Get Adobe Flash player

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.

Safeway in Talks to Sell the Company

Safeway Inc. is in discussions concerning a possible transaction involving the sale of the company. Although the discussions are ongoing, the company has not reached an agreement on a transaction, and there can be no assurance that these discussions will lead to an agreement or a completed transaction, according to a Safeway press release.

Separately, the company has decided to distribute the remaining 37.8 million shares it owns of Blackhawk Network Holdings (approximately 72.2 percent of the outstanding Blackhawk shares) to Safeway stockholders. Currently, the plan is to make the distribution on a pro rata basis to all Safeway stockholders in a transaction intended to be tax-free to Safeway and its stockholders. However, if the company consummates a sale transaction, the distribution may be taxable. The timing and details of the proposed distribution will be determined in the near future, and further announcements will be made when those decisions have been finalized.

In addition, Safeway owns 49 percent of Casa Ley S.A. de C.V. (“Casa Ley”), the fifth largest food and general merchandise retailer in Mexico based on sales. Based on Casa Ley’s improving performance, the company believes it is an appropriate time to explore alternatives to monetize its investment in Casa Ley. While the company has discussed its desire to monetize its investment with the majority owners of Casa Ley, there can be no assurance as to whether the company will be able to sell its interest in Casa Ley at a price and on terms that the company finds acceptable.

“We are pleased with the progress we made in 2013,” said Robert Edwards, Safeway’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Strategies to grow sales and improve operating profit dollars have begun to produce results. In 2013, we generated our best volume growth since 2006, and we had our best identical-store sales growth in the last five years. At the same time, we continue to pursue strategies to enhance momentum and increase shareholder value. We look forward to continuing progress in 2014.”

Supermarket Chefs Compete in Annual Showdown

More than 130 supermarket chefs, representing a record 30 different retailers, submitted recipes for the annual Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) Supermarket Chef Showdown before the November deadline and now await their selection among the semi-finalists on April 15.

The chef’s recipes varied across five established categories that include: Healthy Meals; Family Meals; Ethnic Meals; Dessert; and Side-Dishes/Mini Meals/Snacks. The recipes must use at least three eligible ingredients and take 20 minutes or less to prepare (not including prep). Collectively, the recipe submissions employed more than 740 sponsor ingredients.

A panel will review the entries and the recipes from 50 finalists will be sent to McCormick and Campbell’s test kitchens this March to further narrow the submissions. The top-25 finalists will compete live in front of celebrity judges in a special kitchen stadium created on the convention floor at FMI Connect on June 11, 2014 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

“Each day, retailers prepare exciting signature mealtime solutions that not only delight their customers’ taste buds but also provide shoppers with practical demonstrations of kitchen artistry guaranteed to encourage emulation,” said FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin. “The FMI Supermarket Chef Showdown helps acknowledge those who inspire the culinary spirit in all of us.”

“The creativity and quality of the recipes surpassed last year and we expect this Showdown to be fun, yet competitive,” says Phil Lempert, a food trends and consumer expert and the Showdown Executive Producer and Master of Ceremony. “Supermarket Chefs are the unsung heroes in grocery stores and it’s their moment to shine.”

Prizes this year include an all-expense paid trip for two to Mardi Gras 2015; an all-expense paid trip to California to participate in the olive harvest; a “Chicago experience;” an all- expense-paid trip to the Country Music Awards in Nashville; cash prizes; food-centric prizes; bragging rights and more. The top-25 finalists will also receive culinary gifts from Showdown sponsors shipped directly to their homes.

Sponsors for this years’ Showdown include the world’s leading companies: McCormick, Campbell’s, Can Manufacturers Institute, ConAgra Foods, Hass Avocado Board, Hershey’s, Hillshire Brands, Mondelez International, Musco Family Olive Co., Pictsweet and Smucker’s.

Festival Features Beer, Bacon, Music

Beer, bacon and music have long been essential ingredients for an ideal day, according to the organizers of the Beer Bacon Music festival coming up in Frederick, Md.

Taking place at the Fairgrounds on May 17 and 18, Beer Bacon Music will provide attendees with 150+ craft beer varieties from which to choose, a two-ton all-you-can-eat bacon bar including 50+ creative bacon dishes and a rockin’ band every hour, on the hour.

“This truly is the first event of its kind, anywhere in the world,” says Kenneth MacFawn, Beer Bacon Music festival owner. “It’s the perfect place for people to celebrate three of life’s greatest pleasures, try new beer in an unintimidating environment, get inspiration for new culinary endeavors, and sample some of the best bands on the East Coast.”

With three appealing themes and a multitude of attractions, Beer Bacon Music offers enjoyment for even the most discerning palate, the most astute music connoisseur, even the most competitive home brewer, MacFawn says.

Beer – Enter Beer Bacon Music’s Brewer’s $6K Homebrew Competition to win the world’s largest prize in the world’s largest home brewing competition by competing in one or more of 10 competition style categories judged by BCJP officials. Included with admission for 21+ attendees is a sampling glass in which 100+ different beer varieties can be sampled from 30+ breweries. Beginners and craft beer aficionados alike can talk beer shop with brewery staff, and watch live demonstrations of the latest and greatest home brew equipment.

Bacon – With the price of admission, enjoy a two-ton all-you-can-eat Bacon Bar containing sliced bacon prepared in a wide variety of flavors including peppered, glazed, maple, and more. Also available for purchase will be intriguing gourmet bacon dishes served a la carte, and an abundance of cuisine from around the world including vegetarian and other options made available by 15+ on-site food truck vendors.

Music – Over the two-day festival, there will be 10 live bands on stage — a new band every hour on the hour, following the Homebrew Competition winner announcements. To help ensure there will be something for everyone’s ears to enjoy, the festival will feature many styles of music.

Tickets for the event are on sale now, with the first 1,000 offered at the reduced rate of just $39 for a 1-day pass, or $65 for a weekend pass, limited to 500. Ticket options are also available for those wanting to enter the homebrew competition or attend as a non-drinker.

For more information or to enter the Brewer’s $6K today, visit: http://beerbaconmusic.com.

Smoked Nova Slices from Benz’s

Benz’s has added a new product to its gourmet line — Smoked Nova Slices!

Benz LOX GROUP 4

Available in 3-ounce, 6-ounce, 12-ounce, and three-pound trays. Kosher and kosher for Passover in season.

Distributed by Benz’s Food Products Inc. Brooklyn, N.Y.

For more information, call 718.778.3329 or email info@benzsfish.com

Gourmet News

Follow me on Twitter