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Verde Farms Hires New Execs to Propel Growth

After exceeding $50 million in revenue in 2015, Verde Farms, a leading supplier of grass-fed, grass-finished beef for both retail and food service, invests in the company’s next phase with the hires of two food industry veterans to the leadership team. Guiding the sales and marketing divisions, Joe Koch has joined the company as Vice President of Sales, and Pete Lewis has joined as Vice President of Marketing. Both are newly created positions and happen in tandem with additional hires that have doubled the company size. Koch and Lewis will report directly to Co-founder and CEO Dana Ehrlich and will be key drivers in Verde Farms’ growth strategy.

Well established in the food industry, Koch, who has a background in sales, trade marketing, and category management brings more than 20 years’ experience with consumer brands in highly competitive categories. He previously led the sales teams at Harry & David and Dole Fresh Vegetables, along with stints at Frito Lay and Kraft. Koch joins Verde Farms as the company prepares to launch new product lines which will introduce Verde Farms’ grass-fed beef to a new audience of conscious consumers. As Vice President of Sales, Koch and his team will be responsible for increasing distribution of the entire portfolio in wholesale and foodservice channels nationwide.

With a passion for the natural, organic and better-for-you food and beverages, Lewis is an accomplished marketer with extensive experience in the food industry. Of his 22 years working with consumer brands, Lewis spent eight years growing Stonyfield Farms’ presence in the organic dairy market. He also led the marketing teams at Lightlife Foods, Backyard Farms, and Jasper Wyman & Son. Lewis brings to Verde Farms his expertise in creating and cultivating authentic brand to consumer relationships.

“We had a very successful 2015 and it’s clear the company is poised to take an even bigger lead in the rapidly growing grass-fed industry,” commented Verde Farms’ CEO and Co-founder Dana Ehrlich. “We are all very excited to welcome Joe and Pete and to work alongside them as Verde Farms continues to charter new territory.”

The hires come as Verde Farms transitions to a new location in Woburn, Massachusetts. The new space is double the size of the former office to account for the growing team and to foster future product development and increased client services. Embracing the energy of a tech start-up as opposed to a traditional food producer, Ehrlich wanted a modern space that cultivates innovation and reflects the company’s mission to democratize the consumption of grass-fed beef.

Oberto Beef Jerky Launches Trail Mix Product Line

Oberto Beef Jerky will expand its product portfolio this month as it enters the trail mix category with the launch of Oberto Trail Mix. Oberto’s entry is part of the company’s bigger mission to provide more delicious, convenient, and “better for you” snacking product forms featuring the unmatched lean protein power of its Oberto Beef Jerky. The first three Oberto Trail Mix flavors – Original Beef, Spicy Sweet Beef, and Teriyaki Chicken — are now rolling out to select retailers nationwide.

The introduction of Oberto Trail Mix comes as the beef jerky and trail mix categories are both seeing explosive growth. Combined U.S. retail category sales of jerky and trail mix exceed $3 billion, with explosive growth this yea, according to Nielsen ScanTrak.

Oberto Trail Mix has been in development for more than a year. At Oberto’s integrated research and development lab and U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed manufacturing facility in the Seattle area, the company developed a proprietary blend that guarantees delicious, tender jerky while adding premium nuts, seeds, fruit and dark chocolate. Oberto’s innovative trail mix not only satisfies hunger, but delivers high protein without artificial ingredients.

David Lakey, Oberto’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, said this is a natural expansion of the Oberto Brand. “Active consumers want more protein in their snacks. Loyal Oberto Beef Jerky consumers also eat a lot of trail mix, and our research indicates they’re very interested in this new snack option while on the go.”

To support the launch of Oberto Trail Mix at retail, Oberto has created a range of in-store merchandising vehicles, including shelf talkers and aisle and counter rack displays. It will also promote the new line through digital and social media marketing – including contests and branded content featuring its line-up of major-league athletes.

Top Retailers, Distributors Recognized for Beef Excellence

From grilled steaks to burgers to delicious roasts, consumers seek top-quality beef cuts and rely on local grocers to help them serve their favorite family meals. At this year’s Certified Angus Beef ® Annual Conference, held in Tucson, Arizona, these retailers and distributors from around the globe were honored as beef leaders. The retailers and distributors gathered with family Angus cattle ranchers to nurture their focus on delivering premium beef.
“We are proud to partner with these companies and congratulate their ongoing successes,” says John Stika, the beef brand’s President. “Every time they recommend the Certified Angus Beef brand, they embrace our family ranching heritage and dedication to quality from farm to table.”

Giant Eagle, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, earned the retailer of the year award. Through its focus on bringing top-quality beef to customers, Giant Eagle held a store-wide grilling event and featured roasts for the holidays. Promotions included social media, targeted e-mails and weekly recipes. Stores offer beef that’s cut fresh in-store, as well as specialty burgers, beef kabobs and Certified Angus Beef brand prime cuts. Circular features also included buy-one, get-one opportunities. Giant Eagle’s focus on premium beef earned loyal customers and the top retail sales volume increase award.

Price Chopper and Market 32, based in Schenectady, New York, earned the award for retail marketer of the year for a large chain. Creative promotions year-round feature the Certified Angus Beef brand, which anchors the meat case at all Price Chopper and Market 32 stores. For example, the summer grilling promotion included in-store, print, television and radio promotions leading customers to the meat case, where their beef can be cut to order. Collaboration between the meat team, marketing team and the brand’s staff also introduced top-quality ground beef, helping Price Chopper to also receive a top five sales volume large-chain retailer award.

Foodland Super Markets, in Hawaii, was named the retail marketer of the year for a small chain. The retailer developed comprehensive marketing programs that made the Certified Angus Beef brand the focal point of the meat case and front-page features. Meat department staff were trained to approach customers to discuss beef cuts and meal solutions, which aligned with a campaign inviting customers to meet Foodland’s in-house beef experts. Radio ads, coupons and social media also added sales, which led to a top five sales volume small-chain retailer award.

Meijer, Grand Rapids, Michigan, was named the retail value-added products marketer of the year. Meijer is an innovator in offering Certified Angus Beef brand products in all categories: fresh meats, convenience items, frozen foods and deli meats. The retailer regularly features them in the circular, store signage, advertising and social media. Training programs for meat department staff provide customers with meal solutions.

Reasor’s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, received the retail brand extension marketer of the year award. Stores offer a selection of premium fresh cuts, including Certified Angus Beef brand prime and some dry-aged steaks. Deli and convenience meats also give customers more options for mealtime. Informed meat staff help customers choose beef cuts. Videos with cooking tips and the semi-annual “fill your freezer” sales also help customers enjoy great-tasting beef year-round.

DeMoulas Market Basket, Tewksbury, Massachusetts, was named the retail rising star. Custom marketing materials throughout stores and monthly cooking demonstrations with coupons and recipes lead customers to the meat case. DeMoulas has also been offering a wider selection of fresh beef cuts since introducing Certified Angus Beef brand products two years ago.

Hays Supermarkets, Wynne, Arkansas, received the retail rookie of the year award for its year-long focus on introducing Certified Angus Beef brand products to customers. Throughout the year, Hays stores featured the brand in promotions and focused on offering ground beef to shoppers as a quality advantage in the market.

Centro Cuesta Nacional in the Dominican Republic was recognized as the international retail marketer of the year. The single-store retailer uses a comprehensive marketing plan to offer a wide selection of Certified Angus Beef brand cuts. Billboards, print advertising in major publications, social media and in-store promotions explain beef quality and lead customers to the meat case.


New Bone Suckin’ Cajun Seasoning

bone-suckin-cajun-seasoning-smallThe new Bone Suckin’ Cajun Seasoning from Ford’s Gourmet Foods, the Bone Suckin’ Sauce folks, is the perfect blend of spices and herbs along with the right amount of heat. It makes your food taste great, gets friends talking and coming back for more! Use generously for Cajun food that’s “Bone Suckin’ Good!”

Bone Suckin’ Cajun Seasoning is a blend of spices, smoke paprika, dehydrated garlic and onion with salt and celery seed. It contains no MSG for GMOs. It’s all natural, gluten free and Paleo, and it’s good on seafood, poultry steaks, pork, pasta, french fries, rice, vegetables and gumbo.

Taste it in booth #2326 at Natural Products Expo East.

Celestial Seasonings Brings Back Iconic Packaging, Adds New Flavors

For nearly 50 years, the Celestial Seasonings® brand has brought the magic of tea to people around the world with its unique packaging.  Celestial Seasonings is now returning to its iconic artful packaging in response to consumer demand. Celestial Seasonings is also launching five new flavors and re-releasing a fan favorite.

celestial-seasonings“Last fall, we introduced refreshed packaging intended to modernize our look while maintaining our Celestial Seasonings heritage. Our passionate fans made it clear that our refreshed look was missing some of that special Celestial Seasonings magic,” said Irwin D. Simon, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hain Celestial. “We’ve listened to our consumers and are excited to return to our classic, imaginative package design they feel passionate about, which has made Celestial Seasonings the leading specialty tea brand since 1969 and a key part of the Hain Celestial portfolio since 2000.”

In addition to reintroducing the iconic classic packaging, Celestial Seasonings has launched five delicious new varieties to its herbal and green tea portfolios. The new flavors include:

  • Sleepytime® Mint Herbal Tea: Peppermint leaves blended with the time-honored Sleepytime blend of calming herbs, including chamomile, spearmint and natural spearmint flavor.
  • Sangria Zinger® Herbal Tea: A vibrant blend that captures the true taste of sangria with tart and tangy hibiscus and natural pineapple, blood orange and lemon flavors.
  • Fireside Vanilla Spice™ Herbal Tea: The perfect balance of sweet and spicy featuring cinnamon, licorice, plus ginger, cardamom and natural vanilla flavor.
  • Matcha Green Tea: An invigorating combination of Japanese matcha powder with fine sencha-style green tea leaves.
    Ginger Green Tea: A nutty, balanced blend featuring both dried sencha-style green tea and pan-fired green tea, plus spicy, earthy ginger root.

Also due to consumer demand, the brand is re-releasing its popular Almond Sunset™ Herbal Tea. Available exclusively online, this treasured Celestial Seasonings tea is a toasty blend of roasted carob and barley enhanced with rich and mellow almond flavor, orange peel and a hint of sweet cinnamon. This beloved tea and the five new varieties are now shipping.

Kroger Boosts Share Repurchase Program

The Kroger Co.’s board of directors has declared its quarterly dividend of 12¢ per share to be paid on December 1, 2016, to shareholders of record as of the close of business on November 15, 2016.

Kroger today also announced an incremental $500 million share repurchase program, supplementing the current authorization, which has $392 million remaining as of September 14, 2016.

“Kroger’s share repurchase authorization reflects our Board of Directors’ confidence in our Customer 1st Strategy and our ability to create value for shareholders,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s Chairman and CEO. “We are committed to delivering long-term growth investors can count on.”

In June, Kroger’s Board raised the quarterly dividend by 14 percent. Kroger has delivered double-digit compound growth in its dividend since it was reinstated in 2006. The company continues to expect an increasing dividend over time.

Over the last four quarters, the company has returned more than $1.5 billion to shareholders through share buybacks and dividends combined.

C.A. Fortune Expands Coverage to West Coast

C.A. Fortune has agreed to acquire CSW Food Brokerage, based in Livermore, California. C.A. Fortune is a natural, specialty and bakery/deli sales and marketing agency currently covering the eastern and central market areas. CSW is a regional Natural, Specialty and Bakery/Deli sales and marketing agency covering the northern California market, which also includes Nevada, Hawaii and parts of Oregon. The acquisition of CSW will mark the first step in the expansion of C.A. Fortune’s coverage to the western United States.

Bob and Christine Wingfield, longtime owners of CSW, will lead the northern California operations for C.A. Fortune. “We are genuinely excited and look forward to working with C.A. Fortune,” Bob Wingfield said. Throughout their years in the business, the Wingfields have excelled at attracting key people with deep industry knowledge to their team. This depth of talent will enable C.A. Fortune to hit the ground running.

“When we launched our initial business plan in June 2013, the vision and goal was to build the premier, privately-held national sales and marketing agency focused on the Natural, Specialty and Bakery/Deli trade channels,” said Tyler Lowell, Managing Partner of C.A. Fortune. “With the addition of the CSW Brokerage business and the professional team that Bob and Christine have developed, we are proud to extend the C.A. Fortune brand into the western U.S.”

The Greek Gods Brand Introduces Chocolate Greek-Style Yogurt

The Greek Gods® brand has introduced three new flavors of Greek-Style Yogurt; all with a creamy, rich chocolate base. The new flavors include hints of mocha, strawberry and cherry for a unique and decadent experience. The new yogurts are available in 24 ounce tubs.

“Our customers have enjoyed our decadent, whole milk Greek-Style Yogurts for many years, and chocolate was a natural fit for our newest addition,” said Basel Nassar, Chief Operating Officer of the Hain Refrigerated Foods Division. “Customer feedback has been extremely positive. The creamy, thick texture and rich taste of chocolate make these new flavors truly unique.”

The Greek Gods Greek-Style Yogurt and Kefir
The Greek Gods Greek-Style Yogurt is a brand of The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. The Greek Gods brand Greek-Style Yogurt and Kefir are gluten-free and contain live and active cultures. Plus, The Greek Gods brand Greek-Style Yogurt and Kefir are made with milk from cows that are not treated with growth hormones.

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