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Chocolate Lovers Choosing Savory Flavors

 

By Richard Thompson

 

The holidays are quickly approaching, and specialty confectioners are looking beyond fruit infusions to cater to more exotic tastes in their chocolate lines. According to the National Confectioners Association, while shoppers are drawn to traditional favorites, they continue to look for new and different items.

Confectioners haven’t been shy to embrace this taste shift and the $79 million dollar market share it represents.“You have got to get exotic now,” says Jack Epstein, Owner of Chocolate Covered Sweets and Gifts. “This is a global craft chocolate thing now…. Some of the more exotic inclusions that I’ve sold have been the bacon bar, Parmesan bar, blue cheese, porcini mushroom bar and paprika bars.”

The salted caramel and chile infusions that ignited the popularity of flavored chocolates has inspired customers to looks for more unique specialty blends such as the Chocolate Covered Company’s Gourmet Chocolate Covered Jalapenos. This gourmet combination comes in sweet peppers or spicy jalapenos and offers a fiery flavor of sweet and spicy.

The Mo’s Bacon Bar from Vosges Haut Chocolat is infused with applewood-smoked bacon, alderwood-smoked salt and rich milk chocolate, for a campfire aroma that offsets the sweetness of the chocolate. The Super Dark Parmesan-Peppercorn Bar is part of the company’s super dark line, containing 72 percent dark chocolate, yet still maintaining a gooey texture.

“You know, a lot of surprising things can taste great in chocolate. With savory flavors, you can go as far as you’d like, even including umami,” says Brad Kintzer, Chief Chocolate Maker at TCHO. Known as the fifth flavor, umami is finding home in chocolate as a savory inclusion, offering a new chocolate-eating experience, says Kintzer.

Traditional pairings with chocolate are making a comeback too, according to Kintzer.“Maple is a beautiful partner,” he says. In addition to maple flavored chocolates, Kintzer has seen bourbon-infused nips come back into favor, this time with less sugar and fewer preservatives.“It’s chocolate re-calibrated for grown-up tastes,” he says.

Jacky Recchiuti, Creative Director and Owner of Recchiuti Confections, along with her husband Michael Recchiuti, has brought out a new Shiitake Mushroom Truffle, which has an earthy, sweet flavor. “We want to maintain our relationship with Far West Funghi, our neighbor in the Ferry Building, and their shiitake mushroom. It’s not about shock value with these infusions; it’s about pairing [the mushroom] with chocolate and finding a nice balance of flavors,” says Jacky Recchiuti.

Currently, Recchiuti Confections continues to refine its flavor combinations with earthy, smoky hints in its chocolate. The next few months will see the introduction of the company’s new line of nougat candies that will be infused with Chinese Five-spice powder, nullifying the traditionally honey notes with a more earthy punch. This line is expected to be launched by the holiday season.

 

2015 Dietary Guidelines Will Not Consider Sustainability

In a statement released as a post on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s blog, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said this week that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, due to be released later this year, will not consider sustainability of food sources in their recommendations for how Americans ought to eat. In its report to the USDA and HHS, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee had recommended that sustainability be considered as a factor in recommending a diet emphasizing plants over meats.

Although this year’s guidelines have not yet been finalized, they are likely to be similar to those of past years, according to the post. “Fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean meats and other proteins, and limited amounts of saturated fats, added sugars and sodium remain the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle,” the post says.

The post notes that the USDA invests billions of dollars each year in sustainable food production, renewable energy, water systems, preserving and protecting natural resources and research into sustainable practices. The USDA will continue to make these investments, but considerations of environmental sustainability do not belong in the dietary guidelines, according to the post.

 

Food Lion Donates to Support Recovery Efforts in South Carolina

 Consistent with its work to help end hunger in the local communities it serves through Food Lion Feeds, grocer Food Lion is donating $25,000 to American Red Cross disaster relief and is partnering with its 10 million customers a week across more than 1,100 stores to help deliver aid to those facing devastating flooding in South Carolina.

“For nearly 60 years, Food Lion has been a proud neighbor in many local communities across our 10 states,” said Food Lion President Meg Ham. “Part of being a good neighbor is being there to lend a hand to support communities during a time of need. Caring for our customers and communities is an integral part of who we are as a company and what our associates do every day.  And, it’s times like these where we have the responsibility to be there for our communities in and around our stores affected by these historic floods. We’re humbled and proud to bring our resources together to get much needed food, water and other supplies to our food bank partners in the areas affected by this devastation and partner with our wide network of customers to raise additional disaster relief funds to aid communities across South Carolina. We hope our customers will join us in lending much needed support to these communities recovering from severe flooding.”

Food Lion has made a $25,000 donation to the American Red Cross and is partnering with its customers to accept register donations to support Red Cross disaster relief in the wake of these floods and other crises across the country. Donations help provide assistance such as food and water to victims of disaster. Food Lion customers can donate in-store at any Food Lion location Oct. 6 through Oct. 13. Customers can visit foodlion.com/stores to find their nearest Food Lion location.

As travel restrictions ease, the grocer is also sending truckloads of priority items, like water, ice, pre-packaged meals and snacks, canned goods, bleach and more, to its feeding partners in South Carolina, Harvest Hope Food Bank and the Lowcountry Food Bank, and their associated feeding agencies.

Meijer Simply Give Fall Campaign Marked as Most Successful in Program’s History

The Meijer Simply Give campaign held this fall generated more than $3 million for food pantries throughout the Midwest, making it the most successful campaign in the program’s history.

Meijer customers donated more than $809,000 during the fall Simply Give campaign that began in late July during the second annual Meijer LPGA Classic presented by Kraft. That commitment to supporting hungry families, combined with a donation from Meijer, raised the fall campaign total to more than $3 million, making it the most successful campaign since Simply Give began in November 2008.

“We cannot thank our customers, team members and food pantry partners enough for continuing to rise to the challenge and help us feed hungry families in the communities we serve,” Co-Chairman Hank Meijer said. “It’s inspiring to see this level of engagement.”

The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based retailer began its Simply Give program as a way to help local food pantries throughout the Midwest achieve their mission of feeding hungry families.

Thanks to the fall campaign that ended in mid-September, Simply Give has generated more than $18.6 million for those partners to restock their shelves and feed hungry families. That total includes an estimated $750,000 donation from the Meijer LPGA Classic to the Simply Give program.

But, more importantly, those donations stay local, said Janet Emerson, Executive Vice President of Retail Operations for Meijer.

“We know how important it is to our customers that their generous donations remain local,” Emerson said. “That’s why each of our stores partner with a food pantry in their community during the Simply Give campaigns.”

During each Simply Give program, which runs three times a year, customers are encouraged to purchase a $10 Simply Give donation card upon checkout. Once purchased, the donation is converted into a Meijer Food-Only Gift Card and donated directly to the local food pantry selected by the store.

“Hunger is a problem that continues to increase in all of our communities,” Hank Meijer said. “The Simply Give program gives everyone a chance to work toward ensuring no one has to live without food.”

Stonewall Kitchen Apple Cranberry Mixer

 

Stonewall Kitchen 172417Few cocktails have enjoyed such wide appeal as that of the Appletini. Stonewall Kitchen decided to take it a step further and add delicious cranberry to create this amazing Apple Cranberry Mixer. Made with sweet apple juice, tangy cranberry and a dash of spice, it’s a refreshing mix that’s both sweet and tart with a crispness all its own. Simply mix it with your favorite liquor and enjoy. Available in a 24-ounce bottle.

Suggested Retail Price: $7.95

 

Pennsylvania Convenience Stores Pilot Test Dinner Kits

A Bethlehem, Pennsylvania convenience story is pilot testing a new dinner kit that allows time-starved customers to quickly prepare nourishing family meals in less than 30 minutes. The all-in-one kits provide healthy options to consumers and eliminate three significant downsides to many popular meal-delivery kits: cost, packaging waste and the need to plan a day or more in advance to order them.

Square One Markets is selling The Six O’Clock Scramble Fresh & Fast Family Dinner Kits™, developed by The Six O’Clock Scramble, a company dedicated to sharing fresh and fast family dinner solutions. The dinner kits provide all-in-one meal ingredients and recipe cards that contain everything time-stressed families need to prepare a fast, fresh meal. They sell for around $20 and are designed to feed a family of four. At $5 per person, the dinner kits are less than half the price of meal-delivery services — and without the packaging waste and carbon footprint from shipping. The kits also will feature some locally grown and produced ingredients from the Bethlehem area.

The September 30 launch at the Square One Markets store in Bethlehem included cooking demonstrations and recipe sampling featuring the creator of the dinner kits, renowned cookbook author and The Six O’Clock Scramble CEO Aviva Goldfarb.

Square One Markets and The Six O’Clock Scramble worked with the Project on Nutrition & Wellness (PNW) and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) to develop the family dinner kits. Square One Markets, with nine stores in the area, will offer the dinner meal solutions for the next 10 weeks as part of the pilot test. A new meal will be offered each week at the test store.

“The evening hours are when families stress about dinner preparation plans. It also is the most popular time to buy gasoline. This is a great way to combine two trips into one,” said Square One Markets CEO Lisa Dell‘Alba.

Only 50 percent of families today have dinner together at least five nights a week, and one in three American children is obese. “The family meal kits provide a convenient and affordable solution for busy families, and gets them on their way quickly to a healthy family meal,” said Goldfarb.

Families that want to cook more meals together but can’t say that the main reasons are busy schedules (43 percent) and they are too tired after school or work (31 percent), according consumer data from NACS. This dinner kit addresses both obstacles.

Meanwhile, demand for meal kits is there. More than three in four consumers (77 percent) say that they would be interested in purchasing an all-in-one meal kit from a store. Convenience store customers are especially receptive: 85 percent of weekly convenience store customers would purchase a dinner meal kit, according to survey data.

Square One Markets Inc.  is a convenience, food and gasoline retail chain with nine stores operating across five counties in Pennsylvania. The chain is headquartered in Bethlehem.

Slow Cooker Mixes from Rabbit Creek Products

 

Rabbit Creek Products savory pot roast seasoningNew this year at Rabbit Creek Products are Slow Cooker Mixes. Running the gamut of sweet to savory, new mixes include Gooey Brownie mix, Black Bean Tortilla Soup mix, Italian Vegetable Beef Barley Soup Mix, Kickin’ Chicken Enchilada Soup Mix and a Savory Pot Roast Seasoning Mix. Sold in kraft gabled boxes, the new line of mixes will fit in smashingly with the rest of Rabbit Creek’s handmade gourmet mixes, from smack dab in the middle of the United States (actually about 220 miles from it, but close enough). Rabbit Creek Products, as always, offers free private labeling on all products in addition to a one case minimum order. Rabbit Creek Products is located in Louisburg, Kansas.

 

 

Kroger Introduces HemisFares

The Kroger Co. is introducing a new line of corporate brand products, imported directly from the most food-rich regions of the world. HemisFares™ is a guided tour of the best-of-the-best tastes the planet has to offer – found exclusively at the Kroger family of stores.

Kroger introduced the brand with 27 authentic Italian products currently on shelves, and plans to add more products and countries soon.

“Just like American barbeque can mean many different flavors: spicy, smoky, more of a vinegar base, Italian food changes considerably as you travel across the country,” said Gil Phipps, Kroger Vice President of Corporate Brands. “Imagine landing in Italy and getting an in-depth, guided tour from village to village, experiencing the single best example of the most beloved foods from each region. Our goal with HemisFares is to bring only the best food finds to our customers.”

Kroger is working side-by-side with the best food connoisseurs, some with decades of experience, to identify the most delectable, regional culinary treasures from around the world. Kroger’s Corporate Brands team travels to those regions, diving into what makes each edible treasure and locality unique. Gelato, for example, originated in Sicily. HemisFares Sicilian Gelato is made from grass-fed cows who roam the Sicilian countryside. These cows are milked daily and provide the fresh cream used to make the rich and creamy HemisFares Sicilian Gelato that is sold on Kroger shelves.

The packaging on each product is also unique, as it tells the story of the food find. It takes customers on a journey, explaining precisely where it came from and what makes that product the best-of-the-best. Each HemisFares item has a “find number” on the packaging to direct customers to other similar products in the HemisFares brand that they may enjoy.

Customers can expect additional HemisFares products over the next year, from regions including SpainJapan and others.

“Whether you’re epi-curious or just like eating and sharing incredibly tasty food, when you see our HemisFares brand, you can trust the product within is the best this planet has to offer – bar none,” said Phipps.

AmericasMart Opens the Retailing Year with Atlanta Market

Global retailing and design converge in a spectacular showing of new creations, introductions and innovations when The Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market® opens its 59th consecutive winter show under continuous Portman Family ownership and management on January 12, 2016 at AmericasMart® Atlanta.

Leading retailers, designers, specifiers and tastemakers from throughout the U.S. and around the world will make AmericasMart their market of choice to source a merchandise line-up featuring thousands of lines and countless introductions, many in exclusive U.S. debut. Top lines and designs will be presented in new and expanded showrooms and temporary booths by leading manufacturers, importers and sales representative organizations, all looking to harness the global power present at AmericasMart.

Enhancing the January home and gift product mix will be the unmatched resources present in The Atlanta International Area Rug Market® featuring the National Oriental Rug Show (Showrooms and Temporaries: Wednesday, January 13 – Saturday, January 18), staged and produced in exclusive collaboration with The Oriental Rug Importers Association (ORIA), which has just renewed its long-standing AmericasMart partnership.

“The AmericasMart merchandise mix is scaled by design to satisfy the fast-growing demands of global retailing,” says Jeffrey L. Portman, Sr., Vice Chairman, President and Chief Operating Officer. “We’ve carefully aggregated the world’s top product resources in a collective of incredible variety and selection. Long before consumers go shopping, retailers buy what the world will buy here.”

The gift and home furnishings Market—running Tuesday, January 12 through Tuesday, January 19 (Temporaries: Thursday, January 14 – Monday, January 18)— will give buyers a long litany of industry-leading experiences topped by design-driven programming and events including the return and expansion of Design Campus and a designer vignette gallery inspired by Pantone’s Color of the Year in its first presentation of 2016. The show will also include a reimagined, buyer-centric design of the Market Temporaries which places the Gourmet Housewares, Tabletop & Entertaining and Tabletop LUXE collections directly above the complementary HIGH DESIGN and HIGH DESIGN LUXE collections in Building 2. Gourmet Foods and Gourmet LUXE also relocate in Building 2 to Floor 3 as part of the redesign.

Visitors will enjoy a resurgent downtown Atlanta anchored by JP Atlanta, a modern interpretation of the Midnight Sun, John C. Portman, Jr.’s restaurant experience that redefined mid-century Atlanta’s standard for fine dining. John Portman & Associates will once again design a signature restaurant space within the 230 Peachtree building which will also be home to a new 203-room Hotel Indigo® hotel adjacent to the AmericasMart campus. Buyers will also be offered exclusive access to neighboring attractions including Georgia Aquarium, the College Football Hall of Fame, The Center for Civil and Human Rights and SkyView Atlanta offered during Market.

Industry celebrations include the second annual Party on Peachtree on Thursday, January 14 and America’s Magnificent Carpets® Awards set for Friday, January 15.

AmericasMart’s world-renowned GIFT category continues its industry dominance as it refines and expands its celebrated General & Specialty Gift, Gourmet & Housewares, Tabletop & Gift, Children’s World, Home Accents & Gifts and The Gardens® collections featuring an ever-growing array of top products at all price points from across the world. The new permanent Made in America product destination, launched at the July Market, features a diverse collection of gift items that are all produced in the United States on Building 2, Floor 7.

AmericasMart continues to present a comprehensive HOME collection featuring top manufactures in its Home & Rug, Home Accents & Fine Linens, Home Furnishings, HOME & DESIGN and Holiday & Floral/ Home Décor categories.

For more information about the January Market, visit www.AmericasMart.com/January.

USDA Funds Local Food System Efforts

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack helped to kick off the nation’s harvest season by announcing nearly $35 million in new funding through four grant programs to support local and regional food systems, including farmers markets. Secretary Vilsack has named strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA’s efforts to revitalize rural economies and communities. Purchases of locally-produced food have surged to nearly $12 billion under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, while the number of farmers markets has exploded to more than 8,500 from 5,274 in 2009.

Today’s announcement is part of a USDA-wide effort to support President Obama’s commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems. These grants are administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Under the current Administration, AMS and FNS have partnered to boost affordable access to local, fresh and healthy foods, which creates a gateway to opportunity for small and mid-size producers and benefits the health of all Americans, regardless of income levels.

“Today, USDA is helping to create economic opportunities for producers, increase access to fresh, healthy food for consumers, and connect rural and urban communities across the country,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Each of the grants announced today targets a unique part of the growing market for local foods. We are also expanding access for current SNAP participants to the wonderful array of fresh produce at America’s farmers markets, which is important to a healthy diet.”

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is awarding $13.3 million in Farmers Market Promotion Program grants to 164 marketing and promotion projects involved with farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), and other direct-to-consumer outlets for local food. Since 2009, this program has funded 902 projects totaling over $59.2 million to support direct marketing efforts for local food.

AMS is also awarding $11.9 million in Local Food Promotion Program grants to 160 marketing and promotion projects for intermediary local food enterprises such as food hubs, aggregation businesses, local food processors, and farm-to-institution activities. This program, begun in 2014, has funded 351 projects totaling $24.6 million to support local/regional supply chain activities including processing, aggregating, storing or distributing local and regional food.

And AMS is awarding $1 million in matching-grant funds through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program. These funds are awarded through state departments of agriculture and other agencies, as well as state colleges and universities. The matching funds will support 15 research projects to find solutions to challenges and opportunities in marketing, transporting, and distributing U.S. agricultural products domestically and internationally. Since 2009, this program has funded 142 projects totaling $8.6 million to explore new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products.

Both the Farmers Market and the Local Food Promotion Programs were made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. A description of the projects funded by each of these programs is available on the AMS website.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Farmers Market Support Grants, which is awarding $8.1 million in grants for projects in 23 states to enhance the effectiveness of SNAP operations at farmers markets. The new funds support broad SNAP-related activities and costs, including staff training and technical assistance, creating educational materials, and raising awareness among current SNAP participants that their benefits may be used to purchase the healthy, fresh foods at these outlets. Farmers market organizations and associations, non-profit entities, state, local and tribal nations and other organizations engaged in farmers market management were eligible to apply. Grantees will be able to help connect low-income families with fresh, healthy, local food options by expanding SNAP use at these markets. From 2009 to 2014, SNAP redemptions at farmers markets have grown by 350 percent. A description of the projects funded is available on the FNS website.

Vilsack continued, “We will continue supporting local and regional food systems, which are drawing young people back to agriculture, generating jobs, and improving quality of life in rural communities. Since 2009, we have seen a 75 percent growth in farmers markets nationwide and sales of local food rose to an estimated $12 billion in 2014, much of it through sales from farms to local grocers, institutions and restaurants.”

The local and regional food systems grant projects support the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative (KYF2) which coordinates USDA’s support for local and regional food systems.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) works to improve global opportunities for U.S. growers and producers. AMS grant funding supports a variety of programs, including organic certification cost-share programs, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, and the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program. This funding is one of the ways that USDA invests in the future of rural America and the nation’s agricultural sector.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs. In addition to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, these programs include Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, the National School Lunch Program, and the Summer Food Service Program which together comprise America’s nutrition safety net. For more information, visit www.fns.usda.gov.

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