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Putting the Fat Back into Food

 

By Lorrie Baumann

New research about the role of fats in the human diet, a look back at the weaknesses of older research and concerns about trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils have united to kindle a resurgence of interest in animal fats. Eric Gustafson, Chief Executive Officer of Coast Packing Company, a manufacturer of animal fat and shortenings, is cheering the change.

I think that the tide is turning, and I think it’s great,” he said. “I think that people are starting to see the fact that animal fats are not really all that bad for you. The links between fats and cholesterol are starting to become more clear, at least that the links are not what we thought they were.”

He cites the 2014 release of Nina Teicholz’s book, “The Big Fat Surprise” as a catalyst for changing common American misconceptions about the role of animal fats in human nutrition, along with the Food and Drug Administration’s 2015 announcement that it would no longer recognize partially hydrogenated oils as “Generally Recognized as Safe.” Teicholz’s book points out weaknesses in the nutrition research that demonized saturated fats as the most important single cause of coronary artery disease deaths in the U.S. and led to a spate of dietary advice calling for rigorous limits on consumption of animal products, especially red meat and eggs, based on the unproven theory that consumption of saturated fats inevitably led to higher cholesterol levels in the bloodstream and ultimately to the buildup of plaques in coronary arteries and therefore to coronary artery disease.

More recent research and the discovery of so-called “good cholesterol” has called that conclusion into question and pointed an incriminating finger at the artificial trans fats formed through partial hydrogenation of unsaturated fats that are liquids at room temperature into forms that are stable and solid at room temperature and therefore easier to handle. “The FDA’s action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans,” said FDA’s Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, M.D. as the agency announced its decision in January 2015. “This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

That has caused animal fat to regain its place at the table,” Gustafson said. “Artificial trans fats have been found to be more dangerous with respect to coronary artery disease than animal fats.”

Nutritionists still caution against overdoing the use of animal fats as well as other animal products, and the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, when they are released later this year by the federal Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, are expected to recommend that Americans cut back on consumption of saturated fats in favor of polyunsaturated fats like canola or sunflower oil or monosaturated fats like olive oil, but they’re not expected to insist that Americans need to cut animal fats and proteins out of their diets altogether. That change in the signal from a red light to a yellow caution light plus the results they see from including lard in their pastries and frying with beef tallow is inspiring many chefs, particularly those in Los Angeles, to put lard and tallow back onto their shopping lists, Gustafson said. “Not everyone’s going to accept animal fats, but we believe when you look at the potential consumers of animal fats and why it’s regaining popularity, you come back to why we eat, and that’s that we want to eat food that tastes good. Animal fats truly make food taste better.”

The shortenings and fats that Coast Packing is selling to those chefs are produced by taking the fat from the animal, grinding that fat into smaller pieces, then using steam to heat it in a tank which melts and liquefies the fat. The liquefied fat or “oil” then enters through a centrifuge that whirls it around to separate out any remaining proteins and moisture. The process is a large-scale version of the fat-washing technique that some modern mixologists are using to infuse cocktails with bacon flavor, leaving the pork fat behind to be discarded. Pork fat is otherwise known as lard, whereas tallow refers to beef fat. In Coast Packing’s case, it’s both the original flavor and the fat component that are the means to an end. “The unique thing about our system is that we can manufacture beef tallow in a way that retains more flavor characteristics, if that’s what people want, or it can have no flavor or odor at all,” Gustafson said. “When you bite into a cake, you don’t want it to taste like a steak. Conversely, if someone wants to fry traditional foods, we can leave a little bit of that beef flavor because it helps to accentuate the flavor of what you’re frying. Minor flavor calibration aside, we’re committed to the concept of ‘minimally processed.’ It’s a way to remain true to the Coast Packing tradition, and it’s a genuine differentiator when stacked up against manufactured (and trans fat-laden) alternatives.”

 

Selling Cheese in Music City, USA

 

By Lorrie Baumann

This is a good time, and Nashville is a good place for a tiny cheese shop that operates as a cut-to-order counter inside a specialty butcher shop, says Kathleen Cotter, Owner of The Bloomy Rind.

The Bloomy Rind is tucked inside Porter Road Butcher, a whole-animal butcher shop that specializes in locally sourced pasture-raised meats. The pairing of a cheese shop and specialty butchers came about after a local farmer introduced Cotter, who was selling cheeses at local farmers markets, to business partners James Peisker and Chris Carter, who had been working together as caterers when they realized that what Nashville lacked was a good source of high-quality local meat. They were getting ready to open a butcher shop in East Nashville to meet that need, and when they met Cotter, it just seemed right that they might also team up with Cotter and her specialty cheeses. “I pitched the idea to sell cheese in their shop. At that point we didn’t know what the setup would look like,” Cotter says. “As their plans for the space crystalized, they worked a small cheese counter for The Bloomy Rind into their layout. So I was able to open up inside Porter Road instead of having to find the funds to build out my own shop.”

Cotter can’t focus on local cheeses the way Peisker and Carter focus on local meats because there just aren’t enough cheeses made locally to Nashville to meet her customers’ needs, but all three partners share a similar passion for sustainably produced foods. “Our philosophy and our passion were very much in alignment,” she says.

Part of their job is educating Nashville residents who are more accustomed to shopping for all their food needs at conventional grocery stores rather than stopping in at a variety of specialty shops, Cotter says. “It’s a change of habit to have to make an extra stop for specialty meats and cheese. But people are more and more willing to make that extra stop as the desire grows to know where their food comes from and how it was produced.”

There’s also a population who comes in and says they grew up going to the butcher shop,” she adds. “They come back to that experience, which is cool…. We’re having a lot of people moving here from big cities, where they’re a little more used to specialty shops and come in looking for a personalized cheese experience.”

Her corner of the 1,500 square foot store houses a cheese case and a cutting table, and she shares a market area where she has some logs of chevre and a few other cheese accompaniments in a grab-and-go case. She carries 40 to 50 different cheeses in the case, all cut to order. At the moment, she has one particular favorite cheese in her case: a wheel of extra-aged St. Malachi from the Farm at Doe Run that she acquired when the farm sold extra wheels of a cheese they were entering in the American Cheese Society awards competition. “It’s sort of an aged cheddar meets aged Gouda, firm and crystally and brown-buttery,” Cotter says. “I find cheese is very much a mood thing. I don’t know if other people feel the same way. Sometimes you want a cheese that’s mild, fresh and creamy. Other times you want something with a more challenging profile and stronger flavors.”

In addition to her retail business, she operates a thriving wholesale business in which she works with about 20 restaurants in the city on a regular basis. “That helps me to move product through the case so inventory never sits fr too long and I can rotate the selection more frequently,” she says. “The combination of retail and wholesale also makes it possible to earn a living, which can be tough as an independent cheese retailer.” The wholesale business has become more integral to the shop than Cotter expected, which has been a pleasant surprise, she said. “It’s another avenue to market the cheese counter. If people order a Bloomy Rind cheese plate at a restaurant and enjoy it, then they come into the shop and want to try other things as well.”

As she’s grown her business at the shop, Cotter has also founded the Southern Artisan Cheese Festival, which started five years ago and which she has organized each year since then. “It’s been fun to watch that grow and to be a part of growing the awareness of Southern cheese,” she says. “I think Southern cheeses were under appreciated, but along with greater appreciation of Southern food in general, people are becoming more aware of it. We have people from different cities asking for Southern cheeses to be sent to them. It’s on the upswing. People are really excited about it.”

Nashville’s growing food culture makes this an exciting time to be selling specialty cheese there, Cotter says. “I happened to get into this at a good time when American cheeses are getting better and better and better. There are many great cheeses to introduce people to and chefs are more into interesting domestic cheeses,” she says. “Nashville has become the ‘It Girl’ of food and is attracting more chefs, although we already had good ones, as well as visitors who are interested in good food. It’s a fun time to be in Nashville and to be in cheese.”

 

A Taste of History

 

By Richard Thompson

SkyRiverGardenOn Highway 202, just across the valley from Chateau Ste. Michelle, in the northern woodland region of Washington, stands the Sky River Mead and Honey Wine Meadery. Nestled comfortably off the scenic green-way of the Sammamish River Trail since 2012, this award-winning Washington meadery has tantalized customers with its line of quality meads and honey wines – including its flagship product, SOLAS – through its tasting rooms, community engagement and guiding principle that “in life, you get to make your own cubicle.”

“We only make mead.” says Denice Ingalls, President and Wine Maker at Sky River, “We keep it simple and try not to make it too complicated. We like to keep things relaxed.”

First opening in 1997 in the foothills of Stevens Pass in the Cascade Mountain Range, Sky River Meadery debuted its first bottle, SOLAS, in 1999, but eventually moved to the Woodinville Winery district in Washington in 2012 to what Ingalls considers to be “a little Washington Napa Valley,” as interest in mead grew. It was in this region that Ingalls and her sister, Glenda Downs, who joined the company in 2005, grew up, valuing the craft of working with honey as an ingredient in gourmet breads and home breweries. “If there was any place to reintroduce [mead], it would be Seattle.” says Ingalls, “We found a building, started with a blank slate and got the ball rolling by making a nice tasting room.” The space is so big, according to Ingalls, that the sister team sublets space in the two-building facility to a couple local grape wineries, Icon Sellers and Pleasant Hills, that serve out of their facility.

Both Ingalls and her sister took an unorthodox path into the mead business, but now that they’ve found it, they wouldn’t give it up for the world. Ingalls graduated from Pepperdine University in California, earning a Bachelors of Arts in Economics and after years of working alongside her father-in-law who ran the operations of a honey packing plant, remembered learning of mead in an Old English literature course she took years before, starting her journey into mead making, she says. Now she is involved in every step of the process, from selecting the honeys that will be used and dealing with the hefty paperwork that comes with running any business to collaborating on packaging and teaching customers about mead itself.

Downs graduated from Western Washington University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Non-Profit Administration and Fine Arts, and worked in the restaurant and marketing industry. Currently handling outside sales, Downs is responsible for sales and marketing, social media, the tasting room and the company website, sharing her knowledge of mead making with customers as she learns.

Sky River offers 10 different varieties of mead – with nine currently available – that range from traditional honeyed meads to fruit-inspired honey wines for those who are looking for a beverage that isn’t as naturally sweet.

SONY DSCThe Sky River Sweet Mead is reminiscent of a fine German Riesling and is enjoyed as a delicate aperitif whose flavor notes are heightened with a touch of cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamon. The Sky River Semi-Sweet Mead hints of pear and is best served with the herbal flavors of pan-Asian and Mediterranean dishes, while the Sky River Dry Mead’s subtle honey flavor pairs perfectly with Thai and Indian cuisine. A 750 ml bottle costs $14.50, but a half case or a full case is also ready for purchase for $87 (six bottles) and $174 (12 bottles).

The traditional Brochet Mead that Sky River offers has a darker, richer quality due to the honey being caramelized before fermentation and exhibits a shadowy, sweet and alluring experience that is great on a summer evening, according to Ingalls. The Ginger mead has a sassy ginger note that harmonizes with the honey base into a fresh taste that zings with a spicy finish. “Our Rose mead is the ‘boudoir’ wine, luscious and indulgent, and pairs beautifully with meals where there are a lot of pistachios, like Persian and Middle Eastern foods,” says Ingalls. Both the Sky River Ginger Mead and the Brochet Mead are available in a 750 ml bottle for $16.95, $101.70 for a half case and $203.40 for a full case of 12 bottles. The Rose Mead starts at $17.95 for a 375 ml bottle and $107.70 and $215.40 for a half and full case respectively.

SOLAS, the meadery’s flagship mead, is a tribute to Old World meads. Using saturated, smoky whiskey barrels from Dry Fly[TM] Distillery, SOLAS is a very sweet mead that combines honey and wheat whiskey flavors and is definitely an indulgence that should be sipped. Available for $25.95 per 750 ml bottle, $155.70 per half case and $311.40 for a full case.

The Sky River Raspberry Honey Wine has warm honey notes that are offset by the lush raspberry flavor, making for a versatile beverage that pairs well with a pork roast and berry chutney or a very rich cheese cake. The Sky River Blackberry Honey Wine goes well with salmon, cheesecake or even just on its own. “This [honey wine] goes well with food or without food,” says Ingalls. Both honey wines retail for $15.50 for a 750 ml bottle, $93.00 per half case and $186 for a case of 12 bottles.

Ingalls speaks with a folksy wisdom when talking about why people purchase her mead, “We’re the grandaddy of the mead world….We’re still out plugging because we know what we’re doing.”

 

 

Goya Foods Donates 50,000 Pounds of Food to Catholic Charities

Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States, donated 50,000 pounds of food to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington to support their food pantries and emergency food programs throughout the archdiocese.  The donation is part of a 150,000-pound donation equally distributed to food pantries and emergency food programs through Catholic Charities in New YorkPhiladelphia and Washington, D.C. in honor of His Holiness Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.

“Supporting our communities and those who need help the most has always been a part of who we are and what we do at Goya Foods,” said Rafael Toro, Director of Public Relations.  “We believe in the work of Catholic Charities and know that our food donations go a long way in providing a warm meal to those who are hungry during the holiday season and throughout the year.  For us, it’s not just about giving a donation, but it’s about making a difference and inspiring others to do the same.”

“Catholic Charities served more than 123,000 men, women and children last year right here in the Washington, DC region,” said Msgr. John Enzler, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. “While we help people with many different needs in their lives, it almost always involves helping families put food on the table. I am so thankful to Goya for choosing to Walk with Francis and partner with Catholic Charities.”

The donation will help stock the shelves in several locations run by Catholic Charities, including the food pantry at the McCarrick Family Center in Montgomery County, the Southern Maryland Food Bank in Waldorf, Maryland, and several food pantries run in partnership with local parishes.

This Spud’s For You!

By Micah Cheek

The potato may be a bland vegetable, but new sizes and varieties are spicing up the spud sector. While russet and white potato sales are declining, sales of more varied sizes and types of potato are increasing. “There are a lot more SKUs of potatoes of potatoes being offered right now,” says Sarah Reece, Global Retail Marketing Manager for the United States Potato Board.

The greater variety in the potato market is in part due to the slump in traditional potato popularity. After briefly plateauing from 2010 to 2011, potato consumption has been on the decline, with the decline centered on russets. “They’re still a little over half of potato volume, but they continue to lose volume,” says Don Ladhoff, Director of Fresh Sales Marketing. “Other potatoes are growing and outperforming the category. Small potatoes are doing even better.”

Tiny tubers offer a certain novelty that appeals to more adventurous customers. “It’s something new to the category. It’s interesting and fun to take home to the family,” says Reece. According to a study by the United States Potato Board, an increase in the frequency of potato consumption has been driven by working parents and active seniors. These groups have also boosted sales of colored potatoes. “With the interest in premium varieties and smaller potatoes, we’ve been planting more of these red varietals,” says Leah Brakke, Director of Marketing for Black Gold Farms. Black Gold Farms has focused on red potatoes because of the consumer perception of red potatoes as a more valuable and healthy option.

Small spuds have proven effective for in-package cooking, including preseasoned roasting pans and microwavable bags for steaming. Roasting has become a more popular option for petite potato preparation both with and without value-added packaging. “Millenials are 30 percent more likely to prepare potatoes by roasting,” says Ladhoff.

The trend toward smaller sizes has extended past potatoes themselves. Smaller packaging sizes of potatoes have been selling better than the traditional five to 10 pound bags, reflecting a greater change in purchasing habits. “[Customers] are trying to shop for what they need. 51 percent of Millenial shoppers buy for one meal at a time. Smaller potatoes fit into that trend where I want to cook enough potatoes for one night,” says Ladhoff. “From what we hear from retailers, it’s less about portion control, and more about reducing waste.”

Harris Poll: When Local Matters

When it comes to perusing the grocery store, there’s a plethora of different factors that can lead to picking one item over another. One factor that’s been getting its fair share of media attention and in-store callouts is “local.” Americans are largely split on the importance of choosing locally grown/sourced items, with half (50 percent) saying it’s an important factor in their purchasing decisions and an equal and opposite half (50 percent) saying it’s not.

This puts buying local behind a number of other factors, as strong majorities of Americans say things like sugar content (69 percent), fat content (66 percent), sodium content (64 percent), and calorie count (64 percent) are important considerations in choosing one item over another. The perceived importance of buying local is more on par with whether items are antibiotic/hormone free (53 percent) or contain artificial colors/flavors (50 percent), and is well ahead of whether items are organic (34 percent).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,225 U.S. adults surveyed online between October 14 and 19, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.

Buying local: the what and where
When looking at different departments within a grocery store, Americans don’t appear to believe they’re all created equal when it comes to the importance of purchasing local foods. The produce department ranks highest, with two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans saying it’s important they buy locally grown/sourced food there. Over half also feel it’s important to buy local in the dairy (56 percent), bakery (55 percent), and meat (52 percent) departments. Roughly four in ten feel it’s important to purchase local in the deli (43 percent) and seafood (39 percent) departments, while roughly one in four say it’s important to do so in the frozen foods (26 percent) aisle. “While consumers appear to care more about purchasing locally grown fresh food compared to non-fresh food, this may be a result of the larger assortment of local options available in the fresh departments,” says Sherry Frey, Senior Vice President with The Nielsen Perishables Group.

  • Millennials are more likely than their elders to value a local label in the meat (63 percent vs. 48 percent Gen Xers, 47 percent Baby Boomers & 43 percent Matures), deli (53 percent vs. 38 percent, 38 percent & 41 percent), and frozen food (35 percent vs. 25 percent, 22 percent & 10 percent) departments.
  • Those with kids in the household are more likely to say buying local is important in every department, compared to those without.

And just where exactly are Americans shopping for these local options? Traditional grocery retailers (46 percent) and farmers’ markets (44 percent) are the top destinations for local product purchases. Just over a quarter visit farm stands (27 percent), while fewer than one in five say big box retailers (18 percent) and club stores (16 percent). Fewer still opt to make use of food cooperatives (8 percent), Community Supported Agriculture (sometimes called “CSAs” or “Farm Shares” – 5 percent) or an online source (4 percent). 

Local perceptions
Whether or not they buy local themselves, Americans have a few thoughts on how locally sourced foods compare to their non-local counterparts. Majorities believe local food purchases support both the local economy as a whole (69 percent) and individual local businesses (63 percent), along with being fresher (68 percent).

Around four in ten say buying local enables them to understand where the food comes from (39 percent) and say that it tastes better (37 percent). “Buying local is yet another way consumers seek to better understand where their food comes from, and presents an opportunity for manufacturers across the store to be even more transparent about all aspects of their products including sourcing, processing, and packaging,” says Frey. Just under a third believe local food is higher quality (32 percent) and healthier (31 percent), while around one quarter say it’s better for the environment (25 percent) and it’s safer (24 percent). While buying local is known for many things, it’s not always known for being cheap. Just one fifth (20 percent) say buying local costs less compared to non-local options.

But which of these factors actually make a difference at checkout? Among the eight in ten (81 percent) Americans who ever shop for locally sourced/grown food, supporting the local economy is the top reason for doing so (39 percent), followed by the food being fresher (34 percent) and supporting individual local businesses (32 percent).

What does “local” mean?
“Local” in and of itself calls to mind a geographic region, but there’s no particular definition and results suggest that this perception can vary based on the product. When asked how far a product could come from and still be considered local, majorities say it must be within their state or closer for each food type: baked goods (77 percent), dairy (74 percent), produce (72 percent), and meat (68 percent).

  • Baked goods have the smallest radius, with nearly one half (47 percent) saying these products must come from within their county or city/town to be considered “local.”

And when local isn’t an option…
No matter how strong one’s proclivity might be for purchasing locally sourced or grown options, sometimes it’s just not possible. Among local purchasers, 62 percent say they’ll purchase a non-local version of a product when they can’t find a local option while shopping.

  • Millennials are more likely than any other generation to put in the extra effort of checking another location (37 percent vs. 23 percent Gen Xers, 24 percent Baby Boomers and 19 percent Matures).
  • The same can be said of those with children in the household compared to those without (37 percent vs. 22 percent).

Nearly three in ten (28 percent) aren’t willing to give up so easily, and will instead look for a local version of the product at a different location. One in ten (10 percent) say they’ll throw in the towel and refrain from purchasing the product altogether.

 

 

 

Wisconsin Cheese Companies, Retailers Anticipate Another Year of Increased Holiday Sales

The holiday season is a busy time for the Wisconsin dairy industry. According to data collected by Information Resources, Inc.’s (IRI) custom database for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB), cheese companies and retailers continuously see an increase in sales of Wisconsin cheese and dairy products each December. In the 2014 season, cheese sales jumped 21 percent in the week before Thanksgiving and 34 percent in the week before Christmas. Sales were also up 50 percent or more for many cheese varieties, including asiago, Alpine-style cheese, brick, brie, butterkase, camembert, cold pack, cream cheese, edam, fontina, mascarpone and ricotta.

“We expect this year to be no different with many cheese companies poised to capitalize on the holiday season with unique product offerings and increased sales and marketing efforts,” says James Robson, CEO of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Introductions of limited edition cheese varieties exclusively for the holiday season remain popular for 2015.

Most notably, the highly anticipated Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands Cheese Company in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, returns after a one-year hiatus. This exclusive cheese is hand crafted from seasonal raw cow’s milk and aged for 60 days. It retails for approximately $30 per round and is expected to sell out by Christmas.

Sales of flavored cheese varieties are also on the rise, and many Wisconsin cheesemakers have released cheeses perfect for holiday entertaining and gift giving. Consumers can find unique flavors like Peppermint BellaVitano from Sartori in Plymouth, Wisconsin; Marieke Truffle Gouda from Holland’s Family Cheese in Thorp, Wisconsin; Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar from Carr Valley Cheese Company in La Valle, Wisconsin; and Cinnamon Apple Pie Heritage Cheddar made by Henning’s in Kiel, Wisconsin.

For those looking for unique gift ideas, many retailers offer a variety of holiday gift baskets that can be easily ordered online or by phone. A list of cheese companies, creameries and specialty stores offering mail order cheese and gift baskets can be found at www.EatWisconsinCheese.com/MailOrder. WMMB also offers customizable holiday-themed Wisconsin cheese promotions to aid retailers in their marketing efforts during this busy time of year.

Brio Ice Cream Combines Delicious and Better-For-You

BRIO PFBrio features a creamy, richness rivaling that of premium ice creams, with half the fat and 65 percent less saturated fat. For consumers wanting healthier fats in their diet, Brio is the only ice cream featuring balanced Omega 3-6-9s.

“We are serious about ingredient quality,” says Co-founder Ron Koss. “Brio is made with fresh, whole r-BST-free milk from Wisconsin…. Our flavors feature Madagascar vanilla, organic sea salt caramel, Alphonso mango, ripe strawberries, real coffee and dark cocoa.” Five flavors include Coffee Latte, Mellow Dark Chocolate, Spring Strawberry, Tropical Mango and Vanilla Caramel.

Brio is non-GMO, certified gluten free and low glycemic. There are no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners. For all of its satisfying richness, Brio has only 165 calories in a 4-ounce serving and just 17 to 19 grams of sugar. With 6 grams of protein and a suggested retail price of $1.99 for a 4-ounce cup, Brio is on trend with consumers seeking protein-rich snacks.

Brio ice cream is a product of Nutricopia, Inc., a Vermont-based company owned by aio Group of Hawaii. Brio offers consumers a smart new way to upgrade their ice cream, to a product that is both richly delicious and surprisingly nutritious. It is currently available in supermarket chains including Foodland and KTA, at specialty market chains including Central Market and numerous specialty and natural stores.Brio is distributed by KeHE.

Maple Leaf Foods Adopts Animal Care Commitment

Maple Leaf Foods has launched a formal animal care commitment that articulates the principles, goals and actions the company is taking to become a leader in animal care.

“As the largest meat protein company in Canada, we hold ourselves to a high standard of animal care,” said Michael McCain, President and CEO. “This requires building a strong culture of animal wellbeing, advancing continuous improvement within Maple Leaf and across the industry, and holding ourselves accountable for performance and progress.  We will provide the necessary organizational focus and resources, with a steadfast commitment to advancing the humane and science-based treatment of animals.”

Maple Leaf Foods will enhance animal wellness practices in a manner consistent with the Five Freedoms, the most widely accepted global standard for responsible animal care. They include:  freedom from hunger or thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury or disease; freedom to express normal behaviors; and freedom from fear and distress. These will be advanced through the following four pillars of its animal care program:

  • Culture: advancing a culture of animal care through communications, education and training; robust policies and well-defined standard operating procedures; and providing positive reinforcement and timely consequences for violations.
  • Accountability: regular reporting of performance, issues and progress against goals to a committee of the board of directors, senior leadership and across facilities; and conducting frequent, rigorous internal and independent audits.
  • Advancement: advancing best practices and technologies based on sound science; establishing an independent council of experts; and supporting research and advocating for improvements that raise standards across the industry.
  • Communicationsproviding clear, fact-based communication of goals, performance and progress, and seeking to build open and constructive relationships with all stakeholders.

Hunting and Gathering in the New Millennium

 

By Richard Thompson

 

Consumers are getting more comfortable about purchasing groceries online, and retailers who sell groceries both online and in-store are reaping the benefits. Across all demographics, consumer perceptions over increased costs and perishable product risks have declined, and as more retailers offer online services, more consumers are taking advantage of them, according to the recent A.T. Kearney report, “Capturing the Online Grocery Opportunity.”

Retailers who have adopted omnichannel messaging – engaging customers both in-store and on electronic devices – have seen more customers order groceries online for delivery or pick-up, says Michelle Cote, Vice President of Data & Insights at MyWebGrocer, a digital solutions provider that offers the most technologically advanced grocery solutions to brands and retailers.

“Today’s omnichannel experience [for consumers] is the 21st century version of catalog shopping,” says Cote. Combining in-store advertising with online services, omnichannel solutions take shape as digital marketplaces that bring small-batch stores into the consumer limelight, provide apps like Allrecipes.com on mobile devices to let consumers shop on their own time and create virtual landscapes that compliment traditional brick and mortar experiences.

“Grocery is one of the last verticals to go omnichannel, but growing consumer adoption is occurring because online services are becoming more widely available and, as a result, consumers are using it more reliably,” says Cote. She notes that consumer adoption of online services has grown by double digits (15 to 20 percent) in the last three or four years.

As the entire e-commerce market develops, grocery shoppers have grown past the need to show up in person to pinch the produce with many preferring to shop on their smartphones. “Consumers are ready to use shopping alternatives that are habitual and work for them.” says Cote, “As retailers offer flexible options like click and collect, delivery and email alerts – and become more digitally active – people are becoming trained in using grocery retailers online.”

Even for hesitant consumers who say they avoid online shopping because of perceived higher costs and questions over freshness, the A.T. Kearney study found that those views are softening and that paying more for home delivery was worth the price of convenience. “What we found is that now, around 80 percent of respondents surveyed would be willing to pay for home delivery instead of going to the store for pickup – even though the majority still visit stores to shop,” says Randy Burt, Co-author of “Capturing the Online Grocery Opportunity” and Partner at A.T. Kearney.

Burt and his colleagues at A.T. Kearney have studied consumer participation in online grocery purchases and noted that while the online market currently represents around two to three percent of the total food industry, that number is projected to increase to around 16 percent by 2023. As retailers interact with omnichannel shoppers with personalized offers, pricing and promotional strategies tied to shopping preferences and past purchases, they will create integrated experiences for every shopper regardless of where and when they shop or what device they are using, according to the report.

“The market is starting to appreciate the value of buying groceries online.” says Lior Lavy, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer for Artizone, a specialty grocery delivery company. “And at the same time, the market is also starting to appreciate buying sustainable foods from local vendors.”

Artizone is an online farmers market and home delivery service whose mission is to provide farmers and small store owners a direct connection to consumers who are looking for a diverse selection of locally produced groceries that can be delivered straight to their home. “We do whatever it takes to keep artisan shops from having to rely on the mainstream market.” says Lavy, “Even though walk-in marketing is still significant, our site can reach customers 30 or 40 miles away.”

When asked about the company’s biggest purchasers, Lavy pulls no punches and simply says, ‘Everyone.’”

“The elderly population uses us because they need the help; the [Millennials] use us because of the local sustainable movement and, of course, foodies,” he adds.

Lavy has watched the development of his artisan delivery service grow for the last five years, originating in Dallas at the end of 2010, opening a second facility in Chicago in 2012 and, most recently, opening a third facility in Denver earlier this year. Its success, he says, comes from the delivery logistics and online placement that his company focuses on, allowing the local producers to focus on bringing the best quality product to the table. “Currently we work with about 100 different local farmers and stores in the Dallas area, 120 in the Chicago area and around 13 or 14 in the Denver area.” says Lavy, “It takes some time to get to 100.”

While dried groceries and packaged foods still represent the majority of online purchased products, the share of purchased perishables is continuing to grow, according to A.T. Kearney. Currently, Artizone offers a selection of products that range from Holy Cow Beef – extra lean, grass-fed ground beef – for $8.79 a pound to Inglehoffer Dijion Stone Ground Mustard for $6.72 a bottle, providing gourmet products at prices that compete with brick and mortar specialty food retailers. “We are proud to say we don’t have any uplift on the prices for the consumer, I think we are better than Whole Foods,” say Lavy.

Earlier this year, Artizone received the Tech Titan Award, a technology adaptation award, in Dallas for its use of current technology services that keep delivered food prices similar to the cost groceries would be if purchased at a brick and mortar store.

Cote sees the recent adoption of buying groceries online as a positive sign that will not go away anytime soon. As long as customers have a wide range of choices on how they purchase groceries, there will always be a market for anyone selling food products online.

Burt understands this as well: “Shoppers want to transact when, where and how they want to…it’s the current incarnation of the ‘customer is always right’.”

 

 

 

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