Get Adobe Flash player

Kosherfest, World’s Largest Certifed Kosher Products Show, Opens Tuesday, Oct. 29, in Secaucus, N.J.

In 1989, kosher was a virtually non-existent food category.  It consisted of a group of mom/pop manufacturers and giants with kosher certification and little initiative to promote the category.  When Kosherfest was launched that year, most of the exhibitors were pushing products like gefilte fish, chopped liver, stuffed cabbage and kugel.

Fast forward to today.  Kosher is now very much an industry and a category that has gone far beyond its traditional base of kosher-observing Jews.  There are more than 200,000 kosher-certified products. At Kosherfest, the world’s largest kosher-certified products tradeshow (October 29 & 30 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, NJ) buyers will find everything from sushi to enchiladas to sausage.  Kosherfest celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

“Who would have believed that sushi would become a basic staple in restaurant, pizza parlors, and at catered events, or for that matter that nearly 20% of the show would tout gluten-free products?” said Menachem Lubinsky, the founder of Kosherfest, who co-produces the show with Diversified Business Communications.  “There was somewhat of a vision back then that perhaps kosher could be more than a certification; that it would emerge as a cuisine. Incredibly, kosher has reached that level and it is still rising.”

Kosherfest today hosts exhibitors from countries around the world, from Argentina to New Zealand, from South Africa to Israel.  Products at Kosherfest encompass kosher-certified foods and beverages for retail sale, and ingredients and prepared foods for foodservice, including wine and spirits.  The show gives manufacturers, distributors and suppliers of kosher-certified products and services the opportunity to reach thousands of mainstream and independent kosher trade buyers from across the globe.

For more information, including a complete schedule of events, visit www.kosherfest.com

Kroger Announces Next COO

The Kroger Co. today announced that Michael L. Ellis will be named President and Chief Operating Officer, effective January 1, 2014, completing the succession plan announced in September. The company expects its board of directors to elect Ellis President and COO at the next board meeting in December.

In September, Kroger announced its board of directors’ long-term CEO succession plan. David B. Dillon, 62, Kroger’s Chairman and CEO, will retire as CEO on January 1, 2014, and will continue to serve as Chairman through December 31, 2014. W. Rodney McMullen, 53, Kroger’s President and Chief Operating Officer, will become CEO on January 1, 2014.

Ellis, 55, has been serving in his current role as Senior Vice President of Retail Divisions since 2012, where he leads five retail supermarket divisions, plus Kroger’s jewelry and convenience store businesses. He previously served as President of Portland-based Fred Meyer – the company’s largest operating division by revenue – for six years.

“Mike’s broad-based experience on both the food and general merchandise sides of our business make him a great fit for this role,” said Dillon. “Mike is a team builder who will be a great partner with our entire leadership team. We look forward to his dynamic leadership of Kroger’s diverse operations.”

“Mike has been a key player in our strategic efforts for many years, including the expansion of Fred Meyer’s general merchandising expertise throughout the company and, more recently, our accelerated growth plan,” said McMullen. “His extensive knowledge spans our multiple formats and unique approaches to merchandising. Mike’s insistence on operational excellence and his willingness to push boundaries to improve the customer experience will ensure Kroger continues to grow and deliver shareholder value. Above all else, Mike brings a contagious enthusiasm for our associates and putting the customer first.”

Ellis is a 38-year Kroger veteran. He joined Fred Meyer in 1975 as a parcel clerk at age 16, and went on to serve in a series of operations and merchandising leadership positions in stores, division management and as a corporate officer. He was Vice President of Fred Meyer’s food group before joining The Kroger Co. as a senior officer in 2004. He returned to lead Fred Meyer as President in 2006, where he significantly improved and sustained associate engagement. Ellis played an influential role in the growth of the company’s successful Marketplace store format, which offers a wide assortment of general merchandise including home goods, toys and apparel in addition to full-service grocery and pharmacy departments.

“I am excited and honored for the opportunity to work with the tremendous leadership team at Kroger,” said Ellis. “I am committed to helping them deliver on Kroger’s high-velocity growth plan for our customers, associates and shareholders.”

Kroger, one of the world’s largest retailers, employs 343,000 associates who serve customers in 2,418 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith’s. The company also operates 783 convenience stores, 326 fine jewelry stores, 1,195 supermarket fuel centers and 37 food processing plants in the U.S. Recognized by Forbes as the most generous company in America, Kroger supports hunger relief, breast cancer awareness, the military and their families, and more than 30,000 schools and grassroots organizations. Kroger contributes food and funds equal to 200 million meals a year through more than 80 Feeding America food bank partners. A leader in supplier diversity, Kroger is a proud member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber’s Million Dollar Club.

Natural Grocers Teams with Oregon Food Bank to Help the Hungry During the Holidays

This holiday season, Oregon Food Bank and Natural Grocers are teaming up to provide hunger relief and emergency food for Portland-area families in need during the holidays. For every turkey purchased by customers of the Beaverton Natural Grocers store, the company will donate a 12-pound bird to Oregon Food Bank to add cheer in holiday food boxes.

“Natural Grocers will be donating high quality naturally-raised turkeys to Oregon families in need,” says Kemper Isely, Co-President of Natural Grocers. “The holidays are a special time of year for families, but can be especially difficult for families with limited resources. This buy one/give one free offer is a simple and effective way for our customers to help out another family in a healthy way.”

Oregon Food Bank will distribute the donated birds during the 2013 holiday season. In cases where a whole bird is not needed, or a vegetarian option is required, Natural Grocers has offered to donate $30 cash instead. The buy one/give one free turkey offer is part of Natural Grocers’ ongoing commitment to providing emergency food relief across the nation. The company donates five cents to Oregon Food Bank each time local customers check out using their own reusable bags, and runs a donation campaign for two months each year with a healthy $50,000 dollar-for-dollar match. In addition, all excess and distressed food items are donated to local food banks.

The need for emergency food remains at record high levels across the U.S. – and particularly in Oregon. In an average month, an estimated 270,000 people in Oregon and Clark County, Wash., eat meals from an emergency food box.

“We are happy to have a new local grocery partner to help to support our efforts,” said Susannah Morgan, Oregon Food Bank’s CEO. “Natural Grocers has a long history of providing both food and cash donations to food banks across our country. It’s a good example of how a grocer can involve communities across the country to help neighbors in need. And it’s a good reminder that ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference by becoming involved with their communities to raise awareness and take action.”

Krysti Weddle, manager of the Natural Grocers store in Beaverton, reminds customers that turkeys need to be pre-ordered now, well in advance of Thanksgiving. “These are not hard-frozen birds from factory farms. They are naturally raised without antibiotics or growth promoters, and they are delivered just-in-time. Customers who want to take advantage of the buy one/give free one turkey offer need to reserve a turkey now at the store or on our web site. We’ll take care of the rest.” The turkey pre-ordering page can be found at http://www.naturalgrocers.com/store-locations/beaverton-oregon/OR/turkeys.

Natural Grocers offers only natural and organic products on its shelves. Shoppers will find only USDA-certified organic produce and meats from animals raised naturally without the use of antibiotics or hormones. The affordable grocery chain also offers an extensive natural dietary supplement and body care department, and a large selection of gluten-free and other products for special diets.

Natural Grocers has some of the highest standards for a grocer in the country, and is equally as well known for what it does not sell: it will not carry foods that contain artificial ingredients such as colors, sweeteners, flavors, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, antibiotics, hormones, or produce grown with synthetic pesticides. (See: “What We Won’t Sell and Why.”)

Beaverton Natural Grocers is open Monday through Saturday from 8:56 a.m. to 8:04 p.m. On Sunday the store will be open from 9:56 a.m. to 7:06 p.m.

About Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage (NGVC), founded in Colorado by Margaret &Philip Isely in 1955, was built on the premise that consumers should have access to affordable, high-quality foods and dietary supplements, along with nutrition knowledge to help them support their own health. The family-run store has since grown into a successful national chain with locations across Colorado, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico,Montana, Kansas, Idaho, Nebraska, Arizona and Oregon—employing more than 2,000 people.  The company went public in July 2012; however, Isely family members continue to manage the company, building on the foundation of their parents’ business. Natural Grocers’ popularity and success can be traced back to its founding principles: providing customers with high quality products at every day affordable prices. See store for details on buy one/give one free turkey offer.

 

Grocery-Anchored Shopping Centers Change Hands

Phillips Edison–ARC Shopping Center REIT Inc. has announced the acquisition of two grocery-anchored shopping centers. These acquisitions added the first Schnucks grocery store-anchored shopping center, and a Cub Foods grocery store-anchored shopping center to the company’s portfolio and expand the company’s presence in Minnesota and Iowa.

Cahill Plaza is a 69,000 square foot shopping center located in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis, approximately 20 miles southeast of the city. The shopping center is anchored by a 52,017 square foot Cub Foods grocery store. Cub Foods is the No. 1 traditional grocer by market share in the greater Minneapolis area.

Duck Creek Plaza is a 134,229 square foot shopping center located in Bettendorf, Iowa, part of the Quad Cities bordering Iowaand Illinois. The shopping center is anchored by a 63,706 square foot Schnucks grocery store, one of the largest privately owned grocers in the Midwest. In addition to the Schnucks grocery store anchor, Duck Creek Plaza also features a 28,270 square foot Marshall’s store.

With the acquisitions of Cahill Plaza and Duck Creek Plaza, the Phillips Edison-ARC current portfolio is comprised of interests in 61 properties anchored by 26 leading grocers in 21 states, with an aggregate portfolio purchase price of approximately $885 million.

 

NestFresh Awarded First Non-GMO Project Verified Seal for Full Line of Nationally Distributed Egg Products

 

NF_Non-GMO_Brown_1NestFresh cage-free eggs is the first nationally distributed egg line to receive the Non-GMO Project Verified seal from the Non-GMO Project, a third party certification program that assures a product has been produced according to consensus-based best practices for GMO (genetically modified organism) avoidance. NestFresh (a division of Hidden Villa Ranch) is also the only egg brand to offer liquid and dry egg products that are also Non-GMO Project Verified.

To achieve non-GMO egg status, NestFresh chickens are fed non-GMO feed consisting of corn and soybeans, which are the most at risk for GMOs. The non-GMO corn and soybean feed is costly due to the limited amounts available. There is a routine schedule for the non-GMO feed to be tested and approved by the Non-GMO Project. On the non-GMO diet the chickens produce non-GMO eggs.

This unprecedented commitment to non-GMO verification by NestFresh is currently impacting approximately 400 acres of non-GMO corn and 380 acres of non-GMO soybeans. NestFresh is looking to expand its non-GMO impact by attracting more retailers, manufacturers and food service customers to the brand.

NestFresh works with multiple small farms across the country in a co-op system, providing more opportunities for family farmers so they can be competitive with larger companies.

“Non-GMO farming has a major environmental impact not only on the eggs we produce for NestFresh but also for my family that lives on the farm and for our entire community,” says Joseph Kropf, who is part of a Mennonite group of farmers in Tampico, Ill. “We grow and mill the corn in our community so low pesticide usage is important to us.”

This year, Whole Foods Market honored Hidden Villa Ranch for its private label version of NestFresh’s Non-GMO Project Verified eggs called Nature Fed (that are sold to Whole Foods Market exclusively), calling their commitment to non-GMO verification and supply chain development “groundbreaking.” For Whole Foods Market the non-GMO Nature Fed cage free eggs are helping them reach their self-proclaimed 2018 goal of becoming the first national grocery chain with total GMO transparency.

According to a recent report by Packaged Facts called, “Non-GMO Foods: U.S. Market Perspective,” products that do not contain GMOs will account for 30 percent of U.S. food and beverage sales by 2017.

The Non-GMO Project third-party verification program was launched in 2008 as an initiative of independent natural foods retailers who were interested in providing their customers with more information regarding the GMO risk of their products. For details on the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, visit: http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/understanding-our-seal

NestFresh cage-free and free-range eggs are Non-GMO Project Verified and available nationwide (MSRP: $3.49-$4.99). For distribution information call 877-241-8385; for more on the NestFresh brand visit: www.nestfresh.com.

 

Effortless Sunday Brunch

By Lorrie Baumann

With a very little advance planning, you can pull off a post-coital Sunday brunch that’s nearly effortless in its execution. The key to this is a lovely quiche from La Terra Fina, which has brought out a new line of ready-to-bake quiches in three varieties, all made from egg whites, so you won’t undo the healthy effects of a night of orgasmic passion with a dose of artery-clogging cholesterol. Put one of these gorgeous quiches in the toaster oven for a bit less than half an hour and then set it out on the table with a bowl of fresh raspberries and you’re almost there.

If you’re particular about your coffee, and who isn’t, look for one of the quality coffees bearing the Harvested by Women label that assures you that a fair share of the price you paid for the beans is going back to the women who would otherwise be powerless to fight sexist oppression in the poverty-stricken Third World areas where much of the world’s coffee is cultivated. You probably already have a coffee maker that produces a brew you like from these excellent beans, but if you don’t, the good folks at Kitchenware News can help you decide which of the many on the market is right for you.

Set out your quiche and coffee with a bowl of fresh raspberries (Driscoll’s is a brand that will assure you that you’re getting some of the best.), and a basket of muffins you baked from a Robert Rothschild mix, and you’ve served a brunch that will convince your lover that you’re definitely a keeper.

Improvisational Italian: Actor Louis Lombardi Introduces New Italian Food Line

By Lorrie Baumann

_MG_0005_ll_Louis Lombardi is a character actor who is best known as Agent Skip Lipari from The Sopranos. Lombardi has also had guest roles on Entourage, Heroes and CSI. His film work includes roles in Beer League, Natural Born Killers and Spiderman II. Lombardi has publicly stated his opinion that acting success is 10 percent about acting and 90 percent about hustling. In this spirit, he has turned the energy and ambition that led to his success as an actor toward the launch of a new line of pastas, pasta sauces, olives and olive oils named—what else?—Lombardi’s.

Lombardi recently took the time to speak with Gourmet News about the Lombardi’s product line in an interview he managed to fit in between lunch and picking his daughter up from school. We would present that interview to you in classic question-and-answer format, except that once you get Louis Lombardi started talking about food, you don’t really need to ask any questions. He will just tell you what you want to know. And he speaks so fluently and eloquently that you do not want to interrupt the flow.

“I cook like I’m an actor,” Lombardi says. “I like to improvise.” He adds, “I’m one of these guys who will spend ten hours in the kitchen cooking and cleaning.”

When it comes to the topic of meatballs, Lombardi varies from his grandmother’s recipe, making them from organic ground chicken and baking them instead of frying. “I sauté up some garlic and grill some onions and mushrooms, and then I add cilantro, fresh Parm, some mozzarella inside the meatballs. Roll them in panko and bake them with a little rosemary and garlic-infused olive oil on the baking pan so they absorb the flavor from the oil and get the crunch from the panko,” he said. “Don’t be stealing my recipe. I like to put garlic oil on the bottom, on the baking pan, and then [on] the meatballs, and then drizzle a little rosemary oil on top. Bake them up, and then keep them for the week. Put them in the sauce when you only have a few minutes to make a meal. My mother’s a true Italian…When she ate my meatballs, that’s what she talks about. They’re like her favorite thing now.”

Lombardi’s cooking style is all about using quality ingredients to cook modern, healthier versions of his Italian family favorites on the weekends and then organizing those into meal components from which he can improvise home-cooked meals after work on weekdays. He likes to make 20 or 30 pizza crusts at a time and store them in the freezer. He can then pull them out as he needs them and bake them topped with whatever he has on hand in the refrigerator.

“My favorite thing to cook is pizzas. I make 20 or 30 different kinds of pizza,” he says. “Pizza is dinner on an edible dish. Whatever you’d eat from a plate, you can put on a pizza.” That means southern fried chicken pizza, bacon and egg pizza for breakfast, even “grilled cheese with bacon and tomato pizza with cheese sauce, little bit of butter, little bit of garlic, cheese, chop up some bacon.” Lombardi’s southern fried chicken pizza is made with baked chicken cutlets, green onions, a little Tabasco sauce and southern gravy. Lombardi says, “Pizza is like a blank page. It’s like, ‘What can I write on this thing? What can I add to make this great?’”

Don’t feel like pizza? How about a pork chop? Lombardi prepares “pork chops pounded out thin and then stuffed with three or four different cheeses. Bake for 20 minutes, and then what you have is that gooey cheese between pork. Put in some hot pepper or mango chutney. You try that.”

Too early for dinner? How about lunch? “If I want a lunch, I get a healthy, nice lunch. Make three, four, five things on Sunday. Make some chicken cutlets and use them through the week,” Lombardi says. “Next week maybe eggplant, next maybe chicken meatballs, maybe a chicken salad. I’ll make grilled chicken breast, put them in the Tupperware. Then one day, you come home for lunch, chop up one with a little mayo, a little dill—you have a healthy lunch in five minutes. Maybe a pizza—garlic, oil, grilled chicken, maybe a little cilantro pesto, some mozzarella, maybe not even a sauce. It’s like a baked open sandwich, a cool meal that you would eat in a restaurant.”

_MG_9747_ll_publicityLombardi’s new line of retail food products comes out of that same insistence that food should taste good, that it should be healthy and that it should be a bonding experience for families. The line includes five kinds of pastas, olive oils and olives imported from Calabria, as well as pasta sauces made in New York from ingredients imported from Italy. They have all been extensively taste-tested by people whose opinion he respects as well as by members of the general public. “The marinara and vodka sauces are the two best sauces on the market,” Lombardi says. “I guarantee it.”

Lombardi says that this is food that he would feed his seven-year-old daughter, who is in the kitchen with him all the time “It’s for regular people. That’s what I am,” he says. “I want to be more for the regular person.”

Lombardi expects to have his online retail site for the products up and running within a few weeks, and he is currently seeking a distributor to put his products in stores. “I want to be in every market,” he says.

Once the products have reached the marketplace, Lombardi hopes that families will gather with them around the dinner table, the way that his Bronx Italian family gathered around the table every night with whoever else happened to be around at the time. “Don’t eat poison fast foods. Sit down with your kids. Spend $10 at the market, and put down a real meal, and talk to your kids,” he says. “It’s almost like a movement I’m trying to create. Sit down with your kids and make them a healthy meal. I believe that. I believe that children are the most important thing. I think food is the biggest bonding thing. Whether you’re fighting or whatever, everyone likes to eat.”

Emmi Roth USA Announces Marquee Sponsorship of Fifth Annual Wisconsin Cheese Originals Festival

For the second year in a row, Emmi Roth USA is supporting the Annual Wisconsin Cheese Originals Festival as a marquee sponsor. Hosted by Wisconsin Cheese Originals, a member-based organization dedicated to celebrating Wisconsin artisan cheeses and cheesemakers, the festival will be held Nov. 1-2 in Madison, Wis.

Themed “The Arrival of American Artisan Cheese,” the festival offers attendees the opportunity to meet more than 40 artisan cheesemakers during two days of tours, seminars, dinners and the popular Meet the Cheesemaker Gala on Friday, Nov. 1 at Monona Terrace.

Emmi Roth Grand Cru OriginalEmmi Roth USA Cheesemaker Israel Gonzalez will be at the gala serving samples of Roth® specialties including Grand Cru® Original, Grand Cru® Reserve, GranQueso®, Buttermilk Blue® and Moody Blue. Plant Manager and Cheese Guru Robert Frie will co-host a cheesemaker dinner with Chris Roelli of Roelli Cheese at The Old Fashioned on Saturday night.

“We are proud to have helped lay the groundwork for the rise of the specialty cheese industry in Wisconsin over the last 20 years,” said Steve Millard, president and CEO of Emmi Roth USA. “Wisconsin Cheese Originals shares our passion for specialty cheeses and we are thrilled to sponsor their festival, which brings together Wisconsin cheesemakers and cheese enthusiasts to celebrate our state’s vibrant cheesemaking industry.”

Visit www.wicheesefest.com for more information or to purchase tickets.

Product Review: SousVide Supreme Brings Celebrated Cooking Technique to the Masses

By Lucas Witman

SousVideSupreme-PRFew culinary techniques are as trendy right now as sous vide cookery. Peruse the menu at almost any fine dining restaurant in the country, and you are almost certain to find meats, vegetables and even eggs that have been prepared using this method. Celebrated chefs such as Joël Robuchon, Thomas Keller and Ferran Adrià have endowed sous vide cooking with an almost mythic air of haute cuisine through their impassioned support of the technique. However, since its inception, this technique has been reserved primarily for professionals, as the equipment used to conduct it (often repurposed laboratory thermal immersion circulators) is expensive and difficult to obtain. This is changing today, however, as kitchenwares company SousVide Supreme is finally bringing sous vide cooking to the masses.
Sous vide cooking is a particular method of slowly poaching foods at a steady, relatively low temperature. Foods are sealed in airtight plastic bags (often vacuum-sealed), where they are submerged in a water bath. Sous vide meats in particular retain a succulence that is often lost through conventional cooking methods. In addition, cooking tougher cuts of meat at a low temperature for a long time tenderizes them.
As an admitted connoisseur of kitchen gadgets and appliances, learning about the existence of SousVide Supreme’s home kitchen sous vide cooking equipment immediately piqued my interest. I was curious to find out if I could in fact use this appliance to recreate sous vide dishes from some of my favorite restaurants.
Upon receiving the equipment, I immediately knew what item I wanted to cook first in my SousVide Supreme. At a favorite local Italian restaurant, the chef has re-imagined the traditional bacon-and-eggs pasta dish, spaghetti carbonara, by putting something he calls a “perfect egg” on top. When the dish hits the table, one mixes the delicately poached egg into the pasta, and it forms the sauce for the dish. It did not take much coaxing from the chef to get his recipe for the perfect egg: He sous vides an egg in its shell for 45 minutes at exactly 145°.
The SousVide Supreme could not be easier to use. One simply fills the large metal water oven (there are fill level markings inscribed on it) and inputs the desired temperature and, if desired, cooking time. The machine quickly heats the water to the specific cooking temperature, where it is kept perfectly steady. An alarm sounds when the desired cooking time has been reached. Simply remove the cooked food from the water bath and enjoy.
My first attempt at creating a “perfect egg” was an immediate success. The low and slow cooking method creates a smooth, luxurious, delicately poached egg that practically disappeared into my pasta dish. One could also use the SousVide Supreme to create delicious poached eggs for eggs benedict or for use as a topper in a hearty soup. I doubt I will ever again poach an egg in the traditional manner.
In addition to the water oven itself, SousVide Supreme offers an extensive line of cooking equipment that completes the sous vide cooking experience. A zip sealer enables one to carefully seal plastic bags for submersion, while a vacuum sealer does the same thing, simultaneously removing all air from the bag. SousVide Supreme also offers an array of cooking pouches, sous vide seasonings, cookbooks and other accessories.
Already satisfied with my perfect egg, I then decided to use the equipment to cook some vacuum packed vegetables. Using the SousVide Supreme Vacuum Sealer and Vacuum Seal Pouches is practically foolproof. I filled a bag with chopped carrots and winter squash, added a couple pats of butter and some seasoned salt and positioned the top of the bag in the Vacuum Sealer. One simply clicks down on a latch, holding the bag in place, and presses a button. The machine then removes all the air from the bag and seals it tight. In a matter of seconds, my bag was ready to be placed in the SousVide Supreme water oven.
When doing sous vide cooking, one needs to be patient. Cooking my vegetables in the SousVide Supreme took two hours. I know that I could have boiled the vegetables in less than a quarter of the time. However, the results were worth the wait. The vegetables came out perfectly tender and cooked completely evenly. And by cooking them in a vacuum-sealed pouch, they were infused with the flavors of the butter and spices with which they were cooked. It was truly a home run.
The SousVide Supreme is destined to become a staple in my kitchen. And with the holidays coming up, I am excited to have a new gift to present to the many foodies in my life who, like me, think they already have everything they could need in their kitchens. Chance are, they don’t have this.

Culinary Collective Celebrates 15 Years of Spanish, Peruvian Imports

By Jazmine Woodberry

CulinaryCollective-SDGourmet importer Culinary Collective celebrated its 15th anniversary in September, marking a decade and a half of importing goods from Spain and bringing them to the taste buds of eaters stateside.
The business started as a hobby for Betsy Power and her business partner, Pere Selles, after relocating from Spain to Seattle so Power could attend graduate school.
“We moved and realized there wasn’t any good food from Spain in the Northwest,” Power said. “And we ended up starting at the right time. The commercial offices from Spain were really promoting wines from Spain then, and people were asking, ‘Well, what do I eat with those wines?’” That’s where Culinary Collective came in.
First a small business with a couple vendors, Culinary Collective now works with more than 30 vendors distributing more than 140 different products, many of which fall under the Matiz España line, which focuses on traditional Spanish ingredients like olive oil, paella rice and spices.
The Matiz España line launched in 2003 as a Culinary Collective brand used to promote and showcase the vendors behind the products. “Having one brand made a lot of sense from a marketing and financial standpoint, while allowing us to highlight the vendors and connect them to the consumers,” Power said.
After the bump in the exchange rate in 2006 and 2007, Culinary Collective pushed to incorporate Latin American items into its offerings. “When the exchange rate started going crazy, we expanded into Latin America using our same model—small producers, native foods. We weren’t looking to replace items from Spain but to use our same model in a new region,” Power said. “We bounced around and landed on Peru because there’s so much food diversity in Peru. It’s one of the most diverse food cultures in the world next to Mexico.”
This push brought to light the Zócalo Gourmet line, which marks the company’s expansion to South America. Zócalo Gourmet features Peruvian vendors powering a collection of all-natural foods such as grains, flours, beans and chili pastes.
“When we turned to Peru, we wanted to have a completely different brand and a different division,” To the delight of both Power, who suffers from celiac disease, and others with gluten sensitivity, the line contains only naturally gluten-free items.
Culinary Collective uses strict sourcing criteria to ensure that their products are all-natural and that their producers are rooted in their communities and operate under a fair trade model.
However, Power said what truly sets Culinary Collective apart from others is focusing on foods native to the countries from which they are importing. “A lot of importers bring in such things as piquillo peppers and white asparagus from Peru and it’s had an impact on Spanish vendors,” she said. “We wanted to focus on such items as kañiwa, purple corn, and aji or chili peppers—items that are native to Peru.”
The company’s expansion has spread to Culinary Collective customers as well, as the importer has branched out from importing select products to Seattle to serving customers throughout the United States and Canada. Through September 2014, Culinary Collective will be highlighting and promoting different vendors monthly to commemorate this milestone. Providing foods through both direct sales to retailers and through distributors, Culinary Collective will be going over each region’s vendors with a fine tooth comb and allowing retailers and consumers to access a passport-style voyage through Spain and Peru via Culinary Collective foods.
“The hard part is getting the products into the American market,” Power said. “Our resources are very limited, and competition is very high. I would like to let our customers know about our mission and why we’ve chosen each vendor and product and why they should purchase it. Consumers are really ready for that message and we could do a better job of making that known and getting customers on board, [as well as] working with the sales staff at the retail level to help promote these products.”