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CrossCountry Marketing Signs New Lines

Sharon Britton, owner of CrossCountry Marketing, a specialty food broker located in Central Virginia, is now partnered with Straw Propeller, GalloLea Pizza Kits, World of Chia, and Red Truck Beef Jerky. Britton and her team are excited about adding these outstanding food lines to their list of other exceptional lines represented by the company. A complete list of food lines can be viewed at www.xcmarketing.com. For questions or inquiries, contact Sharon at sharon@xcmarketing.com.

Safeway-Albertsons to Merge

Safeway Inc. and Albertsons have announced a definitive agreement under which AB Acquisition LLC  will acquire all outstanding shares of Safeway. The merger agreement was unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of Safeway.

AB Acquisition is the owner of Albertson’s LLC and New Albertson’s, Inc. and is controlled by a Cerberus Capital Management, L.P.-led investor group, which also includes Kimco Realty Corporation, Klaff Realty LP, Lubert-Adler Partners LP, and Schottenstein Stores Corporation.

Safeway shareholders are expected to receive total value estimated at $40 per share.

Albertsons’ Chief Executive Officer Bob Miller stated, “This transaction offers us the opportunity to better serve customers by adapting more quickly to evolving shopping preferences in diverse regions across the country. It also brings together two great organizations with talented management teams. Robert Edwards and his team have done an outstanding job in positioning Safeway’s core business for success, by investing in its stores and creating innovative strategic marketing programs that contribute to shareholder value. Working together will enable us to create cost savings that translate into price reductions for our customers. Together, we will be able to respond to local needs more quickly and deliver outstanding products at the lowest possible price, more efficiently than ever before.”

“This merger is one of several actions we have taken in recent months as a result of our strategic business review. The combined value of the transactions described above is expected to deliver a premium to Safeway’s shareholders of 72 percent from one year ago, and 56 percent over the share price six months ago,” said Robert Edwards, President & Chief Executive Officer of Safeway Inc. “Safeway has been focused on better meeting shoppers’ diverse needs through local, relevant assortment, an improved price/value proposition and a great shopping experience that has driven improved sales trends. We are excited about continuing this momentum as a combined organization. We look forward to working with Bob Miller and the rest of the Albertsons team as we proceed together on a path towards becoming an even stronger organization.”

Best Premium Hot Teas Named

The North American Tea Championship (NATC)  has named the 22 best, premium hot teas from the fall 2013 harvest. The evaluation was held Feb. 20-21 in Las Vegas, Nev., and all of the high-quality winning teas are commercially available in the marketplace.

Companies that took home an esteemed first-place award include: Black Tusk Trading; Florapharm Tea; Garden to Cup Organics Ltd.; International Tea Importers, Mountain Tea; Naivetea; Octavia Tea; QTrade Teas & Herbs; Sipping Streams Tea Company; TeaSource, LLC; Tea Xotics, LLC; and Walters Bay.

Garden to Cup Organics led the championship with the most wins, including four first-place honors, four second place wins and a third place recognition. This new player in the market, driven by seasoned tea experts, is a wholesale supplier of ethically sourced, loose-leaf organic teas based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. The company’s teas are carefully selected, directly from organic tea gardens across the world, and hand-blended in micro-batches to produce the highest quality products. Garden to Cup Organics offers wholesale, custom blending, private and white label opportunities.

“The North American Tea Championship is an excellent platform to showcase quality teas, and we’re thrilled to have received the most wins in this recent evaluation,” said Raj Teja, one of the principals of Garden to Cup Organics. “And the best part of this competition is that it’s independent and judged by professional members of the tea community with stringent standards. For us, the timing of these wins perfectly coincides with the expansion of our distribution across North America.”

NATC Cupping Coordinator Mo Sardella, of The G.S. Haly Company in Redwood City, Calif., noted, “For this competition, there was a noticeable increase in quality and uniqueness within the blended and flavored tea and herbal categories. The flavored and blended products, which are experiencing steady growth within the specialty tea industry, have quickly become the most popular categories at the NATC. Within these categories, the judges noticed a significant increase in custom blends that include good quality specialty teas and herbs, as well as premium ingredients regarding flavoring, decorations and other botanicals. This is a noticeable increase from previous NATC events, in which most blended and flavored products were of varied quality, with less refinement and overall harmony in the finished product.”

All NATC tea submissions were evaluated blind and through organoleptic analysis of the following characteristics: dry leaf, brewed color, brewed aroma, brewed flavor, brewed mouth-feel and brewed harmony. An overall numerical value on a 100-point scale was then calculated based on the ratings of each characteristic. Winners were determined by rank.

“Congratulations to all of the teas that stood out and took first place prizes,” said David De Candia, one of the NATC evaluators and tea buyer at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. “The North American Tea Championship continues to gain exposure in the marketplace, attracting some of the finest teas for review. Certainly, winners of this competition are experiencing the benefits of being an NATC-winner, such as heightened recognition for quality and taste, additional buyer interest and increased sales.”

A complete list of first, second and third-place winners of the North American Tea Championship is available at teachampionship.com.

North American Tea Championship first-place winners include:

Black Tusk Trading,  Blended Oolong Tea, Osmanthus Blossoms

Black Tusk Trading, Traditional Ti Kuan Yin, Ti Kuan Yin Private Reserve

Florapharm Tea, Darjeeling, Organic Darjeeling Jungpana

Florapharm Tea, Earl Grey Tea, Manhattan Natural

Garden to Cup Organics Ltd., Blended Black Tea, Black Rose Garden

Garden to Cup Organics Ltd., Flavored Black Tea, Lychee Black Tea

Garden to Cup Organics Ltd., Jade Ti Kuan Yin, Nanyan Tiequanyin

Garden to Cup Organics Ltd., Yunnan, Yunnan Golden Tip

International Tea Importers, Assam, Mangalam Assam

International Tea Importers, Keemun, Keemun Hao Y

Mountain Tea, Bai Hao/Oriental Beauty, Oriental Beauty

Mountain Tea, Green Oolong Tea, LiShan

Naivetea, Flavored Oolong Tea, Passion Fruit Oolong

Naivetea, Green Jasmine Open Leaf, Jasmin Bao Zhong

Octavia Tea, Dark Oolong Tea, Phoenix Mountain Dancon

QTrade Teas & Herbs, Chai, Sweet Chai

QTrade Teas & Herbs, Green Jasmine Pearl, Jasmine Pearls

Sipping Streams Tea Company, Aged/Baked Oolong Tea, 1999 Muzha Formosa

TeaSource, LLC, Breakfast Blend, Ceylon Lumbini Est. Burning Sun FBOPF

TeaSource, LLC, Black Tea, Jin Jun Mei

Tea Xotics, LLC, Flavored Rooibos Blends, Santa’s Cup

Walters Bay, Black Tea CTC, Walters Bay English Breakfast

Honorees will be featured at the North American Tea Championship Winners Tasting Circle at World Tea Expo (WorldTeaExpo.com), May 29 – 31, 2014 at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, Long Beach, Calif.

The next North American Tea Championship will be held in April 2014 for an evaluation of iced teas. Entries will be accepted in early April. To inquire about entering the competition, e-mail kaye.polivka@fwmedia.com.

2014 Seafood Excellence Awards Finalists Announced

The Seafood Excellence Awards, a new products competition held in conjunction with Seafood Expo North America, formerly the International Boston Seafood Show, has announced this year’s finalists.

The Seafood Excellence Awards are an extension of the Seafood Prix d’Elite new product competition at the Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, Belgium.

Finalists compete for two awards: Best New Foodservice Product and Best New Retail Product. Products are evaluated on criteria including uniqueness, taste profile, packaging, marketing potential, and nutritional value.

This year’s ten finalists were hand-selected from more than 70 entries in the highly-competitive New Product Showcase, which will be featured at the Seafood Expo North America, held March 16-18, 2014.

The finalists for the 2014 Seafood Excellence Awards are:

Phillips / SeaWings, Booth #1019
Cornetfish

The Santa Barbara Smokehouse, Booth #2310
Cambridge House Private Reserve Smoked Salmon with Truffle

Aqua Star, Booth# 2005
Harvest Grain Wild Alaskan Cod

Uoriki Fresh, Inc., Booth #1057
Sushi At Home®

High Liner Foods, Booth# 1005
Flame-Seared Guinness® Barbecue Glazed Atlantic Salmon

Freskot USA/Kontoveros SA, Booth #2716
Freskot Seafood Burgers

King & Prince Seafood, Booth #505
Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Shrimp

The MacKnight Food Group, Booth #2459
MacKnight Capt. Jim’s Breakfast Sausage

Handy International Incorporated, Booth #823
Fiesta Chipotle Fish Cakes

Gradient Aquaculture Ltd., Booth #2546
Pasta del MAR

The winners will be announced at the Seafood Excellence Awards ceremony in the Demonstration Theater in the Exhibit Hall, Booth 2567 on Sunday, March 16 at 3:30 p.m.

View all of the entries or register for Seafood Expo North America by visiting www.seafoodexpo.com/north-america.

Record-Breaking Natural Products Expo West Concludes

Natural Products Expo West concluded a record-breaking event March 6-9 at the Anaheim Convention Center in CA. The event grew five percent bringing together over 67,000 industry members, more than 2,600 exhibiting companies and the most first-time exhibitors in the event’s history. From food and beverage to supplements and beauty to household and pet products, the event provided a window into the many categories driving the growth of the global natural products industry.

Co-located with Natural Products Expo West were Engredea and the NEXT Innovation Summit, the premier events for ingredient sourcing and product development, were co-located with Natural Products Expo to deliver a full spectrum of opportunities to enter, grow and succeed in the global health and nutrition marketplace.

“The macro trend and shift to healthier lifestyles created explosive growth this year,” said Adam Andersen, Show Director for Natural Products Expo West. “Our conference sessions offered attendees with the vital industry intelligence and the exhibit floor buzzed with activity as attendees met the passionate individuals behind the brands on the shelves today and the products of the future.”

Key trends identified for the coming year include:

  • The health and wellness consumers: The healthy eating movement is spreading across all demographic groups.
  • Convenience and Accessibility: The importance of making nutritious, clean food more accessible and convenient across multi-dimensional demographics and how will it affect the health and wellness of all Americans.
  • Labeling Transparency: Consumers are asking for transparency with regard to food/product labels, claims and certifications.
  • Food tribes: The growing gluten-free, vegan, paleo and other special diet communities are fueling the healthy eating movement and changing the way people view food and community.

Michael Kanter, Chief Visionary Officer, Cambridge Naturals said, “Expo West is truly an extraordinary experience. What really is the most inspiring part is realizing how many wonderful people are part of this industry. This movement is for a better and healthier planet. And more than that nowhere else can one meet and ‘network’ with such a group of people who are part of a powerfully positive force. We become aware of our community when we take the time to come together here each year.”

“The growth of Amy’s Kitchen has paralleled the growth of Expo in many ways. Our first year here in 1988 we took turns holding baby Amy in our arms, while serving our first pot pie. Now 26 years later she’s here working beside us at the show, serving dozens of delicious foods. This year we heard from more customers than ever about how our homemade, organic foods have impacted their lives. Rachel, Amy and I are excited to be part of this growing organic community,” said Andy Berliner, Co-founder, Amy’s Kitchen.
Many innovative companies were recognized with awards at Natural Products Expo West.

The official Natural Products Expo West “Best of West: Press Award” went to Luvo: Chicken Chili Verde, Barbara’s Bakery: Multigrain Squares and Dave’s Killer Bread: 21 Whole Grains and Seeds

Natural Products Expo East 2014 will return to the Baltimore Convention Center, September 17-20, 2014 in Baltimore, Md. Natural Products Expo West 2015 is scheduled to take place March 5-8, 2015 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif.

California Artisan Cheese Festival Announces Finale Events

The United States’ premier public artisan cheese event, the 8th Annual California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, today announces the participants in the Festival’s finale events: the Bubbles & Brunch and Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace on Sunday, March 23. Executive Chef Percy Whatley of The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite will demonstrate how to cook cheese-centric dishes at this three-course brunch event featuring bubbles by Gloria Ferrer. The brunch and cooking demonstration by Chef Whatley will take place on Sunday morning before the main event of the day, the Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace.

Recently a semi-finalist for the Bocuse d’Or USA who was chosen to prepare dinner at the Beard House as part of a James Beard Foundation Event, Chef Whatley will be preparing California’s Artisan Cheese Festival’s Sunday Brunch at 9:30 a.m. at the Sheraton Sonoma County-Petaluma. Not only will guests be treated to a glass of Gloria Ferrer sparkling wine upon entry, but this sit-down, three-course brunch will also feature cheese-centric cooking demos by Chef Whatley and all attendees will gain VIP access into the Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace at 11 a.m., an hour before it opens to the public.

Bringing together more than 70 of California’s best artisan cheesemakers, restaurants, breweries and wineries, this walk-around tasting and marketplace is one of the weekend’s most popular events. With two tents set up outside of the Sheraton Sonoma County, there will be more than 20,000 square feet of space for guests to comfortably navigate their way around this popular marketplace. During the event, guests will be able to not only taste and purchase the offerings of each participant, but also interact with the vendors, artisans, cheesemakers, brewers and winemakers. Throughout the day there will be chefs’ demos representing some of the Bay Area’s best chefs, including Brandon Guenther of Rocker Oysterfellers at 1:45 p.m. and Liza Hinman of Spinster Sisters at 3 p.m. Several of the weekends’ cheesemakers and chefs are also authors and many will be selling and signing their cheese-inspired tomes at the Marketplace. The chefs’ demos will be taking place inside of the Sheraton Sonoma County and the book signings will be taking place inside of the tent throughout the day. Book signings and demos are included with admission to the Marketplace.

Tickets to several of the Festival’s other weekend-long events are also still available, including Friday night’s Meet the Cheesemakers Reception, several of the Saturday seminars and the Saturday night Best in Cheese Competition. Tickets for all events may be purchased at www.artisancheesefestival.com.

Vital Farms Now Providing Locally Produced Pasture-Raised Eggs to SoCal Whole Foods Markets

Vital Farms, the nation’s leading provider of pasture-raised eggs, has partnered with regional producer and fourth generation family-owned Hen Meadows Farm, with operations in Valley Center and Moorpark, Calif., to provide Certified Humane®, organic and locally produced eggs to the southern California grocery market. Vital Farms eggs from Hen Meadows Farm are currently on the shelf in Whole Foods Markets in southern California.

Pasture-raised organic eggs are gaining in popularity among those who want to ensure their food is ethically produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and genetically engineered or GMO ingredients. Pastured chickens graze outside all year long, and are also provided organic feed that is produced without toxic, synthetic pesticides, hormones, antibiotics or GMOs. These chickens flap their wings, eat bugs, and roll around in the dirt. In short, they act like chickens should.

Vital Farms pasture-raised eggs are now produced on 49 family-owned farms across the US, and, with this new relationship with Hen Meadows, Vital Farms is able to provide locally sourced, pasture-raised organic eggs directly to the southern California market.

With roots in San Diego and Ventura Counties, family-owned Hen Meadows Farm has been producing farm-fresh eggs in southern California since 1941. The company has been producing cage free and organic eggs for more than 20 years, and now pasture-raised eggs in working with Vital Farms.

“We saw an opportunity to support a local business and regional food producer. By working with a small local farm, we are able to reduce the distance from the farm to the table which, in turn, produces a more sustainable, environmentally friendly and fresher product,” said Jason Jones, President and Co-owner of Vital Farms.

Vital Farms currently works with 49 family farms across the country, and the company will be exhibiting at Natural Products Expo West,  March 7-9, 2014 in Anaheim, Calif. Visit Vital Farms at booth number 5437 in Hall E.

“Clean, Lean and Sexy” and also Delicious: Company Brings Tasty Snacks to Those with Food Sensitivities

By Lorrie Baumann

 The Clean, Lean and Sexy line of snack foods friendly to those with food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies began with a mother concerned about helping her daughter enjoy her life while protecting her from foods that might cause her digestive distress.

Suzie Carpenter, the founding owner of Clean, Lean and Sexy began looking for convenient food treats that her daughter Kelly could enjoy after Kelly was diagnosed with celiac disease at age three. “My daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease 15 years ago, and that’s how the journey began with gluten-free living,” she says. “We have a lot of the same food sensitivities, and so it was a matter not just of finding food for her but of finding food for myself.”

Carpenter found early on that keeping her daughter and herself healthy meant cooking everything from scratch, since more convenient options taken for granted by most Americans simply were not available. “We’re talking 15 years ago, and there weren’t a lot of options. She has other food sensitivities as well. There wasn’t anything she could eat from a box or a bag,” Carpenter says.

Eventually, Carpenter turned the knowledge she had gained about preparing and eating healthful meals into a career. “I went back to school to study nutrition and eventually started a business developing a program for people for healthy weight loss based on principles that I’d developed for myself and for my daughters,” she says.

Now, Carpenter is making products for others who need to be careful about what they eat but still occasionally want to enjoy a delicious snack. The Clean, Lean and Sexy line of snack foods includes Air Popped Popcorn, Coconut Cashew All Natural Whole Food Energy Bars and Honey Almond All Natural Whole Food Energy Bars. “My intention is to make gluten-free products with all healthy ingredients, no hidden ingredients, but it’s fun,” Carpenter says. “There will be more products in the future. We’re currently looking for new flavors to do [a] line extension for the bars. There are no grains in them, no processed sugars and no grains.”

“The popcorn is made with high-oleic expeller-pressed sunflower oil, so it’s got a little bit of a different flavor—a richer flavor than some of the traditional snack food oils,” she adds. “We’re getting comments from people who are wondering how we make this taste like butter when there’s no butter or butter flavoring in the ingredients.”

The newest product in the line is a gluten-free, corn-free, soy-free and sugar-free pretzel that debuted at Natural Products Expo East last fall and is now coming to the market after being in development for more than a year. “The response to everything was phenomenal, but the response to the pretzel was really super,” Carpenter says.

Clean, Lean and Sexy popcorn and pretzels are made in a dedicated gluten-free, nut-free facility. Snack bars are made in a separate facility to sequester the nuts from the popcorn and pretzels. But for all the meticulous attention that goes into making sure that the products are free of ingredients that may cause pain, Carpenter says that even more attention goes into making them delicious as well as nutritious. “For years we suffered with very few options for something to eat, so it’s nice to have something fun that tastes good and is in a cool package and people are talking about it.”

For further information, visit www.cleanleansexy.com.

Wine and Food Lovers Slow Down to Savor the Selections at WineStyles Tasting Station

By Lucas Witman

In 2002, WineStyles’ founder Brigitte Baker was enjoying a casual backyard barbecue with friends, when the conversation turned to wine. Baker was surprised to find her friends unaware of the wealth of high quality, low cost wines available today. It was in this moment that Baker first got the idea to open a shop that featured reasonably priced wines and educated consumers on how to get the most for their money when it comes to the sought after libation. A little over a decade later, WineStyles has evolved to include 26 stores in 12 states across the country.

WineStyles1-RN.jpgIn 2012, Iowa-based WineStyles franchisees Bryan and Andrea McGinness took over for Baker, when they purchased the company. The pair immediately set about reinventing the store concept and diversifying the product offerings. “We’ve grown and expanded over the past year and a half, going into gourmet foods and cheeses and chocolates, all of the things that pair nicely with wine,” said Bryan. “The whole rebranding of the company has been very important to us.”

Today, WineStyles customers will still find an expansive wine selection, but they can also shop for cheese, specialty food, chocolate, coffee, tea, beer, accessories and more. The company’s gourmet food offerings have been instrumental in bringing a whole new customer base into its stores. Shoppers are now loading up their carts with products from some of the most popular specialty food companies in the business, including Sweetshop USA, Bissinger’s, The French Farm, Robert Rothshild Farms, Gourmet du Village, Rishi Tea, American Vintage Biscuits and Jennifer’s Homemade.

WineStyles also treats shoppers to a variety of specialty prepared foods, as well, some made with gourmet ingredients that are available in store. Prepared food offerings include pizzettes, olives and cheese boards, and the menu is expanding. In many of the stores, customers can also enjoy wine served by the glass.

Wine may still be the star attraction at WineStyles, but it is not the only beverage getting customers’ attentions. The newly reinvented WineStyles stores are also focusing on offering extensive selections of craft beers as well. “The craft beer has brought in a totally new customer base,” said Bryan. “We keep about 200 different craft beers in the store at any given time, and they rotate seasonally.”

WineStyles Tasting Station sets itself apart from other wine shops in a number of ways, but the most striking may be way that the wine itself is merchandised in store. Whereas most wine shops divide up their selection based on varietal or regionality, WineStyles opts to organize its bottles by style. When it comes to whites, customers can choose from crisp, silky or rich offerings. The store’s reds are broken up into fruity, mellow and bold bottles.

WineStyles is also unique in its focus on offering its customers locally sourced regional selections. Each store brings in craft beers from local breweries, and stores located in wine growing regions also have selections of local wines. “Different stores around the country are offering different beers. Craft beer is still so regional that there is a different flare in different parts of the country.” The McGinnesses’ Des Moines store, for example, treats its customers to Toppling Goliath’s Tsunami Pale Ale, Madhouse Brewery’s Imperial Red and Confluence Brewing Company’s Des Moines IPA.

WineStyles2-RN.jpgReaching out to wine aficionados and newcomers alike, WineStyles’ popular wine club is a great way to broaden one’s knowledge and try some great new bottles on a regular basis. “We’re the only wine club with a clubhouse,” said Andrea. By signing up for the monthly wine club, customers will take home two new bottles of wine each month. WineStyles also offers a variety of similar clubs, where members have the opportunity to try new beers, chocolates, cheeses, teas and coffees.

Catering to a diverse clientele with varying degrees of wine knowledge, WineStyles strives to staff its stores with knowledgeable experts in the field, trained to guide customers through their purchase. However, for Bryan and Andrea, personality is just as important as expertise when it comes to bringing new staff into the business. “When we hire, obviously we want them to have some knowledge,” said Andrea. “Customer service is huge for us. The training is geared toward customer service…but personality is also key.”

When reinventing the WineStyles concept, the most important thing for Bryan and Andrea was to create stores where customers felt free to browse the shelves for an extended period of time, perusing bottles, learning about wine and picking up a few things along the way. To get the full experience of the store, the pair hopes that customers will hang around for at least 45 minutes or more.

This is what ultimately sets WineStyles apart from other wine and specialty food shops around the country: a welcoming atmosphere where customers feel free to shop, drink, snack and peruse the products at their leisure.

“What sets us apart is the look feel and fit of our stores. We are set up like an old world wine cellar where customers can come and try wines from all over the world,” said Bryan. “The fit and finish of the store is very cozy.”

To learn more about WineStyles Tasting Station or to view a complete list of stores, visit www.winestyles.com.

Norseland Re-launches Website to Promote Joy of Jarlsberg

Norseland, Incorporated, the U.S. subsidiary of TINE SA, Norway’s largest dairy cooperative, is relaunching its USA website to reflect TINE’s global messaging for 2014.  The website’s theme, Yours to Share, centers on the Jarlsberg experience, encouraging interaction with consumers by connecting the joy of eating Jarlsberg to lifestyle occasions.  The Jarlsberg USA website and all social media platforms will work in tandem, creating a premium digital relationship with fans and followers.

“For over five decades, Jarlsberg has played a key role in developing the specialty cheese category and experience, becoming a favorite brand in the United States,” says Valerie Liu, Norseland’s Marketing and Advertising Specialist.  “In the digital space, we communicate premium by shifting the focus on lifestyle: celebrating the act of giving, the joy of sharing and the benefit of knowing your favorite cheese brand – Jarlsberg.”

The new website features contemporary, easy to assemble and prepare recipes plus the current national Jarlsberg Lite promotion in stores now – submit your “nutty-est” Jarlsberg Lite promotion on Facebook for a chance to win a Spinning Bike Package.  The site also includes an entertaining film clip, The Magician.  Part of a “Sandwich Shorts” video series of people making sandwiches in fun, creative ways, the first video features Sweden’s champion illusionist, David Persson, conjuring up a Heavenly Jarlsberg Ciabatta.  To view the video, visit www.jarlsbergusa.com.

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