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Organic Producer CROPP Cooperative / Organic Valley Reaches $1 Billion in Sales

On Tuesday, December 22, CROPP Cooperative / Organic Valley reached a remarkable milestone: The farmer-owned cooperative surpassed $1 billion in sales. Founded in 1988 by seven struggling farm families in Southwest Wisconsin, Organic Valley now has a membership of 1,800 farmers producing organic food in 35 states. It is the first billion-dollar organic-only foods company.

This landmark caps an extraordinary year for Organic Valley. Two new product lines illustrate the range and quality of the brand: In 2014, the cooperative brought two brands of organic milk protein shakes to market—Organic Balance and Organic Fuel—and in 2015 Organic Fuel became the #1 selling organic protein shake across all grocery channels. In August 2015, Organic Valley launched Grassmilk yogurt, a premium cream-on-top yogurt made with 100 percent grassfed milk and no grain, serving the growing market for premium organic dairy.

As the cooperative creates and markets new products, it’s also growing into mainstream and convenience channels to meet increasing consumer demand for high-quality organic food wherever they shop—a reality underscored by Organic Valley’s February 2016 launch of Good To Go, an adult single-serve milk, and the roll-out of Mighty Bar organic meat snacks under sister brand Organic Prairie.

Support for Organic Valley’s core products also remains strong, with half & half, butter, and cheese winning best-of-class awards and recognition in 2015. “We see our growth as win-win-win,” said Vice President of Brand Marketing Lewis Goldstein. “Our original mission of saving family farms also happens to produce some of the best food on the planet that’s the healthiest choice for everyone—the farmers, their animals and farmland, and consumers.”

Consumer support for Organic Valley has helped the cooperative continue to put farmers first by paying a high, stable price for their work. Paying farmers fairly ensures a future for family farming culture while rejuvenating the soil, protecting water quality, and eliminating antibiotics, synthetic pesticides, artificial hormones, and GMOs from a portion of the food chain. Consumers value that choice.

Director of Public Affairs Anne O’Connor, who oversees the cooperative’s social responsibility and philanthropic giving efforts, said, “More than ever, people want to buy brands that are about more than just profit, but also about people and the planet. In our growth and the growth of our industry, we remain committed to our core values of social responsibility, honesty, and caring for our communities. It’s the best way to provide the best organic food.”

Anheuser-Busch Acquires Another Craft Brewery

Anheuser-Busch has announced a deal in which it will acquire Colorado-based Breckenridge Brewery. With this agreement, Breckenridge Brewery is the seventh craft brewery to join The High End, Anheuser-Busch’s business unit of craft and import brands.

“We’re excited about the partnership and have been encouraged to continue on our path and become more innovative moving forward,” said Todd Usry, President of Breckenridge Brewery. “I’m a believer in what The High End is focused on accomplishing, and we are flattered that our team was chosen to help guide that journey. We’re looking forward to utilizing resources like decades of research and brewing expertise as we continue to create new beers.”

Available in 35 states, Breckenridge Brewery will sell approximately 70,000 barrels of beer in 2015. The new brewery and Farm House restaurant in Littleton have positioned the brewery for future growth. The brewery will continue to make its unique portfolio of beers – ranging from its Vanilla Porter, to Agave Wheat, to its core brands, seasonal specialties and barrel-aged beers.

“Breckenridge Brewery has a long history of innovation and they continue to brew new and exciting beers, from their specialty brews like the Mountain Series that celebrates the brewery’s origin as a ski town brewpub, to their planned nitro can series,” said Andy Goeler, CEO, Craft, The High End. “They are innovative and have built an amazing business that’s enabled them to get their great beers to fans across the country. We look forward to even more growth together.”

Breckenridge Brewery will join Goose Island Beer Company, Blue Point Beer Company, 10 Barrel Brewing, Elysian Brewing Company, Golden Road Brewing and Four Peaks Brewing Company as part of The High End’s craft beer portfolio.

The partnership includes the company’s new production brewery and Farm House restaurant in Littleton, and original brewpub and current innovation center in the mountain town of Breckenridge.

The current management group, Breckenridge-Wynkoop, will continue to own and operate its remaining businesses including: Ale House at Amato’s in DenverBreckenridge Ale House in Grand JunctionBreckenridge Colorado Craft in Denver; The Cherry Cricket in Denver; Mainline in Fort Collins; Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs; and Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver.

Anheuser-Busch’s partnership with Breckenridge Brewery is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016, subject to customary closing conditions. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Feeding America Applauds Spending Bill Passage

Feeding America is among those applauding passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes (PATH) Act.

“The legislation, which includes $1.1 trillion in funding for fiscal year 2016 and the extension of numerous expired tax provisions, will have a profound impact on the ability of the Feeding America network to provide millions of meals to struggling Americans,” said Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America. The compromise agreement protects the federal safety net and provides funding for a wide number of programs.

The legislation includes the America Gives More Act, which makes several charitable giving incentives permanent, including expanding the food donation tax deduction to help small businesses including farmers, restaurants, retailers and food manufacturers donate wholesome food to 501(c)3 charities. It also makes permanent the ability for older Americans at least 70 years and six months to donate IRA funds to a charitable organization tax free.

The PATH Act also makes permanent the expansion to the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit that were first enacted in the ARRA legislation.  It will provide needed tax incentives to ensure our network has access to nutritious food for clients, as well as vital funding for working families, children and college tuition.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act also includes increases in several federal nutrition programs:

  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program’s (TEFAP) Storage and Distribution funding will increase by $5 million to $54.4 million.
  • The USDA’s Summer EBT pilots will increase $7 million to $23 million annually. This will allow the program to expand in 2016 and continue to provide meals to children from low-income families during the summer months when most public schools are closed.
  • The bill also increases the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) to $222 million, which provides nutritious food to low-income older Americans.  This program will now be able to expand coverage to low-income older Americans in Virginia.

“These legislative victories are important. The need for emergency food assistance has been consistently high since the recession began in 2007, and is expected to get significantly worse in 2016, when as many as 750,000 people who are categorized as ‘able-bodied adults without dependents’ are expected to lose SNAP benefits,” Aviv said. “We applaud the broad coalition of diverse partners who have worked together for many years to make the passage of today’s legislation possible.”

Mucho Gazpacho from Bodega Barcelona

Bodega Barcelona PFMucho Gazpacho available in three recipes: Bravo Tomato, Beets Gazpacho and Green Gazpacho.

Mucho Gazpacho is a delicious, refreshing and nourishing vegetable beverage made of crushed raw vegetables and savory ingredients supplied by local farmers in southeast Spain. All ingredients are natural, with no preservatives, non GMO and gluten free. A little 8-ounce bottle contains two full servings of vegetables.

For more information, call Bodega Barcelona LLC at 844.666.3503 or email

Taiwanese Tradition’s Tantalizing Tasty Treats


By Richard Thompson


Sriracha Pork Jerky is the latest offering from Golden Island and its line of gourmet jerkies. This fiery new addition rounds out the line of specialty beef and pork flavored jerkies that include Korean Barbeque, Kung Pao and Chili Lime. “We are focused on handcrafted, gourmet jerky,” says Stephen Silzer, Director of Marketing at Golden Island.

Originating in Taiwan over 50 years ago as a family business, Golden Island is a California-based jerky company (now owned by Tyson Foods) whose product line stands apart from competitors due to the company’s small-batch cooking process. “With origins in Taiwan, the ingredients and recipes have been passed down.” says Silzer. “This includes individually slicing and marinating each piece in small batches…. Then we either kettle cook or flame-grill our meats to best ensure…great-tasting, tender jerky.”

Golden Island sells six different flavors of jerky made with an exclusive blend of natural herbs, spices and sauces authentic to the company’s Asian roots. The three beef and three pork flavors are all high in protein and clean label – all-natural, gluten-free, no preservatives and no nitrites added.

The company’s top seller is Korean Barbeque Pork Jerky, made with garlic powder, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil that carry’s a little sweet flavor from the marinade mixed with a savory bite from the sesame. The Grilled Barbeque Pork Jerky tastes like small shavings of honey-touched Christmas ham dropped in your mouth, giving your tongue something to celebrate.

The Beef Jerky flavors include Kung Pao, Chili Lime and Five Spice. The smoky flavor of the chili flaked speckled Kung Pao Beef Jerky adds an earthy kick to the intense tongue burn that the Kung Pao Beef Jerky is known for. It has a loyal following because of its heat, says Silzer, while the Chili Lime Beef Jerky has a nice balance of zesty lime flavor that compliments its own heat as well. The Five Spice Beef Jerky is gluten-free and starts with a little kick that retains its bold flavor from the Asian inspired sweet and spicy flavorings.

While there are no plans for additional offerings to the product line in the immediate future, the company is always looking ahead. “We are always focused on the next flavor trend and looking to expand our lineup…and existing flavors,” says Silzer.

Currently, Golden Island products can be found at Costco Wholesale, World Market and in Southern California in traditional grocery stores like Ralph’s – as well as on the company’s website. According to Silzer, “We are looking to expand into more retail and convenience stores where snacks are sold as well as embrace the penetration of and online grocery selling opportunities. Our focus is about delivering flavor with a moist and tender texture from our proprietary process that stands alone with the company.”



Mead with Love


By Richard Thompson


Breweries like Sky River Meadery and Moonlight Meadery are offering new delicious flavors – such as raspberry, blackberry, and even strawberry rhubarb – along with traditional honeyed staples in their dry, sweet and semi-sweet mead lines.

“It’s coming back as a beverage of choice,” says Michael Fairbrother, Founder and Head Mead Maker at Moonlight Meadery and President of American Mead Maker Association.

Moonlight Meadery, which opened in 2010 and is based in Londonderry, New Hampshire, offers a line of 70 different products and has seen interest in mead explode over the last year. “Production in the first two years was about 24,000 bottles (2000 cases), but we have done close to seven times as much in the last year alone,” says Fairbrother.

Kurt’s ApplePie, the meadery’s top seller, won the gold metal at the 2013 Mazer Cup International and is made with Sunny Crest Farm apple cider with Madagascar-bourbon vanilla and Vietnamese cinnamon. Its sweetness is balanced by the tartness from the added cinnamon, and the vanilla lightens it up, says Fairbrother.

Desire, a sweet mead made with blueberries, black cherries and blackcurrants, is the company’s flagship mead and won first place in the New England Regional Homebrew Competition back in 2009. Fling is made with strawberry rhubarb and orange blossom honey and has a light tartness that balances the sweet with strawberry notes. “I suggest to customers to try it with a goat cheese salad,” says Fairbrother.

Coffee in Bed, a dessert-style mead with a rich, robust honey-note, was another award winner at the International Mazer Competition that goes well with dark chocolates, tiramisu and German Chocolate cake.

Sky River Meadery, a Washington-based meadery found in the Woodinville Winery District, has been open since 1997 and specializes in traditional meads and honey wines. “We only make mead,” says Denice Ingalls, President and Wine Maker at Sky River, “We keep it simple and approachable.”

SOLAS, the meadery’s flagship mead, is a tribute to Old World meads, says Ingalls. Using saturated, smokey 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.

The company’s 10 different meads – with nine currently available – range from a traditional Brochet mead that has a darker, richer quality – due to the honey being caramelized before fermentation – to the Ginger mead that has a sassy ginger note 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.



Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry Goes On Beyond Local


By Lorrie Baumann

It was 2008, and Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell had a problem, and it was a big one. In 2007, they’d fallen in love with, and then bought, the historic Beekman Mansion and its surrounding farmland in tiny Sharon Springs, New York, about 180 miles north of New York City, intending to use it as a weekend getaway spot. They could afford it then – Ridge was Martha Stewart Omnimedia’s Vice President of Healthy Living, and Kilmer-Purcell was a well-paid advertising executive. And then the Great Recession came for them, and both of them lost their jobs.

joshBrentHorizontalWhat they had at that point was a farm with a mortgage; not a whole lot of experience in actual farming, although both had grown up in rural America and knew more than many Americans about the intimate connection between food and dirt; their educations; creativity; and the drive to make their situation work. “We were kind of thrust into making the farm work,” Ridge said ruefully. Kilmer-Purcell wrote a book that details some of this, “The Bucolic Plague,” which became a best-seller on the strength of making it all sound very jolly.

They got some goats and started making goat milk soap along with a more experienced farmer that they call Farmer John. They invested the profits from their goat soap business into qualifying as a Grade A dairy, so that they could eventually make and sell cheese. They grew produce and took it to the farmers market.

Morgage Lifter Group Full ResThen in 2012, they took some of their Mortgage Lifter tomatoes, named because the varietal was so delicious that it became known as a sure-fire seller that could help a farmer pay off the mortgage, and turned them into Mortgage Lifter Heirloom Tomato Sauce, and Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry was born. Early on, they dedicated up to 25 percent of the profits from the sauce to help other small farms, through their Mortgage Lifter Program, which assists small family farms with a viable, future-focused, growth-oriented business strategy. The project has raised more than $40,000 so far for small farms.

Then Target picked up the sauce, and Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell took to their social media channels to ask people to buy it. It sold out within days. Around the same time, the partners entered and won Season 21 of “The Amazing Race,” which enabled them to pay off their mortgage.

Target asked for more product. Ridge, Kilmer-Purcell and Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry were on a roll.

They were, however, still living in tiny, rural Sharon Springs, New York, among neighbors who didn’t have a deal with Target and hadn’t won “The Amazing Race.” “We live in a very rural community, so we understood the struggles of small farms in our area,” Ridge said.

Part of what they understood is that their neighbors were growing produce that could be turned into the kinds of shelf-stable, high-quality products that interested Target, but they didn’t have the food processing capability to make those products, and that was leaving them out of the competition for most of the $640 billion dollars a year that Americans spend in the grocery store. “More farmers markets spring up every year, and they now represent about $1 billion in grocery revenue each year. Still, the majority of people are buying their groceries in the middle aisles in the grocery store,” Ridge said. “Going to the farmers markets is so hard that we knew that the needle wasn’t going to move much further unless farmers could get better representation in the middle store.”

The obstacle between farmers and the grocery store’s center aisles is the processing facility that turns seasonal produce into shelf-stable products that can be offered for sale year-round. “The path for getting a product to the shelf is really convoluted,” Ridge said. “Large manufacturers source ingredients from lots of different places. They source ingredients in vats, and then process and package. We were looking at how to insert the small farm into that process and claim a portion of that $640 billion.”

Some farmers have solved this problem by building processing facilities on their own farms, but that requires a capital investment that many are not able to make. Others have solved the problem by processing their products in rented kitchen spaces, including a growing number of publicly- and privately-financed incubator kitchen projects. But, of course, those aren’t available in every rural community. Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry went a third way.

Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell went looking for existing production facilities with available capacity. They had to be not too small, because Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry had to supply enough product to satisfy Target’s demand for national distribution. But they also had to be not too big, because Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell never lost sight of their idea that this was about a mission to help their neighbors, and they wanted to do business with manufacturers that would share that mission. “We feel like there’s a bigger mission to what we’re trying to accomplish, and accomplishing that mission requires the neighbors,” Ridge said. “We’re trying to help support as many craftspeople and entrepreneurs and local economies as possible and to figure out how to get the small farmer greater representation in the middle aisles of the grocery store.”

Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell undertook a nationwide search to find those manufacturers who’d agree to do small-batch processing for the products that Target wanted on its shelves with produce supplied by their local farmers. Casa Visco and Gatherer’s Granola, in Schenectady, New York, and Drew’s in Chester, Vermont, stepped up. So did Conifer, Inc. in Woodinville, Washington, and Dundee Fruit, in Dundee, Oregon. “It involves so much relationship management between everybody. The manufacturer has to agree to spend more time and maybe pay a little more. The farmer has to learn how to deal with the manufacturer. Target has to do the learning about how to make relationships with small manufacturers work,” Ridge said. “The result is a premium product that you’ve not seen before in mass retail. We’re really proud of this initial set of products…. When you taste the product, they really do taste like that product you bought at the farmer’s market. We’re using recipes for small batches and with fresher ingredients, and that’s the benefit of it.”

Target launched 48 Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry products in November exclusively at 250 Super Target stores and 650 Target Pfresh stores nationwide. The products rolled out to an additional 500 Target Pfresh stores in January. The range includes salsas, salad dressings, cooking sauces, condiments, baking mixes and seasoning blends. All products either contain ingredients sourced from small farms, are organic, GMO-free or a combination of the three. “We’re still a small goat dairy in upstate New York. That’s still our story and we’re just really passionate about helping other small farms tell that story as well, Ridge said. “They’re trying to save their own farms. We’re also invested in telling that story. That story is our story. So many companies try to tell an all-natural farming story.”


Country of Origin (COOL) Labeling Requirements Repealed

The American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) today commended Congress for approving legislation, as part of a $1.1 trillion spending package, which will suspend country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for certain muscle cuts of meat and avoid costly trade retaliation by Canada and Mexico.

The U.S. Senate today approved the measure by a vote of 65-33, following the bill’s passage in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier today by a vote of 316-113.

“AFFI commends Congress for passing legislation that fully repeals country-of-origin labeling for certain meat and poultry cuts, and protecting U.S. frozen food and beverage makers from costly retaliatory tariffs from America’s two largest export markets,” said AFFI Interim President Joseph Clayton.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) recently approved annual retaliatory tariff amounts of $1.01 billion, $781 million from Canada and $227.76 million from Mexico, which could have been imposed on U.S. exports if COOL was not repealed.  The approved tariff amounts follow a May 2015 WTO ruling that found COOL requirements to be in violation of the United States’ international trade obligations by treating Canadian and Mexican livestock less favorably than domestic livestock.

Kroger Completes Tender Offer of Shares of Roundy’s

The Kroger Co. and Roundy’s, Inc. today announced the successful completion of Kroger’s tender offer to purchase all outstanding shares of Roundy’s common stock for $3.60 per share in cash. The tender offer expired at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, on December 17, 2015.

Kroger expects to complete the acquisition of the remaining eligible Roundy’s shares not acquired in the tender offer later today through a merger under Section 251(h) of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware.

“This merger blends Roundy’s complementary markets with Kroger’s strengths in scale and merchandising. Our future together is bright, and we look forward to learning from each other as partners,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s Chairman and CEO. “Most of all, we want to welcome each of Roundy’s more than 22,000 associates to the Kroger family of stores.”

“We look forward to bringing together the best of Roundy’s and Kroger for our customers and associates,” said Bob Mariano, who will continue to lead Roundy’s as President and CEO. He has served as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Roundy’s since 2002. “Our merger with Kroger will help us continue to exceed our customers’ expectations.”

Following completion of the merger, Roundy’s shares will cease to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange, which is expected to take effect later today.

Quality You Can Trust from Ariston Specialties

Ariston’s new Saffron Infused Olive Oil combines Ariston award-winning select extra virgin olive oil with fragrant saAriston PF2ffron. Ariston’s Saffron Infused Olive Oil goes great with Paella and anything else that needs saffron.

Ariston’s Saffron Infused Olive Oil is one of 18 Ariston extra virgin olive oils and infused olive oils available through Ariston Specialties’ Fusti Refill and Save Program and its Fusti Freshly Poured Program. The line also includes Curry Infused Olive oil, Pesto Infused Olive oil and Truffle Infused Olive oil.

Ariston’s select Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Infused Olive Oil are produced by the company in Greece and tested three times before reaching your shelf to assure you and your customers that what you’re getting is real extra virgin olive oil. The Ariston program is versatile and can be implemented in your bakery, butcher, farm co-operative, specialty gourmet store, café – the sky is the limit.

For more information, call 860.224.7184.

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