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Gourmet Food and Drink Popping Up In Unexpected Retail Locales

By Jazmine Woodberry

Gourmet companies are broadening the retail locations at which their products are sold, moving from specialty retailer shelves to the shelves of convenience and drug stores. And consumers, retailers and specialty food purveyors themselves are moving fast to adapt to this changing gourmet marketplace.

Nearly one in four people today say they shop in convenience stores more or as frequently as they do grocery stores. Meanwhile, drug stores also boast a $230 billion revenue profile, bolstered by food and drink sales in-store. This is partly driven by the consumer push for more convenient shopping options. Shoppers may still flock to grocery stories when they are looking to discover new items. However, when looking to retrieve everyday staples, the convenience and drug store channels offer some distinct advantages.

Further broadening the appeal of convenience and drug stores to consumers shopping for everyday staples is the growing selection of private label products offered within this channel. “The convenience stores are a contingent. The drug stores are a contingent. All of them represent different aspects of the same solution,” said Private Label Association President Brian Sharoff.

According to research group IRI, 80 percent of shoppers see private label brands as equivalent to or better than the goliath brands on the shelves. This is true when it comes to both the contents on the inside and the way they are packaged on the outside. Thus, by offering more private label goods, convenience and drug stores are able to gain a greater share of those shoppers not committed to name brand labels.

According to Sharoff, the key to being a successful retailer is to set yourself apart from the competition with your own private label offerings. “How can I maximize profits if I’m a retailer? The answer is to have your own brands,” Sharoff said. “[This is] the thing that binds them all together and the product [that] will eventually be sold under that retailer’s own brand name. Whether that’s an upscale product that will be bought [at] Trader Joes or a downscale product that will be bought [at] 7-Eleven, it’s all about getting your own brand out there.”

It is not just the growth in private label options that is driving more and more consumers to convenience and drug stores today, however. As these stores offer an increasingly high end food and beverage selection, they are able to compete with grocery stores even when it comes to things like fresh and prepared foods.

Walgreens has been successfully running UpMarkets since January 2012, combining the usual drug store experience with higher end food options. Walgreens UpMarkets feature the chain’s private label brands Delish and Nice!, as well as freshly prepared in-house items ranging from pre-made Italian dinners to sushi options, green juices and smoothies.

According to Joe Magnacca, President of Daily Living Products and Solutions for Walgreens, these options are making the companies’ stores “the first choice for health and daily living throughout neighborhoods nationwide.” Magnacca added, “Our fresh food offerings provide customers with easier access to a greater selection of fresh foods and beverages.”

7-Eleven is another company working hard to carve itself a place in the gourmet and private label marketplace, offering an increasingly high end selection of healthy snacks. “Better-for-you is one of the fastest-growing segments of the snacking category,” said Rebecca Frechette, Vice President of Merchandising for 7-Eleven. “People are snacking throughout the day, and they’re looking for ways to improve what they eat without sacrificing taste.”

7-Eleven’s premium snack section features both the company’s own private label snacks such as trail mixes and veggie chips priced from $2.49 to $3.99, as well as high-quality, name-brand snacks more commonly found in gourmet and organic grocery stores, selling from $1.49 to $4.99.

One gourmet snack brand consumers are likely to find on the shelves of their local 7-Eleven is Sahale Snacks, maker snack and nut mixes, including Honey Almond, Pomegranate Pistachio, Maple Pecan and Cashew with Vanilla. Sahale Snacks’ Vice President of Marketing Erika Cottrell said that carving out a place in several different arenas helps the brand stay constant in both the marketplace and the minds and hands of consumers. The partnership with 7-Eleven was perfect timing, said Cottrell.

“This trend, of consumers seeking out good-for-you options and looking for them at quick-purchase locations, continues to grow and shows no sign of slowing down. It definitely helps Sahale Snacks as a brand to be available at the locations our customers visit most frequently,” Cottrell said. “People are going to convenience and drug stores more and more to make many of their home and pantry-filling snack purchases. It’s important for our brand and to our customers that they can find Sahale Snacks where those decisions are being made. When people want to snack, why shouldn’t they have great tasting, better-for-you options no matter where they shop?”

The team at Sahale sees great growth potential in convenience and drug stores. The company has not limited itself to marketing its products at 7-Eleven convenience stores alone. Sahale Snacks are now sold at QuickCheck, Wawa, Sunoco, Maverik, Plaid Pantry, Tedeschi, Hess and Royal Farms stores as well.

Questions Over Safety of U.S. Spice, Chicken Imports Driving Consumer Insecurity

By Lucas Witman

A recent survey found that consumer confidence in the safety of foods and beverages that are sold in the United States is currently at its lowest point in five years. Just one in six of those surveyed said that they felt a “great deal” of confidence in the foods they purchase. In contrast, in a similar survey conducted in 2008, four in six expressed a “great deal” of confidence.

There are a number of reasons that consumers today are feeling less confident in the foods and beverages currently on the market. Recent outbreaks of foodborne illness, concerns over pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms in the food supply and health concerns related to preservatives, artificial sweeteners and trans fats are causing alarm for a growing number of American consumers. Now, news has emerged regarding the safety of spices and chicken imported into the United States, further proliferating insecurity among those already wary of what they eat.

Spice imports

This summer, the Food and Drug Administration released a report, which revealed that as much as 7 percent of all spices imported into this country may be contaminated with salmonella. The agency inspected 20,000 shipments of spices imported into this country and found high levels of contamination on coriander, oregano, sesame seeds, curry powder, cumin and black pepper. The highest percentage of spices contaminated with salmonella arrived from Mexico (14 percent) and India (9 percent).

With such a high percentage of U.S. spice imports reportedly contaminated with salmonella, spices and seasonings companies are scrambling to assure consumers that their offerings are safe for consumption. Still, there are some intrinsic aspects of the spice industry that make reducing possible contaminations to zero a difficult task.

“People don’t take the necessary precautions,” said Mick Whitlock, President of Vanns Spices. “We need to be more careful about bringing things into the country.”

Vanns is a major U.S. spice company that imports its products from all over the world. Vanns searches the globe for the latest and most unusual spices, striving to be the first to offer these unique imports to U.S. consumers.

Although Whitlock states that his company does everything possible to ensure that the spices it offers are safe and free of salmonella, he understands that certain aspects of the traditional methods through which authentic spices are harvested and processed for export have contributed to this contamination. He cites Indian peppercorns as an example of this.

“Peppercorns in India are dried on the ground and then they’re scooped up and put into bags and shipped,” Whitlock said. “Over the years, India has gotten better. They put nets over the drying area.”

There are methods that some companies use in order to protect the safety of their product offerings, but many argue that these methods are either ineffectual or that they harm the quality of the spices.

“There are ways of treating them, and that does compromise the quality,” Whitlock said. “We try to avoid chemical treatment and don’t use any irradiation on our spices. A lot of our spices are steam sterilized.”

Whitlock states that Vanns will continue to rely on imported spices as well as continue its work to ensure that these imports are uncontaminated. Vanns does this primarily by demanding various certifications from its suppliers. The primary certification Vanns seeks from its suppliers is a certificate of analysis for every product that enters Vanns’ manufacturing facility. Vanns is certified by the Safe Quality Food Institute. SQF certification is globally recognized as a gold standard for food safety and quality.

Past third party certification, Vanns works to develop its own relationships with its suppliers, visiting their facilities and learning about the products firsthand. By coming to know each individual supplier, Vanns is able to trust that it knows and approves of the products’ source.

Processed chicken imports

In addition to the FDA concerns over the safety of spice imports, worries about the safety of processed chicken imports have also come to light. In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture officially gave permission for chicken processed in China to be imported into the United States. What makes the issue particularly thorny for U.S. consumers is that this product does not have to be labeled as originating in China.

Consumers may in fact have a reason to be concerned about the safety of food imports from China, as there have been a number of incidents in recent years where foods produced in the country have been proven to be unsafe. Earlier this year, it was revealed that much of the rice sold in China may be tainted with the toxic metal cadmium. The Chinese dairy industry has been under fire since 2008, when milk and infant formula from the country was found to be contaminated with melamine, a dangerous chemical introduced to the product to increase protein content. And in May, in perhaps the most disturbing incident regarding food safety and quality in the country, Chinese officials announced that it had arrested several criminal traders for selling rat meat as mutton. Further contributing to U.S. consumers’ fears about the safety of poultry imported from the country are the recent Chinese outbreaks of avian influenza, a disease that can be passed on from dead chickens and turkeys to humans.

With U.S. consumers worried about the chicken nuggets on their dinner tables arriving, unbeknownst to them, from China, it might be expected that the U.S. poultry industry would be equally outraged. However, this has not been the case thus far.

“[The Food Safety and Inspection Service] has assured us, and reassured us, that they are fully committed to protecting the nation’s food supply and if China begins exporting processed chicken products to the United States, all food safety steps will be taken as if the products were processed in the United States,” said Tom Super, Vice President of Communications for the National Chicken Council. The NCC is a national non-profit trade association representing the U.S. chicken industry.

Super points out that although the USDA has approved the import of processed poultry from China, the chickens themselves must still be raised, slaughtered, plucked and frozen in the United States or Canada before this Chinese processing can even take place. It is thus unlikely that many poultry companies would find it economical to import Chinese processed chicken on a large commercial scale.

“One thing to keep in mind is that we’re talking about a miniscule amount of chicken in terms of what is both imported and consumed in the United States,” Super said. “Ninety-nine percent of the chicken we consume here [in the United States] is hatched, raised and processed in the U.S. We don’t expect that to change any time soon. There’s no shortage of chicken here.”

Super is somewhat incredulous that any processed chicken from China will in fact actually be imported into this country. “Think about it. A Chinese company would have to purchase frozen chicken in the United States, pay to ship it 7,000 miles, unload it, transport it to a processing plant, unpack it, cut it up, process/cook it, freeze it, repack it, transport it back to a port, then ship it another 7,000 miles,” he said. “I don’t know how anyone could make a profit doing that.” According to Super, the only market for expensive imported Chinese poultry is likely to be niche Asian markets.

The U.S. government

The NCC’s sense of security when it comes to the safety of Chinese poultry imports is largely dependent on the trade association’s confidence in the U.S. government’s ability to monitor these products and determine that they are safe for consumption. According to Super, FSIS has taken all the necessary precautions to protect U.S. consumers.

Still, the U.S. government has not always proven itself completely reliable as a barometer for what is safe to eat on grocery store shelves. “I think the government should be doing more,” said Whitlock. Although Whitlock says he thinks the government has made significant progress in recent years in improving the inspections of food and food facilities, it still has a long way to go to wholly protect the U.S. population from unsafe and unsanitary foodstuffs.

Lucini Italia to Sponsor Intensive Olive Oil Tasting Seminar

With extra virgin olive oil use by Americans increasing every year and a recent United States International Trade Commission report revealing
a majority of extra virgin olive oils on the shelves are “adulterated and mislabeled products,” a deep understanding of extra virgin olive oil is becoming essential to operate successfully in this dynamic category.

Lucini Italia is proud to sponsor the National Organization of Olive Oil Tasters’ (ONAOO) Extra Virgin Olive Oil Intensive Tasting Seminar, a two-day, in-depth training modeled after the five-day professional ONAOO course based in Imperia, Italy.  A first of its kind in the United States, the course is led by Italian ONAOO instructors and will teach proper tasting techniques, sensory analysis and how technology plays a role with the quality of extra virgin olive oil, among other topics. Held in San Francisco two days before the Winter Fancy Food Show in January, the seminar is targeting buyers and category managers who have the task of listing and reviewing olive oils for sale in their stores and distributorships.

David Neuman, President of Lucini, attended the full five-day course in Italy last year and was extremely impressed with the high level of professionalism and vast knowledge the ONAOO instructors possessed. Lucini developed an hour long mini-training that explained how extra virgin olive oil is made, why quality is of the utmost importance and why it is imperative to be able to discern quality vs. fraudulent oils. Lucini held more than 20 mini-trainings in the last year for major retailers, distributors and consumer magazines, all of which ended with the audience hungry to learn more about extra virgin olive oil and asking how they could attend an official ONAOO course.

Realizing that the high cost of travel to Imperia, hotel lodging, course fees and the fact that the course is held in English only twice a year may prohibit others to attend, Lucini began working with ONAOO’s scientific advisor, Dr. Mauro Amelio, to bring a version of the course to America. The cost of the US course is $500 and covers all materials needed, as well as olive oil-centric meals.

“Lucini is not benefiting financially from the training,” Neuman said. “Simply put, quality is our mantra and the more people understand and respect quality extra virgin olive oil, the better and stronger the category will be as a whole.”

The Imperia-based course has been attended by Tom Mueller, Author of the New York Times Bestseller, Extra Virginity, Nick Coleman, Chief Oleologist at Eataly in New York City and Eryn Balch, Executive Vice President of the North American Olive Oil Association. “This course, or one like it, should be mandatory for anyone in the olive oil business – and everyone who wants to understand oil quality,” said  Mueller, who will serve as the keynote speaker for the seminar in San Francisco. “Plus the people in your course frequently become valuable contacts that broaden your experience of the industry.”

The course is taking place in San Francisco on January 17 – January 18, 2014. Visit www.oliveoilseries.com for more information, full curriculum and to register.

Alter Eco Foods Launches Organic Chocolate Truffles in Two Flavors

Alter Eco Foods has introduced its newest organic, fair trade product line: truffles. In dark chocolate and dark milk chocolate, these truffles are a bold and innovative addition to the popular Alter Eco organic, fair trade chocolate bars. Alter Eco has reinvented the colorful round twist-wrap truffles seen at every grocery store checkout counter. Alter Eco has taken these much-loved favorites and made them with organic ingredients, adding pure lauric acid-rich coconut oil, instead of palm kernel oil, to its fair trade chocolate. Even the packaging is compostable. And while consumers are already familiar with the truffles’ smooth and melty texture, the sustainability-age makeover is all new, all Alter Eco.

Deep dark smooth chocolate sourced from Ecuador (Black Truffles) and Peru (Velvet Truffles) surrounds these sumptuous bite-sized delights. Pure organic coconut oil combined with milk and cacao creates the silky-smooth, melty filling. These Swiss-made, organic, fair trade truffles will launch with two classic flavors: Black (Dark Chocolate) and Velvet (Dark Milk Chocolate). Additional innovative flavors will soon follow.

Newly popular in American nutrition circles, coconut oil is credited with an impressive list of health benefits — from controlling weight, to improving memory, to regulating cholesterol.  “Coconut oil is taking the nutrition world by storm with its array of amazing health-promoting properties,” said Jessica Pantermuehl, Nutritional Counselor and founder of Beautifully Balanced Nutrition.  “It is full of medium chain triglycerides, better known as the good fat, and even appears to raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as the good cholesterol.”

Importantly, coconut oil is a sustainable alternative to the more common palm kernel oil. Alter Eco sources its coconut oil from Fair Trade Alliance Kerala, located on India’s tropical Malabar Coast. This farmer-owned co-op practices jaiva krishi, a sustainable farming method that mimics virgin rainforest, where many crops grow harmoniously together, and many animal species — including wild elephants — roam safely.

The truffles are wrapped in new eco-friendly packaging.  Alter Eco has developed a groundbreaking wrapper — printed with non-toxic compostable ink — that will decompose in yard waste and at-home compost bins.  Additionally, the outer box packaging of the truffles is recyclable.  More information and demonstration of this innovation sustainable packaging can be found at: http://www.alterecofoods.com/sustainability/sustainable-packaging.

“Alter Eco’s goal is to provide consumers with a decadently delicious taste experience, while never compromising our own values,” said Edouard Rollet, Co-Founder and President of Alter Eco. “With these truffles, we’ve taken goodness to a whole new level.”

Alter Eco Truffles, like all Alter Eco offerings, are 100 percent organic, fair trade and non-GMO. The products are also Carbon Neutral certified.  Alter Eco Truffles (SRP $7.99 / 10-pack) will launch exclusively at Whole Foods Markets from October 2013 to March 31, 2014.  They will be available to all retailers through most major distributors by mid-March 2014 for April placements.

Salt & Straw, Artisanal Chocolatiers Partner on Seasonal Gourmet Ice Cream Flavors

Salt & Straw has partnered with small, artisanal chocolatiers Sahagun ChocolatesXocolatl de DavidMissionary ChocolatesAlma Chocolate and Woodblock Chocolate, to show off each of their unique chocolate making styles, techniques and ingredients through scoops of ice cream. Gift pack of flavors will be available for nationwide shipping through www.saltandstraw.com  and at Portland area scoop shops beginning February 1.

Sahagun’s Oregon Kiss

Crafted in the form of a deep chocolate ice cream with cocoa-nutty gianduja truffles, this ice cream was created by Elizabeth Montes of Sahagun Chocolates, who helped pioneer Portland’s artisan chocolate scene in 2005.  Her meticulousness with flavor has earned her caramels a spot on New York Times’ “best in the box” list. 
Xocolatl de David’s Bacon Raleigh Bar Ice Cream 
Like a Snickers bar that’s been warped into something that’s just as satisfying yet fulfills the strict demand of “Portland Artisan.” Chocolatier and former chef, David Briggs, has spent the last eight years perfecting this chocolate bar recipe, which can be found on the shelves of even the trendiest of Portland shops. For the ice cream, Salt & Straw melted honey nougat into the base, added heavy ribbons of bacon infused caramel plus candied pecans.
 
Woodblock’s Peruvian Pisco & Chocolate 
An Intensely cocoa flavored, Single-origin Peruvian Chocolate ice cream mixed with a puckering and tangy pisco sour sorbet. Roasting single-origin cocoa beans in a 19th century, repurposed coffee roaster, Charley Wheelock’s “bean-to-bar” chocolates help to make this Frankenstein-like reincarnation of a traditional chocolate ice cream truly magical.
 
Missionary’s Blood Orange Chocolate Sorbet
A creamy vegan chocolate delight awaits you with a cup of this decisively bright, indulgently dense blood orange and chocolate sorbet.  Melissa Berry, a naturopathic physician, started her company based on the sheer passion of making delicious chocolates that her vegan mother could eat. Today, proceeds from her company are set aside with the goal of starting an in-patient naturopath hospital funded by chocolate! Similar to Missionary’s truffles, this sorbet doesn’t proclaim the fact that it’s dairy free, but if you’re asking…
 
Alma’s Boozy Bon Bon
A delicate combination of flavors that are married with precision, Alma’s Boozy Bon Bon  ice cream weaves together the assertive flavors of anise, lime zest, and an extra dark chocolate to create the ice cream base; then studs it with Madeira wine and House Spirits rum-soaked prunes. At Alma Chocolates, Sarah Hart has created a food culture and seasonal bon bon menu around the best ingredients and producers in Portland, creating one-bite beauties that shock and awe guests. 
 
About Salt & Straw Ice Cream
Salt & Straw Ice Cream is a small batch ice cream company that partners with local artisans, producers and farmers to create unique and gourmet flavors. The ice cream is handmade, using only all natural cream from local farms throughout the Willamette Valley. Flavors showcase the best local, organic and sustainable ingredients from Oregon farmers and artisans, such as Rogue Creamery, Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Olympic Provisions charcuterie, as well as imported flavors from small hand-picked farms from around the world. The company started serving eight flavors from an ice cream cart in May of 2011 and then moved to its first brick and mortar location on Aug. 12, 2011. All shops use 100 percent renewable energy as well as fully compostable serveware for all to-go items. Scoops of hand-made, small batch ice creams, sundaes, milkshakes and floats as well as pints to go are available at each shop and served with impeccable service. Favorites, seasonal and design your own variety packs are available for online purchase and can be shipped anywhere in the United States. Salt & Straw’s ice cream cart is available for catering parties and events. Find more information at www.saltandstraw.com  or call 971-271-8168. Follow on Facebook at Salt and Straw Ice Cream or Twitter @SaltandStraw.

Stoger Chile Seed Oil Scores Silver Scovie

 Stöger Seed Oils‘ Chile Seed Oil earned a Silver Scovie Award from the 2014 Scovie Awards judging panel of culinary experts in the Condiments – Hot & Spicy category.

This year’s Scovie Awards were extremely competitive, featuring more than 805 products competing for the gold in their respective categories. Products were submitted from around the world, and each entry went through vigorous blind taste tests.

Dave Dewitt, founder of the Scovie Awards stated, “Companies recognize our awards as the most competitive blind taste tested event in the world.”

Stöger Seed Oils are available online at www.stogeroil.com, at select Whole Foods Markets nationally and Central Market, and at other specialty and gourmet food stores. The suggested retail price ranges from $15 to $39 for 100ml-500ml bottles. For more information, visit www.stogeroil.com, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stogeroil.com.

Alaska King, Tanner, and Snow Crab Fishing Opens in Bristol Bay and the Bering Sea

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute Photographer: Chris Miller

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
Photographer: Chris Miller

October 18, 2013 marks the start of the 2013-2014 harvest season for Bristol Bay red king crab, Bristol Bay tanner crab, and Alaska Bering Sea snow crab, three legendary and sought-after varieties of seafood. Collectively these fisheries represent the most significant numbers in terms of Alaska’s crab harvest.

The 2013 Total Allowable Catches (TACs), which are established yearly for each species to maintain maximum sustained yield and continued abundance, reflect the state’s commitment to responsible fisheries management and the willingness of Alaska’s managers to adjust their catch to align with the best scientific data available.

·      The 2013 TAC for Bristol Bay red king crab is set at 8.6 million pounds, representing a 9.5 percent increase from 2012.

·      The 2013 TAC for Bristol Bay Tanner crab is set at 3.1 million pounds. The fishery was closed in 2012 due to the mature female biomass falling below the required 21.9 million pounds.

·      The 2013 TAC for Alaska Bering Sea snow (opilio) crab is set at nearly 54 million pounds, representing a 19 percent decrease from 2012.

Smaller Alaska crab fisheries include Aleutian Island golden king crab, which opened on August 15 with a TAC of 6.29 million pounds, and Norton Sound red king crab, which ran from July 3 to September 14 and had a total harvest of 391,863 pounds.

Alaska crab stocks are jointly managed by state and federal organizations: the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) oversees conservation and management, while the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC) superintends allocation and policy.

Luxurious Alaska king crab is unmatched in size and is celebrated for its sweet flavor and rich, tender texture. Alaska snow crab is prized for its delicately sweet flavor, and tender, snow-white meat. For more information on wild, sustainable Alaska crab, including recipes and nutritional facts, please visit www.wildalaskaflavor.com.

Icing Smiles is Sweet at Chicago Fine Chocolate & Dessert Show

Rejoice in a day of chocolate filled happiness during this year’s Chicago Fine Chocolate & Dessert Show, a celebration of all things chocolate—and this year, dessert! Chocolate lovers can visit Chicago’s Navy Pier and fine restaurants starting October 13 to support Chicago Chocolate Week, a celebration benefiting the show’s charity partner, Icing Smiles Inc.

smokey01s_zps4b30374dIcing Smiles, a nonprofit organization, is devoted to providing a temporary escape and positive memory for children and their families who are impacted by critical illness with cakes!  The company provides critically ill children with beautiful custom creations for special occasions, donated by local bakeries and pastry chefs.

Kicking off the annual Chicago Fine Chocolate & Dessert show was the first-ever Room for Dessert dinner at Storefront Company, a night benefiting Icing Smiles! An elite group of chefs with the sweetest jobs in the city gathers Monday, Oct. 14 for an event you don’t want to miss. From the finest hand-painted artisan bars and uniquely-flavored truffles to decadent chocolate cakes, tarts, mousses, and more, guests will experience the world of chocolate. Their creations will be paired with wines and savory bites in between!

During the Icing Smiles’ Cake Arts Gallery, six amazing show-stopping cakes by area sugar artists will compete for the People’s Choice award in a timely themed Halloween, Fall and Kids competition. During the show, Icing Smiles will have a competition features a showpiece cake competition in the Gallery for a People’s Choice Award. Chef Charity from Icing Smiles will be there making her amazing cake creations as well!

Attendees to the Gallery use donation dollars to vote to raise money for their mission.  The entrants this year are all amazing sugar artists including Bob Brougham from The Cakery, Inc.; Mark Lie from A Piece of Cake; Michelle Boyd from Good Gracious Cakes and more!

Icing smiles has the golden ticket for the finest dining experiences in Chicago! Satisfy your sweet tooth with decedent dessert creations at participating locations including Acadia, Little Market Brasserie, Sable Kitchen & Bar, Tavernita and more all next week until Sunday, October 20 and 10 percent of proceeds will be donated to Icing Smiles!

Icing Smiles has been baking a difference since 2010. They understand that the simple things, like a birthday cake, are luxuries to a family battling illness. Their goal is to create a custom cake for the ill child, or their sibling, that provides a temporary escape from worry and creates a positive memory during a difficult time.

Nut-Free Snack Brand Raises Awareness with Pinterest Contest

Skeeter contestSkeeter Snacks,which offers high-quality, indulgent snacks that are 100 percent safe for those with tree nut and peanut allergies (TPA), is launching its inaugural No Nuts About It. Pin It To Win It contest on Pinterest. This nationwide contest will take place from October 7 through December 16, and asks participants to vote for their favorite Skeeter Snacks tips and products on Pinterest for a weekly chance of winning Skeeter Snacks prize packs. Skeeter Snacks is hosting this contest to raise awareness about living with nut allergies, as well as healthy eating habits, creative snack ideas and reward consumers with and without nut allergies.

To participate in the contest, consumers are urged to follow Skeeter Snacks’ No Nuts About It board on Pinterest and interact regularly. The board will be updated daily with product images, healthy snacking tips and nut-free kids activities. All pins will reflect Skeeter Snacks and health tips for celebrating the holidays safely with a nut allergy.

Participants are asked to share the board with their followers daily during the three-month campaign. Points will be awarded for following, re-pinning, liking and commenting on Skeeter Snacks’ pins within the No Nuts About It board. To earn an additional five points, participants can tweet @SkeeterSnacks, tag @SkeeterSnacks on Instagram and post on Skeeter Snacks’ Facebook using an @ mention to say at what retailers they found their Skeeter Snacks, along with hashtag #NoNutsAboutIt.

This Pin It To Win It campaign is a great opportunity for us to interact with our consumers across the country,” says Laurie Witt, Director of Marketing of Skeeter Snacks. “We love sharing our love for Skeeter and helping draw attention to the rising issue of food allergies, especially tree nut and peanut allergies. Our snacks are a delicious treat for everyone with nut allergies, but also for people without nut allergies.”

Skeeter Snacks was founded by two fathers of children with TPAs as a solution to the lack of suitable snack options on store shelves. As the number of kids directly affected has more than tripled over the past 15 years, Skeeter Snacks’ product line of Chocolate Chip Minis, Cinnamon Grahams, Chocolate Chunk cookies, Chocolate Cubed cookies, Golden Oatmeal cookies and Skeeter Doodle cookies offer a treat for both TPA and allergy-free kids to enjoy. Skeeter Snacks targets consumers as well as schools and institutions that recognize the importance of creating nut-free zones. A brand that strives to be a steadfast resource for TPA families, Skeeter Snacks can be found in Toys “R” Us, Wal-Mart and CVS Pharmacies.

Keith McDaniel Named CEO of Wythe Will Tzetzo, LLC

Wythe Will Tzetzo, LLC, a packager and distributor of confections and specialty food, has announced that its board of directors has named Keith McDaniel to succeed Gordon Angles, who is retiring from his role as CEO at the end of 2013.

McDaniel has 22 years of experience in the confectionery industry serving in various capacities, most recently as President of Wythe Will Tzetzo. McDaniel joined Tzetzo Bros, a predecessor company, in 1991 as Vice President of Purchasing.

Gordon Angles said “Keith’s wealth of experience and industry knowledge, along with his passion and commitment to the business, make him the ideal person to lead Wythe Will Tzetzo going forward. Keith is dedicated to our customers in providing the best possible service and quality of products. His leadership and knowledge of the industry will be vitally important in guiding Wythe Will Tzetzo’s success into the future.”

Keith McDaniel commented “To succeed an industry statesman such as Gordon Angles in the role of CEO of Wythe Will Tzetzo is an honor. We have a lot of great projects on the table at Wythe Will Tzetzo that we feel will offer tremendous value to our customers, and I am very excited to lead the company through its next phase of growth.”

Wythe Will Tzetzo, LLC is a portfolio company of Slate Capital Group.

About Wythe Will Tzetzo, LLC
Wythe Will Tzetzo (WWT) is a leading provider of national branded, unbranded, and private label confectionery products and specialty foods sold to retailers throughout the United States. The company provides value added packaging as well as bulk distribution of chocolate, nonchocolate
confectionary, fruit & nut mixes and specialty products. With a history dating back to 1927, the company has grown steadily through both organic expansion and acquisitions to be one of the largest and most reputable players in specialty food and candy packaging and distribution, with expertise in worldwide sourcing, warehousing, and transportation logistics.

The company’s facilities are located in Buffalo, N.Y., Toano, Va. (near Williamsburg), Los Angeles, Calif., and Lebanon, Tenn. WWT maintains deep relationships with large national grocers, alternative retailers, convenience chains, as well as a large number of independent retailers. As a leading value-added single source, Wythe Will Tzetzo provides its products to these customers at multiple price points in a variety of formats and configurations. With products sold under the company’s trade names and private label, the company has breadth of product offering of more than 7,500 SKUs from over 450 domestic and international specialty food and confection companies.

About Slate Capital Group
Slate Capital Group is a leading private equity investment group based in Baltimore, Md. that partners with lower-middle market companies. With a focus on companies in the Mid-Atlantic region, Slate Capital provides liquidity to business owners as well as growth capital to businesses for further expansion. The principals of Slate Capital have significant experience in both running small-to-mid-sized companies and investing in venture capital and leveraged buyout transactions. Slate Capital’s primary areas of focus include business services, distribution, light manufacturing, direct marketing, food & beverage, for-profit education, consumer and retail investments. Additional information can be found at www.SlateCap.com.