Get Adobe Flash player

Albertsons Companies Announces Milestones Since Safeway Merger

On the two-year anniversary of the merger that created the second-largest supermarket company in the U.S., Albertsons Companies announced that since the merger with Safeway, it has grown its workforce by 10 percent, creating 26,000 jobs; built or acquired 174 locations; increased healthy food and financial donations; and elevated its commitment to sustainability.

“We added an exceptional class of talented employees to our family as we grew to serve more neighborhoods and customers. We also supported hundreds of causes with millions of dollars in donations and transformed into a greener, more sustainable company,” said Bob Miller, Chairman and CEO of Albertsons Companies. “I’m extremely proud of our accomplishments, which are a result of the dedication of every employee. They helped us take steps toward being the Favorite Local Supermarket™ in the communities we serve.”

Merger Anniversary Highlights:

  • 26,000 jobs created
  • 23 new stores built and 151 stores acquired
  • 47,000 team members celebrating 20 or more years of service
  • $271 million of food donations nationwide in 2016
  • $25 million in donations from The Albertsons Companies Foundation in 2016 supporting education, cancer research, hunger relief, veterans support and programs for people with disabilities

When AB Acquisition LLC and Safeway Inc. joined forces on January 30, 2015, the combined company included 2,230 stores and a team of 250,000 people.  The 19-banner company is now 26,000 people stronger, with a total workforce of 276,000 team members. Moreover, many of our employees have spent their entire careers with Albertsons, Safeway or one of the other Albertsons Companies banners. At the end of 2016, nearly 47,000 team members had 20 or more years of service.

Supporting Our Neighborhoods 

Food donations nationwide topped $271 million last year, up from $245 million in 2015, reflecting a commitment to increasing support for the critical cause of hunger relief. Each store donates wholesome products to a local food bank partner, a collaboration that decreases food insecurity for the many people who rely on these organizations for meals. Along with the direct donations, most stores also conducted in-store food drives and other events throughout the year to bring additional support from our customers during the holidays and summer months when the need is greatest. The company’s Fresh Rescue initiative to donate meat and other perishables to hunger relief partners was expanded in 2016 to include more products and stores. For this ongoing dedication to hunger relief, Albertsons Companies was recognized in 2016 as a Visionary Partner by Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization.

In addition, The Albertsons Companies Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation recently awarded $4.6 million in grants through Hunger Is, a joint charitable program designed to increase awareness and funds to end childhood hunger in America. The funds, raised through in-store fundraisers, will increase access to free and reduced-cost school breakfast, improve the nutritional quality of breakfast programs and expand weekend, summer and vacation food programs. Academy Award-nominated actress Viola Davis is the Hunger Is program’s Ambassador and spokesperson.

The Albertsons Companies Foundation also supported education, cancer research, veterans support and programs for people with disabilities in 2016, contributing more than $25 million to these and other important areas of need.

Focus on Sourcing and Sustainability

In 2016, Albertsons Companies continued a broad commitment to sustainability. During the first quarter, the company committed to sourcing and selling only cage-free eggs for its store operations by 2025, based on available supply. The company was among the first and largest in the conventional retail grocery sector to make such a commitment.

In November, the company announced a new Responsible Seafood Policy, which expanded the previous program beyond fresh and frozen seafood to include shelf-stable tuna (canned and vacuum-sealed), as well as sushi sold from our delis. The company also committed to ensure that by 2022, 100 percent of the top 20 wild and farmed seafood products sold at stores will meet the Responsible Seafood Policy.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Albertsons Companies’ industry-leading sustainability initiatives with the Safer Choice Partner of the Year Award for increasing awareness of products that are safer for people and the environment.

KABRITA USA Expands Goat Milk Yogurt and Fruit Pouch Line

KABRITA USA, a line of premium goat milk formula and goat milk baby foods made with naturally easy-to-digest, non-GMO goat milk, is introducing a new flavor, Sweet Potato Apple Cinnamon. The new flavor is shipping to retailers nationwide this month.

KABRITASweet Potato Apple Cinnamon Goat Milk Yogurt is made with organic sweet potato, organic apple puree and organic cinnamon, as well as gentle, antibiotic-free whole goat milk yogurt for a comforting and nutritious snack or breakfast. High in vitamins A and E, it contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, and comes in convenient, squeezable BPA-free packaging.

“KABRITA is excited to present this new, unique flavor that will add some warmth to the winter months,” said Simona Irwin, Director of Sales at KABRITA USA. “We know that little ones will be more likely to choose healthy snacks from a young age if companies like KABRITA provide delicious, nutrient-rich flavors that appeal to all palates. Our goat milk yogurt pouches are also a great alternative for the many parents out there whose kids are sensitive to cow’s milk.”

The full KABRITA product line includes Goat Milk Formula for Toddlers in small and large sizes, and Goat Milk Yogurt and Fruit pouches, which are also available in Mango Peach, Banana and Natural Vanilla Bean and Mixed Berry. The pouches can be introduced from six months of age and are approximately 70 percent organic. All products are naturally easy to digest and may be a solution for little ones with a cow’s milk sensitivity, which can surface as digestive discomfort, congestion or eczema. Goat milk is one of the most commonly consumed milks worldwide. KABRITA goat milk is produced without any exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones or preservatives and is free from artificial colors and flavors.

KABRITA is available at natural and traditional grocers nationwide, including Sprouts Farmers Market, Safeway, Whole Foods Market and major online retailers like Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Target.com, Costco.com and more. To learn more about KABRITA, the benefits of goat milk, and for expert nutrition insight via its Nourish Blog, visit http://www.kabritausa.com.

It’s Springtime for Bellwether Farms

By Lorrie Baumann

DSCN0213Liam Callahan measures his days out in minutes: 10 minutes until time to cut the curd for Carmody, another 10 until time to add the rennet to Crescenza and then a few minutes to come back to his tiny office at the front of the creamery to attend to paperwork and keep an eye on the newly installed “lamb cam” that watches over the activity in Bellwether Farms’ sheep barns. The metronomic ticking away of the tasks is a calm measure of certainty that stands in sharp counterpoint to the uncertainties in which Callahan, as well as every other farmer and artisanal cheesemaker, operates: the vagaries of weather that decide feed availability and costs and therefore the production costs of milk, the threats from new regulations decided in Washington and the weight of the paperwork they entail, the whims of consumers who might decide that dairy products are the villain behind the bulge at their waistlines.

Baby_Lamb_300dpi_1.2Outside the Bellwether Farms creamery, in the wake of a tumultuous 2016, it seems like anything could happen. Inside the creamery, the aging rooms full of Pepato and Blackstone are milk in the bank, the lamb cam monitor behind Callahan’s desk reassures that the farms’ future is fine, the clock says it’s time to drain the whey from the Carmody and prepare to turn it into basket-drained ricotta made in the traditional Italian way, and at 50, Callahan is optimistic about the future of the American artisanal cheese industry and his place in it. “I don’t think we’ve begun to exhaust the possibilities of people knowing where their food comes from,” he says. “People have realized that they enjoy knowing more about their food.”

BF_Cheeses-2Let’s take a step back for a moment to introduce you to the cast of characters here. Carmody is a firm cheese made from pasteurized Jersey cow milk made by cheesemaker Liam Callahan at Bellwether Farms, which is near Petaluma, California. Crescenza is also made from pasteurized Jersey cow milk, but it’s a soft-ripened rindless cheese with a tart flavor. Pepato is an aged semi-soft sheep milk cheese studded with peppercorns. Blackstone is an aged mixed milk cheese studded with peppercorns and hand rubbed with vegetable ash. Liam Callahan is the cheesemaker at Bellwether Farms, which was founded by his mother, Cindy Callahan, who began raising sheep to keep the grasses under control on the farm she and her husband bought as a country home. “We were just basically looking for lawnmowers,” Callahan says.

The family bought its first 20 bred ewes at a Petaluma livestock auction and the first lambs were born on December 24, 1986. “Our heads were spinning. We knew nothing from nothing,” Callahan says.

Suddenly, Cindy was the farm’s herd manager, a role that she is just beginning to step back from, in favor of what Callahan calls “a high hover” that will free her from the exigencies of the lambing schedule. The family kept those first lambs, bought more sheep and started selling extra lambs to local restaurants in 1987. “One of our very first customers was Chez Panisse,” Callahan recalls. “Our primary product was the lamb until 1990, when we built the dairy.”

LiamLamb_300dpiCallahan was just finishing college when a family friend visited from the Middle East. He noticed the sheep grazing on the slopes of Bellwether Farms’ hills and pointed out that where he came from, sheep were milked to make cheeses. That was when the Callahans realized that many of their favorite imported cheeses were, in fact, made from sheep milk. “That summer, we built the dairy, started milking the sheep and making cheese and going to farmers markets,” he said. That timing dovetailed with the growth of farmers markets and with the American food movement in general, and local chefs who had learned in Europe to go to farmers markets to find the freshest of local ingredients found Bellwether Farms cheeses at the farmers markets around San Francisco. “A lot of the value of these products is in explaining the story of how they’re made,” Callahan says. “Everything we’ve done has been because we were interested in it…. For the most part, the things we were interested in have aligned with the direction the market has gone.”

DSCN0190“I’m not doing anything, really, that hasn’t been done for centuries. But is it innovative to say, ‘I want to do it that way again?’” he adds. “The fact that this is done in a unique way resonates with a lot of consumers…. It’s more than cheese – there’s a history there. There’s a story there.”

blackberryToday, Callahan makes highly regarded sheep milk yogurts and an array of award-winning cheeses from both his sheep milk and from cow milk purchased from local organic dairy farmers, and he’s planning the construction of a new creamery that should be finished in 2018 and that will expand his capacity with space for aging more cheeses and for giving him a little more elbow room around the cheese vats. He has recently been elected to the board of directors for the Dairy Sheep Association of North America, taking his place as a husbandman of sheep as well as the farm’s cheesemaker as his mother steps away from her herd management.

There’s been some controversy about the future of the sheep dairy industry in the U.S. after both Many Fold Farm and Barinaga Ranch ceased cheese production recently. Journalist Janet Fletcher discussed the reasons for that in a New York Times article in which she suggested that the American sheep dairy industry might be doomed by the economics of competing with European sheep milk cheeses. She noted that the cheeses produced by both Many Fold Farm and Barinaga Ranch were excellent cheeses, as evidenced by the many ribbons that their cheesemakers were taking home from competitions, but that wasn’t translating into profits for the farmsteads behind them.

Callahan believes, though, that despite these regrettable losses, there’s no immediate necessity for gloom about the future of the sheep dairy industry as a whole. “We really feel that we’re on the cusp of turning the corner, but I still feel there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about what sheep milk has in the future,” he says. “The consumers respond to the milk and the products we make from it.”

He pointed out that recent nutrition research has shown that sheep milk has valuable health benefits, and the U.S. government has recently approved the importation of a limited supply of dairy sheep semen from France and that there are efforts under way to begin importing dairy sheep from Spain as well. “That’s a game-changer,” he says. Callahan plans to incorporate some of those genetics into his flock, which should result in lambs that will eventually grow into ewes that will produce more milk than do the ewes he has today. That should reduce his production costs for milk, and it will also make his lambs more valuable as potential breeding stock. All of that will give him a more solid economic base for his business. “We’re loving the sheep milk,” he says. “We’re just stuck on production…. Our ability to grow depends on our ability to use peak milk and put it in a cheese bank.”

Gourmet News

Follow me on Twitter