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Zola Fruits of the World Announces New Distribution at Top Retailers

Zola® Fruits of the World™ has expanded distribution of its coconut waters and acai juices into Kroger, Winn-Dixie, BI-LO, subsidiaries of Bi-Lo Holdings, Boston and NY Stop & Shop, Giant Food, Giant Food Stores and Sprouts locations. This expansion secures placement for Zola in 2,600 additional grocery and natural food stores and deepens its distribution footprint into key Northeast, Southeast, Pacific Northwest and West Coast markets across the country.  The company attributes this significant momentum to Zola’s commitment to high-quality, great tasting products, positive consumer reactions to the brand’s successful line extensions and a focused produce department strategy.

Zola is the fastest growing coconut water brand in both conventional grocery and natural foods channels.  Recently, sales of Zola Coconut Water surpassed Naked Coconut Water, securing the #4 position in the conventional grocery channel.  “We are ready to build on our momentum with new distribution in major grocery chains and the second largest natural food retailer in the country,” said Founder and CEO Chris Cuvelier.  The company will launch products in Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Southern California, Texas, Florida, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts with dedicated merchandising teams to support the accounts and build the Zola brand in these new markets.  In addition to this expansion, Whole Foods Market has recently expanded its offering of Zola products in its Southern Pacific division.  “At Zola, we listen to our consumers to create the very best products and partner with our retailers to deliver strong in-store programs that drive sales.  We look forward to executing our growth plan for a successful 2015 and commit to delivering exciting new products to meet our consumer’s needs,” says Cuvelier.

New England-Based Stonyfield Returns as Official Organic Yogurt Sponsor of Boston Marathon

 Stonyfield is the official yogurt of the 119th Boston Marathon, fueling the runners and crowd in its native New England. A celebrator of healthy foods and healthy families, Stonyfield selected several inspirational bloggers who are moms and runners to form the 2015 Team Stonyfield. As part of their participation, the bloggers and Stonyfield will run in support of Girls on the Run, a national program that inspires third- through eighth-grade girls to be healthy and confident using a running curriculum.

“Girls on the Run envisions a world where all girls know and can activate their limitless potential, said Suzanna McCloskey,” Girls on the Run representative. “During the program, girls learn critical skills to navigate their lives with joy and confidence. And by completing the 5k that concludes the program, they experience, firsthand, that big things are possible when you keep moving forward!”

Run Like a Mother founder Megan Searfoss is serving as coach of Team Stonyfield, providing training guides, diet tips, and more, all available on the Stonyfield blog. Author of “See Mom Run,” a 5k training guide for busy moms, Megan has raced in over 20 marathons, including three Boston Marathons, and operates the Run Like a Mother 5k race series comprised of 10 events nationwide. Megan’s unique training plan emphasizes running for specific amounts of time instead of distance, making it easy for moms to schedule training sessions around work and family.

The bloggers comprising Team Stonyfield include mom runners from across the country, including women from as far as Utah, as well as local New Englanders. Team Stonyfield members include Angela Bekkala of Happy Fit MamaJill Whitaker of Jill Will RunTina Haupert of Carrots N CakeRachel Steffen of Running RachelLaura Peifer of Mommy Run Fast, and Bethany Meyer of Another Mother Runner.

Food’s Role in Movies Celebrated with First Screen-to-Table Awards

Just in time for the Oscars, the First Annual Screen-to-Table(SM) Awards will be presented on Thursday, February 19 to celebrate the delicious ways food was depicted in the most popular films of 2014.

Food and film enthusiasts can tune in live to the saucy awards ceremony produced by and part of the weekly KitchenParty culinary talk show series Hangout on Google+. The special awards episode will stream live at 8 p.m. EST / 5 p.m. PST on Google+ and YouTube. Links to each site where it will be streamed can be accessed at

Over the past year, food has played a starring role in films such as “Chef” and “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” as well as a supporting role adding narrative flavor to Oscar contenders including “The Imitation Game,” “Boyhood” and “The Theory of Everything.” The many ways food was used in the films of 2014 helped spawn amusing Screen-to-Table award categories such as:

Most Dysfunctional Family Dinner
Most Delectable Comfort Food
Most Obsessive-Compulsive Plating/Food Presentation
Most Mouthwatering Cuisine
Most Uninhibited Table Manners

The awards will be presented by KitchenParty co-hosts Babette Pepaj (founder, and Rene Lynch (writer/editor, Los Angeles Times). Pepaj and Lynch will be joined by guest commentators Brett Erlich (pop culture contributor, ABC News/host, YouTube’s “Pop Trigger”) and Lee Farber (writer/co-executive producer, E!’s “The Soup”).

“Even films without an obvious food tie-in are often filled with wonderful culinary moments,” said Pepaj. “From father and son sharing s’mores in ‘Boyhood’ to arch rivals setting aside differences to savor the perfect omelet in ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey,’ such scenes enrich storylines and inspire home cooks to explore new cuisines.”

To mark the awards, BakeSpace is also releasing the “First Annual Screen-to-Table Cookbook” (app and ebook) filled with recipes inspired by the award winners. Sample recipes include “Coming-of-Age S’mores” (from “Boyhood”), “Black Hole Coffee” (from “The Theory of Everything”) and “Walk a Thousand Miles Oatmeal” (from “Wild”).

The new cookbook will be available for free download starting Thursday, February 19 as an ebook on and as an iPad app via the Apple App Store (download BakeSpace’s free Cookbook Café app  and search “Screen-to-Table”).

Over the years, movies have depicted food in all sorts of ways. Sometimes it’s the foundation of the story, as in “Julie & Julia” (2009) and last year’s “Chef” and “The Hundred-Foot Journey.” In such films, recipes come to life as food is itself a central character. In other films, food plays a scrumptious supporting role helping add zest to the storyline. It’s difficult to forget the kitchen scenes in “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas,” Jack Nicolson’s side order of toast in “Five Easy Pieces” and the challenge of scoring the perfect little burger in “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.” An expansive list of memorable food-inspired films is posted on IMDB.

Ora King Salmon Rated Best Choice by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch

Premium New Zealand Ora King salmon has been recognized as one of the world’s most sustainable.

Following a year-long assessment process, a report released on Monday by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s globally respected consumer guide, Seafood Watch®, has rated New Zealand’s marine-farmed salmon, including Ora King salmon, as “Green,” meaning it is a “Best Choice” for consumers.Ora King Salmon - Google

Seafood Watch is produced by the independent conservation organization Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation and is the authoritative consumer guide on sustainable seafood in North America.

New Zealand King Salmon is the first and only ocean-farmed salmon to have achieved the Green/Best Choice rating from Seafood Watch.

The ratings are a strong endorsement of New Zealand King Salmon’s sustainability credentials.

Ora King is raised by The New Zealand King Salmon Company in the South Island’s Marlborough Sounds in a country that is “characterized by strong (aquaculture) management systems and pristine marine and freshwater ecosystems,” the guide says.

New Zealand King Salmon CEO Grant Rosewarne says aquaculture makes a major contribution to relieving pressure on the world’s fisheries. “We have been highlighting for some time that our industry equals sustainable jobs and healthy, mindful eating,” he explained, “and the report supports what Kiwi salmon farmers have long maintained.”

Ora King salmon was launched in the U.S. market in 2012. Two decades in the making, Ora King is a specific breed of salmon raised especially for the premium restaurant trade.

Chef Matt Lambert of the Michelin-starred Musket Room restaurant in New York City has visited the Ora King farms on many occasions. He said, “The Seafood Watch ‘Best Choice’ rating confirms something I’ve believed since my first visit to the farm. When a product comes from such a pristine environment, and is treated with the utmost respect, the end result will always be fantastic. Ora King salmon is that kind of product. It makes my job easier and more enjoyable.”

Mr Rosewarne says Ora King represents the pinnacle of his company’s achievement. “The brand is founded on more than two decades of traditional breeding, reinforced by our world-leading expertise in growing King salmon,” he explained. “The species is itself a rare luxury. The Ora King brand builds on all the fine traits of the King salmon species – it is to salmon what Wagyu is to beef.”

Snapshots from the Seafood Watch report reveal:

  • Local environmental and stringent national and site biosecurity measures mean New Zealand marine farms score 10 out of 10 for non-use of chemicals.
  • New Zealand’s policy of releasing non-native King salmon into the wild has no impact on “wild” stocks, justifying a 10 out of 10 for no impact.
  • Because all salmon there are sourced from farm-owned hatcheries, they have no impact on wild stocks and so score 10 out of 10 on this parameter.
  • Overall the final recommendations for farmed King salmon in New Zealand is ‘Green,’ or ‘Best Choice.’

For more information, visit

Daniel Bruni Named Chief Information Officer for Sprouts Farmers Market

Sprouts Farmers Market, Inc. has hired Daniel Bruni as Chief Information Officer. Bruni will be responsible for spearheading all information technology efforts to support company objectives.

Bruni brings to Sprouts 25 years of extensive information technology and executive hands-on expertise in the retail, distribution and financial services industries, most recently serving as the Vice President of IT for Dollar General. Previously, Bruni was the Senior Vice President and CIO for Harris Teeter, Inc. and the Vice President and CIO for Brother Gourmet Coffees, Inc. Bruni holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a MBA in IT Executive Management from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

“We’re excited to welcome Dan to the Sprouts team and our innovative, entrepreneurial culture,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Doug Sanders. “Dan’s leadership in a variety of information technology functions from retail systems to technology infrastructure will be extremely valuable as we continue to grow and innovate to better serve our guests.”


Mondelez International Acquires Enjoy Life Foods

Mondelēz International today announced the acquisition of Enjoy Life Foods, a private U.S. snacking company and the market-leading brand in the fast-growing “free from” segment. Enjoy Life offers more than 40 great-tasting products, including cookies, chocolate, snack bars, and savory snacks that are allergy-friendly and glutenfree.

Enjoy Life’s products are free from the eight most common allergens – wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish and shellfish – which together account for about 90 percent of all food allergies. “As we focus on continuing to drive growth in snacking, the acquisition of Enjoy Life Foods is a great strategic fit for us,” said Mark Clouse, Chief Growth Officer at Mondelēz International. “The Enjoy Life brand expands our portfolio into faster growing, on-trend, ‘better for-you’ areas and provides an excellent platform to make these delicious offerings available to consumers with ‘free-from’ needs or simply looking for healthy-lifestyle options, both in the United States and beyond.”

The $12 billion “free-from” market in the United States is large and growing at strong double-digit rates, driven by an increasing incidence of food allergies and food intolerances as well as consumers adopting “free from” as a healthy-lifestyle option. “Enjoy Life offers an excellent brand promise that’s trusted by their loyal and engaged consumers,” Clouse said. “We’re excited about the extraordinary potential of this business and the entrepreneurial team leading it. We have a great opportunity to share our expertise, learn from their experience and work to accelerate Enjoy Life’s growth in this exciting consumer space.”

“We’re thrilled! As we combine our great brand, market leadership and passion for our consumers with the global resources, scale and marketing expertise of Mondelēz International, I’m confident this relationship will enable us to reach even greater heights,” said Scott Mandell, CEO and Founder of Enjoy Life Foods. Mandell and other members of the Enjoy Life leadership team will continue to lead the company. Mondelēz International will operate Enjoy Life Foods as a separate, wholly owned subsidiary to continue to nurture its entrepreneurial spirit, but will provide back-office support and access to its global resources.

The transaction was a simultaneous sign-and-close deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Missouri Producer Brings a Taste of Middle Eastern Date Culture to the American Market

By Dave Bernard
When you live abroad and cannot keep up with the demand from friends and family for the interesting food products you ferry home in suitcases each year, it might be time to start your own business. So it was with Colleen Sundlie, who had discovered date syrup while living in the United Arab Emirates with her professor husband and son. Now back in Springfield, Missouri and two and a half years into her business, Date Lady, Sundlie no longer has to seek out the obscure Middle Eastern market to locate a bottle of this nutritious and surprisingly versatile syrup.

After tasting many products and coming to appreciate Middle Eastern “date culture,” where hosts typically serve coffee and dates, and bowls of the fruit are a staple at gyms, hotels and car dealerships, Sundlie put her marketing and business background to work. In addition to the date syrup, Date Lady sells a caramel sauce and a chocolate spread, both sweetened only by dates, as well as packaged dates and a new date balsamic vinegar. The all-natural products are sold nationwide, including at many prominent retailers, such as Murray’s Cheese, Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic Markets, as well as in many smaller specialty food stores. Sundlie reports the company’s sales have roughly doubled in the last year.DateVinegar-473x1024

According to Sundlie, consumer demand for Date Lady’s flagship date syrup has exploded in recent months. “We have a lot of people that are addicted to it,” she said. “We’ve had people asking us if they can order it by the gallon.” While the company is looking into larger packaging, it recently added convenience with squeeze bottles for its date syrup and caramel sauce. These products previously came in glass jars. “People were just using it more often and asking, ‘How can you make this easier for us?’” said Sundlie.

When it comes to the company’s packaged date offerings, Date Lady’s uniqueness extends to this product line as well. While most dates sold in the United States are Medjools or Deglet Noors, Date Lady sells organic California Barhi and Halawi dates. Sundlie likens these less common dried fruits to pieces of caramel. The company does use Medjool and Deglet Noor dates in its other products.

In addition to climbing retail sales of Date Lady’s date syrup, some manufacturers have begun substituting the 100 percent fruit syrup for other sweeteners, for example in chocolate and fruit and nut bars, smoothies, ice cream and even beer. Interestingly, none of these products are date-flavored. The syrup has the sweetness of maple syrup but carries a more complex flavor, with hints of caramel, toffee and molasses. The date flavor itself is often masked when the syrup is used to sweeten other foods. However, when used alone as a syrup, for example on pancakes, notes of date do come through.

To meet growing demand from consumers and manufacturers, Date Lady recently moved to a new Springfield headquarters and production facility, tripling its capacity. The company benefits from a relative lack of competition within the larger specialty food landscape. While other companies sell whole dates, Date Lady’s syrup, caramel sauce, chocolate spread and date balsamic go virtually unmatched. Even most Middle Eastern products do not compete directly with Date Lady products. Many include added sugar, and, according to Sundlie, some products touted as “all-natural” frequently fall short of the claim.

Always looking to branch out into the gourmet market with new products, Date Lady launched its new date sugar last month and plans to debut additional products later this year. For more information, visit


Food Lion Names Rhonda Mauldin 2014 Store Manager of the Year

Food Lion has named Rhonda Mauldin its 2014 Store Manager of the Year. Mauldin, who is the Store Manager of the Food Lion located at 1004 W. Georgia Road in Simpsonville, S.C., was selected from a group of more than 1,100 store managers across the company.

“I really don’t think of myself as an exceptional store manager; however, what I do think of as exceptional is my team,” Mauldin said after receiving the award Wednesday. “They really are the reason I’m here today, and I’m honored to accept this award on their behalf.”

Food LionMauldin was honored at an annual event at Food Lion’s headquarters in Salisbury, North Carolina, which was attended by her family and colleagues. This is not the first time Food Lion or the grocery store industry has lauded Mauldin for her outstanding leadership skills. She received store manager excellence awards for her work both with Bloom and Food Lion stores in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014. In addition, Mauldin received Progressive Grocer’s Top Women in Grocery award for the Store Manager category in 2014.

“Our store managers are the face of Food Lion to our customers,” said Meg Ham, President of Food Lion. “Rhonda personifies this every day by running a great store, teaching and training associates, mentoring future leaders and caring for our customers and her community through outstanding service.  Her store is always one of the top stores in donating meals and time for her local food bank. She is an exceptional leader, has developed an outstanding team, and is so deserving of this honor. We’re proud to have her as part of the Food Lion team.”

Mauldin has worked in the grocery store industry for nearly 30 years. She joined Food Lion in February 2006 as a Dry Assistant Manager in Anderson, South Carolina. Six months later, she was promoted to Store Manager and moved to Seneca, South Carolina, to serve as the store manager at this location. Because of her sharp skills of transforming businesses into high-performing stores, she was later transferred to the Simpsonville, South Carolina, store location in 2007.

To honor Mauldin and her exemplary community service, the company will donate $2,000 in Mauldin’s name to her store’s local feeding agency, Harvest Hope Food Bank, in Greenville, South Carolina. Mauldin and her team support this food bank with food donations and volunteerism throughout the year.

In addition to Mauldin being selected as Food Lion’s Store Manager of the Year, three Store Managers were recognized for exceptional leadership. The 2014 Division Store Manager Excellence Award recipients include: Paul Goodnight, Store Manager at 2458 SW Cary Parkway in Cary, North Carolina; James Felix, Store Manager at 12100 Central Ave., in Mitchellville, Maryland; and Kevin Foy, Store Manager at 1304 W. Vernon Ave., in Kinston North Carolina.

Food Lion will donate $1,000 to each of the feeding agencies served by these stores in honor of the division winners. Food Lion’s Store Manager Excellence Awards recognize and honor exceptional store managers who enrich the lives of Food Lion’s customers, associates and the communities the company serves, successfully lead its business, and support and inspire others.



Unified Grocers’ Springfield Logo and Packaging Honored

Unified Grocers’ new Springfield logo and packaging has been named a winner in the 2015 American Package Design Awards sponsored by Graphic Design USA magazine.

SF ButterUnified teamed up with San Francisco-based Murray Brand Communications to redesign and refresh the Springfield packaging, make it relevant to today’s consumers and to attract new shoppers to the brand. After conducting extensive consumer research, the Murray Brand team designed a new brandmark and packaging system for the Springfield portfolio of more than 800 SKUs.

The new packaging was designed to support the brand’s core essence of neighborly, trusted quality and to provide shoppers a consistent, eye-catching look throughout the store. It also includes “Facts Up Front” icons developed by the Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association to help consumers easily recognize food attributes and benefits such as fat free, low sodium and low cholesterol. The Springfield brand has been in existence since 1947.

“We have a terrific partnership with Murray Brand,” said JoAnn Murdock, Executive Director, Marketing, Unified Grocers. “We’ve been impressed by their extensive, research-based approach and outstanding creativity and design execution throughout the entire Springfield brand refresh process. They truly understand marketing and successfully used shopper insights to achieve these award-winning results.”

Springfield Fam Veg-Fruit“Winning this prestigious design competition, which is judged by branding, design and packaging experts, validates that the new Springfield brand and packaging is beautiful work,” said R.J. Murray, Principal, Murray Brand Communications, Inc. “It reflects our strong collaborative effort with Unified Grocers and their packaging production partner, Western Family, and allowed us to develop fresh and exciting designs which resonate with shoppers and ultimately drive sales.”

For more than five decades, Graphic Design USA has hosted design competitions that spotlight areas of excellence and opportunity for creative professionals. The competition celebrates “well-designed graphics and the power of design to advance the brand promise and forge an emotional connection with the buyer.” About 2,000 entries were submitted to this year’s competition.

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage: Wading into the Mainstream

By Lorrie Baumann

NaturalGrocers1-NHNatural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage opened its 92nd store in Tucson, Arizona, in January. Another new store opened in Wichita, Kansas, on February 24. Altogether, 18 Natural Grocers stores are planned to open in fiscal year 2015.

The current crop of openings reflects a combination of a growing food and nutrition movement in the United States and an ambitious goal of growing the store base at a 20 percent compound rate over each of the five years, after taking the company public in July 2012, said Kemper Isely, Natural Grocers’ Co-President.

Twenty-one stores are scheduled to open in the 2016 fiscal year, with 24 slated for the following year. “We planned on expanding our geographic footprint west of the Mississippi. Any state west of the Mississippi would be a possible target,” Isely said.

The founding principles established by Margaret and Philip Isely when they established Vitamin Cottage, the precursor of Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, in Colorado in 1955, are that the stores are committed to providing nutrition education, to quality, to everyday affordable pricing, to their communities and to their employees. This is according to Patty Moore, one of the chain’s Regional Nutrition Coaches. Vitamin Cottage eventually evolved into Natural Grocers, the name by which consumers generally know the brand. Though the company is now publicly owned, the Isely family is still involved in its day-to-day management and maintains a controlling interest in its ownership.

Natural Grocers’ basic mission to change lives by offering free nutrition education and healthful products that support good nutrition has not changed. What has changed over that time is a growing mainstream acceptance of what used to be called “health food” and recent growing concern about American childhood obesity rates as well as an epidemic of diabetes and other nutrition-related illnesses.

PhotographerIn keeping with its principles, all produce sold in the chain is 100 percent USDA Certified Organic, and the company prefers to buy local products when possible. “We have a commitment to that, which is pretty unique for a chain of our size,” Isely said. “We also support organic producers over local producers. If there aren’t organic sources in an area, we won’t sell conventionally-produced produce in our stores.”

Meats in the stores come from humanely treated animals that were raised without antibiotics, except when needed to treat an actual illness, and without growth promoters or feed containing animal byproducts. Dairy products come from animals raised on pasture rather than in barns. “The cows or goats or sheep that produce the milk have to be on pasture for a minimum of 120 days,” Isely said. “They have to get the majority of their nutrition from forage, so that we’re not stocking products that come from barn-raised animals.”

Providing those products across a rapidly growing geographic area has presented no particular distribution-chain challenges, because the chain is partnered with UNFI, which, so far, has been able to supply every new store, Isely said. “Most of the product is either manufacturer- or distributor-direct to stores, so there haven’t been challenges,” he said. “That isn’t a big issue.”

Before a new product can go onto the shelves at Natural Grocers, it is reviewed by the corporate purchasing staff, which requires third-party documentation that the product meets the company’s quality standards. Approval can take up to three months, and Natural Grocers will not sell any product that contains artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives or harmful trans fats.

The company supported GMO-labeling ballot issues in Oregon and Colorado. “We support GMO labeling for products. We don’t support lawsuits if people inadvertently don’t mention GMOs that they don’t know are in their products. We think that consumers have a right to know if there are GMO-containing foods in the products they purchase,” Isely said. The company adopted a no-disposable-bag policy in 2009 and estimates that since that time, the policy has kept 100 million bags out of landfills.

Every store in the chain has a position available for a credentialed nutrition coach, whose services are free to the community, and newer stores offer regular free cooking and nutrition education classes in demonstration kitchens. The free classes offered in the store cover topics such as maintaining blood sugar stability, heart health, bone health, food quality and gluten-free living, Moore said.

A few of the older stores, such as the Vitamin Cottage founded in 1955, do not have demonstration kitchens, so they do not offer cooking classes, but all offer advice and coaching to guide consumers about nutrition choices, whether they are following special diets such as gluten-free, Paleo, vegetarian/vegan, low-glycemic or if they heard something on television on which they want to follow up. “What we like to do is educate people about the various ways there are to eat. Eating whole foods and eating foods that are natural to your diet is a good way to eat. We don’t try to say that everyone should eat Paleo or vegetarian or high-carb. Everyone doesn’t want to eat the same way,” Isely said. “Our people will talk to them about whatever sort of diet they want to have, and it isn’t necessarily one type of diet they should have. Lean meat and vegetables seems to be preferable for good health, but if someone wants to eat differently from that, that’s fine, and we’ll talk to them about that also.”

Natural Grocers currently employs more than 2,000 people, with 85 percent of them full-time. Full-time employees get health insurance and paid personal time off, while a 401(k) plan and employee discount is available to all employees. For every hour an employee works in the store, he or she also gets 75 cents in “Vitamin Bucks,” which are a store credit in addition to the employee discount.

“We’re foodies. We do carry supplements, but food is first,” Moore said. “People are taking back control of their food. They want to be food citizens.”


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