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A Community of Cheese and Wine

By Lorrie Baumann

JGE_6496 for webWith just three tables inside the 900 square foot store and a few more out on the sidewalk outside when weather permits, Marché has become a gathering place for local residents who make it a place to meet during lunch breaks or a stop for a glass of wine and a cheese plate while they’re on their round of the nearby shops in Glen Ellyn’s historic downtown. “We definitely have customers for whom this is their spot,” says Founder Jill Foucré, who opened the store in November, 2015, as an offshoot of Marcel’s Culinary Experience, the kitchenware store two doors down the block that she opened in 2011.

In the cheese cases that took the place of clothing racks after Foucré bought the former clothing store and gutted it to make her specialty cheese shop, Marché regularly offers about 100 cheeses. About half of them are imported, but for the domestic half of the selection, General Manager Daniel Sirko emphasizes the world-class cheeses made in Illinois’ neighboring states. He’s made his entire career in the specialty food business, opening Pastoral, Chicago’s iconic cheese and charcuterie shop, and then moving on to operating in a couple of foodservice establishments before he got a phone call from Foucré, who asked him to come and help her open a cheese shop in Glen Ellyn. “We seek out farmstead artisan cheeses when we can,” he says. “If there’s a cheddar from California or Wisconsin, we’re more likely to go with the Wisconsin cheese.” About half the cheeses in the case belong to a core that Sirko keeps in stock year-round, while the remainder are more seasonal.

_VJP8646The store’s single best seller, though, does come from California. It’s Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog. “It’s so recognizable, and so delicious,” Sirko says. The store also offers a range of Manchego cheeses, and those are very popular, as are triple cremes and a house-made pimento cheese. During the summertime, Marché makes its own mozzarella from curd purchased from a New Jersey dairy.

The cheese selection is augmented by a selection of artisanal charcuterie, olives and tapenades, locally made chocolates and breadsticks and a selection of small-production wines that can’t be found in the town’s specialty wine shop. The shop pours seven or eight by the glass and offers a free tasting every Tuesday in a pairing with a complementary cheese. “The popularity of the wine selection has been a happy surprise,” Foucré says. “We sell a lot of wine.”

Marché’s proximity to Marcel’s, a store that already had a loyal following, meant that Marché had interested customers from the day it opened. There’s still some overlap of the two stores’ customer bases, but each also has its own community within the commuter suburb with a population of about 27,000 relatively affluent residents about 45 minutes west of downtown Chicago. It’s conveniently close to the Metra train line that offers a simple connection to the city for the population of young homeowners drawn to Glen Ellyn by its location in DuPage County rather than Chicago’s Cook County. DuPage County offers good schools, while Glen Ellyn boasts upscale neighborhoods of very community-oriented residents. “People grow up here. They leave. They come back,” Foucré says.

That’s been good for Marcel’s, Marché and other downtown small businesses because it’s also a population that’s supportive of local small businesses, Foucré says. “People get that if they don’t shop here, if they send their dollars online, we won’t be here,” she says. The small business community, in turn, supports the Alliance of Downtown Glen Ellyn and the city’s Chamber of Commerce, which are very active in promoting concerts in the park, art festivals and other special events that bring visitors from around Chicago’s metropolitan area as well as local residents out to enjoy the small town ambiance while they patronize the antique shops, book store, clothing boutique and small cafes as well as Marcel’s and Marché.

_VJP9071Marché itself draws two kinds of typical customers, although these come in all ages. There are those who come to buy cheese out of the case to take it home and cook with it or to make a cheese board for their entertaining and those who’ve made the store the gathering place where they meet their friends. “That customer wants us to have more tables and sees us as a quasi-restaurant/cafe,” Foucré says. Both of these kinds of customers rely on Marché to offer them catered cheese boards. These come in four different sizes, serving from five or six up to 40 to 50. They’re served on cherry wood boards that come back to the store when the cheeses and accompaniments have been consumed. “They’re 100 percent complete when you get them,” Foucré says. “People get them for their book club or for the dinner party they’re having.”

Those who are choosing their own cheeses can count on the assistance of Marché’s seven employees, each of whom is very knowledgeable about the store’s wares. During fall, winter and spring, the shop also offers evening classes, and Marché and Marcel’s encourage their respective customers to get to know more about the sister shop by hosting the occasional joint class with a cooking lesson that incorporates cheese and perhaps a wine pairing.

The class schedule is suspended in summertime, when Marché offers extended hours, and there isn’t room in the shop for simultaneous classes and regular retail service. Those extended hours are critical to customers who stop in at the shop to pick up their picnic baskets on their way to an evening concert in the park, either in Glen Ellyn itself or a train ride away in Chicago. The Metra line serving Glen Ellyn cooperates by allowing riders to enjoy their picnic and bottle of wine on the train. “We’re looking to make the on-the-go part accessible for people,” Foucré says. “”So many people take the train…. People have really embraced that.”

She adds, “There will be events throughout the summer that it will be nice to take a picnic box to – and a bottle of wine.”

Lunch Boxable Snacks for Millennial Parents

By Lorrie Baumann

The oldest members of the Millennial Generation are now in their mid-30s, which means that a great many of them have become parents who now have school-age children. That simple calculation has the food industry scrambling to provide products that those parents will feel comfortable about packing into their kids’ lunch boxes.

As one example, Creative Snacks Co., which just won a 2017 sofi award best new product in the savory snacks category for its Organic Coconut Snacks with Cranberries, Cashews, Almonds, and Chia Seeds, also offers Baked Almond Clusters in five flavors that include various combinations of dried fruit, nuts and seeds for a snack the company is marketing as “Real Good, Feel Good Snacks.” The Almond Clusters are made in small batches and offer a 28-day shelf life. The 4-ounce bag retails for $3.99. The company is also launching 1-ounce, 2.75-ounce and 3.5-ounce snack packs, so there’s a range of sizes that will work in lunches.

GoodnessKNOWS Snack Squares are a similar product that amps up the sweetness with more fruit and dark chocolate. Four bite-size snack squares are packaged together into a bar-sized pack with a 150 calorie count that retails for about $1.49. There are currently six flavors, with five more scheduled to launch in 2018. The current offering includes top-seller Cranberry & Almond, Strawberry & Peanut and Mixed Berry & Almond, each of them combining fruit, whole nuts and dark chocolate. Next year’s launches will be nut varieties without fruit, which will amp up the protein and lower sugar. The snack squares are non-GMO and gluten free, and they contain no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners. They’re offered in 12-count singles cartons and 5-count multipacks.

Cheesewich, which is a product with two slices of high-quality cheese from Burnett Dairy sandwiched around a slice of deli meat, is currently offered in four varieties: Cheddar Jack Cheese & Hard Salami, Colby Jack Cheese & Hard Salami, Provolone Cheese & Hard Salami and Pepper Jack Cheese & Hard Salami. They’re packaged in a 2.5-ounce single-serving that’s vacuum sealed for a refrigerated 12-month shelf life. Each offers 14 to 16 grams of protein and is gluten free.CHW_Caddie_Slices

This fall, Cheesewich will launch Bacon N Eggs, a gas-flushed vacuum-sealed package of two hard-cooked eggs and turkey bacon. The packaging offers grocers a 60-day shelf life, and the product will retail for somewhere around $2.59.

G.H. Cretors, better known for its popcorn, just launched Hi I’m Skinny vegetable sticks with a front-of-label claim of 100 calories in each 0.71-ounce single-serving bag. There are three varieties: Sweet Onion, Sweet Potato and Sea Salt. The Sweet Onion and Sea Salt varieties are made with quinoa and whole grain corn meal, and each offers 2 grams of protein and 140 calories per serving. The Sweet Potato variety is made with rice flour and offers 1 gram of protein and 140 calories per serving. Individual packs will retail for 99 cents to $1.49.

The company also makes Hi I’m Skinny Protein Snacks in a Mesquite BBQ flavor that offers 5 grams of protein in a 140-calorie serving and Hi I’m Skinny Superfood Sticks in a Mean & Green flavor that includes green pea flour, kale powder and spinach powder in a snack that offers 2 grams of protein in a 130-calorie serving.

H&O-blueberry-6ct-boxNature’s Bakery, which markets “Energy for Life’s Great Journeys,” is offering Organic Brownies in twin packs that are packaged as six twin packs per box. Flavors are Double Chocolate, Cool Mint and Salted Caramel. The company also offers several flavors of Oat Bars that combine oats with various fruits or organic honey. These are also packed in boxes of six twin packs and retail for $4.99 per box. All of these feature the USDA Organic seal on the front and top of the package.

One bar of the Honey & Oat bars has 60 calories with 10 from fat and contains 6 grams of sugar. The Organic Brownies, made with stoneground whole wheat flour and organic cane sugar syrup, have about 70 calories per brownie, depending on the flavor, and 6 grams of sugar.

SunRidge Farms, makers of organic and natural foods, has just launched its all natural kids mix at the Sweets & Snacks Show in May. The all natural kids mix combines almonds, peanuts, raisins, apples, milk chocolate, peanut butter cups and milk chocolate rainbow drops for a snack that offers 4 grams of protein per serving and is a good source of minerals with low sodium. There are no trans fats or hydrogenated oils, and the kids mix contains no artificial ingredients. The milk chocolate for the rainbow drops is made with certified Fair Trade Cocoa, and it’s non-GMO. Kids mix is offered in bulk cases for parents to package themselves for those lunch boxes.

Cherry MangoFinally, You Love Fruit Leather has come up with a healthier alternative to mass market fruit leathers with You Love Fruit and You Love Veggies leathers made with 100 percent fruit and vegetables, so they’re gluten free, USDA organic, kosher and non-GMO. The leathers are offered in Mango, Mango Coconut, Apple Cinnamon, Pomberry Acai, Tart Peach, Passion Fruit Punch, Key Lime as well as others, and Carrot & Chia Seed, Spinach & Kale and Spiced Beet Root flavors for the You Love Veggies. They’re packaged in 2-serving bags with 45-50 calories per serving. One-ounce packages retail for about $1.99.

Enjoy Life Foods Tantalizes Taste Buds with Three New Baked Chewy Bars

Enjoy Life Foods is launching three new flavors joining its line of Baked Chewy Bars: Caramel Blondie, Carrot Cake and Lemon Blueberry Poppy Seed. The launch follows Enjoy Life’s steadfast portfolio expansion across multiple aisles of the grocery store as it fuels the growth of the Free-From industry, which is projected to reach $20 billion by 2020.

“The foundation of our brand is to give the millions of people with food allergies quality products, but it’s equally as important that our offerings are delicious with knockout flavors that today’s shoppers will gravitate towards,” said Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Joel Warady. “Our new Baked Chewy Bars are crafted with innovative ingredients that are perfect for the health-conscious consumer, and the authentic flavors are great options for breakfast, a mid-day snack or a post-dinner indulgence. From bars to baking mixes, we’re taking over the center aisles so when people see our logo they know that they’re getting a superior product without the worry of what’s inside.”

The new Baked Chewy Bars are packed with pure and simple ingredients, featuring real inclusions and a proprietary Pure Life Balanced Dry Blend™ (hulled sunflower kernels, cassava flour, white pearled-grain sorghum flour, quinoa flakes). As with all Enjoy Life products, the new bars are made in a dedicated nut-free and gluten-free bakery, are certified gluten free, Non-GMO Project Verified, kosher- and halal-certified, and are free-from the top eight common food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy.

They’re offered in three flavors. Caramel Blondie offers the sweet sensation of caramel bits and chocolate chips in every bite, while Carrot Cake brings sweet and spicy flavor notes derived from real shredded carrots, hull-roasted pumpkin seeds and California raisins. Lemon Blueberry Poppy Seed offers tangy and light lemon combined with bold blueberry,

The new Baked Chewy Bars will ship to natural and conventional retail stores in July with a retail price of $4.29 per carton. Each carton contains five 1.15-ounce bars, an increase from the original line’s 1-ounce sizes.

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