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Now We’re Cooking in Albuquerque

By Micah Cheek

In any business, markets shift and tastes change. Navigating these ebbs and flows is what makes a business stand the test of time. Nancy Herring, Co-Owner of Now We’re Cooking in Albuquerque, New Mexico is in the process of shifting the kitchenware store’s stock and style of business to suit customers’ new needs.

The biggest change Herring has seen is a shift away from cooking classes. “Our cooking class response has really dropped off. I think they’ve decided to spend their money somewhere else,” says Herring. Recently, she has had more success with education groups and weight loss communities that will set aside time to come in and watch a suite of demonstrations. Working with outside organizations also takes some of the administrative work off Herring’s shoulders. “They handle all the advertising and signup,” she adds.

Another changing factor is purchasing habits. Large single-item investments have given way to smaller purchases. “You’ll hear people look at a big piece of cookware and say, ‘That’s too expensive,’ but then they’ll buy that same amount in smaller stuff. I think people have been exercising caution for a while,” says Herring. Now, a large part of Now We’re Cooking’s sales are smaller accessory items. “We have always maintained our integrity as a kitchen store, not a gift and kitchen store. We have some pretty things, ceramics and things, but we don’t go heavy into that,” Herring adds. Lots of entertaining kitchen accessories now are now on display at checkout, and some of Now We’re Cooking’s specific sections, like the baking area, have leaned more in that direction. “We sell a tremendous amount of cookie cutters.”

Because customers are feeling more cautious about higher cost options, Herring keeps cookware for regular use in the break room, and shows customers the wear and tear the pans sustain from regular use. “We’ll show them what their cookware looks like after it’s been used for a while. We’ve been using this for the last five years or whatever, and this is what it looks like,” says Herring. “It’s bigger sizes than I would use at home, but we have an example of every brand we sell. And I think people like to see what they’re thinking about.”

As Herring has been reshaping her business model, she has moved to a new space to suit the new needs of her store. “About two and a half years ago, we moved to this location,” says Herring. “Better layout, better light, it was definitely time for a move. The new store is much prettier than the old store was.” When the store updated its location, the space allowed her to make changes to her previous layout that made everything easier to navigate. “We have rows and rows of Metro shelving,” says Herring. “None of them match. I’ve got old Metro, new Metro, black and white. You don’t notice, you just see what’s on it.”

There are corners dedicated to knives, linens sections and a full gadget wall as well. The only part of the store that regularly changes is three-wheeled shelving units to be moved to make space for classes, and the first row of shelves, which are altered for seasonal items. “We don’t move everything around. I know you’re supposed to keep it fresh for people, but customers know where everything is. Christmas time, we move a lot of things around the front, and bring in a few more things.”

Herring is always on the lookout for what is next for the industry. From her perspective, focusing on color and adaptations of the classics are the way forward. “Everybody’s talking about what’s new. There’s new colors, new adaptations, but we haven’t seen a brand new product,” says Herring. “I remember when bread makers came out! In terms of a new category, we’re not seeing it. It’s back to basics and color. Hot pink mixers and bright Microplanes.”

Tapping Into the Homebrew Market

by Micah Cheek

Home brewing kits are becoming a popular gift for hobbyists, but marketing and selling the kits poses some unique challenges. Patrick Bridges, Vice President of sales and Marketing at Cooper’s DIY, notes that holiday sales for the Mr. Beer kit are reflecting strong interest in the hobby. “It was a tremendous response, we experienced better sell though this year than many past years. By really identifying with the craft beer movement, I think it really resonated with consumers,” says Bridges. “People do it because they can create new beers and share. Beer is made for special occasions, holidays and birthdays. Typically, the purchaser is the foodie, they’re interested in cooking and natural ingredients.”

Part of the appeal of these kits is premixed ingredient sets that not only allow home brewers to make classic favorites like IPAs and stouts, but replicate award-winning and hard to find brews as well. “Many craft beers, they can’t distribute outside of their state, with a commercial system that isn’t always able to bring beers to where you live,” says Bridges. “We took a couple gold medal winners and cloned their beers. It’s a collaboration. If you can’t get it, make it.”

Bringing home brewing to retail spaces has presented some unexpected insights. “We sell in liquor stores and they don’t do very well. People are there for instant gratification. Any kind of kit doesn’t do well at liquor stores,” says Bridges. “Our kits are usually sold in the kitchen or housewares department. They’re often in the top 10 selling products during the holidays.” But the brick and mortar space still presents some marketing issues. “It’s a long process. You can’t make the beer there, plus you can’t serve it. It has unique challenges in that regard,” says Bridges. “Where possible we have videos we can loop to show how easy it is. The way to get people interested is to taste the beer, but we’re unable to execute that at retail for obvious reasons.”

With expanding home brewing interests, options other than beer are getting attention. “Last year we introduced Hacked Root Beer. Things like that and some of these hard sodas are trending now. Those seem to be really driving the trends rather than ciders,” says Bridges. “The big trend now is barrel-aged beers. We add wood chips, so you don’t have to put it in a barrel.”

United Fresh VP of Nutrition and Health Retiring

After more than a decade at the United Fresh Produce Association and a career that spans 40 years, Lorelei DiSogra, Ed.D., R.D., Vice President, Nutrition and Health, will retire at the end of May. During her tenure, she helped shape federal nutrition policies to increase fruit and vegetable consumption for children and their families. She joined the association in 2005.

“The only word that describes Lorelei and her work and commitment to the fresh produce industry is — passionate,” said Tom Stenzel, President & CEO of United Fresh. “She has been a life-long advocate for fresh produce and healthy eating and she is a living example of someone truly ‘walks the walk.’ The impact and benefit of her work will be felt for many years to come, and I can say that our industry is truly better because of her.”

Prior to joining United Fresh, DiSogra was the Director of the National 5 A Day Program at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, from 2001-2005 and Vice President of Nutrition at Dole Food Company from 1991-2001.

DiSogra’s top accomplishments at United Fresh include the expansion of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to schools in all 50 states, revising WIC Food Packages to include fresh fruits and vegetables as recommended by the Institute of Medicine, and increasing fruits and vegetables in school meals to benefit more than 32 million students a day.  The consistent theme of DiSogra’s career has been increasing children’s consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

As one of the creators of Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, DiSogra worked closely with the Obama White House, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the program’s salad bar founding partners, United Fresh members and health foundations to make salad bars the norm in schools nationwide to ensure children have access to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables every day at school lunch.  At the time of her retirement, more than 5,000 salad bars had been donated to schools across the country.

DiSogra holds a doctoral degree in nutrition education and a master’s degree in public health nutrition and nutrition education from Columbia University and is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Public Health Association.

A search process is currently underway by United Fresh.

Braswell Foods Evolves: Fourth Generation Takes Helm

Ronald “Trey” Braswell, III has assumed the presidency of the family-owned egg and feed producer headquartered in Nashville, North Carolina. In accepting the mantle from his father, Trey Braswell acknowledged the visionary leadership that delivered the company through many challenges and changes since its founding in 1943. “Each generation before me has had new ambition, new desire, and new energy to take the company to the next level,” said Trey Braswell. “I am indebted to them for the firm foundation they established and to the hundreds of team members that get the job done every day for our customers.”

Scott Braswell has served as President of the company since 1991 and made the announcement at a company-wide meeting. “I am excited that I will be able to watch our company evolve and grow in the coming years,” he said. “I will focus my attention on our mission and ministry projects and on enjoying my grandchildren – the fifth generation of Braswells.”

In recounting the Braswell Foods history, heritage and values, Trey introduced the new name for the company: Braswell Family Farms. “This brand recognizes our deep roots and our commitment to family. It will become our flag as we build and expand relationships with the premier grocery retailers we serve between New York and Florida,” he said.

Braswell Family Farms is one of the foremost producers of premium and specialty eggs and feed on the east coast. Braswell was one of the first producers to go to market with Eggland’s Best premium eggs in the 1990s. “When my grandfather bought the rights to produce for Eggland’s Best, a lot of people thought he was crazy,” said the younger Braswell. “It turned out to be a brilliant move that my father was able to use to grow our company from 30 employees in 1991 to around 200 today.”

The company will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2018. Operations are centered in Nashville, North Carolina, and Jetersville, Virginia.

Gary Rogers, Former CEO of Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Chairman of Safeway, Passes

With profound sadness, the Rogers family announces the passing of T. Gary Rogers, husband, son, father, brother, grandfather. Rogers was the Chairman and CEO of Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream for 30 years as well as the Chairman of Safeway Inc., the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and Levi Strauss & Co.

Rogers lived in Oakland, California, for more than 45 years where he provided leadership and vision to the city and numerous community organizations. His passionate devotion to the University of California, Berkeley, and its rowing team, and the Lighthouse Community Charter School will remain part of his legacy to the Bay Area. His philanthropic generosity, through the Rogers Family Foundation, will continue to focus on his life-long pursuit of creating and sustaining excellence.

He was born in Stockton, California, in 1942 and spent his youth in Marin County. A distinguished Eagle Scout, he attributed much of his personal character to his experiences as a Boy Scout, as an oarsman on the crew at UC Berkeley, and his family’s deeply-held values of integrity and honor.

In 1963, he graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He was named UC Berkeley All University Athlete that same year and rowed in the 1964 U.S. Olympic Trials.

In the summer of 1964, he married Kathleen “Cab” Tuck, whom he met while working on staff at the UC Berkeley Alumni Association Tahoe Alumni Center.

Rogers spent the mid-sixties serving a two-year term in the Army as a Lieutenant in the Air Defense Artillery based on Mount Tamalpais.

In 1968, he earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and was honored as a George F. Baker Scholar.

At 34, Rogers and his business partner William F. “Rick” Cronk purchased Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream a small regional ice cream company based in Oakland, California. For the next 30 years, Rogers served as Chairman and CEO of Dreyer’s, and together with Cronk, built Dreyer’s into the best-selling ice cream company in the United States.

Rogers often said the building of the Dreyer’s corporate culture was “the best thing we ever did at the company.” It was a culture based on empowerment; respecting and trusting in the abilities of each individual. Every person felt a personal responsibility to “make a difference.” It made Dreyer’s a coveted place to work. In 2002, Dreyer’s was sold to Nestle.

Rogers also served as Chairman of Levi Strauss & Co., the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and Safeway Inc. He was also a director of Shorenstein Properties, Stanislaus Food Products and the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. He founded and chaired the Oakland Dialogue, a group of East Bay political, educational, and business leaders.

Gary Rogers was inducted into the Bay Area Business Hall of Fame, was named Harvard Business School Business Leader of the Year, and received the Wharton Business School Joseph Wharton Award. He has also received the University of California Bear of the Year Award.

He was the primary benefactor of the University of California Cal Crew Forever Endowment Fund, the T. Gary Rogers Rowing Center, and the California Rowing Club for elite post-graduate oarsmen. He was also a member of the High Performance Olympic Committee of U.S. Rowing.

Award-Winning Double Rainbow Strawberry Lemon Frozen Custard

Double Rainbow’s Strawberry Lemon flavor of frozen custard has been named the Grand Champion at the World Dairy Expo. Beating out more than 170 frozen desserts to claim the Grand Champion title, the award-winning Strawberry Lemon blends perfectly tart lemons and summer-sweet strawberries together in a delicious fruit ice, which is then swirled with Double Rainbow’s rich and creamy Original Vanilla Custard, a classic blend of egg, cream and Madagascar vanilla.

Strawberry Lemon is one a a line of indulgent new flavors that also includes Chocolate and Vanilla Malt, Sea Salt Caramel, Original Vanilla, Vanilla and Blueberry Pomegranate, Mango Tangerine, Raspberry and Tart Cherry. The overall theme of the new line is that they combine twists on nostalgic flavor combinations and exciting new textures created by swirling rich and creamy custards together with refreshing fruit ices.

Founded 40 years ago in the heart of San Francisco, Double Rainbow continues today to make award-winning super-premium ice creams, custards and non-dairy frozen desserts.

Dean Foods and Good Karma Foods Strike Investment and Distribution Deal

Dean Foods Company has made a minority investment and entered into a distribution deal with Good Karma Foods, which produces flaxseed-based milk and yogurt alternatives. The partnership with Dean Foods will allow Good Karma to more quickly expand distribution across the U.S., as well as increase investments in brand building and product innovation. Dean Foods will take a position in the brand and joins lead investor 2x Consumer Products Growth Partners in support of Good Karma.

“We love Good Karma as a fit for Dean Foods as we focus on diversification both within and beyond dairy,” said Ralph Scozzafava, CEO of Dean Foods. “This opportunity with Good Karma is a way for us to build a platform for a larger plant-based portfolio. The management team has deep category expertise, the brand is a disrupter in the plant-based, non-dairy space, and we believe we can support its growth.”

Scozzafava continued, “One of the pillars of our strategic plan is to build and buy strong brands, and Good Karma embodies the exact type of opportunity we’re interested in as we look to add leading and high potential brands in adjacent growing categories such as plant-based beverages.”

Unata Announces Integration Plans with Toshiba TCx Elevate

Unata is planning to integrate with Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions’ TCx™ Elevate digital commerce platform to offer Toshiba grocery retail customers a simplified, market-ready eCommerce and eCircular solution.

TCx Elevate is an extensible digital commerce platform that brings all retail channels, touchpoints and applications together to create engaging customer experiences and improve productivity. TCx Elevate will enhance a retailer’s existing capabilities with minimal impact to their current point of sale environment.

Grocery retailers who are current Toshiba customers and embrace TCx™ Elevate will have access to an out-of-the-box integration with Unata that will in turn provide an accelerated time-to-market for launching the Unata solution suite (eCommerce, eLoyalty, eCircular, eCoupons, eCatering and more).

“In today’s fast-paced, rapidly-changing retail environment, it’s important that retailers can adapt in the most beneficial and cost-effective ways possible,” said Stephen K Markham, Senior Vice President Portfolio Management, Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions. “The integration between Toshiba’s TCx Elevate platform and Unata will offer a best-in-class path forward that will unlock new consumer-centric opportunities, and help grocers keep up with the rapidly-changing retail industry.”

Central Grocers Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Central Grocers, Inc. has announced that the company and all of its subsidiaries have voluntarily elected to file for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. The company intends to use this court-supervised process to conduct an orderly sale of its Strack & Van Til stores as going concerns and anticipates entering into a sale agreement with a stalking horse bidder in the near future. Central Grocers is also seeking to sell its distribution center in Joliet as it winds down its wholesale distribution operations. The company has been cooperating with its lenders and expects to have access to sufficient liquidity to continue operating its stores and winding down the distribution center in an orderly fashion.

Strack & Van Til Stores Are Open for Business

All 22 Strack & Van Til, Town & Country Market and Ultra Foods stores in Indiana and Illinois are open and serving customers. Employees are receiving their pay in the ordinary course. Strack & Van Til intends to pay vendors in full for goods and services provided on or after the filing date, May 4, 2017.

Jeff Strack, President and Chief Executive Officer of Strack & Van Til, said, “Our stores are open, and we are as focused as ever on supporting our customers and providing the legendary service that we are known for. As we move through this process, our priorities, values and commitments to our customers and our communities will not change. We thank our loyal customers for their continued support, and we thank our employees for their hard work and dedication.”

Central Grocers Working Toward Sale of Stores and Distribution Facility

Central Grocers is continuing to work toward implementing a sale of the Strack & Van Til stores and a sale of its distribution center in Joliet and certain other assets. It is anticipated that any such sale transactions will be conducted pursuant to a court-supervised auction process under Section 363 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

Ken Nemeth, President and Chief Executive Officer of Central Grocers, said, “In light of the increasingly difficult environment for independent supermarkets and retailers, we have been working tirelessly to achieve an outcome that is in the best interests of our stakeholders. We are using this court-supervised sale process to provide us the time and flexibility to conduct an orderly sale of the Strack & Van Til stores, while we work to sell the warehouse in Joliet and wind down our wholesale distribution operations.”

The company has filed a number of customary motions seeking court authorization to continue to support its operations during the court-supervised process, including payment of employee wages and benefits. In addition, the company intends to file a motion shortly in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois seeking to dismiss the involuntary bankruptcy case commenced against Central Grocers in view of its voluntary Chapter 11 filing.

FDA Extends Menu Labeling Compliance Date to 2018

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is extending the compliance date for menu labeling requirements from May 5, 2017 to May 7, 2018. This extension allows for further consideration of what opportunities there may be to reduce costs and enhance the flexibility of these requirements beyond those reflected in the interim final rule.

The FDA is inviting comments for 60 days on the implementation of the menu labeling requirements, such as approaches to reduce regulatory burden or increase flexibility related to (a) calorie disclosure signage for self-service foods, including buffets and grab-and-go foods; (b) methods for providing calorie disclosure information other than on the menu itself; and (c) criteria for distinguishing between menus and other information presented to the consumer.

The extension will be effective on May 4, 2017 when the Federal Register publishes the extension in advance of the May 5 compliance date. The 60-day comment period will begin on May 4, 2017.

Submit electronic comments to http://www.regulations.gov. Submit written comments to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. All comments should be identified with Docket No. FDA-2011-F-0172 for “Food Labeling; Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments; Extension of Compliance Date and Request for Comments.”

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