Get Adobe Flash player

Mead with Love


By Richard Thompson


Breweries like Sky River Meadery and Moonlight Meadery are offering new delicious flavors – such as raspberry, blackberry, and even strawberry rhubarb – along with traditional honeyed staples in their dry, sweet and semi-sweet mead lines.

“It’s coming back as a beverage of choice,” says Michael Fairbrother, Founder and Head Mead Maker at Moonlight Meadery and President of American Mead Maker Association.

Moonlight Meadery, which opened in 2010 and is based in Londonderry, New Hampshire, offers a line of 70 different products and has seen interest in mead explode over the last year. “Production in the first two years was about 24,000 bottles (2000 cases), but we have done close to seven times as much in the last year alone,” says Fairbrother.

Kurt’s ApplePie, the meadery’s top seller, won the gold metal at the 2013 Mazer Cup International and is made with Sunny Crest Farm apple cider with Madagascar-bourbon vanilla and Vietnamese cinnamon. Its sweetness is balanced by the tartness from the added cinnamon, and the vanilla lightens it up, says Fairbrother.

Desire, a sweet mead made with blueberries, black cherries and blackcurrants, is the company’s flagship mead and won first place in the New England Regional Homebrew Competition back in 2009. Fling is made with strawberry rhubarb and orange blossom honey and has a light tartness that balances the sweet with strawberry notes. “I suggest to customers to try it with a goat cheese salad,” says Fairbrother.

Coffee in Bed, a dessert-style mead with a rich, robust honey-note, was another award winner at the International Mazer Competition that goes well with dark chocolates, tiramisu and German Chocolate cake.

Sky River Meadery, a Washington-based meadery found in the Woodinville Winery District, has been open since 1997 and specializes in traditional meads and honey wines. “We only make mead,” says Denice Ingalls, President and Wine Maker at Sky River, “We keep it simple and approachable.”

SOLAS, the meadery’s flagship mead, is a tribute to Old World meads, says Ingalls. Using saturated, smokey whiskey barrels from Dry Fly[TM] Distillery, SOLAS is a very sweet mead that combines honey and wheat whiskey flavors and is definitely an indulgence that should be sipped.

The company’s 10 different meads – with nine currently available – range from a traditional Brochet mead that has a darker, richer quality – due to the honey being caramelized before fermentation – to the Ginger mead that has a sassy ginger note with a spicy finish. “Our Rose mead is the ‘boudoir’ wine, luscious and indulgent, and pairs beautifully with meals where there are a lot of pistachios, like Persian and Middle Eastern foods,” says Ingalls.



Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry Goes On Beyond Local


By Lorrie Baumann

It was 2008, and Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell had a problem, and it was a big one. In 2007, they’d fallen in love with, and then bought, the historic Beekman Mansion and its surrounding farmland in tiny Sharon Springs, New York, about 180 miles north of New York City, intending to use it as a weekend getaway spot. They could afford it then – Ridge was Martha Stewart Omnimedia’s Vice President of Healthy Living, and Kilmer-Purcell was a well-paid advertising executive. And then the Great Recession came for them, and both of them lost their jobs.

joshBrentHorizontalWhat they had at that point was a farm with a mortgage; not a whole lot of experience in actual farming, although both had grown up in rural America and knew more than many Americans about the intimate connection between food and dirt; their educations; creativity; and the drive to make their situation work. “We were kind of thrust into making the farm work,” Ridge said ruefully. Kilmer-Purcell wrote a book that details some of this, “The Bucolic Plague,” which became a best-seller on the strength of making it all sound very jolly.

They got some goats and started making goat milk soap along with a more experienced farmer that they call Farmer John. They invested the profits from their goat soap business into qualifying as a Grade A dairy, so that they could eventually make and sell cheese. They grew produce and took it to the farmers market.

Morgage Lifter Group Full ResThen in 2012, they took some of their Mortgage Lifter tomatoes, named because the varietal was so delicious that it became known as a sure-fire seller that could help a farmer pay off the mortgage, and turned them into Mortgage Lifter Heirloom Tomato Sauce, and Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry was born. Early on, they dedicated up to 25 percent of the profits from the sauce to help other small farms, through their Mortgage Lifter Program, which assists small family farms with a viable, future-focused, growth-oriented business strategy. The project has raised more than $40,000 so far for small farms.

Then Target picked up the sauce, and Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell took to their social media channels to ask people to buy it. It sold out within days. Around the same time, the partners entered and won Season 21 of “The Amazing Race,” which enabled them to pay off their mortgage.

Target asked for more product. Ridge, Kilmer-Purcell and Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry were on a roll.

They were, however, still living in tiny, rural Sharon Springs, New York, among neighbors who didn’t have a deal with Target and hadn’t won “The Amazing Race.” “We live in a very rural community, so we understood the struggles of small farms in our area,” Ridge said.

Part of what they understood is that their neighbors were growing produce that could be turned into the kinds of shelf-stable, high-quality products that interested Target, but they didn’t have the food processing capability to make those products, and that was leaving them out of the competition for most of the $640 billion dollars a year that Americans spend in the grocery store. “More farmers markets spring up every year, and they now represent about $1 billion in grocery revenue each year. Still, the majority of people are buying their groceries in the middle aisles in the grocery store,” Ridge said. “Going to the farmers markets is so hard that we knew that the needle wasn’t going to move much further unless farmers could get better representation in the middle store.”

The obstacle between farmers and the grocery store’s center aisles is the processing facility that turns seasonal produce into shelf-stable products that can be offered for sale year-round. “The path for getting a product to the shelf is really convoluted,” Ridge said. “Large manufacturers source ingredients from lots of different places. They source ingredients in vats, and then process and package. We were looking at how to insert the small farm into that process and claim a portion of that $640 billion.”

Some farmers have solved this problem by building processing facilities on their own farms, but that requires a capital investment that many are not able to make. Others have solved the problem by processing their products in rented kitchen spaces, including a growing number of publicly- and privately-financed incubator kitchen projects. But, of course, those aren’t available in every rural community. Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry went a third way.

Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell went looking for existing production facilities with available capacity. They had to be not too small, because Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry had to supply enough product to satisfy Target’s demand for national distribution. But they also had to be not too big, because Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell never lost sight of their idea that this was about a mission to help their neighbors, and they wanted to do business with manufacturers that would share that mission. “We feel like there’s a bigger mission to what we’re trying to accomplish, and accomplishing that mission requires the neighbors,” Ridge said. “We’re trying to help support as many craftspeople and entrepreneurs and local economies as possible and to figure out how to get the small farmer greater representation in the middle aisles of the grocery store.”

Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell undertook a nationwide search to find those manufacturers who’d agree to do small-batch processing for the products that Target wanted on its shelves with produce supplied by their local farmers. Casa Visco and Gatherer’s Granola, in Schenectady, New York, and Drew’s in Chester, Vermont, stepped up. So did Conifer, Inc. in Woodinville, Washington, and Dundee Fruit, in Dundee, Oregon. “It involves so much relationship management between everybody. The manufacturer has to agree to spend more time and maybe pay a little more. The farmer has to learn how to deal with the manufacturer. Target has to do the learning about how to make relationships with small manufacturers work,” Ridge said. “The result is a premium product that you’ve not seen before in mass retail. We’re really proud of this initial set of products…. When you taste the product, they really do taste like that product you bought at the farmer’s market. We’re using recipes for small batches and with fresher ingredients, and that’s the benefit of it.”

Target launched 48 Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry products in November exclusively at 250 Super Target stores and 650 Target Pfresh stores nationwide. The products rolled out to an additional 500 Target Pfresh stores in January. The range includes salsas, salad dressings, cooking sauces, condiments, baking mixes and seasoning blends. All products either contain ingredients sourced from small farms, are organic, GMO-free or a combination of the three. “We’re still a small goat dairy in upstate New York. That’s still our story and we’re just really passionate about helping other small farms tell that story as well, Ridge said. “They’re trying to save their own farms. We’re also invested in telling that story. That story is our story. So many companies try to tell an all-natural farming story.”


Country of Origin (COOL) Labeling Requirements Repealed

The American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) today commended Congress for approving legislation, as part of a $1.1 trillion spending package, which will suspend country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for certain muscle cuts of meat and avoid costly trade retaliation by Canada and Mexico.

The U.S. Senate today approved the measure by a vote of 65-33, following the bill’s passage in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier today by a vote of 316-113.

“AFFI commends Congress for passing legislation that fully repeals country-of-origin labeling for certain meat and poultry cuts, and protecting U.S. frozen food and beverage makers from costly retaliatory tariffs from America’s two largest export markets,” said AFFI Interim President Joseph Clayton.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) recently approved annual retaliatory tariff amounts of $1.01 billion, $781 million from Canada and $227.76 million from Mexico, which could have been imposed on U.S. exports if COOL was not repealed.  The approved tariff amounts follow a May 2015 WTO ruling that found COOL requirements to be in violation of the United States’ international trade obligations by treating Canadian and Mexican livestock less favorably than domestic livestock.

Kroger Completes Tender Offer of Shares of Roundy’s

The Kroger Co. and Roundy’s, Inc. today announced the successful completion of Kroger’s tender offer to purchase all outstanding shares of Roundy’s common stock for $3.60 per share in cash. The tender offer expired at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, on December 17, 2015.

Kroger expects to complete the acquisition of the remaining eligible Roundy’s shares not acquired in the tender offer later today through a merger under Section 251(h) of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware.

“This merger blends Roundy’s complementary markets with Kroger’s strengths in scale and merchandising. Our future together is bright, and we look forward to learning from each other as partners,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s Chairman and CEO. “Most of all, we want to welcome each of Roundy’s more than 22,000 associates to the Kroger family of stores.”

“We look forward to bringing together the best of Roundy’s and Kroger for our customers and associates,” said Bob Mariano, who will continue to lead Roundy’s as President and CEO. He has served as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Roundy’s since 2002. “Our merger with Kroger will help us continue to exceed our customers’ expectations.”

Following completion of the merger, Roundy’s shares will cease to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange, which is expected to take effect later today.

Quality You Can Trust from Ariston Specialties

Ariston’s new Saffron Infused Olive Oil combines Ariston award-winning select extra virgin olive oil with fragrant saAriston PF2ffron. Ariston’s Saffron Infused Olive Oil goes great with Paella and anything else that needs saffron.

Ariston’s Saffron Infused Olive Oil is one of 18 Ariston extra virgin olive oils and infused olive oils available through Ariston Specialties’ Fusti Refill and Save Program and its Fusti Freshly Poured Program. The line also includes Curry Infused Olive oil, Pesto Infused Olive oil and Truffle Infused Olive oil.

Ariston’s select Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Infused Olive Oil are produced by the company in Greece and tested three times before reaching your shelf to assure you and your customers that what you’re getting is real extra virgin olive oil. The Ariston program is versatile and can be implemented in your bakery, butcher, farm co-operative, specialty gourmet store, café – the sky is the limit.

For more information, call 860.224.7184.

Spanish Food Show Alimentaria Reorganizes for Improved Attendee Experience

On the occasion of its 40th anniversary, the Spanish trade fair Alimentaria is organizing its most international event ever at Fira de Barcelona on April 25-28, 2016, attracting companies and buyers from all over the world to promote exports and access to new markets for the almost 4,000 companies from close to 50 countries represented at the show. The newly-reorganized trade show will reflect the key markets in the food and drink industry and showcase the opportunities for growth that innovation and gastronomy can offer the sector.

In 2016, Alimentaria will be based around five themed trade shows: Intervin (wines and spirits), Intercarn (meat and meat products), Restaurama (restaurants), Interlact (milk and dairy products) and Multiple Foods (all kinds of confectionery, preserves, oils and premium products). The aim of this segmentation is to reflect market trends, strengthen the show’s position in the restaurant and gourmet sector, and make life easier for the trade professionals from the sectors of food and drink distribution, retail and imports who visit the show in search of new suppliers and products.

To promote the attendance of international visitors, Alimentaria is sending direct invitations to more than 800 selected buyers and setting up business meetings with exhibitors. Registration for the ‘Hosted Buyers’ program is already open on the show’s website to sign up key professionals from the markets of Latin America, Asia, the United States and Canada, Europe and the Middle East with an interest in buying specific products.

At the same time, other sector organisations and Spanish public administrations are organizing business meetings to attract international buyers to the fair. Examples include food and drink business meetings organized by FIAB, ICEX and Magrama, and a brokerage event organized by Acció.

The power of the gourmet experience in promoting Spanish food products will be evident in The Alimentaria Experience, a huge space housing activities, demonstrations and cooking workshops given by well-known chefs,-including Michelin-starred ones-and young up-and-coming talents. Meanwhile, innovations, trends, launches, seminars and conferences will all be featured in The Alimentaria Hub, a major space dedicated to food knowledge, which also includes business and technology.

Alimentaria is one of the world’s benchmark events for the food sector. The previous event brought together some 3,800 companies (almost one third of which were international), and 140,000 visitors, 42,000 of whom were from outside Spain.

Mary’s Gone Crackers Names John C. Sheptor as CEO

Mary Waldner, co-founder of Mary’s Gone Crackers®, a leading North American gluten-free cracker and snack company, announced the appointment of food industry veteran John C. Sheptor to the position of CEO.

Sheptor has led global strategic business initiatives in more than 80 countries and is recognized as a visionary leader. “John arrives at a pivotal moment in our history,” said Waldner. We’re poised to grow significantly and are confident that the customer focus, supply chain intelligence and manufacturing excellence John brings will add greatly to our future successes.” President and COO, Joe Glorfield added, “John’s varied-category background enables him to bring new perspective and insight to our brand.”

Sheptor’s business career spans diverse industries including agriculture, food ingredients, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare among others. He is a leader of change- building enterprise capacity through strategy, business process effectiveness and execution.

Most notably, Sheptor’s career has been dedicated to social and economic development. “The opportunity to create and implement sustainable improvement systems at Mary’s Gone Crackers excites me,” said Sheptor. He considers his ability to optimize a product’s supply chain in order to elevate the brand and positively benefit farmers’ core to both his business and personal missions. He continued, “In my opinion, profit with purpose initiatives is the future of this business.”

Sheptor played an essential role as Chief Executive Officer and President of Imperial Sugar Company, responsible for all operations, commodities management, logistics, sales, marketing, customer service, product development, financial reporting and public/investor relations that support Imperial Sugar’s evolving go-to-market and consumer outreach strategies. He received an undergraduate degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an M.B.A. from Tulane University and an Advanced Director Certificate from the American College of Corporate Directors.

Wixon Introduces New Dip Mixes

Wixon has introduced its newest, innovative mixes for dips, delivering a simple way to add a gourmet touch to snacks and starters. The latest on-trend seasonings can inspire new offerings or reinvigorate old classics.

The new products include:

Habanero and Herb
This blend is a combination of fiery habanero and other peppers, onion, garlic, and parsley, plus sugar to add sweetness.

Olive Oil, Truffle, and Parmesan
Make dips taste indulgent with this mix of cheese, peppers, garlic, parsley, and rich truffle.

Vanilla Hazelnut Coffee
Vanilla, sugar, coffee, and natural hazelnut flavor create a seasoning with pep.

More information on Wixon or any of its products may be obtained at or by calling 414.769.3000.

Finca Pascualete La Retorta Wins Super Gold at World Cheese Awards


Finca Pascualete La Retorta was awarded Super Gold and named Best Cheese from Spain at the 2015 World Cheese Awards. This creamy raw sheep’s milk cheese is made in the traditional method of curdling milk with dried wild thistle flowers.

Finca Pascualete uses milk from its own flock and stays true to the time-honored recipe which requires daily turning by hand. The resulting aromatic cheese is praised for a smooth yet persistent flavor. The wild flowers lend a hint of bitterness to balance its remarkable richness.

Weighing in at 140 grams, La Retorta has understated packaging, wrapped in corrugated cardboard and tied with raffia string. The cheese should be brought to room temperature for service, when the top rind can be cut off as if it were a lid.

This popular La Retorta has gained notice not just for its flavor and quality, but also for its fascinating origins. Established in the 1940s by Luis Figueroa and Aline Griffith, Finca Pascualete is located on a famed Extremadura estate that has been in Figueroa family for nearly 800 years; the palacio itself was built in Roman times. The rich history of the estate took on a new life through Figueroa and Griffith. Having met when Griffith was working as a CIA agent, the couple settled into life in northern Spain, where they became known as the Count and Countess of Romanones.

“The cheese showcases the singularity of the land, the estate where the flock grazes and the city of Trujillo. It is a farming and agricultural project with a history dating back to 1232 which gained new dimension in 2010 with the inauguration of the cheese factory, achieving important international recognition,” said Cheesemaker Juan Figueroa, a grandson of the founders.

Finca Pascualete’s La Retorta was one of 2,727 entries from around the world to be judged at the World Cheese Awards, where 250 expert judges worked in teams of four to identify medal-winning cheeses. The super gold medal was reserved for each team’s favorite cheese. The 62 super gold cheeses were then ranked by a second panel of judges to award “best of” categories and to decide the world champion.

Finca Pascualete La Retorta is distributed in the United States by the Rogers Collection, which imports and distributes responsibly sourced ingredients of distinctive quality created by generational food producers from small farms rich in traditions and flavors.

For more information, call 207.828.2000, email or visit


BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. Appoints Christopher J. Baldwin as President and CEO

BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. has named Christopher J. Baldwin as President and Chief Executive Officer, succeeding Laura J. Sen, who is assuming the role of Non-Executive Chairman. The appointment is effective February 1, 2016.

Baldwin will assume responsibility for the ongoing operations of BJ’s, while Sen will join BJ’s other board members in setting the long term strategic direction of the company. Baldwin will report to the company’s board of directors, and both he and Sen will remain members of the BJ’s board.

“I am grateful to have spent over 25 years with this great company, and feel privileged to have led it for the last seven,” said Sen. “I am proud of what our team has accomplished together during these many years. I believe BJ’s is operationally strong and well positioned for continued success. In a very short period Chris has demonstrated the necessary vision and leadership to take BJ’s to the next level. Together, we have laid out a strategy for the company that will serve us for many years to come, and I believe now is the right time for Chris to assume his place as leader of BJ’s.”

Baldwin joined BJ’s in September as President and Chief Operating Officer. He brought more than 30 years of experience as an executive in the retail and consumer products industries. Before joining BJ’s, he was CEO of Hess Retail Corporation, prior to its successful sale to Marathon Petroleum Corporation. Before joining Hess, Baldwin served in a variety of executive level roles at Kraft Foods (Nabisco), The Hershey Company, and Procter and Gamble.

“I am humbled and excited by this opportunity to lead BJ’s,” said Baldwin. “This is both a challenging time for retail and one full of opportunity. Our guide over the next several years will be a vision that is steadfastly focused on offering a distinctive shopping experience and deep value proposition to BJ’s millions of loyal members. With the support of BJ’s team members, I look forward to leading our company to even higher levels of achievement.”

About BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc.

Headquartered in Westborough, Massachusetts, BJ’s operates membership warehouse clubs in the eastern United States. The company currently operates 211 clubs and 126 gas stations in 15 states.

BJ’s provides a one-stop shopping destination filled with more top-quality, leading brands including its exclusive Wellsley Farms and Berkley Jensen brands, which are all backed by BJ’s 100 percent money-back guarantee; more fresh foods from USDA Choice meats to premium produce to delicious organics in many supermarket sizes; and more great value and amazing savings every day. BJ’s is also the only membership club to accept all manufacturers’ coupons and for greater convenience offers the most payment options.

Gourmet News

Follow me on Twitter