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Goat Cheese Steps into the Mainstream

 

By Dave Bernard

Once a cheese of last resort for those intolerant or allergic to cow dairy products, goat cheese has grown in popularity in the last 15 years to achieve mainstream status. With many chefs preferring the bright, tangy flavor of fresh chèvre over creamier cow’s milk cheese varieties, goat cheese is “here to stay,” according to Lynne Devereux, Marketing Manager at Laura Chenel’s Chevre.

The rise of goat cheese involves a confluence of factors, from consumer hunger for more healthful foods to the desire for local and artisan products, a taste-adventurous Millennial-generation consumer group along with increasingly knowledgeable and flavor-seeking consumers in all categories, to the goat dairy industry’s dedication of more resources to education.

Goat cheese’s increasing popularity among American consumers is attributed to pioneering chef Alice Waters, who co-founded the Farm to Table movement of the 1980s and, working with Laura Chenel, intoduced diners at her Chez Panisse restaurant to goat cheese-inspired dishes. The news about goat cheese spread from there. “A lot of famous chefs worked at her restaurant first, and they went on to open restaurants across the country,” explained Jennifer Lynn Bice, CEO and President of Sebastopol, California’s Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery. “Diners would enjoy these wonderful goat cheese dishes, and then go into stores looking for the cheese; and from there it just mushroomed all around the country.”

While consumers came for the flavor and bright white, clean appearance of goat cheese, they stayed for the health benefits. Goat dairy products often work for those with lactose intolerance, and they contain a different saturated fat composition from that found incow’s milk. And it’s also higher in calcium, vitamin A and often protein. Some varieties contain just a third of the fat and calories of cow’s milk cheese. goat cheese got a hoof in the door, and to grow the category.

While the cream cheese-like fresh chèvre, popular in baking and cooking, leads the category, an increasing number of small and some large producers have developed more and varied, quality cheeses, with producers like Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery offering unique varieties like Roasted Chile, Three Peppercorn and Garlic Chive chevres.

Producers have also developed harder, aged cheeses more conducive to snacking, sandwich topping and other uses. Cypress Grove Chevre of Arcata, California, partners with a Dutch cheesemaker to produce the dense and chewy Midnight Moon, a Gouda-type cheese boasting a brown buttery flavor with caramel undertones. Laura Chenel’s Chevre’s rich and nutty Tome is a pale ivory, firm cheese that slices and grates easily; and Redwood Hill Farm’s offerings include Aged Cheddar and Smoked Cheddar.

“When I first started here 15 years ago, we were trying to convince people that goats gave milk,” said Lynne Devereux. “So the trajectory in the last 15 years has been fantastic.”

 

Respect for Tradition Exemplifies West Loop Salumi

 

By Micah Cheek

WestLoop2Like most new things in Chicago, Greg Laketek is on his way up. In the two years since Laketek’s West Loop Salumi opened, his client list has ballooned with the names of heavy hitting businesses. “There were always dreams of serving the customers we have,” says Laketek, “We never expected them to seek us out.” Among those seekers are famed restaurants such as Alinea and Nomi, as well as high profile market retailers, including Eataly NYC. Fueled by the stunning endorsements of traveling chefs, West Loop meats are finding their way into culinary hot spots from San Diego to Boca Raton.

Laketek, 29, opened West Loop Salumi in 2013 after spending four years training under master salumiere Massimo Spigaroli. At Spigaroli’s Antica Corte Pollavicina in Polesine Parmense, he learned the craft of curing and preserving meats with an eye for quality ingredients and Old World techniques. Laketek even took part in the processing of the British royal family’s prized Berkshire hogs. When he returned to his home town of Chicago, he saw that these traditional Italian salamis were in nowhere to be found. “I noticed in Chicago, not many people are doing salumi and charcuterie; it seemed like a good market to get into.” he says. West Loop Salumi began with a small crew and no safety net. Laketek recalls, “Last year we had a flood because we had a frozen pipe. We ended up losing about $140,000 in product. That was our first eight months, we only had three employees, and our products weren’t covered in the insurance. It was a big hit to us.” The flooded shop could not stop the flood of praise, however, and West Loop rebounded to even more critical success. Zagat has since included Laketek in its “30 under 30 2014” list, as well as “11 Chicago Food Artisans to Watch.”

West Loop Salumi takes its name from the neighborhood it occupies, a formerly industrial area that is now a dining and art hot spot. The neighborhood’s rebirth as a fine food and leisure hub, though beneficial to the city, is not without its consequences. Greg says, “West Loop was the butchering and packing area of Chicago. It’s really dying though, now this area is called Restaurant Row, there are only a few butcher shops left here. It’s really a shame. Hotels and restaurants are coming in and raising the rent.” A particular loss, Greg says, is the redevelopment of the Fulton Cold Storage building, which had operated for over 90 years. “They took all the old signage down. Google is using the building. The insulation was all horse hair; it took four months to defrost the place.”

From the start, buyers could tell something was different about West Loop’s wares. Laketek believes the contrast lies in how other American processors make charcuterie, compared to how he was trained in Italy. “Producers out here don’t understand how to make the salumi we’re making,” he says. The difference can be seen especially well in meats like culatello, a whole muscle ham cured in wine, salt and pepper for more than 12 months, which West Loop makes in the Italian style. “The thing about culatello is you can’t import it, it’s not available in the US. We’re now doing the culatello the way they did, but not many others can,” Laketek says. He found that he could avoid using nitrite, a commonly used preservative for cured meat products, in his culatello by aging it even longer, up to 16 months. This keen knowledge of the curing process sets his products apart from his competitors. “They’re cutting corners they don’t even know they’re cutting. It’s about attention to detail,” he says.

Attention to detail goes hand in hand with the extremely high quality ingredients that West Loop starts with. Berkshire and Iberian pork are heavily used, as are fresh Calabrian peppers. Laketek takes special pride in his braseola, which he formerly made with pasture-raised, grass-fed beef. “We’ve switched to just using wagyu now. We are the only producer in the US that’s allowed to make bresaola without spraying any bleach on it. We use the acidity of white wine vinegar to make it stable.”

While the lowlands of Parma are ideal for the dry curing of specialty pork, the environment of Chicago doesn’t lend itself to the process. The chill and humidity of the Midwest would make traditional open air curing impossible if not for West Loop’s state of the art curing chambers. A constantly operating computer carefully balances the humidity and heat needed to promote the right bacterial cultures and drying times.

Laketek is bucking an old trend in American eating. When looking for salami, the American diner has an expectation of glossy, razor thin slices with a distinctly chewy quality. West Loop teaches a different lesson. The texture of its product is notably soft, even delicate. The casing must be gently removed to avoid taking bits of pork with it. Portions are cut in a thick wedge, similar to a serving of cheese. The thin slices are all pieces of whole muscles, cut against the grain.

Having proven himself in classic ciauscolos and sopprassetas, Laketek has begun to try new things. His Lagunitas IPA salame features not only the hoppy beer, but toasted spent grains from brewing as well. The Finnochiona is dusted with fennel pollen before aging. The Krug Champagne and Truffle is as decadent as it sounds; finely aged Krug Grande Cuvee adds flavors of sweet barley, and pieces of Alba black truffles are hidden throughout. “A chef needs to start out with a basis of how to make the basics. You can’t just say ‘I have a crazy idea, let’s put Sriracha and plum wine into a salami,’ without any background,” Laketek says.

The USDA has declared Laketek’s salamis completely shelf stable. They travel well too, as the meats are packed with degassers and deoxygenizers. For the retail market, Laketek has a few tips for care and handling. “For salami, we just recommend they don’t keep them in the fridge or deli case. Those cases have a lot of moisture in them. Salami breathes, just like bread. We recommend taking it out of the package, letting it hang and do its thing.”

 

Millennial Grocery Shoppers Seeking Organic, Antibiotic-free Poultry

 

Foster Farms has released survey findings measuring Millennial’s attitudes towards food issues, grocery purchasing behavior and preferences. The 2015 data reveals that Millennial parents are driving the tidal shift in consumer demand for responsibly raised products and are largely influenced by traditional family values and peer/community feedback when making household food decisions. While availability and pricing are cited as potential challenges, nearly one-third of respondents consider “organic” or “no antibiotics” to be the most important factor in choosing fresh chicken.

Conducted in 2015, the survey of 1,872 West Coast Millennial parents found that once Millennials have children, traditional family values and peer/community influence are the primary factors influencing everything from grocery purchases to cooking and consumption habits – with 74 percent reporting their criteria has changed “a lot”due to these factors. Millennials report their purchasing standards for fresh chicken differ significantly from their parents or previous generations. Yet, while demand for these products is at an all-time high, West Coast consumers report confusion on labeling terms and perceive these products to be niche in category.

The independent survey conducted by MetrixLab also found that 85 percent of Millennial parents indicated that their criteria for buying meat and poultry has changed over the last several years; 42 percent cited having a child as the primary reason, while 32 percent credit becoming more educated on how food is produced. More than three quarters of Millennial parents surveyed agreed that they are much more concerned than their parents’ generation about chemicals, antibiotics and ingredients used to produce food, while 78 percent say they are more concerned than their parents’ generation about nutrition. Use of antibiotics in meat and poultry production (54 percent), hormones and steroids in meats, poultry or dairy products (60 percent) and food safety (68 percent) are the top three food issues that survey participants were very concerned about. Nearly four out of five of them said that buying humanely raised meat and poultry is more important to them now than it was in the past, and 81 percent of those surveyed agreed that they try to buy poultry that is raised in their state.

Four out of five respondents cook dinner at home four or more nights per week, and nearly half of respondents cited family members as having the greatest influence on cooking habits. Most said that when making decisions about the food they feed their families they rely on information from friends and family to help inform those decisions (versus expert chefs, cookbooks, blogs, and other influencers in the food category).

Overall, the survey found that West Coast Millennial parents are actively seeking more antibiotic-free and organic options, with “no antibiotics” and “organic” rank among the top three fresh chicken purchase drivers among those surveyed. However, many consumers are still uncertain of what these terms actually mean: 42 percent of those surveyed who occasionally or always purchase antibiotic-free poultry are still at least somewhat confused about the term “antibiotic-free poultry,” while 37 percent of respondents are either unsure or do not understand what “certified organic” means when it comes to poultry.

“This survey aligns with our own data emphasizing the overwhelming demand for organic products and need for more education about labeling,” noted Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “While the largest sector of organic growth is in fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry products are the next frontier for significant adoption. Foster Farms’ entry is an important step in providing greater access to USDA certified organic poultry products in mainstream grocery stores.”

Price is also perceived as a barrier to widespread adoption of antibiotic-free and organic poultry: 75 percent of West Coast Millennials view antibiotic-free chicken as expensive. Nonetheless, a significant proportion of consumers are willing to spend more: while 87 percent of those surveyed report concern about the cost of food, nearly a quarter (23 percent) said they have purchased organic chicken three or more times out of their past five purchases. In fact, 82 percent of those surveyed who purchase organic chicken do so for a routine family dinner, as opposed to a special occasion.

Availability is a priority for many of those surveyed: 60 percent believe antibiotic-free chicken is hard to find. Many consumers say it is extremely difficult to make several different grocery stops. An overwhelming majority – 94 percent – of West Coast Millennial parents agree they want as many product choices in the supermarket as possible, with 56 percent preferring to make one stop for all groceries. For many respondents, the societal expectation to choose organic foods is unsettling: 59 percent of those surveyed report feeling scrutinized over their food choices, with 29 percent feeling pressure to say they purchase organic foods often, even when they do not.

“Consumers expect a new generation of responsibly raised poultry and meat products,” said Ira Brill, Foster Farms Director of Communications. “Demand for these products is not a trend; it is an absolute priority for Millennials and for our customers who want more choices when it comes to organic, antibiotic-free, locally grown and humanely raised poultry.”

 

 

Specialities, Inc. to Introduce French Bayonne Ham at Summer Fancy Food Show

Specialities, Inc. will be introducing France’s legendary all natural Bayonne Ham at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City to complete the “trilogy” of the finest cured meats in the United States. The Bayonne Ham is crafted to the highest standards using a unique process handed down by centuries of meticulous care, time and knowledge. Bayonne Hams are the standard by which all other French hams are judged. Specalities, Inc. will be showcasing both the traditional tasting Bayonne Ham and a flavor of Bayonne Ham that has been cured and coated using France’s world famous AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) Espelette Red Peppers.

A ham can only become a Bayonne Ham if it’s produced in the very specific, clearly defined areas of the Adour basin in the heart of French Basque for salting and the south of France for rearing. All Bayonne Hams are assured by the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) since October 7, 1998 and protected under the European Union PGI label. The PGI label informs consumers about the specific characteristics of products and protects their geographical names from imitation and usurpation. Bayonne hams have only four ingredients; specially-bred and fed French pigs (corn and cereals), salt from the natural springs deep beneath the Pyrenees Mountains, air and the most important ingredient, time.

Bayonne Hams are air-dried, dark in color, with a very tender mild flavor with only a hint of saltiness. All Bayonne Hams have stringent levels of production requirements (breeding, slaughter and butchering, salting and distribution) all approved by officers from the Consortium du Jambon de Bayonne.

Specialities, Inc. was awarded the prized cured ham from France last July by the Delpeyrat Bayonne Ham Company based upon their expertise and experience to source, distribute and create sell-through of “Best of Class” specialty brands in the United States. After a two year approval process, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put its stamp of approval to begin importing the Bayonne Ham with the first shipments arriving in August of this year.

“We are honored to have been selected as the exclusive purveyor of the Bayonne Ham in the United States,” said Richard Kessler of Specialities, Inc. “We can’t wait for show attendees to experience the exceptional taste and smooth texture of this legendary ham.

All Bayonne Hams are cured by rubbing with 100 percent all-natural Adour basin salt and then covered with a thick layer of salt and placed in the salting room. The hams are suspended in a room where they are dried at a low temperature in artificially created winter conditions. Then the hams are hung in drying rooms where the long maturing process begins, gradually enhancing their flavor, aroma and tenderness. The next step is a process in which  a mixture of pork fat and flour is applied on the muscular parts of the ham, making for a gentler drying process during the long maturing period. In the last step, the ham acquires all of its qualities and revels its personality: a mild flavor, balanced saltiness and delicate aroma. Then the hams are tested by experts who define the hams’ taste qualities and are approved to wear the Bayonne branded tattoo. On average, it takes nine to 12 months to make a Bayonne Ham.

Specialities, Inc. will also be showcasing  other “Best of Class” specialty brands Le Bistro French Recipe Ham, Noel Spanish Serrano, Solera Spanish Cheeses and Meats, Bellentani Deli Meats, LactAcores Portuguese cheeses and Ermitage French cheeses at its Summer Fancy Food Show booth.

Owl’s Brew Adds Fourth Flavor to Line

Owl’s Brew, the tea crafted for cocktails, has added a fourth flavor to its growing lineup of premium tea-based mixers. White and Vine, the brand’s first white tea-based product, expertly blends fine white tea with all-natural watermelon, pomegranate, and lemon peel, for a tart and refreshing taste. As with every Owl’s Brew variety, White and Vine is versatile and can be poured with a range of spirits, beer, wine, and champagne, to create a range of effortless craft cocktails with sophisticated taste profiles, and refreshingly modest calorie counts. White and Vine pairs ideally with tequila or gin.

White and Vine is available now on Owl’s Brew’s website and from select online retailers such as Craft & Caro, Goldbely, Food52 and Brit & Co, and will soon be found at specialty food grocers, supermarkets, home and wine and spirits retailers throughout the U.S.

“White and Vine’s white tea profile makes the perfect addition to the current Owl’s Brew line—and is a delicious base for summer cocktails,” said Jennie Ripps, Founder and CEO of Owl’s Brew. “We’re thrilled to be continuing to innovate and introducing new twists on the at-home cocktail through our crafted-for-cocktails tea blends.”

Owl’s Brew’s three original flavors include Coco-Lada, sweet with a spicy kick, rounded out by coconut and sweetened with natural agave; Pink & Black, a robust darjeeling, with a hint of hibiscus, sweetened with agave; and The Classic, English breakfast with a tart twist, sweetened with agave, with each serving 20 – 40 calories. All four flavors are available in both 8-ounce and 32-ounce sizes.

Owl’s Brew’s light flavor profile allows it to complement a wide range of spirits, and each of its flavors can be combined with multiple liquors, such as vodka, bourbon, tequila or even beer. The tea is fresh-brewed in micro-batches. Owl’s Brew is currently available at leading national retailers including BevMo!, Whole Foods, The Fresh Market, Williams-Sonoma, and West Elm.

 

Sartori Cheese Releasing Limited Edition Extra-Aged Goat Cheese

 

Sartori Cheese will be releasing its Limited Edition Extra-Aged Goat Cheese to specialty cheese shops throughout the United States during the months of June and July.  Hand-crafted in small batches using 100 percent goat’s milk, this specialty cheese is only released twice during the year.

Sartori’s Extra-Aged Goat Cheese is made within Sartori’s Italian hard-style tradition.  Unlike a typical soft, fresh goat cheese, Sartori’s is extra-aged for a minimum of 10 months.  “This goat cheese is surprisingly different than what most expect.  When we age this in our curing room, the flavors begin to balance out and in the end the cheese delivers a savory, smooth, and creamy finish with hints of caramel,” shares Sartori Master Cheesemaker, Pam sartoriHodgson.

As with many award-winning cheese, Sartori’s Extra-Aged Goat has a wonderful story of origin.  A few years back this cheese was developed by Hodgson and her team.  “The idea has always been there to experiment with goat’s milk.  Growing up, I was very familiar with goats.  My dad purchased a couple goats to help trim his lawn on the farm and later in life my children showed the animals during county fairs.  When starting with the creation of this cheese, our hurdle was to understand how to craft a hard goat’s milk cheese and stay true to our Italian roots.  We decided to partner with LaClare Farms to source the freshest, highest quality goat’s milk.  From there, we created a hard goat’s milk cheese and aged it.  It’s the steps within the cheese make process that allowed us to continue within our tradition of hard-style award-winning cheese,” adds Hodgson.

Sartori first introduced this cheese in 2012 and received a Gold Medal at the Global Cheese Awards held in the United Kingdom.  Since its inception, Sartori has garnered seven awards for this very special cheese.

Sartori’s Limited Edition Extra-Aged Goat Cheese will be available at specialty cheese shops throughout the United States June and July.  Additionally, a limited supply of wedges will be available for sale at the Sartori online cheese shop,http://shop.sartoricheese.com/.

Burnett Dairy Cooperative Introduces New Snack Cheeses

Burnett cheesesBurnett Dairy Cooperative introduces fun new ways to snack. New String Whips, Artisan Cuts and new flavors of String Cheese will add excitement to the retail cheese case by offering on-trend flavors and convenience to entice cheese lovers of all ages.

String Whips are Burnett Dairy’s award-winning natural mozzarella string cheese in a fun, spaghetti-like shape. They are the perfect snack for kids and adults and are available in Creamy Original and Homestyle Ranch.

String Cheese is a favorite go-to snack for kids and adults. Bringing some fun to the category, Burnett Dairy’s three new varieties of natural mozzarella string cheese are blended with meats and spices to create protein packed fun flavors: Zesty Teriyaki, Hot Pepper Beef and Pepperoni Pizza. These flavors join Burnett Dairy’s Smoked, Ranch and Creamy Original. Each piece is individually wrapped for easy, on-the-go freshness.

Artisan Cuts are flavorful and convenient for snacking, entertaining and cooking. These cracker-sized pieces have a hand-cut appearance in a variety of sizes making them ideal for crackers, sliders and cheese trays – without the cutting and mess! Available in seven fun varieties, each in a resealable bag: Bacon & Onion Colby, Roasted Garlic Monterey Jack, Rosemary Herb Cheddar, Italian Sun-Dried Tomato Monterey Jack, Aged Cheddar, Colby and Fancy Jack. Artisan Cuts are available in select markets only.

Burnett Dairy Cooperative, farmer-owned since 1896, is a place where farm families work side-by-side with crop and dairy experts to produce the highest quality milk, from the ground up. A place where a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker then creates cheese in inventive flavors and crafts new varieties in limited batches.

Vermont Cheese Council Signs 50th Member

The Vermont Cheese Council (VCC), a non-profit trade association committed to the promotion and advancement of quality cheese production in Vermont, signed its 50th principal member, Sweet Rowen Farmstead, located in West Glover, Vermont,  to its membership roster.

“It’s a great milestone with a lot of history behind it,” said Jeremy Stevenson, Cheesemaker at Spring Brook Farm/Farms for City Kids and former VCC President.  “It is very encouraging to see the VCC growing with the community of cheesemakers and working with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture to facilitate growth and stability into the future.”

Founded in 1996 with 19 original members, the Vermont Cheese Council helped to establish the Vermont brand in the cheese industry through quality production, safety training and the promotion of Vermont cheesemakers.

Allison Hooper, Owner of Vermont Creamery and Past VCC President added, “In 1997 the Vermont Cheese Industry was comprised of about 19 cheesemakers but we were invisible.  Forming the Council changed that and even attracted people to Vermont to make cheese.”

“The VCC is a huge success story,” commented Laini Fondiller, Cheesemaker at Lazy Lady Farm and Past President of the organization.   “It has done all that it set out to do and then expanded into having the ability to provide even more through the annual cheese festival and has now garnered world-wide acclaim with its great cheese,”

Since its creation, Vermont cheesemakers have earned hundreds of awards and accolades for their world-class cheeses.  “I congratulate the Vermont Cheese Council on their 50th member,” said Chuck Ross, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture. “Our state is well known for producing world-class cheeses, thanks in part to the critical role the Vermont Cheese Council plays in supporting our cheesemakers. The growth of the cheese production in our state benefits our working landscape, our economy, and helps build Vermont’s reputation as producer of outstanding artisanal foods.”

Rachel Fritz Schaal, current President of the Vermont Cheese Council and co-owner of Parish Hill Creamery added, “We are excited to welcome our 50th cheesemaker to the council.  Vermont has a vital community of producers who continue to support one another and thereby strengthen the group as a whole.  The results are evident  - and delicious.”

Through collaboration and marketing for all cheesemakers of all sizes, and with the added strength of Vermont’s agricultural brand, Vermont cheesemakers have made significant in-roads into the artisan, farmstead and large-scale commercial cheese industries.  “Vermont cheesemakers have worked hard to develop a reputation for quality, safety and consistency, whether in artisan or large- scale cheesemaking,” said Tom Bivins, the Cheese Council Executive Director. “I am very proud of our cheesemakers whose work supports Vermont’s dairy farming families and our working landscape.”

The Vermont Cheese Council’s primary mission is to promote and advance the production of quality cheese.  The council coordinates The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, named a “Top Ten Summer Food Festival in the US” by Fodors in 2014, and publishes The Vermont Cheese Trail Map. More information about the Council and its members can be found at vtcheese.com.  Information on the Seventh Annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, to be held July 19, can be found at vtcheesefest.com.

Rare Edibles Feeds Dallas Culinary Scene

By Micah Cheek

Rare Edibles is a specialty foods distributor based in Dallas Texas. Founded by Bryan Dunn and Borz Azarian, now the Director of Operations, Rare Edibles opened in 2012 after a year of research and sourcing. Azarian says, “We started with a handful of wild mushrooms. It took a while for chefs to trust us.”

As business increased, the team found that some products had never even been shipped to Dallas before. Azarian says, “When we started, we were dealing with more seasonal, wildcrafted items. It was a little difficult getting the products. A lot of the products didn’t have channels here. It took lots of research and hard work, and involved talking to our freight people about how to do it. We’ve learned a lot along the way and established good relationships.” Those relationships made it possible to negotiate the movement of products that had a lifespan of only a few days. Rare Edibles is now able to ship the products of multiple distant vendors in one load, reducing costs and shipping time. Some areas are avoided, as they cannot fit the company’s carefully planned routes. Azarian notes, “We generally don’t source too much from California. We have heard that there are issues with water, but we forecast ourselves to avoid things like that. If produce was our game, we would definitely be hurting. There’s another thing about California that you wouldn’t expect. It’s not easy to get products from California with freight, because the mountains make it complicated. It’s just way too expensive to ship it out. We’re very happy with the few things we do bring in from California, and there are many things we plan on introducing to Texas in the future.”

Ali Morgan, in-house Cheesemonger and Accounts Manager, joined the team a year ago. “I look at everything that comes in and goes out and make sure it’s up to our standards. My job entails that, and we’ve got staff that’s trained what to look for. Sometimes chefs need to be educated. They need to hear, ‘Hey, these are good molds! They’re supposed to smell that way!’ As a cheesemonger, it’s my job to make sure the people we give products to are educated, so people know what they’re dealing with.”

Keeping up with the needs of Dallas also requires a finger on the pulse of food trends. Morgan says, “All the accompaniments that come with buratta are coming into season. The seasonal stuff is getting more popular every year. Buratta has blown up a lot down here, especially the traditional style. We sourced one out of Connecticut out of Vermont milk, and we can’t keep it in stock.”

As Dallas looks to the future, Rare Edibles is beginning to see more competition. Other vendors are starting to emulate the company’s portfolio. Azarian sees this as a good sign, an indicator that they picked the right place to start. Rare Edibles is depending on its strong community relationships and unyielding standards of quality to hold the company up above the rest. “We try to have our products in such good quality that they speak for themselves,” Azarian says. “The way we sell our products, we have to believe in them and the people behind them. In our level of industry, you can’t hide behind good branding. Otherwise, our clients will realize it by tasting their food.”

FDA Says KIND Bars Not Healthy

 

By Richard Thompson

KIND, LLC was served a warning letter by the FDA for mislabeling its products and is now facing numerous class-action lawsuits after the letter went public. KIND is just the latest in a swarm of lawsuits to allege false advertising with regards to mislabeling claims, most notably “all natural.”

In a letter sent to KIND in late March, the FDA accused KIND of mislabeling on four specific bars – Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot, Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut, KIND Plus Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein and KIND Plus Dark Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants – on which the FDA says KIND used the terms “healthy,” “low sodium,” “no trans fats” and “good source of fiber” incorrectly.

The warning letter was the result of a routine product check, according to Noah Bartolucci, Strategic Communications and Public Engagement, Food and Drug Administration. The FDA would not comment why the KIND bars were picked off the shelf. “We carry these out periodically, consistent with the agency’s charge,” said Bartolucci, “but honestly, it varies.”

The warning letter gave KIND 15 days to start taking steps to change the labels as well as its website to conform with FDA definitions. “KIND has, and will continue to take efforts to conform to all FDA regulations,” Joe Cohen, Senior Vice President of Communications at KIND, said, “We’ve submitted a plan to FDA outlining the steps we’ll take to modify our packaging and website in accordance with the issues raised in the warning letter.”

KIND says it is working with the FDA on how it can use “healthy” on its bar labels. “We are…working closely with the FDA to reach alignment on how we can use ‘healthy’ on our packaging,” Cohen said, “The regulatory definition of ‘healthy’ is complex.” The FDA regulates the use of the term as a nutrient content claim, but does not regulate more general use of the term.

KIND doesn’t plan to change its recipes for any of its products, but instead will focus on the labeling. “This matter relates strictly to the language on our labeling and our website,” said Cohen.

KIND maintains that its bars are good for you, even though the exact wording on the label may not be allowed. “We’ve received a great deal of support from medical and nutritionist communities,” said Cohen, “and many experts have spoken up to endorse…the benefits of eating nuts and nutritious fats.”

As soon as the warning letter became public, KIND was slammed with a number of lawsuits.

As of late April, KIND has been drawn into eight different consumer lawsuits from individuals in both California and New York, with all claiming that KIND’s mislabeling violated federal, state and consumer protection laws and caused them injury or damage.

One claimant, Brandon Kaufer, represented by Pearson, Simon, and Warsaw, LLP, alleges that he, and others similarly situated, had suffered injury by purchasing the KIND bars under the mistaken belief they were “healthier” and incurred losses of at least $5,000,000 dollars due to KIND’s deliberate deception.

 

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