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General Mills Acquires EPIC Provisions

 General Mills, Inc. has acquired EPIC Provisions, a rapidly growing, premium meat snacks company based in Austin, Texas. EPIC will operate under General Mills’ Annie’s business, which itself has experienced strong sales growth since General Mills acquired the company more than a year ago.  EPIC will maintain its present location in Austin.

“The acquisition of EPIC positions General Mills for exciting growth with a highly authentic brand in an entirely new natural snacking category,” said John Foraker, President of Annie’s.  “A purpose-driven brand like EPIC perfectly aligns with the experience and capabilities set that Annie’s brings to the table.  EPIC has tremendous potential for growth in the natural snacking category.  We’re committed to maintaining the great-tasting EPIC snacks people love, while further building this important brand to drive positive impact we can be proud of well into the future.”

EPIC Provisions was launched in 2013 by co-founders Taylor Collins and Katie Forrest, both competitive athletes seeking a convenient way to add nourishing animal protein to their diets.  The original EPIC meat, fruit, and nut bar — the first of its kind — has created a new snacking category.  EPIC Bars come in unique flavors including Bison Bacon Cranberry, Beef Habanero Cherry, Chicken Sesame BBQ, and Pulled Pork Pineapple. Today the brand has evolved its product offerings to include EPIC Jerky Bites and EPIC Hunt and Harvest Trail Mix.

Both Collins and Forrest will continue with the business following the acquisition. “We’re proud of the rapid growth EPIC Provisions has achieved during the past three years,” said Collins and Forrest.  “Our decision to join General Mills provides EPIC with the scale to bring our products to even more consumers, and to significantly increase the positive impact of our business on grassland regeneration and proper livestock management practices. We look forward to working with Annie’s and General Mills to continue this momentum and to build upon the authenticity of the brand we created.”

EPIC snacks are sold primarily in the natural channel including nationally at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Natural Grocers, but are also sold at sporting and hiking shops including REI, as well as some conventional grocers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Tickets Now on Sale for California’s Artisan Cheese Festival

Tickets are now on sale for the United States’ premier public artisan cheese event, the 10th Annual California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, which takes place March 18 – 20, 2016. The weekend-long Festival is a celebration of California cheesemakers, chefs, brewers, cider makers, winemakers and passionate guests, all coming together for three days of learning about, tasting and supporting artisan cheese.

Photo by Derrick Story

Photo by Derrick Story

Bringing attendees face-to-face with the farmers and cheesemakers who work together to create some of America’s best artisan cheeses, the farm tours tend to sell out early every year. This year, in honor of the 10 year milestone, there will be two full days of farm tours, on both Friday and Saturday, March 18 and 19, including destinations outside of the Bay Area, as well as educational components included in every tour. Details about the tours are as follows:


Tour A – Kids, Calves, & More

Attendees of Tour A will start their day at White Whale Farm with Anna Hancock, a former lawyer whose love of cheese and four-legged creatures led her to choose farm life over legal briefs. Anna and her team seasonally transform goat milk into award-winning Pug’s Leap farmstead cheeses, including three recent winners at the 2015 American Cheese Society conference. The next stop is McClelland’s Dairy, an organic family-run farm with a history as rich as their delicious butter. Nestled in the rolling hills of Two Rock Valley, guests will learn about the farm’s history and evolution, the ins and outs of pasture management and what it takes to raise grass-fed dairy cows in Sonoma County. A trip to the nursery will bring guests up close with big-eyed baby calves and the opportunity to milk a cow by hand. Then it’s off to the historic Denman Creamery and PW Scoggins Winery for lunch and a wine tasting. Following lunch, James Beard-award winning author Janet Fletcher will lead a cheese-tasting seminar about mixed milk cheeses, which have long been a mainstay in Europe, and are becoming more and more popular stateside. The final stop will be at the award winning Rustic Bakery where guests may stock up on their famous flatbread, lavosh and cheese coins.

Photo by Derrick Story

Photo by Derrick Story

Tour B – Sonoma’s Specialties

What happens when a classic cow dairy adopts pet goats? Attendees of Tour B will find out from Don and Bonnie DeBernardi at their dairy and creamery. Home to dairy cows since 1968, DeBernardi Dairy adopted goats in the 90s, and are now making award-winning aged tomme-style goat cheese. Spring is “kidding” season, so guests will get to meet the newest floppy-eared additions to the farm as well as taste Don’s Two Rock Goat Cheese, a tribute to his Swiss ancestry. Next, the tour will head to McClelland’s Dairy, an organic family-run farm with a history as rich as their butter. Nestled in the rolling hills of Two Rock Valley, guests will learn about the farm’s history and evolution, visit the nursery to see big-eyed baby calves and get the opportunity to milk a cow by hand. Next, the tour will visit historic Denman Creamery and PW Scoggins Winery for lunch and a wine tasting. Following lunch, James Beard-award winning author Janet Fletcher will lead a cheese-tasting seminar about mixed milk cheeses, which have long been a mainstay in Europe, and are becoming more and more popular stateside. The tour will wrap up with a final stop at Petaluma Hills Brewing Company, where guests will pair fresh brews with local cheese from Achadinha Cheese Co.

Tour C – Legends and Legacies

Photo by Derrick Story

Photo by Derrick Story

Guests of Tour C will start their day with a taste of tradition. Marin French Cheese Company celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2015, making it the longest continuously operating cheese company in America. Guests will take a historical walking tour of this creamery, admiring the vistas of Hicks Valley Ranch, and taste their signature cheeses. Then the tour will head to AppleGarden Farm in Tomales, where owner Jan Lee has transformed grazing land into an orchard, and reminds us that farmstead isn’t a term reserved exclusively for cheese. Guests will tour the farm, learn about cider apple selection and dry farming, and taste the fruits of Lee’s labor. Guests will then continue on to the historic Dairymen’s Bank in Valley Ford where they will be treated to a seminar featuring three of California’s most heralded and important cheese legends: Mary Keehn of Cypress Grove Chevre, Jennifer Bice of Redwood Hill Farms and Phillip Franco of Sierra Cheese Co. Led by James Beard award-winning author Laura Werlin, this panel will take guests through the trials, tribulations and victories that comprise their own cheese stories and with that, the story of California cheese itself. And of course, attendees will taste each of these flagship cheeses along the way, before heading next door for a special lunch at Rocker Oysterfeller’s. The final stop is DeBernardi Dairy where guests will meet Don and Bonnie DeBernardi, visit their baby goats and taste their Two Rock Valley goat cheese.

Tour D – Sonoma’s Fertile Grounds

This tour begins with a buzz! JB Rumburg of Velo Fromage, Kathryn Allen of Hearth Coffee Roasters, and Sandra Loofbourow of Andytown Coffee Roasters, will kick off the morning with an educational seminar at the Sheraton, called “Third Wave Coffee and The Renaissance of the American Artisan Cheese Movement.” Attendees will explore the pairing principles behind different flavor profiles featured in local cheeses alongside a range of coffee varietals prepared in various methods. Fully caffeinated, guests will board the bus and head over to Bohemian Creamery to meet Lisa Gottreich, one of the region’s most creative artisan cheesemakers. Here guests will meet a herd of Alpine dairy goats whose milk becomes farmstead cheese, whey soda, and even goat’s milk frozen yogurt. The tour will then head to Devoto Orchards where second-generation apple farmer Jolie Devoto-Wade and her husband work with organic heirloom apples, including the local Gravenstein, and make three styles of cider each harvest. Guests will tour the picturesque farm, taste the estate cider, and enjoy lunch on the grounds. This tour will wrap with a stop at Freestone Artisan Cheese, where guests will meet owner Omar Mueller. His cozy shop boasts a well-curated selection of California’s incredible agricultural bounty including local artisan cheeses, olive oils grown and pressed locally, and hot roasted nuts. Omar will surprise the group with a guest cheesemaker appearance and tasting, and if time allows, attendees may walk over to Wild Flower Bread Bakery to snag a coveted sourdough loaf from their wood fired brick oven.

Tour E – Preserving Tradition

Guests of Tour E will start their day with a taste of tradition. Marin French Cheese Company celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2015, making it the longest continuously operating cheese company in America. Guests will take a historical walking tour of this creamery, admiring the vistas of Hicks Valley Ranch, and taste their signature cheeses. Then they will continue on to Barinaga Ranch, a sheep dairy in Marshall, at the height of lambing season. Owner Marcia Barinaga, a scientist turned cheesemaker, is devoted to her animals and committed to raising them in a sustainable manner, while shepherding and cheesemaking in the tradition of her Basque ancestors. After meeting her flock and tasting her award-winning cheeses, guests will take a drive down Highway 1 to Straus Home Ranch for lunch and an educational seminar. The Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), a pioneering organization founded by Ellen Straus and Phyllis Farber to protect working farmland in Marin County, protects this beautiful property and two others on the tour. Guests will learn about MALT ‘s influence on the local dairy landscape and a local cheesemaker and cheesemonger team will guide them through a tasting of cheeses made from “MALTed milk.” The tour will finish with a trip to Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, an award-winning organic farmstead creamery and a MALT-protected ranch run by the Lafranchi family for three generations.

Tour F – The Land of Milk & Honey

This tour will start in Pt. Reyes Station, where guests will visit the original Cowgirl Creamery. In 1997, in a renovated hay barn, Sue Conley and Peggy Smith started making fresh cheeses with surplus organic milk from a West Marin Dairy, and nearly two decades later, the Cowgirls are still making delicious cheese and supporting multiple local dairies. After tasting their cheeses, guests will toast this historic dairy town at Heidrun Meadery where they’ll taste different varieties of sparkling mead which is made from honey. After learning about their bees, beekeeping, and the traditional Methode Champenoise that transforms this nectar into a delicate bottle of bubbly, guests will drive up the coast for lunch and an educational seminar at Straus Home Ranch. The Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), a pioneering organization founded by Ellen Straus and Phyllis Farber to protect working farmland in Marin County, protects this beautiful property. Guests will learn more about MALT’s influence on the local dairy landscape and a local cheesemaker and cheesemonger team will guide you through a tasting of cheeses made from “MALTed milk.” To finish, the tour will head to Neil McIsaac & Son Dairy, a diversified organic dairy that’s been a MALT-protected ranch since 1991. The McIsaac family sells their high-quality cows milk to Clover Stornetta and guests will get to taste their latest line of yogurt and learn about the changes they’ve brought to the farm to ready it for the next generation.

Artisian Cheese Festival

Photo by Derrick Story

Capitol Area Tour North

PLEASE NOTE: This tour starts and ends at Nugget Market in Woodland which is about 75 miles away from the Sheraton – Sonoma County, Petaluma.

Guests of this tour will start at Nugget Market in Woodland before heading north to explore the “cheesescape” of the North Sacramento Valley. First stop is Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Company, where guests will meet Tim Pedrozo, a third generation dairy farmer and self-proclaimed “accidental cheesemaker.” Since 1996, the Pedrozos have been milking a small blended herd of Holstein, Jersey, and Milking Shorthorn cows on their 20-acre farm in Orland, and two years later began transforming that milk into a diverse range of farmstead cheese. Next, the tour will head to Orland Farmstead Creamery. Owner Paul Schmidt’s passion for farm life started early – he raised and showed cows through 4-H while still in elementary school. Over 30 years after founding his own dairy, he fulfilled his lifelong dream of making farmstead cheese. Orland Farmstead Creamery focuses on fresh cheeses that highlight the quality of milk from their grass-fed cows. A delicious cheese-centric lunch will be held at the Glen County Country Club before continuing on to Sierra Nevada Cheese Company. Founded in 1997, Sierra Nevada Cheese Company continues to innovate and create new dairy products, made with their meticulously sourced local cow, goat, and sheep milk.

Capitol Area Tour South

PLEASE NOTE: This tour starts and ends at the Sacramento Natural Food Coop in Sacramento which is about 81 miles away from the Sheraton – Sonoma County, Petaluma.

This tour will begin at Sacramento Natural Food Coop before heading south into the San Joaquin Valley where guests will visit Fiscalini Farms, home to Fiscalini Cheese Company in Modesto. Attendees will taste what happens when fourth generation farm know-how is combined with a very talented cheesemaker and farmstead raw cows’ milk. Here’s a hint…it’s arguably the best cheddar in the West! Next, the tour will visit some smaller hooved friends at Nicolau Farms, where goats rule the roost. Walter Nicolau III has a herd of Alpine, Saanen, and La Mancha goats whose “white gold” becomes fresh and aged farmstead cheeses. After touring the farm, guests will taste cheese and enjoy a cheese-inspired lunch as well as a tasting with Nutcher Milk Company. Dairy farmers aren’t the only multi-generational farmers in this area – the Phillips family at Michael David Winery has been cultivating grapes in the valley for nearly a century on 750 acres of vineyard. Guests of this tour will get to taste their estate wines and also meet Andrea Mongini, veterinarian and owner of Ewetopia Dairy, who will sample a selection of her sheep milk cheeses.


Tour G – All In The Family

Guests will start this tour with a taste of tradition at Nicasio Valley Cheese Company. Since 1919, the Lafranchi family has been dairying on over 1,000 acres in Marin County. At their historic ranch, guests will learn about the family’s rich history as local dairy farmers and their path to becoming the only organic farmstead cheesemakers in California. After touring the creamery and tasting the award-winning farmstead cheeses, guests will head out to the coast where they will meet the Giacomini family of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. This picturesque dairy farm is nestled among rolling hills overlooking Tomales Bay and here guests will learn about how cheesemaking lured the four Giacomini sisters back to the farm. A multi-course lunch at The Fork will be prepared by guest chefs Evan and Sarah Rich of Rich Table in San Francisco, featuring cheeses from Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. This tour will finish on a sweet note at Sonoma Portworks with a tasting of unique California fortified wines paired with Cypress Grove Chevre at their tasting room in downtown Petaluma.

Tour H – Taste of Place

This tour will kick off with a visit and tasting at the original Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station where Peggy Smith and Sue Conley started their own artisan cheese revolution years ago to help a localdairy farmer with a surplus of organic milk. Then guests will take a short drive up the

coast to meet the Giacomini family of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. Attendees will tour the picturesque dairy farm nestled among rolling hills overlooking Tomales Bay and learn about how cheesemaking lured the four Giacomini sisters back to the farm. A multi-course lunch at The Fork will follow, prepared by guest chefs Evan and Sarah Rich of Rich Table in San Francisco, featuring cheeses from Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. The tour will end at Sonoma Aperitif, founded in 2015 by Laura Hagar Rush. Guests will learn about her California take on a centuries-old “Vin Maison” European tradition inspired by the bounty of local produce like Chinese quince, Bosc pears and grapefruit.

All farm tours, except the two tours of the Capitol Area, will pick up guests at the Festival’s host hotel, the Sheraton Sonoma County–Petaluma (745 Baywood Drive, Petaluma, CA 94954). Tour departure times are 8:30 a.m. and the tours will be rain or shine. Farm tour attendees are encouraged to wear boots or shoes that can get dirty and bring an ice chest since many farms will have cheese for purchase. The ticket price for the farm tours include lunch, transportation and educational components. Each tour will return guests to the departure site by 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $135 per person and may be purchased at

Tickets to the Festival’s other events are also now available, including Friday’s Cheesemongers’ Duel, Saturday’s “California Cheesin’ – We Do It Our Whey!” 10 Year Celebration, and Sunday’s Bubbles Brunch with Celebrity Chef John Ash and The Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace. Tickets for all events may be purchased at

Those interested can also follow updates by “liking” the Artisan Cheese Festival on Facebook and following the event on Twitter. All events are priced separately and the Sheraton Sonoma County – Petaluma is offering special discounted rates on rooms for festival-goers.

Generous sponsors of the Artisan Cheese Festival include American AgCredit, Beehive Cheese Company, Bellwether Farms, Central Coast Creamery, Chevoo, Cheese Connoisseur Magazine, Cowgirl Creamery, Culture Magazine, Cypress Grove Chevre, Donald & Maureen Green Foundation, Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese Co., Lagunitas Brewing Company, Laura Chenel’s Chevre, Mike Hudson Distributing, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, Nugget Markets, Oak Packaging, Oliver’s Markets, Pennyroyal Farm, Petaluma Market, Petaluma Post, Pisenti & Brinker LLP, Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., Pure Luxury Transportation, Real California Milk, Redwood Hill Farms & Creamery, Rustic Bakery, Sheraton Sonoma County, Valley Ford Cheese Company and Willapa Hills Cheese.

Grafton Village Cheese Introduces Truffle Cheddar

Grafton Village Cheese, a business of the nonprofit Windham Foundation in Grafton, Vermont, announces the introduction of Truffle Cheddar, an aged cheddar cheese containing Italian truffles. The new cheese joins the company’s Grafton Village line of aged and flavored cheddars.
Grafton Village truffle cheddarAs with all Grafton cheddars, the new Truffle Cheddar is handmade using premium raw milk from small local family farms and aged a minimum of 60 days. It maintains a delicate balance between the earthy flavors of truffle and the smooth rich bite of aged Vermont cheddar.
Truffle cheddar is an ideal cheese for the centerpiece on a cheeseboard or in cooking applications including those with eggs, potatoes, soups, pasta, risotto and red meat. It is nicely paired with brown ales and with Barolo, Orvieto and Pinot Noir wines.
The new Truffle Cheddar is available in 10 and five pound blocks, 8-ounce bars and 4-ounce bars. The cheese is now available at select specialty markets and grocers nationwide.

Celebrate Fabulous at Las Vegas Market

By Lorrie Baumann

Las Vegas Market has been working hard to expand the range of products that will be of interest to the gourmet market, and the hard work is paying off. This winter’s Las Vegas Market has a lot to see in the showrooms and pavilions along with a grand opportunity to meet The Fabulous Beekman Boys, who are emerging as thoughtful spokesmen for a generation that values fresh, local and seemingly effortless design and cuisine. Also, they’re both fun and funny.

Known as The Fabulous Beekman Boys are Brent Ridge, physician and former Vice President of Healthy Living for Martha Stewart Omnimedia; and his partner, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, advertising executive and New York Times bestselling author, The celebrity duo began developing their unique and chic brand strategy when they purchased the historic Beekman 1802 Farm in Sharon Springs, New York, in 2007 and then had to start figuring out (fast) how to pay the mortgage and make new lives for themselves as gentlemen farmers after the national economy took a dive in the Great Recession. The pair launched a line of goat milk cheeses and soaps, and quickly added other artisanal items to the Beekman 1802 brand. The popularity of the brand spawned a reality television show, “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” now airing on the Cooking Channel; they also competed and won the grand prize in CBS’s “The Amazing Race” in 2012, and their Beekman 1802 product line of gourmet foods launched in Target stores last November.

Celebrities aside, there’s much to see this winter at the Las Vegas Market. Here’s a small sampling.

avoseedo_with_plant_avocados_cmykAvoSeedo is a cute little gadget for the folks who like to save their avocado pits and sprout them for new trees. You remember how to do that by sticking toothpicks into the sides of an avocado pit and balancing the picks on the rim of a glass of water? Well, this is a little boat into which you set your avocado seed and float it in a bowl of water. In a few weeks, the avocado seed germinates and begins to grow.

AvoSeedo comes in four different colors: evergreen, transparent, cyan and pink, and in two retail packages, a single pack that retails for $8 and a three-pack that retails for $20.00. For more information, email Daniel Kalliontzis at AvoSeedo LLC:

European ExcellencyEuropean Excellency will be showing off a gorgeous line of three-ply paper napkins imprinted with a wide variety of floral, abstract, butterfly, food related, Easter and Christmas designs. The napkins are made in Europe, and only environmentally friendly, water-based paints are used for the designs. Luncheon, cocktail, round and snack sizes are available. For more information or call 949.374.7757. See them in Pavilion 1 at the Las Vegas Market.

Design ImportsIf cloth napkins are a better fit for your customers, consider the Farm Fresh Stripe Napkins from Design Imports (DII). They come in a set of four, and each napkin measures 18 inches square. They’re 100 percent cotton, so they can be machine washed in cold water on the gentle cycle, and they go in the dryer on low heat. The set of four retails for $14.99. See them in the Design Imports Showroom in Building C at Las Vegas Market or call 1.800.344.4115 or visit

Next Step RepsApropos by Home Essentials is debuting the Marble & Mango collection of cheese paddles and cutting boards made from marble and mango wood for a new twist on classic design that echoes the design trend that’s seeing more use of marble in kitchens. The 18-inch-long Brown & White Triangle Marble Cutting Board from the collection retails for $35 to $40, while the 20-inch Brown Round Marble Cutting Board retails for $50 to $60. A set of four White Marble 4-inch Square Coasters retails for $15 to 18. For more information, call Next Step Reps at 760.731.7445 or see them in the Next Step Reps showroom in Building C at the Las Vegas Market.

CTW HomeThe CTW Home Collection offers a vintage-inspired K-cup caddy that’ll fit beautifully into the same kitchen that has a Marble & Mango cheese paddle or cutting board hanging on the wall. The Roast Coffee K-Cup Caddy is 8-1/2 inches wide, 11-3/4 inches tall and 6 inches deep and retails for $45. It’s offered without a minimum order. See it in the CTW Home Collection showroom in Building C in the Las Vegas Market or call 1.800.433.5054.

Top ShelfTop Shelf Glasses is bringing trendy to the table with Double Wall Stemless Wine Glasses. Two pieces of glass are fused together with designs on both glass walls to make glassware that truly makes a statement. They’re dishwasher safe and retail for $17.99. See them in Building C at the Las Vegas Market or find out more by calling 888.808.4001.

Brilliant Imports round trayA tray has a way of transforming a group of several objects from clutter into a collection, and Brilliant Imports is offering a couple of hand-woven fiber trays from Bali that will lend a subtle note of elegance to just such a tabletop collection or a display of spice bottles or utensils on the kitchen counter. The Circle Rattan Tray is 12 inches in diameter and retails for $55. The Ovalate Tray is hand-woven from ate grass and measures 12 inches wide by 15.75 inches long. It retails for $50. To find out more, email Brilliant Imports, LLC at or see them in Pavilion 1 at the Las Vegas Market.

To the MarketYour food is handmade, so why shouldn’t your table linens be? TO THE MARKET offers a nine piece table top set embellished with delicate kantha stitching. Cotton sari is used to make four napkins, four placemats, and one table runner, all with one solid and one patterned side. Designed by TO THE MARKET, the set is constructed by Basha, a co-op that employs survivors of human trafficking in Bangladesh. Find out more by calling TO THE MARKET at 859.740.9498 or visiting the TO THE MARKET booth at Las Vegas Market.

Totally BambooHonor your veteran with an Official Licensed Military Board from Totally Bamboo. These serving boards would be fantastic for serving cheese or taking out to the patio for next summer’s barbecues, and in between-times, they’ll make a gorgeous plaque to hang on the wall of the man cave, dining room or family room. They’re 12 inches in diameter and retail for $30. For more information, visit the Next Step Reps showroom at Las Vegas Market or call Totally Bamboo at 760.471.6600.

The Las Vegas Market runs January 24-28 in Las Vegas, Nevada, with the Pavilions open January 24-27. Find out more or register to attend at



Boundary Bend Plants to Shape American Tastes in Olive Oil

By Lorrie Baumann

151019 - cobram - 01415After its first year in operation in the United States, Boundary Bend is well on its way to achieving its objective of changing Americans’ ideas about olive oil and what it can do for them. “We’re absolutely trying to introduce Americans to the concept of fresh, more robust oils, which have the double advantage of more flavor and more health benefits,” said Boundary Bend Co-founder and Executive Chairman Rob McGavin.

Boundary Bend started its U.S. operations in Woodland, California, right around the beginning of last year and within months was winning awards at the New York International Olive Oil Competition with four Cobram Estate oils made in the U.S. – two silvers and two golds. Trees for future olive supplies were ordered last spring and will be planted this spring in western Yolo County, with more trees ordered for the upcoming year. The American operation is being headed by fifth-generation California farmer Adam Englehardt, McGavin credits Englehardt for much of the company’s success in integrating so quickly into California’s agricultural community. “He’s a great guy and is well-liked by the other farmers,” he said. “We’re very excited about the enthusiasm with which we’ve been received.”

“It’s a kind of fellowship of farmers,” McGavin continued. “As millers and marketers we can offer expertise and quality, but they’re also supporting us, as quality olive oil only comes from top-quality fruit.”

151019 - cobram - 01177Boundary Bend is expecting to enter several oils from its 2015 harvest into competition for the 2016 NYIOOC awards and will be exhibiting with them at the Winter Fancy Food Show in New York. The company is depending on its experience in the Australian market to change what Americans look for in their olive oils. Most American olive oils are produced from the Arbequina variety of olives, which produce oil with a mild flavor and which are adaptable to being grown on trellises in California orchards where they’re planted in densities as high as 600 trees per acre. Boundary Bend prefers to plant its trees in lower densities – about 150 trees per acre – and to allow them to grow taller and bushier, so the Boundary Bend groves will look more like a walnut or almond orchard than like a typical California olive grove, which more nearly resembles a California vineyard. That opens up the possibilities for olive varieties beyond those currently under commercial production in California: 19 different varieties are being planted. Notably, Boundary Bend will be growing Picual olives, which make an oil with a very fruity flavor as well as Coratina, for a robust oil with a lot of pepperiness and bitterness on the tongue. “We’re also planting Hojiblanca and some other robust olives as well,” McGavin said. “We’re using our Australian experience to tell us what’s popular and what works and what has the wonderful antioxidants.”

151019 - cobram - 00563McGavin expects these varieties to produce oils that will tantalize American tastes as well as win awards in next year’s NYIOOC. “We’ve got some really nice oils,” he said, adding that he believes that Americans will appreciate them for the health benefits that nutrition research has identified with extra virgin olive oils as well as for their flavors. “The health benefits are in the minor components, which are what give the oils their aroma and flavor, and we expect that having a wider variety of flavors will be popular,” he said. “The oils with high levels of antioxidants also have materially better shelf life. They stand up better to cooking because the levels of antioxidants protect the oils.”

“Published studies show that no other food comes close to extra virgin olive oil for the prevention and treatment of chronic disease, said Mary Flynn, Senior Research Dietitian and Associate Professor of Medicine, Clinical at The Miriam Hospital and Brown University. “Consumption of extra virgin olive oil has been related to decreasing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, lipid disorders, cancer, in general, and cancer of the breast, colon, GI, skin, prostate (and maybe more); osteoporosis; and Alzheimer’s disease (as well as other cognitive function issues).”

It’s not just the mono-unsaturated fat content in olive oils that are responsible for the health benefits; it’s something to do with the higher phenol content in some oils, she added. Laboratory analysis of Boundary Bend oils has demonstrated that the company is producing oils with consistently high phenol levels, she noted.

“We’re just as passionate about the health as about the flavor, but they go hand in hand,” McGavin said. “An oil that may win a show may be the healthiest oil. Healthiest food on Earth.”

Deli Department Innovation with The Better Chip

By Lorrie Baumann

The Better Chip is bringing new energy to the deli department with a gluten-free snack chip that comes in flavors that complement the premium cheeses, cured meats and the dips already in the deli cases. The product fits in well with the transforming role of the grocery’s perimeter, which has become a destination within the store for grab and go meal and snack shoppers who want quick sustenance but who don’t intend to sacrifice their nutritional goals by resorting to fast food as well as those who regard the deli department as their resource for food to serve when they entertain.

Now The Better Chip has extended its line of five flavors of better-for-you vegetable chips: Sweet Corn and Sea Salt, Jalapenos and Sea Salt, Spinach & Kale and Sea Salt, Beets and Sea Salt and Chipotles and Sea Salt with a smaller package size, a 1.5-ounce bag that’s easy to drop into a lunch kit or a sandwich clamshell for an offering that enhances the value of the grab and go offering. “Everyone wants to offer something a little different. We feel like that’s something different they can offer that you don’t get at sandwich places,” says Andrea Brule, Vice President/General Manager of The Better Chip. “We found that accounts were interested in a smaller bag they could use in their lunchtime program. Because our chips are doing so well in their big bags, they thought that, in a smaller bag, they might be able to use it in their lunch program.”

Of the five flavors, which continue to be offered in 6-ounce family-size bags, the Spinach & Kale is far and away the company’s best seller, Brule said. The Jalapenos and Beets Chips are tied for second place. The Better Chip will announce two new flavors early in 2016.

The chips appeal to consumers who are looking for a better-for-you snack that’s a gluten-free alternative to the crackers and bagel chips that are often chosen in the deli to accompany dips and hummus. In addition to being gluten free, The Better Chip snacks are non-GMO, gluten free, vegan, whole grain and made with fresh vegetables.

They appeal to deli manager because they’re an innovation that can add new energy to the category. “They get the ring on the sandwich, but when they [shoppers] come back to buy more, they get that ring in the deli. That’s as opposed to, with other chips, that ring goes to grocery.” Brule said.

The 1.5-ounce bags retail as a separate a la carte offering for $.99 to $1.19.


FDA Threatens to Wound Salt Business


By Micah Cheek

Hawaiian red salt and charcoal black salt could be disappearing from interstate sales because the Food and Drug Administration is calling the red clay in Hawaiian salt and the charcoal in black salt adulterants. With their businesses in jeopardy, salt producers are confused and angry about the potential losses if the FDA decides to prohibit them from selling their salt across state lines.

The FDA is saying that red alea salt gets color from added clay, and since the clay is not an approved color additive, the salts are considered adulterated. The FDA has regulations specific to this issue, stating in the Code of Federal Regulations that even if an additive’s primary purpose is not as a color, it can only be considered exempt if “… any color imparted is clearly unimportant insofar as appearance, value or marketability, or consumer acceptability is concerned.” Naomi Novotny, President of SaltWorks, questions whether this guidance even applies to her product. “If you’re using it for pork, that clay really seals the moisture in,” says Novotny. “The clay has a functional use. The way I read that document, it doesn’t really apply to Hawaiian salt.”

The addition of clay has been considered by some to be equivalent to the natural colors that occur in other salts. “I buy French gray salt which is scraped off a salt lake. The gray color comes from the clay at the bottom of the lake bed. I scrape the salt, and it is not purely white in color, and [it is] according to this document perfectly fine,” asserts Brett Cramer, Vice President of The Spice Lab.

Charcoal, the additive that makes black salt black, is now also being considered an adulterant. Cramer wonders why the FDA requires another approval for an additive that is already being legally consumed. “If it’s a problem with the carbon, everyone, including my dog who ate too much chocolate last year, would be dead right now,” says Cramer. While charcoal has been tested for use in medical applications, the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety is still required to review charcoal in its capacity as a color additive.

A great deal of speculation has surrounded the FDA’s sudden attention on these salts. “I don’t know why,” says Novotny. “Especially since everything comes through as food grade.” The FDA declined to comment on what prompted the guidance.

One prevalent theory is that knockoff products have made their way into the market with inferior ingredients. Another belief is that a major salt producer brought it to the FDA’s attention as a business tactic. “We make infused salts with spices in them. They’re colored. Should they be outlawed? In the future, should the only thing we sell be pure white salt from two companies?” Cramer speculates.

It is unclear whether the FDA is going to enforce this guidance in the near future. A representative of the FDA wants to make clear that the products are only considered adulterants because they have not been evaluated, saying “We encourage people who are interested to go through the petition process. There’s also guidance on the actual petition, in order to make this as easy a process as possible.” The review process for a color additive generally takes 90 days, and carries a listing fee of $3,000. As of mid-November, no petitions for review for alea clay or charcoal have been submitted. Until further action or enforcement takes place, Saltworks and other companies are continuing to sell red alea and black charcoal salts. “We’ve been working with our customers and letting them know if they have concerns at all about the salt,” says Novotny. “We know this is safe.”


U.S. Tea Industry Growth Makes Specialty Tea Accessible to Consumers

By Greg Gonzales

Tea markets are growing, and growth won’t be slowing down any time soon, thanks to a multi-generational boost. The U.S. tea market has grown 15 times its size since 2009 and was worth $10.8 billion in 2014, according to the Tea Association of the USA’s “2014 State of the Industry” report. Loose-leaf tea in particular has gained popularity as a specialty product, hydration alternative and health product, while ready-to-drink tea has seen similar success on supermarket shelves. The report also said that tea is the second-most consumed beverage in the world, after water.

The same Tea Association of the USA report, compiled by Tea Association President Peter Goggi, cited Millennials as the major demographic driving market growth. “Several aspects of the market are driving Millennial interest in tea,” Goggi said. “The access to tea has been easier and much more common for them; they’ve grown up drinking tea, as preteens, and they also gravitate toward products that appeal to them. Tea fits in because Millennials want to be engaged with the products they buy — where it comes from, how it’s made, its naturalness — tea fits into this beautifully because it comes from different countries and it’s an agricultural product, so Millennials can get involved.”

He added that Baby Boomers have gotten involved in the conversation, too, and are increasingly joining the public discourse with Millennials.
Topics to share include the teas’ origins, and how different processing yields different kinds of tea. Pu-erh tea, for example, is aged and pressed into cakes, making an extremely dark brew that exclusively contains the cholesterol-lowering compound, lovastatin. Specialty teas use the best leaves, while low-grade teas consist of fannings, or what amounts to dust left over from processing high-grade leaves. Farms throughout the world employ their own growing techniques, which also yields a different product. Enthusiasts can learn nearly everything about the origins of a specialty tea, and share their preferences through endless social networks, online and offline.

Entrepreneurs and tea chains across the globe are taking notice of this trend. While large tea exporters like Zhejiang Tea Group have expanded more into U.S. markets, small tea businesses in North America are beginning to flourish as they adapt to the growth. “With everyone on social media to distribute content for social reward, tea is the budding connoisseur’s dream,” said Stuart Lown, National Sales Manager of Takeya USA. “There’s so much to learn about tea, fresh fruit and herbs — so much to learn about healthy hydration, to share with friends and family.”

Takeya specializes in tea infusers and pitchers that simplify home brewing and improve the flavor of the tea. One of their products, the fruit infuser, allows consumers to add new flavors outside the tea itself. By providing an easy method for making homemade iced tea, Lown said, Takeya makes quality tea more accessible to the everyday consumer.

“We specialize in bringing loose-leaf tea home, allowing consumers to quickly and easily brew premium teas and to chill those quickly, which allows people to get the health benefits from the tea,” said Lown. “When you brew the tea with a Takeya system, which is an airtight chamber, you’re getting the best taste and nutrient content.”

The airtight Takeya system ensures precious nutrients and flavors don’t evaporate with some of the water before the tea cools — and those nutrients are key to tea’s growth. “Over the last decade, several thousand articles have been written about the healthfulness and important phytochemicals and antioxidants that improve human health,” Goggi said, adding that the public has grown increasingly aware of these studies.
Cleansing, lower cholesterol, heart function and mental acuity are some of the natural benefits of tea drinking. Flavonoids, a compound produced by tea plants, are thought to have antioxidant properties and help neutralize free radicals. Tea also has no sodium, no fat, no carbonation and is sugar-free. It’s also calorie-free and provides hydration — and some studies have shown that tea drinking improves cardiovascular health. A Harvard study found that individuals drinking one or more cups of black tea per day have a 44 percent reduced risk for heart attack. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study showed that a low-fat diet combined with five cups of tea per day reduced LDL cholesterol by 11 percent, after three weeks. Also shown in the studies is that drinking black tea reduces blood pressure and helps blood flow after a high-fat meal, and tea also carries with it a reduced risk for rectal cancer, colon cancer and skin cancer.

Along with health benefits, tea naturally boosts cognition. While antioxidants in tea protect brain cells from free radicals, another compound found in tea, L-theanine, along with caffeine, is known to enhance attention and complex problem solving.

Still, not all tea drinkers are seeking a mental boost, and not all of them are interested in learning about tea beyond the basics. “Seventy-eight percent of consumers drink tea for the taste, and 50 percent drink it for the function,” said Patrick Tannous, President and Co-Founder of Tiesta Tea. “We take the basic functionality of the tea and educate the consumer. We aim to make tea accessible, understandable and affordable.”

Tiesta Tea’s approach is to educate the consumer about how to make the best tea, rather than about the tea’s journey from the farm to cup. On the company website, the owners drive this point home: “Does it really matter to you which farm in China produces the best green tea in February or how to correctly pronounce rooibos? (it’s ROY-bos, if you care.) That’s our job to do, not yours. We believe what matters is what your tea tastes like and what’s it’s going to do for you. We take care of the nitty-gritty details.”

Ready-to-drink tea also has made tea more available and visible to consumers. Some markets dedicate an entire shelf section to kombucha alone, increasing tea’s visibility, while other varieties of tea can be found all over stores, rather than in one single beverage area. Goggi wrote in his 2014 report that ready-to-drink tea is expected to continue rising in popularity, with annual dollar increases from 12 to 15 percent.
There are a lot of factors driving tea growth, from public knowledge of specialty tea to Starbucks buying the Teavana chain. As Millennials age, their interest in tea is expected to continue and get passed down to the next generation. This growth will keep the market growing for years to come. After all, tea is inexpensive, simple and accessible.

“It’s something anyone can do, and it’s something all people can enjoy,” said Lown. “Tea is not exclusive to a certain class; it’s something everyone can enjoy, no matter your diet, your religion, your age or your income.”

KeHE Opens Portland Distribution Center

KeHE Distributors opened its newest, LEED Certified, distribution facility in Portland, Oregon, on December 23. This new state-of-the-art distribution center is an important addition to the company’s expansion strategy and key to its growth plan in the northwest region. With more than 100,000 square feet of refrigerated and 57,000 square feet of freezer space, the Portland facility has the capacity to serve KeHE’s customers who increasingly demand product assortments in all three temperature zones.

“Sustainability is a top priority of ours as we build, stock and operate our facilities,” said Gene Carter, Chief Operating Officer, KeHE. “We are designing our new facilities from the ground up, which allows us to focus on the environment and our people as well.” The Portland distribution center will be highly-efficient; estimates are 100 tons of cardboard will be recycled annually and more than 30 tons of petroleum will be saved by recycling plastic. In addition, the entire facility will utilize motion-operated LED lighting. “It is exciting to see how our Portland team has embraced the upgraded facility,” continued Carter. “We think our customers will also.”

As KeHE expands its national network of distribution centers, proximity has been optimized. Service-levels to customers will continue to improve and carbon footprint reduced.

“We are excited about our new facility. It strategically aligns with our long-term growth strategy and demonstrates our commitment to our increased customer base on the West Coast. Our customers continue to receive the benefits of our growing, national organization,” said Mike Leone, Chief Commercial Officer, KeHE.

KeHE’s vendor community has also taken notice, as they are experiencing more efficient shipping and points of distribution. The distribution centers are larger and carry a wider assortment of products. These synergies and expertise within vendor management have helped improve fill rates.

Avocado Board Plans Super Celebration of Football’s Championship Game

The Hass Avocado Board is asking Americans for help in setting a world record for the “world’s largest online photo album of people dipping food.” And what will they be dipping when the titans of the gridiron meet on Levi Field on February 7? Well, guacamole of course!

More than 139 million pounds of avocados — a record 278 million avocados — are expected to be mashed into guacamole, sliced for burgers or diced for salads during the week or so leading up to the game, and the Hass Avocado Board is asking Americans to help it celebrate with the world’s largest online photo album of guacamole goodness created by fans and foodies sharing their avocado-filled football feasts with #GuacGoal.

To help set this new world record, Americans across the country can simply snap a photo of guacamole dips and dishes they’re enjoying and share it on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Vine or Flickr using #GuacGoal from January 22 to February 7. In addition to the thrill of being part of this history-making attempt, people participating will be entered for a chance to win a grand prize of $500, two runner-up prizes of $250, and one of seven footballs signed by Joe Montana. To see how fellow avocado lovers enjoy their guac during Big Game festivities, visit the online photo gallery at

In addition to some photo fun, the Hass Avocado Board is partnering with FOODBEAST, a leading online source for food news, information and entertainment, to provide Americans with fresh, innovative and simple party ideas to take this year’s Big Game celebration up a notch. This includes three original dishes developed by the FOODBEAST kitchen and shared with their millions of loyal followers.

In 2015, Americans consumed 123 million pounds or approximately 246 million avocados during Big Game week. More than 95 percent of all avocados sold in the United States are the Hass variety  – which contain naturally good fats and are cholesterol free.

In preparation for the Big Game, read up on how to select, store and ripen fresh avocados, on the Hass Avocado Board’s website. Once you’ve stocked up, head over to the board’s recipe library for delicious dishes such as Mini Carnitas Sliders with Golden Salsa.

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