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Wild Ginger Alcoholic Ginger Beer

ginger beerWild Ginger Brewing Company unveils Wild Ginger™ Alcoholic Ginger Beer. “Alcoholic ginger beer has been around as long as the art of brewing. It was only during Prohibition that it turned to soda,” said Wild Ginger Founder Jamey Grosser. “I’ve always loved ginger beer, but could never find an alcoholic version, so I decided to make one myself. With Wild Ginger, we’ve nailed the right combination of ginger spice and fresh citrus that is great on its own or is a mixologist’s dream in cocktails.”

Grosser learned the art of brewing from legendary Moonshiner Popcorn Sutton and with this current venture is expanding his repertoire through a wide range of adult beverages.

At first impression, Wild Ginger entices with a subtle sweetness that climaxes in a spicy finish – with no beer aftertaste. Wild Ginger is right at home on the rocks with a lemon or lime, sipped straight out of a cold can or enjoyed in a classic cocktail such as the Moscow Mule.

“We have seen the explosion of ciders over the last two years, and ginger beer is a natural progression,” said Steve Economos, CEO of Eagle Rock Distributing Company in Atlanta, Georgia. “Craft sodas have been hot for many years now, and Moscow Mules are on fire in the on-premise. Fusing those two flavors into a beer is a homerun. I think Wild Ginger has nailed it from a taste profile, and I am excited to see what our team can do with it in the market.”

Wild Ginger Alcoholic Ginger Beer (4 percent ABV) is initially available in 12-ounce cans in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and North Florida, with national availability expected by year-end. A six-pack will retail for approximately $8.99-$9.99. Additional products are planned for release in the fall.

Snap Kitchen Prepares for Further Expansion with New CEO and $22 Million Capital Raise

Snap Kitchen, an Austin, Texas-based retailer that provides freshly prepared, healthy takeaway meals, has named David Kirchhoff as Chief Executive Officer. The company has also raised $22 million in new capital from existing investors Catterton and Co-founder Bradley Radoff. The addition of Kirchhoff, coupled with the new capital, will drive accelerated retail growth and enhanced innovation, allowing Snap Kitchen to further its goal of providing compelling and convenient solutions for customers seeking healthier eating options.

Kirchhoff joins Snap Kitchen with a long history as a leader in the health and wellness sector, having spent 13 years in various management roles at Weight Watchers International, the world’s leading weight management company, most recently as CEO. In this role, Kirchhoff oversaw a network of more than 40,000 employees and service providers around the world serving approximately 1.2 million members attending 45,000 meetings a week globally in addition to over a million online subscribers.

“Having spent nearly 14 years helping people learn how to live healthy lives and navigate a difficult food environment, I have been eagerly waiting for a concept like this to be created,” says Kirchhoff. “Consumers deserve a meal option that is without compromise: great food, great health and maximum convenience. Snap Kitchen is all of these things—truly the Holy Grail of future-facing food. The team at Snap Kitchen has built the concept I have always dreamed of, and I am honored to have the opportunity to take it to a new level.”

Co-Founder Martin Berson will remain actively involved in the day to day operations as President of Snap Kitchen. “We are really excited to have Dave join our team. Snap Kitchen has grown significantly in our short history, and with Dave at the helm, we are positioned to take our business to exciting new heights,” says Berson. “Dave’s background running Weight Watchers, combined with his passion for healthy living, breadth of experience and strong leadership skills, will complement the skillsets of our current team. Fantastic food and awesome service have always been the beating heart of Snap Kitchen. In my new role, I can fully dedicate myself to upping the ante in both of these areas as we relentlessly pursue our passion for phenomenal food, expertly sourced, and delivered with transparent nutritionals.”

Jon Owsley, a Partner at Catterton, says, “We are excited to welcome Dave into Snap Kitchen and to continue to support this unique retail concept. Through its culinary focus on healthy and great-tasting food sourced from local and organic ingredients, Snap Kitchen is ideally positioned to serve the needs and cravings of all health conscious consumers. Dave’s experience and his passion make him the ideal candidate to lead the company into the future.”

“This is an exciting moment in the evolution of Snap Kitchen. I think we have only begun to scratch the surface in how we can enrich and enhance our customers’ lives by providing delicious and convenient healthier dining options. I want to thank my partner Martin for helping transform what started as an idea five years ago into a leading retail concept today, and I want to welcome Dave as he accepts the challenge to lead us as we continue to innovate and change the way people eat,” says Bradley Radoff, Co-Founder.

Mark Your Calendars for SF Cheese Fest

In the heart of America’s favorite food city, in a neighborhood busting with craft and creativity, the California Artisan Cheese Guild will launch SF Cheese Fest, a first‐time event bringing together acclaimed cheesemakers, the city’s hippest mongers, Bay Area brews, and local makers of artisan foods. Tickets are on sale now for the SF Cheese Fest’s main event, the Cheesemaker Celebration along with other festival events to be held at various locations around the city. The mission of SF Cheese Fest is to bring the farm to the City – to celebrate the hard work, craftsmanship, and unique character of California cheese and cheesemakers.

“By supporting local artisan and farmstead cheeses, you are helping to preserve working farms, open space and the unique flavors they produce,” says Cheese Guild President Louella Hill. At the SF Cheese Fest Cheesemaker Celebration on Saturday, September 19, 2015, at Dogpatch WineWorks, guests will rub elbows with over 20 cheesemakers, cheesemongers, goat wrangles, cow lovers, sheep breeders, and more. On offer are curated pairings with Bay Area cutting edge producers We Love Jam, Mimi’s Confiture, Rustic Bakery, Josey Baker Bread, Fra’ Mani, Bay Area Bee Company, Friend in Cheeses preserves, along with beer from San Francisco breweries Magnolia Brewing Company, Fort Point Beer Co., and Harmonic Brewing. The evening will overflow with flavor while music from The Easy Leaves, and DJ Lisa Pezzino keeps the party moving.

Tickets are available at Eventbrite, including VIP tickets ($125) with early entrance at 6 pm, live music, special bites provided by Piccino and prizes, and General Admission ($75) from 7–10 pm.

Additional ticketed festival events:

Friday, September 18, from 6:30-7:30 pm, famed local cheesemonger, Emiliano Lee, will host “Preview of Cheese Fest,” a cheese and beer pairing workshop at Eat Real Fest in Oakland. Ticketed on-site.

Friday, September 18, from 5-7 pm, a hoppy happy hour of brews and cheese celebrating these friends in fermentation, will take place at Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing Co. featuring Magnolia beer and cheese from California Artisan Cheese Guild cheesemakers.

Friday, September 18, from 6-8 pm, urban winemaker Carl Sutton will host a cheese and wine evening at Sutton Cellars featuring his wines paired with cheeses from California Artisan Cheese Guild members.

Saturday, September 19, from 10 am‐1 pm at Dogpatch WineWorks, the San Francisco Milk Maid will teach a hands‐on cheesemaking “Curd Nerd” seminar where attendees will learn the basics of cheesemaking, the stages of fermentation, and how to stretch mozzarella and fill burrata.

SF Cheese Fest is made possible with generous sponsorship from The Chefs’ Warehouse, Hilmar Cheese, Bi-Rite Family of Businesses, Greenleaf, McKenna Marketing, Mike Hudson Distributing, Food Matters Again, Plow, Gourmet News, World’s Best Cheeses and Canyon Market. SF Cheese Fest is the primary fundraiser for the California Artisan Cheese Guild.

Cathy Strange Awarded Lifetime Achievement Award by Cheese Society

 

Cathy Strange cropCathy Strange, Global Cheese Buyer for Whole Foods Market, was presented with the American Cheese Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award on July 30. The ACS Lifetime Achievement Award was created to offer individuals who have made a lasting impact on the American cheese industry. Past winners have included Ig Vella, Daphne Zepos, Steve Jenkins and Ari Weinzweig. “The person at Whole Foods who has not just supported cheese but made it her passion to bring it to the public is Cathy Strange. What Cathy has done and continues to do includes not just global cheese-buying duties, but a worldwide effort to provide her customers with the finest specialty foods available. fighting for right to choose raw milk cheeses, supporting regional small producers with a high-profile venue for them. Her reach and influence is impossible to exaggerate. visionary advocacy and championship for good, safe and delicious food,” said Peggy Smith, who presented the award on behalf of the society.

 

 

Packaged Facts: Nutritional Bars Providing the Portable, Healthier Snacks U.S. Consumers Crave

American snackers love their nutritional bars, finds market research publisher Packaged Facts in the report “Nutritional and Cereal Bars in the U.S., 4th Edition.” Nutritional bars are a handy way for consumers to stop eating three meals a day at set times and to start consuming smaller portions of food throughout the day, whether they are on the go or at home.

Nutritional bars conform to a broad cultural shift toward healthier, good-for-you food products.  Bars provide an attractive way for food marketers to offer bold, exciting flavors; ingredients with a shiny health halo resulting from their organic and “natural” characteristics; and superfoods and other functional ingredients targeting specific health concerns such as a desire or need for food to be gluten-free.  Nutritional bars, which have achieved torrid sales growth in recent years, provide an especially appropriate platform to deliver the kind of dense nutrition today’s consumers crave and search for in sources such as ancient grains and healthy seeds, including quinoa, amaranth, sorghum, chia and flaxseed.

Nutritional bars have long been marketed as a source of quick energy and meal replacements for athletes and fitness buffs.  According to the report, the psychographic profile of high-volume users of nutritional bars indicates that marketers of these products will continue to be on target with advertising campaigns geared toward fitness and outdoor activities.  High-volume users of nutritional bars are more likely to say they enjoy taking risks (42 percent vs. 34 percent) and have a higher likelihood of engaging in outdoor pursuits such as mountain/rock climbing, backpacking and mountain biking.  They also are far more likely to try to stay fit by engaging in fitness activities such as fitness walking and weight training.

An emerging trend highlighted in “Nutritional and Cereal Bars in the U.S., 4th Edition” is that consumers engaged in sports and fitness activities are starting to shy away from sweet flavors and are increasingly being drawn to savory snacks.  Savory bars also provide flavor options for different times of the day, reflecting the fact that consumers often look to sweet flavors earlier in the day and savory flavors later in the day.

Marketers are rushing to roll out new nutritional bars to reflect this shift in flavor preferences.  The shift toward savory nutritional bars has increased the popularity of bars that offer meat as a protein source.  Consumers can also expect to find more and more nutritional bars using vegetables as their protein source.  Nutritional bars now on the market include carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli, spinach, quinoa, cauliflower, lentils, bell pepper and basil.

Some industry analysts note that savory bars will need to overcome a number of obstacles if they are to succeed in the marketplace.  They are more difficult to manufacture because they lack sweeteners that act as binding agents.  Moreover, marketers need to find ways to overcome the ingrained association between snack bars and sweet flavors.

New Survey Shows Store Brands Offer Savings on Organic, Gluten-Free, and Special Needs Products

Consumers trying to maintain or improve their health are increasingly seeking specialty food and non-food alternatives. Whether they are organic, gluten-free, dye-free or lactose-free, these products can be costly, but a new survey of special needs store brands items shows significant savings for consumers.

The research, conducted by the Private Label Manufacturers Association, assembled a market basket consisting of 27 typical specialty products that consumers might purchase as healthy alternatives or for special dietary needs. These products include gluten-free items like pancake mix and chicken broth; organics such as milk and pasta; even non-food allergy-free items like dye and perfume-free laundry detergent.

For every category in the study, a leading national brand product was compared to a similar store brand product when available and prices were adjusted to account for all known discounts, coupons and promotions available for each of the four shopping visits in the study.

The PLMA survey discovered that many organic products on the shelves had a private label product but sometimes did not have a national brand counterpart. However, when a national brand was available for comparison, private label products saved consumers 15 percent.  When comparing gluten-free products, the PLMA market basket study found the private label products cost 17 percent less on average when compared to their national brand counterparts, while some store brand products saved shoppers as much as 41 percent.

Millions in the U.S. who are suffering from food allergies, and those with special dietary needs can also save with store brands. Consumers who choose to buy soy burgers, lactose-free milk and low-salt chicken broth, among other specialty food products, would save almost 30 percent when compared to national brand products.

Organic food sales overall continue to grow. Presently they represent a $26 billion market, but sales are projected to reach $60 billion by 2020, according to a report from Packaged Facts. A recent Gallup survey found 45 percent of consumers actively try to include organic products into their diet, and for consumers under the age of 29, that jumps to 53 percent.

The opportunity for private label is evident for a growing number of retailers. In a consumer survey, Walmart found 91 percent of people would buy organic products if they were more affordable. Kroger’s Simple Truth Organic has become a billion dollar brand for the retailer, while other retailers like Costco and Target are expecting billions of dollars in organic food sales this coming year.

The growth of gluten-free products in the U.S. is also widespread. According to Mintel, gluten-free sales have grown 63 percent since 2011 and gluten free sales will top $8 billion this year. Mintel also projects sales are expected to reach $14 billion by 2017 as their popularity and their availability on the shelves continue to grow.

Looking beyond organics and gluten, the Food Allergy Network reports 15 million U.S. adults and children suffer from food allergies, while another five million are allergic to various chemical products. In a recent survey by Datamonitor, 20 percent of consumers said that they avoid certain foods due to an allergy or intolerance most or all of the time.

Hain Celestial Acquires Mona Group, Plans Expansion in Eastern Europe

The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. has acquired the Mona Group, a producer of plant-based foods and beverages with facilities in Germany and Austria through one of its wholly-owned subsidiaries.  Mona offers a wide range of organic and natural products under the Joya® and Happy® brands, including soy, oat, rice and nut-based drinks as well as plant-based yogurts, desserts, creamers, tofu and private label products, sold to leading retailers in Europe, primarily in Austria and Germany and eastern European countries.

“We are excited by the acquisition of Mona, which expands our presence in plant-based products in Europe, solidifying our leadership position in the category with the addition of Joya® and Happy® to our Dream™, Lima® and Natumi® brands.  This acquisition increases the scale of our plant-based operations to over $100 million net sales in Europe in a growing category of branded and private label products, while providing us with additional manufacturing capacity,” said Irwin D. Simon, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hain Celestial.  “Mona also presents us with the opportunity to expand our European product offerings of Lima, Ella’s Kitchen®, Frank Cooper’s®, Robertson’s® and Sun-Pat® brands into AustriaGermany and other central and eastern European countries, including the Czech RepublicHungaryRomania, Serbia and Slovakia.  We plan to create sales opportunities with plant-based beverages and yogurt, which we have successfully introduced in the United States, expand the refrigerated category into desserts, extend the reach of our global brands, including Celestial Seasonings®, Terra® and Tilda®, and leverage our existing infrastructure, manufacturing and research and development expertise for cost efficiencies.”

In calendar year 2014 Mona had approximately $50 million in net sales and is expected to be accretive to Hain Celestial’s earnings in fiscal year 2016.  Mona’s plant-based business, which was established in 2001, was owned by several venture capital groups and members of current and former management.

“As a leading natural and organic foods company in Europe, we believe plant-based foods will become more and more a part of our daily diets.  With this acquisition we will be able to further expand our healthy food offerings and capitalize on plant-based eating trends,” commented Bart Dobbelaere, Chief Executive Officer of Hain Celestial Europe.  “In addition plant-based foods and beverages are more sustainable and lighten the footprint we leave behind.”

With the acquisition of Mona, Hain Celestial Europe will have three facilities producing plant-based beverages, two in Germany and one in Austria, serving the European markets.  Mona’s Vienna office will be the base for expansion into eastern Europe.

The Italian Sauces for Consumers Who Don’t Trust Processed Foods

 

By Lorrie Baumann

The federal Food and Drug Administration has announced that it proposes to require that nutrition fact labels on packaged foods include a declaration of added sugars “to provide consumers with information that is necessary to meet the dietary recommendation to reduce caloric intake from solid fats and added sugars,” according to the agency’s announcement published in the Federal Register in March, 2014. If and when that proposal becomes a federal requirement, the labels on Uncle Steve’s Italian sauces will report that the sauces contain the same amount of added sugars they always have – zero.

The recipes for the sauces came from Steve Schirrippa, actor, author and creator of the sauces, who’s better known as his character, Bobby Baccalieri on the hit television show “The Sopranos.” He got the recipe from his mother, who has since passed away, Scarpinito says. “Steve wanted to pay a tribute to his mother. Abundant home cooked Sunday family meals were very important to her. Steve honored her by producing products he got from her recipes to keep the Sunday tradition alive.”

None of the three varieties of Uncle Steve’s sauces: Marinara, Tomato with Basil and Arrabiata, contain any added sugar, a common ingredient in other prepared pasta sauces. They also contain no GMOs or gluten, and they’re organic. That’s at the insistence of Schirripa’s wife Laura, who’s a marathon runner conscious of healthy eating and who told her husband that if he wanted to make and sell tomato sauce, he needed to be sure that it would be good for people as well as enjoyable, says Uncle Steve’s Italian Specialties Chief Operating Officer Joseph Scarpinito, Jr.:“If you were to line up all of the popular tomato sauces and then remove the ones with pesticides, tomato paste, puree, and added sweetener, you’d be left with only one—Uncle Steve’s.”

Uncle Steve’s is simmered on our stove for six hours. The only sugar in our sauce comes from organic tomatoes imported from Italy and organic onions. Quality is of the utmost important to us,” he added.

The sauces were launched just last year on the company’s website and quickly picked up by Whole Foods Northeast. Other markets along the East Coast followed.

This year, Scarpinito is concentrating on expanding distribution of the sauces to the Southeast, Southwest and West Coast. “That expansion has already started – the sauce has been picked up by the Albertson’s Boise division and by Gelson’s in Los Angeles,” he said. “The sauce is also available from several distributors servicing large independent retailers.”

New products are also under development, including olive oil, pasta and other flavored pasta sauces. Scarpinito is naturally a little coy about pinning them down with any more detail than that, but he did offer a hint: we can expect to see an Uncle Steve’s vodka sauce early next year.

Once the FDA’s proposal is finalized, the FDA wants to give the food industry two years to switch to the new labels. In addition to requiring a declaration for added sugars, the FDA is also proposing a new format for the label that would make calories, serving sizes, and percent daily value figures more prominent. Serving sizes would be changed to reflect the amounts reasonably consumed in one eating occasion. “People are generally eating more today than 20 years ago, so some of the current serving sizes, and the amount of calories and nutrients that go with them, are out of date,” according to the FDA.

 

The New Super-Trendy Vegetable: Beets

 

By Richard Thompson

Beets are getting a whole new look this year, emphasizing their nutritional benefits while being featured in products that appeals to shifting consumer tastes. Similar to the way kale appealed to consumers last year, beets are being marketed as the new super trendy vegetable, grabbing the attention of food retailers and restaurateurs who are selling more items with beets in them than in previous years. Beet products are becoming so popular that this year’s list of sofi Award finalists include two different beet products that were up for three different awards between them.

The past five years have seen beets become more common place as people are more educated about them, says Natasha Shapiro of LoveBeets, known for their popular beet-featured product lines. Adding to the 20 percent increase in distributorship they have seen in the last year is their variety of beet juices and line of beet bars. The Love Beets health bars are coming in Beet & Apple, Beet & Cherry and Beet & Blueberry with all three made gluten-free and with clean ingredients. “We are making beets more fun, accessible and upbeat,” said Shapiro, “We’re modernizing the idea of beets.”

Blue Hill Yogurt, whose Beet Yogurt is a sofi finalist, combined the earthy sweetness of beets with the acidic tangyness of yogurt for a natural and unique trend that could push people looking for something new in milk products. Amped with raspberries and vinegar to maximize the natural earthy sweetness of the beet, Blue Hill wants people to think outside of what is normally thought of with beets and yogurt. “This is a savory yogurt that offers some sweetness, but not fruit-like sweetness. It’s a great afternoon yogurt,” said David Barber, President of Blue Hill.

Beetroot Rasam Soup from Cafe Spices, another finalist for the sofi Award, is competing in two categories, New Products and as a Soup, Stew, Bean or Chili Product. The colorful soup that pairs roasted beets pureed into a tomato base with tamarind, garlic, chiles and mustard seeds is an inspiration from the company’s culinary director and chef Hari Nayak.

Featuring naturally occurring nitrates that help extend exercise performance, fitness communities have long embraced the healthy benefits of beets. Coupled with social media and a general health conscious mindset in consumers, appreciation of beets has spider-webbed through mainstream markets, according to Shapiro. “Its the one vegetable people feel strongly about, Shapiro said, “At events, people just want to share their experiences about beets.”

Adam Kaye, Vice President of Culinary Affairs for Blue Hill, who worked with Dan Barber on their sofi nominated Beet Yogurt, goes one step further. Kaye has seen the appreciation of beets growing beyond it being a fancy potato and finds the whole vegetable incredible. “There is something about the beet that straddles the savory and the sweet,” said Kaye, “You can taste the earth in beets.”

 

Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon Season Ends in Success

There was much anticipation going into the 2015 Bristol Bay sockeye season this year, with some 54 million sockeye salmon forecasted to return.  While the final return of sockeye may fall just short of the pre-season forecast, the 2015 sockeye season was a historic one, with a much higher than average return and a surprisingly late, long run.  As of July 26, 51 millon sockeye salmon returned to Bristol Bay with 35 million of those fish harvested. The peak of Bristol Bay’s run came in about 10 days later than usual this year.

“The season started slow and there was a lot of nervousness on the water, but, as always, the salmon came swimming home on their own schedule.  And when they finally did show up, they came by the tens of millions!  We had a few rough weather days, but it was an unusually sunny season with lots of rainbows and beautiful sunsets, and the best news is that we have plenty of sockeye for our customers,” said Jason McKinley, Bristol Bay Fisherman and Owner of Caught Wild Salmon.

Unusually late timing of the salmon’s return kept fishery managers, fishermen, and seafood processors on their toes as they waited to see how things would play out.   The Alaska Department of Fish and Game kept a close eye on in-season fish numbers and managed fishing efforts day-by-day to ensure that escapement targets were met in all the Bay’s major rivers.

This year’s huge return is good news for chefs and other seafood buyers who source Bristol Bay sockeye and depend on its consistently abundant runs and year-round availability.  Because the majority of Bristol Bay sockeye is flash frozen during the peak of the fishing season, late July and August signal the real start of the Bristol Bay salmon season for consumers.

“When you’re dealing with a wild food like sockeye salmon, you never know what’s going to happen. That’s part of the beauty of it and what makes it so special,” said William Dissen, Chef and Owner of The Market Place in Asheville, North Carolina.  “I’ve served Bristol Bay sockeye in my restaurant for the past few years and am thrilled to once again be able to provide it to our customers who’ve come to expect it on our menu.”

Others in the marketplace are also pleased with this season’s sockeye return, including the national company Plated, which features Bristol Bay sockeye salmon as part of its meal-delivery menu.  “Being able to source and provide Bristol Bay sockeye to our customers is an important part of who we are as a company, and key to our commitment to purchasing sustainable, healthy protein,” said Keith Lydon, Vice President of Operations at Plated.

Consumers around the country can now purchase Bristol Bay sockeye directly from fishermen through Community Supported Fisheries, farmers markets, and buying clubs.  A list of Bristol Bay sockeye suppliers can be found at www.bristolbaysockeye.org.

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