A lot of people are surprised by chicken jerky. A lot of people who don’t want to eat red meat turn to white meat, so this is another choice for them,” she said. “We’re also trying to make it affordable, which is why we’re not making an organic product at this time. I’d have to reduce the size and sell them for a much higher price. I just don’t think that’s affordable and reasonable for the average consumer.”

The Better Chip

The makers of The Better Chip are among those consciously defining their product line as lifestyle-focused alternative snacks for consumers who are looking for cleaner labels as well as exciting flavors. Ingredients for The Better Chip products, including whole grains and vegetables, are sourced straight from farms. All ingredients are gluten free and non-GMO, and they contain no trans fats. The company adds no topical flavor enhancers, so the flavors are inside the chips rather than coming off on fingers, says Andrea Brule, Vice President/General Manager. “We take a hard line on that. They’re not flavored like something, they just are.”

The Better Chip was designed to be merchandised in the deli department rather than on the chip aisle, so that they share that space with the items with which they’re usually served as part of a meal or at a party. The company very definitely had in mind that they wanted to make a chip that consumers would feel good about photographing and sharing on their social media. “When we developed the chip, we decided to source fresh ingredients and use that as a basis for a snack line that would meet those criteria for clean ingredients and healthy foods while at the same time using engaging flavors that are bragworthy, shareworthy. So when consumers put them on the table with hummus and yogurt dip and cured meats, our chips, in the variety of flavors they come in, are the canvas for how they want to express themselves,” Brule says. “They’re developed for today’s consumers with simple ingredients sourced straight from farms, ideal for entertaining and experimenting with…. My happiest days are when I see people engaging with the product in creative ways. The flavors and the colors really lend themselves to people looking for what they can create with it.”

This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

 

New Fancy Food Show Products Delight with Taste, Innovation

By Richard Thompson

This year’s Summer Fancy Food Show introduced new and growing brands that aimed to update how we look at foods, from breakfast to all-natural desserts. Many of these news products stood out with their focus on reinvention, health and taste.

If there was one new brand that will be hard to forget, it would be the sweetened waffles from The Belgian Kitchen. Made using brioche dough infused with raw sugar, this frozen dough is an all-natural, butter-based dough that breaks out of traditional waffling by being marketed as a dough rather than a batter mix.

The Belgian Kitchen waffles are already enjoyed at five ski resorts in the Northeast and more than 60 foodservice businesses – including multiple frozen yogurt chains, and President Sean Lee has plans for expansion that will see this product targeted at the family market and being sold as frozen dough balls in retail chains. It’s simple and delicious, says Lee: “It’s a very simple product. It’s like the WD40 of doughs.”

Southern Culture Artisan Foods Founder Erica Barrett presented her own take on waffles with her ShortStacks Pancake and Waffle mix. Sixteen different pancake and waffle mixes offer flavors from Bourbon Salted Pecan and Oatmeal Raisin Cookie to Sweet Potato and Peach Cobbler. These non-GMO, vegan friendly and dairy free batter mixes are meant to be enjoyed by everyone, says Barrett.

Alongside the company’s ShortStack batter mixes were Southern Culture Artisan Foods Cajun Bacon Rubs in three different flavors, adding a zing to a breakfast meat favorite. Available in Original, Bourbon Pecan Praline and Sweet & Spicy, these rubs enhance not only bacon, but any meat.

The company’s 2015 sofi-nominated Garlic and Herb Stone Ground Grits captivated attendees with its flavoring that could complement everything from shrimp to bacon and eggs. “I started the company for one reason: to reinvent breakfast and for retailers to reinvent it too,” Barrett said.

Another up-and-coming company is reinventing the frozen pop with its line of healthy summer treats. Paleo Passion Pops, sweetened with all-natural fructose, doesn’t quibble about being a really healthy and delicious dessert for those who have an active lifestyle or those just looking for a dessert they can feel good about.

Kayla Cord, Administration and Marketing Manager of Paleo Passion Pops, said that the company’s founder invented these pops out of concern about the amount of added sugars in the American food supply. This led to a dessert line whose flavors include Orange Mango, Pineapple Ginger, Blueberry Pomegranate, Apple Crisp, Green Passion, Chocolate Passion and Strawberry Passion.

Each of these options can be considered super food as they are made with flax seeds, ginger, kale and green tea. They are allergy safe and made in a nut-free facility. While these are popular with fitness groups, says Cord, “We’re looking for everyone!”

Java To Go is a brand that offers exceptional coffee that tells the story of the lives of travelers, according to President and Founder Shaheed Momin. “We want to see where coffee is coming from and where coffee is going,” he says. “We want to reinvent the coffee experience.” The company is focusing on the fast paced lifestyle of Millenials and their social networking habits.

Along with traditional flavors like Original and Colombian, Java To Go also has Salted Caramel and Southern Pecan and seasonal offerings like Cookie Doodle and Pumpkin Spice. Each is an organic blend that follows fair trade standards and is high quality, according to Momin.

This brand of gourmet coffee is offered in various packages for different drinking habits. Coffee cans that come in 11 ounces and 32 ounces, single serve K-cups, and traditional stand-up bags with both whole and ground beans are available. Momin is most excited about his single serving coffee sticks that promote a lifestyle of adventure. “This coffee represents a love of travel,” he said.

Backyard Safari Company is breaking from tradition with its seasoning products. This four year-old company’s uniquely packaged “Dinner Tonight!” seasonings are aimed at making dinners an easy one-step process without sacrificing taste. Seasoning options include Burger Seasoning, Southwestern Chipotle & Lime Fajitas Seasoning, Salmon with Angle Hair Pasta Seasoning and the sofi-nominated White Bean Chili Seasoning. Each package has a suggested retail price of $3.95, serves between four to eight people and makes a complete meal in under 30 minutes.

Matchbox Backyard Grilling Spices come in matchbox-inspired containers that hold 2.6 ounces of seasoning. Made for backyard grilling without the fuss, each flavor is meant to “Start a Fire in the Backyard.” The line includes a Lemon Zest & Garlic Chicken Rub, Sweet & Savory Rib Rub, Seafood Grilling Herbs Rub, Peppered Garlic Steak & Burger Rub, and for a spicy vegetable kick, the Sweet Chipotle Grilled Corn Rub.

Kids can learn about fresh seasonings and how to grow them with Sunny Side-Up Garden Kits, also offered by Matchbox Backyard Grilling Spices. In six different varieties, each egg carton package contains soil, seeds and instructions. Kids will be able to grow green beans, summer squash and sweet baby carrots in the Little Fresh Veggie Garden, while the Little Goodnight Garden introduces kids to Evening Primrose, White Purity Cosmos and Evening Scented Stock. Each carton has a suggested retail price of $11.95.

Simply Gum uses a chicle base with no artificial sweeteners and is the only brand in the United States that uses 100 percent natural ingredients. Caron Proschan, Simply Gum CEO, says that the American consumer palate is more sophisticated than is normally granted and that the subtle flavor in each piece will be appreciated. Simply Gum flavors include Ginger, Maple, Fennel Licorice, Mint, Cinnamon and Coffee. Simply Gum products are available in five Whole Foods Stores in the New York area and Sprouts nationwide.

Ft. Greene Farms produces small batch relishes and hot sauces that have already been nominated in the Martha Stewart “Made in America” Jar Goods Category for the company’s whole line. The company’s flagship relish is made with champagne vinegar, yellow mustard seeds, sugar and water for a relaxed mustard flavor. Red Pepper Relish adds a little extra kick to that mustard seed base with red bell peppers, Scotch bonnet peppers, light brown sugar and red onions.

In the hot sauce category, Ft. Green Farms’ Charred Sriracha Hot Sauce is made with Fresno chili, lime juice, shallots, rice wine vinegar, garlic and sea salt. This hot sauce brings a fiery little kick that isn’t too hot for those who enjoy spicy foods.

Steve Millard Becomes CEO of Best Cheese

Best Cheese Corporation, importer and distributor of Dutch cheese brands and owner of Artisanal Coach Farm has named Steve Millard as its next CEO, succeeding Steve Margarites, effective August 12, 2015. Best Cheese Corporation is a full subsidiary of Uniekaas Beheer B.V. based in the Netherlands. Best Cheese Corporation markets and sells cheese and dairy products under brand names as Parrano, Uniekaas, Coach Farm and Melkbus. Best Cheese Corporation is based in Purchase, New York and operates an artisanal goat farm in Hudson Valley, New York.

Millard brings more than 15 years of strategic leadership, brand development and key account management experience in the dairy industry. Millard most recently served as Vice President of sales at Alouette, a division of France based Groupe Bongrain, a global leader in fine cheeses and chocolates. Before joining Alouette, Millard served as CEO and President of Emmi Roth USA. Before serving seven years with Emmi Roth USA, Millard worked for eight years with the Dannon Company, a subsidiary of Groupe Danone.

“I am excited to join The Best Cheese Corporation,” stated Steve Millard. “As the new CEO, my top priorities will be focusing on building our brands, growing our team and delivering the highest quality service to our customers. This is a terrific opportunity and I look forward to overseeing the continued growth of The Best Cheese Corporation and acceleration of Coach Farm.”

Millard has a Bachelor’s Degree from Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Bonne Bouche from Vermont Creamery

By Lorrie Baumann

Vermont Creamery’s Bonne Bouche cheese, discovered around 2002 by New York’s famous French chefs, is now becoming well known among consumers as well as a favorite among cheese mongers. The cheese has won multiple awards from the American Cheese Society, a gold award from the World Cheese Awards, and a gold sofi for Best Cheese or Dairy Product at the 2012 Fancy Food Show.

“We often submit that cheese because it’s our favorite. For Vermont Creamery, it is a well-known cheese. We’ve won a lot of awards with Bonne Bouche, and for the industry and for artisanal cheese, it’s a great example of where the market is going,” says Allison Hooper, Co-founder and Cheesemaker of Vermont Creamery. “It’s got consumer customers who really love it and ask for it by name.”

“It’s a very difficult cheese to make, so we’re super-proud of it,” she continues. “When it wins, it gets a nod that it’s a great cheese deserving of accolades.”
Bonne Bouche is an ash-ripened goat milk cheese made in traditional French style. Consumers often say it reminds them of a brie, and those famous French chefs likened it to the Selles-sur-Cher produced in the Centre region of France. It’s sold in a four-ounce round that’s shipped in a wood box at an early stage of its aging that gives the retailer a few weeks to keep it in the case at peak ripeness. The wood box allows the cheese to continue to breathe, wicking away excess moisture and also helping to prevent the cheese from drying out. “It’s also tall enough so that when the crate is shrink-wrapped with a perforated film, the film doesn’t touch the rind, which is important with these geotricum [mold] rinds. It’s very important that the rind continues to breathe,” Hooper says. “It’s the intention that, when the retailer gets this cheese, we’ve done everything right, so they don’t need to do anything with it except merchandise it.”

When the Bonne Bouche is fresh, it has the acidic tang expected of a fresh chevre. Then as it ages, the paste mellows and loses its acidity and gains a melon-ish sweetness with some of the yeasty taste of the rind. “It’s quite aromatic, but when you put the cheese in your mouth, it’s less strong-tasting than its aroma,” Hooper says. “It’s surprisingly mild, for the fact that it’s made of goats’ milk and that it is a ripened cheese with an aromatic rind.”

As it ages, the Bonne Bouche gets softer and sometimes gets a little runny under its edible rind. Consumers really like that softness, Hooper says. “It has a nice amount of salt in the cheese, which is important to the proper growth of the rind, and the saltiness add great flavor to the cheese.”

“While it is made from goats’ milk, it doesn’t have the characteristics that we think of with goat cheese. It tends to lose its goatyness as it ripens, she adds. “For those who don’t reach for goat cheeses, they are surprised by how much they like it.”

 

This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

Multi-Cookers Take Over Countertop Cooking

 

By Amber Gallegos

Within the realm of countertop cooking, a trend towards multicookers is on the rise. These small appliances take on double, or even triple duty, to compete to be the go-to appliance for daily cooking. They go beyond slow cooking or grilling, combining these basic functions along with a host of other settings to do everything from boiling, steaming, frying, sauteing, and baking, all in one machine.

KitchenAid took a major venture into the category with this year’s release of the 4-Quart Multi-Cooker and optional Stir Tower. The Multi-Cooker is basically like a slow cooker on steroids, with seven different cooking methods and four step-by-step modes. The cooking methods include sear, sauté, boil/steam, simmer, slow cook low or high, and keep warm. The step-by-step cooking modes are rice, soup, risotto, and yogurt. As cooks move through each step, the Multi-Cooker adjusts and displays temperatures and timing accordingly. The Multi-Cooker has precise temperature control that is applied and preset for each setting to ensure consistent results. The cooking can be programmed for up to 12 hours and the keep warm setting can be programmed for 24 hours There is also a manual setting that allows users to cook like on a regular stove top and select from warm, low, med-lo, medium, med-hi, and high. Each manual mode is adjustable within a temperature range to get just the amount of heat desired. A dual purpose cooking rack is included for steaming or roasting. The lid is clear tempered glass for easy viewing during cooking and it has an integrated strainer/pour opening. The cooking vessel features a nonstick CeramaShield™ coating that is 100 percent PTFE and PFOA free.

The separate Stir Tower is an accessory that mixes, flips, stirs, incorporates ingredients and stirs intermittently. It attaches to the Multi-Cooker for added cooking options, like making yogurt, risotto, meatballs and more. The silicone stirring paddle has two parts, a flip-and-stir wand that can be used alone, and a side scraper attachment that is optional to use in conjunction with the wand when making soups, sauces and stews to circulate ingredients thoroughly. The Stir Tower features three stir speeds and two intermittent stir modes. The KitchenAid Multi-Cooker and Stir Tower are available in silver, black or red with a suggested retail price of $349.99 for the Multi-Cooker, $229.99 for the Stir Tower accessory, and $549.99 for the Multi-Cooker and Stir Tower combined.

The Bellini Intelli Kitchen Master from Cedarlane Culinary was introduced to the U.S. and Canada market last year and is the machine closest in functionality to KitchenAid’s Multi-Cooker. The Bellini combines eight kitchen gadgets in one machine for chopping, blending, whipping, mixing, sauteing, steaming, stirring and boiling, even allowing for some of the tasks be done simultaneously. The machine differentiates from others partly because of the cutting blade that can, for example, quickly chop a whole onion and then sauté it right in the 2-liter stainless steel mixing bowl. The unit has 1000 watts of heating power and can heat up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. It has 10 speeds that can be selected from a rotary control, and cooking time can be set for up to one hour.

The Bellini includes accessories that enable the preparation of a variety of meals that go beyond one pot cooking. There is a stainless steel chopping blade and stainless steel stirring blade that lock into the bottom of the mixing bowl depending on what task the recipe calls for. A mixing tool snaps onto either blade for mixing tasks, like making a cake batter. Also included is a cooking basket that sits inside the mixing bowl so food can be cooked without hitting the blades below. There is a heat resistant spatula that is designed with a notch to lift the basket from the mixing bowl and scrape the sides. The dual steam accessory consists of two pieces, a container that sits directly on top of the mixing bowl and a top portion that is shallow with vents on the bottom and has a clear lid that is also vented. Cooks could boil potatoes in the cooking basket, steam veggies in the next layer, and also have fish steaming on the very top layer. The mixing bowl lid locks into place and has an integrated clear removable measuring cup. To ensure accurate recipe proportions, the machine also comes with an external digital food scale. With the Bellini Intelli Kitchen Master home cooks can make everything from a simple smoothie to a more complex risotto. It retails for $549.

The Philips Multicooker is a nice option for customers who want to spend less and don’t mind stirring the pot themselves. It has10 preset programs including slow cook, steam, fry/sauté, rice, risotto, stew/simmer, bake, yogurt, reheat and boil. A manual button allows users to change the time and temperature to any specific setting. There is a 24-hour preset timer that can be programmed to start cooking while you’re away so you can come home to a cooked meal. When cooking is done, the machine switches to keep-warm mode for up to 12 hours. The inner pot has a 4-liter capacity, is dishwasher safe, and has a nano-ceramic coating that is nonstick and scratch resistant. The lid of the Mulitcooker can be completely detached after use to allow for direct cleaning from every angle. Also included is a multi-use steam basket, spatula, spoon, rice scoop, and measuring cup. Using the Philips Multicooker, home cooks can prepare a variety of meals, from slow-cooked stews, braises and pot roasts to risottos and curries. You can also steam vegetables or rice, boil pasta, bake cakes or breads and make fresh yogurt. The Philips Multicooker has a suggested retail price of $249.

T-fal will debut the 7-in-1 Multi-Cooker & Fryer in September. With a suggested retail price of $99.99, the small appliance comes in at an even more affordable price point than the Philips Multicooker. The unit has more of an emphasis on the frying capability, with a 1.6-liter oil capacity, but with 1600 watts of power it can also braise, saute, simmer, brown, boil and keep warm, along with having a food capacity of 1.3 pounds. The removable bowl has a non-stick coating and the lid has a viewing window. The lid, bowl and basket are all dishwasher safe. The appliance also has a removable timer that allows cooks to leave the kitchen without fear of not hearing the timer go off.

BLACK+DECKER just introduced the Multi-Cooker – Slow Cook & Sear in June. The appliance is equipped with a slow cooker and stovetop function, making it easy to create true one pot meals. With a capacity of 6.5 quarts, it is bigger than T-fal’s Multi-Cooker and focuses more on slow cooking. The built-in stove finishes sauces, sears meats or sautés ingredients, while the slow cooker function provides a convenient way to cook tender delicious meals. The slow cooker can be turned to low, medium, high and keep warm while the bake and roast functions allow you to set desired temperatures from 200 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The removable ceramic coated pot has cool touch handles with an easy view glass lid. A roasting rack and recipe book is also included. The BLACK+DECKER Multi-Cooker has a suggested retail price of $99.99.

This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Kitchenware News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

 

Newly Published Spices and Salt Prints Now Available

A new series of six prints illustrating the spices and salts of five regional cuisines is now available through MondoFood.com. Designed by Chef and Spice Master Tim Ziegler and Tea King Brian Keating in partnership with American Image Publishing, these colorful 1′ X 3′ wall prints are an expansion of the duo’s popular SPICES print (published in 2002, 2012), currently used in restaurant kitchens and culinary schools around the world.

“Brian and I developed this new series to give professional chefs, gourmands and home cooks a worthwhile resource on these wonderful ingredients,” says Chef Ziegler. “You can refer to the posters for inspiration or admiration. We think they’re a great learning resource and, thanks to the graphic design of Pat Welch and photography of Bob Montesclaros and Lois Ellen-Frank, stunning art pieces as well.”

american-kitchen-spices-printsA unique gift for home cooks to top chefs, each poster in the new series serves as a handy reference tool and a vibrant, globally-inspired decorative piece that will liven up any kitchen. Beautifully depicting an array of spices and offering descriptions, ingredient origins, local flavor profiles and recipe applications, each poster offers a detailed look into one of the following cuisines: Mediterranean, Continental, Southeast Asian, Indian/Chinese and American Grill, as well as the fascinating global study of salts in SALT, The Edible Rock.

The prints have already received praise from culinary professionals.

“Not only [are the SPICES prints] beautiful and stylish, they keep me mindful of the simple beauty and interconnectedness that is the world of taste,” said Chef Mick (Michaelangelo) Rosacci, Tony’s Market in Denver.

“The new line of prints is BEAUTIFUL…collectible and worthy of framing,” said Lori Frazee, Pit Master/Chef at Barn Goddess BBQ.

Each poster in the series retails for $20 at MondoFood.com, with additional retailers to come.

Selling Pickles and Seeing Smiles — and a Silver sofi

By Lorrie Baumann

Kendra and BaronKendra Coggin and Baron Conway were looking to do more with their lives than answer to their corporate bosses in 2013, so they started making pickles. Just two years later, and just six months after the pair attended their first Fancy Food Show, their Pernicious Pickling Company’s Ginger & Spice Pickled Carrots are among the finalists for a sofi Award. “It’s what we wanted, but we never expected it would happen,” Conway says. “We were very, very surprised.”

In 2012, Coggin was a graphic designer, sitting at a computer all day and creating digital marketing materials for exciting entrepreneurs. Conway was working in advertising and marketing too, but his area of expertise is in business development and strategy. Both of them were infected by the ideas and energy of their clients, and they started thinking about going into business for themselves. They wanted something that would be creative, that would allow them to control their own destiny and that they could feel passionate about. “We wanted something where you don’t mind working 60 or 80 hours a week to create something that impacts people in an interesting way,” Conway says. “It’s about the food they love and the joy they get.”

They’re both food lovers, and, for both of them, pickles were part of their family history. “My family has always had a very strong relationship with pickles, particularly savory, while Kendra was more familiar with the sweet hot flavors of the South,” Conway says. “At some point, we looked around and saw that there were no artisanal pickle companies in southern California.”

The two started making pickles and serving them to their friends, who were enthusiastic, so they decided to do some research into what it would take to start a pickling company. A year of work went into the business plan and the licensing that was necessary before they could sell their product. “California has very strict rules about shelf-stable pickling. You have to have a cannery license, commercial kitchen, regular inspections from the California Food & Drug Bureau and keep meticulous production records. All of these things are required to sell, whether it’s in a Whole Foods Market, a mom and pop grocery, or at a farmers market,” Coggin says. “Even the recipes have to be submitted to the state for approval, along with samples for pH testing. It took us close to a year to get everything together. Then once you’ve received your cannery license and begin production, you have almost monthly inspections from the FDB to test your product and confirm records. This experience is certainly a far cry from the home canning we did growing up.”

All those complications could help explain why there are not many people making and selling shelf-stable pickles in Southern California, even though there’s a lot of excitement in the market about pickling, she muses. The two of them launched their business in October, 2013 with 10 products. Yes, 10.

“Out of the gate, we had these 10 products, and we decided, the hell with it, we’ll just launch with all 10 of them,” Conway says. “We saw an opportunity, a gap in the market, and we decided to jump in and see if we could take advantage of it.”

pickled carrotsThe 10 products include the Pickled Carrots that were Finalists for  a 2015 sofi Award, Fashionably Dill Pickled Red Beets, Sweet Hurry Curry Pickled Cauliflower, Sweet ‘n Sour Pickled Red Onions, Lean ‘N Mean Pickled Beans, Sweet Mustard Bread & Butter Pickles, three kinds of dill pickles and Pucker Up Hotties Sour Garlic Pickles. Of the 10 varieties, the Fashionably Dill Pickled Red Beets and Lean ‘N Mean Pickled Beans are actually the company’s best sellers, so it was a little surprising that it was the Ginger & Spice Pickled Carrots that caught the attention of the sofi Award judges. “The carrots are kind of this underdog, so it really surprised us,” Coggin says. “Inspired by the rich cultural diversity here in Southern California, we wanted to take the classic spicy mix of carrots, onions, and jalapeños you receive at Mexican restaurants, and add an Asian flair by making them with rice vinegar, to have a more mellow vinegary flavor, crushed red pepper, ginger, Thai chile. When you bite into the carrot, you get the sweetness of the carrot and the ginger, followed soon afterwards by a tinge of heat.”

“With all of our pickles, we try very hard to create a balanced, layered flavor profile,” Conway adds. “So it complements and extends the food it’s paired with.”

They’re both taking joy in what their business is bringing to others as well as themselves. “People love pickles. There is this force that draws people to us when they see we have pickles,” Coggin says. “It crosses all ages and genders. Little kids come up and want the spiciest pickles, or they want to try the pickled beet because it’s bright pink.”

“Pickle people are happy people,” Conway adds. “When folks eat pickles, they have a smile on their face… They want to share memories about pickling with their grandmother or a favorite pickle dish experienced abroad – we’ve received more than one old family recipe in the mail. It’s really quite emotional at times, and it’s been an unexpected joy to see. We started Pernicious wanting to create pickles that people would love to eat, yet we didn’t quite expect the happiness, nostalgia, and community pickles would bring to us.”

A Southern Season of Gustatory Pleasure

 

By Lorrie Baumann

A visit to one of the Southern Season stores in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; or Raleigh, North Carolina; isn’t just a grocery shopping trip; it’s something like a quest for the specialty foods, the wines or beers and the kitchen gadgets and skills in using them that can elevate dinner into a celebration of life. Also, it’s fun. The four-store chain will celebrate its 40th anniversary this fall, says President and COO Dave Herman.

He’s been running the operation for a little more than a year after a 35-year career as an executive for a variety of companies that make or sell high-end products, including a stint as Vice President of Retail for Lenox and one at DANSK. This is his first foray into specialty food retailing, and the only real downside is that he’s having to spend more time at the gym, he says.

Southern Season is often described as a culinary mecca or a food-lover’s paradise. Three of the stores are each roughly 50,000 square feet displaying about 80,000 SKUs of specialty groceries, kitchenware, prepared foods and deli, floral, candy, coffee and tea, small electrics and tabletop items. There are 4,000 kitchen gadgets, 5,000 wines, more than 1,000 craft beers and 500 cheeses. The smallest and newest store, located in the Cameron Village shopping center in Raleigh, is called A Taste of Southern Season, and the 3,000-square foot store offers a curated selection of specialty food, wine and beer, often to customers who’d been driving the 26 miles to the Chapel Hill store.

Our customers cut across the spectrum. If we have a wine festival or we celebrate wine, we get a more mature audience. When we celebrated beer, the audience skewed a lot younger. Candy goes across the board,” says Herman. “The spectrum of customers is very wide. It depends on what that person’s individual passion is…. There are people who are very, very passionate about their cheese. There are people who are passionate only about blue cheese.”

Catering to those passions has made each of the three larger stores a destination for shoppers who bring their friends and come to hang out in the store for a few hours at a time, sampling tea or coffee or a locally-made barbecue sauce, indulging in an ice cream cone from the old-fashioned soda fountain, having lunch at the in-store restaurant, taking a class at the cooking school or planning an event with a menu supplied by each store’s special events coordinator “We give a lot of small vendors a chance to start. It could be someone who was an investor on Wall Street and who decided to quit and make his grandmother’s jam,” Herman says. “That’s when the magic happens – when people walk through the doors, and they meet these vendors, and they learn the stories of these products.”

Providing that entertaining shopping experience for customers is one of the three legs of the triangle that make Southern Season what it is, according to Herman. The other two legs of the triangle are the stores’ dominant assortments of products and the customer service skills and passion of the stores’ sales associates.

The stores’ product assortment varies by location, with each of the three large stores incorporating 10,000 products made in its home state. Each department manager in those three stores has a say in exactly what the product assortment for his or her department will be, especially with respect to locally-made products. “Each department manager in each store has the ability to tailor the assortment and localize it. You’re trying to be a big company, but you never want to lose the fact that the department managers speak to people every day,” Herman says. “They want to do something; let them try it. Customers come in and ask for the department managers because they trust their opinions, but no one’s ever asked for me.”

Excellent customer service is a natural outcome of hiring sales associates who love the products and love to help customers, Herman says. “They come with a born passion for the product, and they probably learned to be nice from their parents. They get to share the products they love,” he says. “They come to us with a passion for cheese or a love of wine. I don’t think we can take a lot of credit for that….. We have a sales team that’s exceptionally passionate about what they sell. They love these products, and I think that our levels of service, our passion comes across. They’re telling incredible stories behind these products. Our story is the stories: the stories of our sales associates, the stories of our vendors.”

 

The New Super-Trendy Vegetable: Beets

 

By Richard Thompson

Beets are getting a whole new look this year, emphasizing their nutritional benefits while being featured in products that appeals to shifting consumer tastes. Similar to the way kale appealed to consumers last year, beets are being marketed as the new super trendy vegetable, grabbing the attention of food retailers and restaurateurs who are selling more items with beets in them than in previous years. Beet products are becoming so popular that this year’s list of sofi Award finalists include two different beet products that were up for three different awards between them.

The past five years have seen beets become more common place as people are more educated about them, says Natasha Shapiro of LoveBeets, known for their popular beet-featured product lines. Adding to the 20 percent increase in distributorship they have seen in the last year is their variety of beet juices and line of beet bars. The Love Beets health bars are coming in Beet & Apple, Beet & Cherry and Beet & Blueberry with all three made gluten-free and with clean ingredients. “We are making beets more fun, accessible and upbeat,” said Shapiro, “We’re modernizing the idea of beets.”

Blue Hill Yogurt, whose Beet Yogurt is a sofi finalist, combined the earthy sweetness of beets with the acidic tangyness of yogurt for a natural and unique trend that could push people looking for something new in milk products. Amped with raspberries and vinegar to maximize the natural earthy sweetness of the beet, Blue Hill wants people to think outside of what is normally thought of with beets and yogurt. “This is a savory yogurt that offers some sweetness, but not fruit-like sweetness. It’s a great afternoon yogurt,” said David Barber, President of Blue Hill.

Beetroot Rasam Soup from Cafe Spices, another finalist for the sofi Award, is competing in two categories, New Products and as a Soup, Stew, Bean or Chili Product. The colorful soup that pairs roasted beets pureed into a tomato base with tamarind, garlic, chiles and mustard seeds is an inspiration from the company’s culinary director and chef Hari Nayak.

Featuring naturally occurring nitrates that help extend exercise performance, fitness communities have long embraced the healthy benefits of beets. Coupled with social media and a general health conscious mindset in consumers, appreciation of beets has spider-webbed through mainstream markets, according to Shapiro. “Its the one vegetable people feel strongly about, Shapiro said, “At events, people just want to share their experiences about beets.”

Adam Kaye, Vice President of Culinary Affairs for Blue Hill, who worked with Dan Barber on their sofi nominated Beet Yogurt, goes one step further. Kaye has seen the appreciation of beets growing beyond it being a fancy potato and finds the whole vegetable incredible. “There is something about the beet that straddles the savory and the sweet,” said Kaye, “You can taste the earth in beets.”

This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

 

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