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New Program Will Ease Farmers’ Transition to Organic Certification

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) announced a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help guide farmers transitioning into certified organic agricultural production.

Using standards developed by OTA, the National Certified Transitional Program (NCTP) will provide oversight to approved Accredited Organic Certifying Agents offering transitional certification to producers. This will help ease the transition process to organic, allow farmers to sell their products as certified transitional at a premium price and help encourage more organic production.

This announcement is an important step in helping to expand certified organic acreage in the United States. OTA designed the certified transitional program to create a consistent mechanism for certifying agencies to document operations’ adherence to organic regulations on land in transition to organic status. The new program provides certification and oversight to producers who are in transition to organic. It does not provide standards or criteria for labeling products certified under the program.

“The transitional certification program developed by OTA reflects perspectives from across the supply chain, and will provide an on-ramp to producers while safeguarding organic as the gold standard of food label claims,” said Nate Lewis, Farm Policy Director for OTA.

“USDA is excited to work with the Organic Trade Association on the National Certified Transitional Program, providing producers with a consistent transitional standard to market their products,” said USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Elanor Starmer. “This program will help those transitioning to organic agriculture, encourage domestic production of organic products, and ultimately support the continued growth of organic agriculture in the United States.”

In a “Notice to the Trade” published by USDA, the department said the new program “will facilitate the investment in transitional agriculture through a consistent set of rules.”

Farmers must undergo a rigorous and sometimes challenging transition period of 36 months before they can gain organic certification and market their products as certified organic. This newly created program at USDA will harmonize existing transitional certification programs currently operated by Accredited Certifying Agents and provide a mechanism for additional certifiers to offer this service to new clients. The program is recognized by the USDA Quality Systems Assessment Program, housed within the Agricultural Marketing Service branch. USDA will accredit organic certification agencies that comply with the National Certified Transitional Program criteria, enabling those agencies to conduct certification of producers operating in accordance with the OTA-developed standards.

Demand for organic products has continued to grow by double digits every year, far exceeding the domestic supply of organic ingredients. OTA has been engaged in multiple efforts to boost the growth of domestic organic acreage and sees a harmonized transitional certification program overseen by USDA as a critical piece of this complicated puzzle.

OTA submitted an application to USDA in May 2016–after over a year of work on behalf of its members through a Transitional task force–to create the transitional certification program, thereby building the foundation for a potential market for transitional products. A transitional product market can offer premiums to farmers in transition and assist in the financial barriers that transition poses.

The oversight provided by USDA to certifying agents offering transitional certification to producers will consist of certifier audits and a uniform transitional production standard for both crop and livestock producers. Farmers will need to prove their land has been free of prohibited substances (synthetic pesticides and fertilizers) for a minimum of 12 months and must follow all other organic production standards to achieve transitional certification, including crop rotation, the fostering and conserving of biodiversity, and the avoidance of the use of genetic engineering. Once eligible for organic certification, land can only enter into the transitional certification program one more time. This provision, unique to the standards developed by OTA, will ensure that transitional certification acts as an effective on-ramp to organic production rather than a mechanism to create an “organic-light” marketing term.

The new program does not include certification of products labeled as “transitional” in the marketplace and is limited only to producers working towards their own organic certification. OTA anticipates working with certifiers, food manufacturers, and retailers to develop appropriate market-driven guidelines for proper use of the term “transitional” on consumer packaged goods.

To streamline roll-out of this new program, USDA will accept applications for the first round from Accredited Certifying Agents through February 28 to gain oversight for the transitional program, and on-site reviews of these certifying agents will occur at their next organic accreditation audit. Further applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis.

This program dovetails with USDA’s announcement in December of last year that it would expand the reach of the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program to include transitional certification fees. USDA’s recent initiatives will bring more opportunity to farmers and handlers across the country, and they represent additional elements of solid federal support for the growth of the organic sector.

Saffron Road’s New Plant-Based Protein Snacks & Frozen Bowls

Saffron Road, the fastest growing brand of premium frozen entrees, will introduce its newly expanded plant-based protein snacks line, which includes innovative ChickBean Crisps, in addition to a new frozen meals line, at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco from January 2-24.

Like all Saffron Road products, the new snacks and frozen bowls were created with the utmost commitment to authenticity, quality, transparency and culinary excellence to capitalize on the growing popularity of clean label better-for-you products in the U.S.

The ChickBean Crisps come in three flavors, Sea Salt, White Cheddar, Zesty Ranch, and all are certified halal, OU kosher, and gluten free. Since they’re primarily made from legumes, each one-ounce serving of Saffron Road ChickBean Crisps contains four grams of protein, two grams of fiber and only a few grams of fat – making them a nutritious and unique find in the snack aisle.

Saffron Road’s new World Cuisine meals, in an on-trend bowl format, come in eight delicious flavors:  Sesame Ginger Salmon with White Rice, Lemongrass Basil Fish with Rice Noodles, Thai Red Curry Fish with Rice Noodles, Masala Curry Fish with White Rice, Grilled Vegetable Tortilla Bake, Verde Tortilla Bake with Chicken, Thai-Style Mango Chicken, and Korean-Style Sweet Chile Chicken. All of the fish sourced is wild Alaskan caught and packed with Omega-3s, and the chicken is antibiotic free. All of the ingredients are authentic – to keep in line with the high culinary excellence all Saffron Road products must adhere to.

While the four fish bowl meals are already on shelf at Whole Foods Market®, the ChickBean Crisps and the remaining four new bowls will launch this January and April respectively.

For more information about Saffron Road’s new snack products, visit saffronroadfood.com. You can also follow the brand on Facebook at facebook.com/saffronroadfood, on Twitter at twitter.com/saffronroadfood, on Pinterest at pinterest.com/saffronroadfood or on Instagram at Instagram.com/saffronroadfood.

Premium Selection of Seasonings & Rubs in Retail-Friendly Plastic Jars

The Spice Lab has introduced a new retail-friendly packaging option for its award-winning line of premium spice blends and barbecue rubs. Each plastic jar with shaker top holds up to 7 ounces of gourmet seasoning and sells for a suggested retail price of $6.99 each. A free-standing shipper display, which holds 60 jars, also is being introduced for 2017.  The selection includes:

Blackened Seasoning – New for 2017: The perfect herb and spice blend for the Cajun cooking technique of blackening.

Caribbean Jerk Seasoning – 2017 Scovie Award Winner: Create classic island dishes with this spicy mixture. Try on chicken, pork and seafood.

Best of the Bay Seafood Seasoning – 2016 Scovie Award Winner: A classic blend of paprika and other spices, perfect for seafood.

Tropical Citrus Seafood Seasoning:Bright fruit flavors and island spices in this tasty blend.

Key West Classic Seasoning: Flavorful blend of onion, garlic, thyme, parsley & other spices.

Spicy Seafood Seasoning: Black pepper, garlic, thyme and other spices.

Salt Free Citrus & Dill Seafood Seasoning: Maximum flavor without the salt – great as a rub or marinade for salmon and shrimp.

Everglades Chicken and Gator Rub: A spicy medley of onion, bell peppers, black pepper and other flavorful seasonings.

Country Style Honey Mustard Seasoning: Pungent mustard and sweet honey balance this blend.

Classic Steakhouse Seasoning: A traditional blend of sea salt, spices and colorful peppercorns.

Firecracker Spicy Steak Seasoning – 2016 Scovie Award Winner: A sizzling mix of hot cayenne pepper and other spices.

Ancho Chili & Coffee Seasoning – 2016 Hot Pepper Award: Sweet and smoky mix of dried Poblano peppers, coffee and other spices.

South Beach Mango Chipotle Seasoning – 2015 Hot Pepper Award: Sweet tropical fruit, chipotle pepper and mesquite.

Italian Rustica Seasoning: A Mediterranean mix of thyme, oregano and other spices.

Bad to the Bone Seasoning: A subtle spice blend infusing flavor in every bite.

Spanish Chorizo Seasoning: Garlic, paprika, red pepper, coriander and more.

Retailers can build their own assortment for The Spice Lab’s Gourmet Seasoning display. Choose up to a maximum of four spice blends (15 jars each) to customize the display to best to appeal to the local market. Shippers will be available by January 30.

As a woman-owned and family-run business, The Spice Lab takes great pride in offering the widest selection of sea salts from a single source. Its every expanding line of products include peppers, spices, seasonings, rubs, gourmet gift collections, Himalayan salt shot glasses and plates, regional brands, private label, a wide array of corporate gifts and much more.

All products are processed and packaged in its HACCP certified manufacturing facility in Pompano Beach, Florida. The company’s high quality line of products can be found in grocery, gourmet, specialty gift shops, foodservice, club, major retailers and online through Amazon.com as well as www.thespicelab.com

British Companies to Strut Their Stuff at Winter Fancy Food Show

Winter Fancy Food in San Francisco is a popular trade show for UK food and drink companies looking to target the West Coast of America with their gourmet delights. In January 2017, 40 UK food and drink companies will be represented at Winter Fancy Food all looking to increase their business in the States.

Rude Health is looking to introduce healthy organic unsweetened dairy free drinks, nourishing wholegrain cereals and snacks to California and the West Coast. Using only the kind of ingredients you’d have in your own kitchen – nothing artificial, nothing refined, their ingredients are sourced from fields, orchards and vines – not laboratories. 2017 brings new nut butter porridge pots and cartons, new children’s cereals, and mini 250ml cartons of the company’s best-selling almond drink. Rude Health has been included in “The Sunday Times Fast Track Ones to Watch,” an annual feature on the UK’s fastest growing businesses.

Grandma Singletons’ a producer of fine British cheese and exporter of Cropwell Bishop Creamery, the finest Blue Stilton cheese.

Chase Distillery produces Britain’s first single estate gin and award-winning vodka. Chase’s William’s GB Gin was given a double gold medal and voted Best in Class at 2016’s prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Only Natural Products is the proud owner and producer of three unique tea brands: Dr Stuart’s, Higher Living and Kromland Farm.
Cauli Rice makes one of the UK’s first long life cauliflower rice – a low calorie rice replacement made from 100 percent cauliflower.

The Original Cake Co., based in Lincoln, bakes traditional handmade cakes. The company has been the name behind some of Britain’s finest cakes for over four decades. The line of delicious, hand-made cakes includes a renowned Christmas cake, chocolate truffle cakes and flapjacks.

Easy Tasty Magic – Taste #5 Umami by Laura Santtini will be showcasing a range of delicious umami flavor ingredients, sauces and spices.

Huffkins makes handmade craft bakery products using premium ingredients sourced from the Cotswold hills.

Northern Powerhouse represents the best of northern England’s food and drink to the U.S. market place, including cheese, speciality biscuits and jams, chocolates, gin, snacks, crisps, cheese straws, gluten free ranges, UK flour and fish products and sauces. Northern Powerhouse will be sampling the full range of products at its Winter Fancy Food Show booth.

The booths for all these companies will be located in the UK Pavilion at Winter Fancy Food 17-19 January, San Francisco in the Moscone Convention Center.

FIJI Water Rebrands With Slimming Design

FIJI® Water, America’s No. 1 premium imported bottled water brand, is rolling out a new, fresh look with a slim, sleek new bottle design. With this new design, FIJI Water’s 330mL, 500mL and 700mL SKUs will now fit effortlessly everywhere including the number one consumption occasion for bottled water, in the car, as well as fitness equipment, gym bags and beyond. The 1L bottle, found in-store or in fine dining establishments, will also receive the new fresh look.

“We received such positive feedback when we released the new look of our 700mL FIJI Water bottle last year that we decided to extend that design across our entire portfolio,” said Clarence Chia, Vice President of Marketing, FIJI Water. “Convenience is of the utmost importance for consumers, we want to make it as easy as possible for our brand to be a part of everyone’s daily lives.”

The new look will roll out starting this month, beginning with the brand’s popular 500mL SKU. The remainder of the portfolio will receive the same makeover throughout the first quarter of 2017. All updated FIJI Water bottles will retain the iconic square shape, smooth and soft taste and unique mineral profile that consumers have come to know and love. The convenient shape of the 500mL and 700mL specifically makes it the perfect choice for a vigorous spinning class, personal training session, daily commute or travel.

FIJI Water is bottled at the source in Fiji at an ancient artesian aquifer deep within the earth, where it is protected from external impurities. As tropical rain slowly filters through volcanic rock, it gathers the electrolytes and minerals that give FIJI Water its signature soft, smooth taste. In fact, FIJI Water has significantly more naturally occurring electrolytes than other brands. It’s untouched by man – until you unscrew the cap.

FIJI Water can be found in stores nationwide and via FIJI’s Home Delivery Service.

Blue Crab Bay Co. Changes Hands

Pamela Barefoot, founder and longtime President of specialty food company Blue Crab Bay Co. in Melfa, Virginia, has sold the company in an asset sale to Elizabeth Lankford. Barefoot, 66, said her decision to sell Blue Crab Bay was initially difficult but was made easier once she knew the company was going to stay local. “I have been fretting over an exit strategy, and all the businesses that approached me did not want our property in the (Accomack Airport) Industrial Park,” she said.

“Two years ago, I received an email from Elizabeth Lankford, and I knew in my heart she was the right one,” Barefoot continued. “She cared about the brand. She cared about the Eastern Shore and my employees. Her father had tons of experience in the food industry, and with her very supportive family, I knew she would be a great caretaker for my Blue Crab Bay family.” Lankford’s family is well known in Maryland and Virginia. Her grandfather Stanley began Lankford Produce in 1964 and soon was joined by her father, Tom, and uncles Fred and Jim. In 1981, Lankford Produce merged with Sysco Corp.

Elizabeth, 32, recently resigned from her job in Washington, D.C., where she specialized in state government affairs for Healthcare Distribution Alliance. “I had always been looking for an opportunity to return home to the Eastern Shore,” she said. “This is a perfect fit. I have been a longtime fan of Blue Crab Bay’s brand and high-quality products. I look forward to leading the company and expanding our national reach.”

Barefoot plans to continue to work at Blue Crab Bay for at least two more years. “I’ll just have more time for my Airbnb cottage and to go RVing with my husband to state and national parks, an interest we picked up about four years ago,” she said.

Founded on Barefoot’s kitchen table in 1985, Blue Crab Bay has evolved into a nationally recognized, award-winning specialty food brand and a leader in its community. Blue Crab Bay’s line of specialty foods and gifts includes award-winning Virginia peanut snacks, Bloody Mary mixers, seafood seasonings, and Blue Crab Stoneware. The company operates from a 24,000-square-foot building in the Accomack Airport Industrial Park in Melfa, where a retail shop also is located. Products are available in thousands of stores nationwide and on the company’s consumer website.

Rare Edibles Partners with Regalis Foods

Regalis Foods, a New York City-based luxury food distributor to chefs and restaurant groups, is aquiring a stake in Rare Edibles, a specialty food purveyor in Dallas, Texas.  As part of the merger, Rare Edibles will change its name to Regalis Texas in first quarter of 2017.

“We look forward to bringing our diverse, extensive relationships with some of the country’s most respected foragers, farmers, fishermen and producers to Rare Edibles’ already robust offerings,” says Regalis Foods Founder Ian Purkayastha. “With expanded ties to regional and international high-end food producers, Regalis Texas will now offer a broader portfolio to the state’s growing high-profile culinary industry.”

The idea for Rare Edibles occurred to its creator, Chef Bryan Dunn, in 2011 while working under Donald Link, chef/owner Herbsaint and Cochon in New Orleans.  Rare Edibles quickly established itself as the authority and source for heritage meats, artisan cheeses and seasonal foraged items to top Dallas chefs and restaurants, helping to elevate the dining scene to one of the most exciting in the country.

“Our focus has always been on the rare, unique and delicious.  Now, through Regalis’ access to exceptional suppliers in the Northeast and Europe, we can deliver a richer, deeper inventory of luxury products to cities throughout Texas,” explains Dunn.

Purkayastha began his career by selling truffles at age 16 and founded Regalis Foods in 2012.  After partnering with David Yourd and Karrie Kimble, Purkayastha expanded his offerings to include Regalis-branded caviar, wild foraged mushrooms and greens, live seafood and direct European imports.  The company boasts a devoted clientele of world-renowned chefs such as David Chang, Sean Brock and Eric Ripert.

Complementing Purkayastha’s expertise in luxury ingredients, Regalis Partners Yourd and Kimble bring 20 years of industry experience in building multiple specialty food distribution and import companies.  Their business acumen and depth of connections will fuel Regalis Texas’ growth.

La Crema Promotes Craig McAllister to Head Winemaker

Artisan winery La Crema has promoted Craig McAllister to the position of Head Winemaker. McAllister, who first joined the winery as the harvest enologist in 2007, has been a passionate steward of La Crema’s Monterey program and played a vital role in elevating the winery’s Sonoma Coast portfolio throughout his tenure. In addition, he has helped to further develop the winery’s collection of single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. In his new role, McAllister, who has most recently served as associate winemaker, will gain increased responsibility for the oversight of all winemaking operations.

“Craig’s long tenure with La Crema and passion for cool-climate winemaking make him a natural fit,” said Mitch Davis, Senior Vice President of Production for Jackson Family Wines. “In particular, his expertise on the Central Coast, in the Monterey appellation, a region in which we see tremendous potential for La Crema, coupled with his skill, experience and passion, will continue to enhance the strength of the La Crema winemaking team.”

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to hand the helm of La Crema over to Craig,” said Elizabeth Grant-Douglas, the company’s most recent winemaker. “He has been my partner and right hand at La Crema for so many years and has the passion and commitment to take La Crema to the next level,” she added.

A New Zealand native, McAllister earned a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology from Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand. His deep passion for winemaking has taken him all over the world, from New Zealand to Australia, Chile and Cyprus. Since moving to California, McAllister has also made wine for Wild Ridge, crafting elegant Pinot Noir from vineyards on the rugged Sonoma Coast. In his expanded role, McAllister will continue to build La Crema’s portfolio, ranging from coastal regions as far north as the Willamette Valley, Oregon to as far south as Arroyo Seco, California, with a particular focus on raising the profile of the winery’s Monterey series, which includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and a soon-to-be-released Rosé of Pinot Noir. Previously only producing small batches of Rosé, La Crema will be releasing its first nationally-distributed bottling this spring.

“This is a dream job for a winemaker who enjoys the challenges and rewards of producing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from cool-climate regions,” said McAllister. “I am thrilled to be a part of this this special team and look forward to carrying on the legacy that has been entrusted to me by continuing to produce the stylistically elegant wines for which La Crema is known, while elevating the winery to new levels of success.”

For more information regarding La Crema, visit www.lacrema.com.

Sugarlands Distilling Co. Introduces Mark and Digger’s Hazelnut Rum

Sugarlands Distilling Company has announced Hazelnut Rum as the newest addition to its award-winning line of spirits. The east Tennessee distillery partnered with distilling legends Mark Ramsey and Digger Manes from the hit series “Moonshiners” to develop the spirit.

Hazelnut Rum meets the nose with sweet aromas of toasted hazelnut and brown sugar. It is a smooth, full bodied spirit that blends the tastes of vanilla, cinnamon and honey. At 80 proof, this brown spirit finishes with a sweet, oaky kick.

“Our Hazelnut rum really became a labor of love, mainly because our wives became the first big fans of it,” said Manes. “Because of them, we were determined to make it better than any other homemade liquor that anyone had ever tasted.”

Mark and Digger created hazelnut rum while filming for the Discovery Channel program. The duo combined real hazelnuts and rum in their backwoods still to create a one-of-a-kind flavored spirit.

“In the words of our mentor Popcorn Sutton, ‘this is some of the finest liquors that’s ever been,'” said Ramsey. “Now it is our pleasure to share it with the rest of the world. We’re really humbled that folks are eager to try it.”

Rogue Creamery Celebrates B Corps Certification

In 2016, Rogue Creamery celebrated becoming a member of the Certified B Corporations™ (B Corps) community; this worldwide group of 2,000 B Corps™ meet the highest standards of verified, overall social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. This certification represents the consummation of a year- long thorough evaluation and verification of Rogue Creamery’s social and community contributions, environmental performance, financial accountability, public transparency and team member practices verified by the non-profit B Lab company.

Rogue Creamery was acclaimed for its holistic business methods and its “Top of Class” scores particularly in environmental practices, community practices, which includes civic engagement and giving, as well as overall governance, including transparency and accountability. This certification will allow the creamery to set a transparent example of a company that can act as an instrument of change and make a greater impact by helping to influence other organizations to follow this example of verified social and environmental performance.

In 2014 Rogue Creamery registered as the first benefit company in the state of Oregon, so attaining the B Corp certification was the next logical step for the business to take. Its 75-acre USDA-certified organic dairy provides safe and fair working conditions; ensures the health and humane treatment of animals; does not use hormone or antibiotic supplements; does not raise genetically modified crops or livestock; protects water resources; protects and enhances soil resources; provides wildlife habitat and continually improves practices. The creamery currently has three solar projects in place that produce 50 percent of its electrical needs and is well on its way to generating all its electrical needs by 2021. In addition, Rogue Creamery provides its sustainable templates to all businesses that inquire. President David Gremmels is a director on Oregon Governor Brown’s Sustainability Commission Board.

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