Get Adobe Flash player

Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program Announces 2016 Graduates

The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker® program, the nation’s only advanced training program of its kind for veteran cheesemakers, has graduated seven new and three returning Master Cheesemakers. The 2016 class is among the largest in the 22-year history of the program, which was established through a joint partnership of the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, UW-Extension and the dairy farm families of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB).

With 59 active Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers working in 32 companies across the state, the Masters hold certifications in 35 cheese varieties, from familiar classics to artisan originals. Cheesemakers entering the rigorous three-year course of study can seek certification as Masters in up to two cheese varieties each time they go through the program.

The newest Master Cheesemakers, who were formally certified at an April ceremony during the International Cheese Technology Expo in Milwaukee, are:

  • Jeff Allen, of BelGioioso Cheese, Green Bay, certified in blue cheese and gorgonzola
  • Bill Hanson, of Arena Cheese, Arena, certified in Colby and gouda
  • Bob Koenig, of Carr Valley Cheese, Mauston, certified in fontina and gouda
  • Darrell Manning, of BelGioioso Cheese, Green Bay, certified in provolone
  • Jon Metzig, of Union Star/Willow Creek, Berlin, certified in cheddar and Colby
  • Scott Navarre, of Foremost Farms USA, Marshfield, certified in cheddar and Monterey jack
  • Dale Schmidt, of Land O’ Lakes, Kiel, certified in cheddar and Monterey jack

Joining them in the 2016 graduating class are three Masters who returned to the program to gain certification in additional varieties. They are Brian Jackson of Nasonville Dairy in Marshfield, Tom Jenny, of Carr Valley Cheese in Mauston, and Gerard Knaus, of Weyauwega Star Dairy in Weyauwega.

Jackson, previously certified for Monterey jack, cheddar, brick and Colby, graduates with additional certifications in muenster and gouda.  Jenny has been part of the program since its inception and has been previously certified as a Master in Swiss, fontina and gouda.  He now graduates with additional certifications in Shepherd’s Blend and Bessie’s Blend, two Carr Valley originals. Knaus, a third-generation cheesemaker who was certified in 2012 for feta and parmesan, this year earns additional certifications in brick and Colby.

“The Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program continues to elevate our state’s leadership position in the industry,” says James Robson, CEO of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. “The fact that there are so many first-time Masters in the 2016 class is particularly exciting. It’s a major professional accomplishment for them personally, but their commitment to education, innovation and excellence is something that all of the Masters take into the plant with them every day. Their expertise has an impact on product quality and, by becoming Masters, they inspire others within their companies to follow in their footsteps and do the hard work to become certified, as well.”

 

Cascadian Farm Commits to Funding Pollinator Habitat

Cascadian Farm, a certified organic food brand founded in 1972, is working with the Xerces Society to plant thousands of acres of pollinator habitat at the brand’s supplier farms by the end of 2020. Cascadian Farm has been working with The Xerces Society, a leader in pollinator conservation, for several years to protect pollinators and their habitat. This expanded partnership represents a first-of-its kind effort to conserve pollinators, bringing together an organic brand, farmers, and scientists to work on this shared goal.

Pollinators – chiefly bees – are necessary for the reproduction of nearly 85 percent of the world’s flowering plants. Yet, since 2006, regions around the world have been reporting an average annual loss of 30 percent of worker honey bee populations.

The U.S. Interagency Presidential Pollinator Health Task Force identifies and lays out strategies for the multiple stressors on pollinator health: habitat loss, poor nutrition due to reduced food diversity, viral and parasitic diseases and pesticide exposure.

“Cascadian Farm has chosen to focus on pollinator habitat as a solution, given our brand’s connection to nature,” said Stephanie Moffat, Associate Marketing Manager for Cascadian Farm. “As a pioneer in the organic food industry, we are excited to use our scale to aid in this important cause.”

The Xerces Society’s Eric Lee-Mӓder, Pollinator Program Co-Director, adds, “This partnership sets a high bar for the rest of the food industry. We believe this is a huge and critical step for ensuring a secure future for pollinators.”

Sonoma County Winegrowers Expand Sustainability Certification Options to Include Fish Friendly Farming

The Fish Friendly Farming (FFF) Environmental Certification Program is now an accepted option under the region’s globally recognized Sonoma County Sustainable Program.  Since committing to become the nation’s first 100 percent certified sustainable wine region by 2019, the Sonoma County Winegrowers, which started the Sonoma County Sustainable Program in 2014, have created a groundbreaking sustainability program to help ensure its grape growers continue to farm for generations to come.

“I am very excited that Fish Friendly Farming will now be accepted under our Sonoma County Sustainable initiative,” said Karissa Kruse, President of Sonoma County Winegrowers. “This is another example of our ongoing commitment to build the strongest sustainability program possible, while also giving our growers another certification option that still maintains the strict standards we require to become Sonoma County Sustainable,” she added.

The addition of Fish Friendly Farming is the result of a year and half of collaboration between the two organizations to enrich the FFF sustainability program to meet the requirements of Sonoma County’s sustainability program. Sonoma County Winegrowers’ comprehensive approach to sustainability was recently recognized with California’s highest environmental honor, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA).

Sonoma County’s sustainability program takes a triple bottom-line approach that focuses on people, planet, profit, as well as an annual audit and third party certification. To meet this criteria, Fish Friendly Farming has expanded its strong environmental focus with new best practices addressing the social equity and business aspects of sustainability. In addition, they now mandate an annual audit. Fish Friendly Farming will now require all their members, including those outside of Sonoma County, to comply with these new additions in order to remain certified Fish Friendly Farming.

With the addition of Fish Friendly Farming, Sonoma County’s grape growers now have four sustainability programs to select from that have been reviewed and vetted by environmental policy advocates, wine industry leaders and other stakeholders. They include California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, Fish Friendly Farming, Lodi Rules and SIP (Sustainability in Practice).

CORE Hydration Launches CORE Organic

CORE Nutrition, purveyors of CORE® Hydration premium bottled water, announces its major market rollout of its newest innovation, CORE Organic, a USDA-certified organic fruit-infused beverage with antioxidants and only five calories per serving. The new beverage will roll out into grocers including Kroger, Safeway/Albertson’s, Save Mart/Lucky Supermarkets, H-E-B, Sprouts Farmers Market, Acme, Tops Friendly Markets, Bristol Farms, and select Whole Foods Markets through May. Additionally, extensive distribution will kick in at 7-Eleven locations on both coasts as part of the retailer’s push for “better for you” beverages.

Known for CORE Hydration premium bottled water, CORE Nutrition has developed a first of its kind – an organic and low calorie drink that tastes great without the worry of artificial ingredients, high calorie counts or sugar. With CORE Organic, the company is tapping into America’s growing demand for organics, a market estimated at $40 billion that grew by 11 percent in 2014, according to Mintel. Additionally, 85 percent of Americans are currently buying organic and 75 percent of conventional grocery stores are carrying organic products nationwide.

SkinnyPop Popcorn Introduces New Dusted Dark Chocolate And Jalapeño

Dusted Dark Chocolate and Jalapeño are SkinnyPop Popcorn’s newest flavors, adding to an existing portfolio of four popular flavors, including Original, White Cheddar, Sea Salt & Pepper and Naturally Sweet. Both new flavors bring diverse fresh tastes to the ready-to-eat popcorn category, Dusted Dark Chocolate presents a perfect balance of light yet dark, sweet yet salty, and Jalapeño appeals to fans looking to add a hint of spicy to their better-for-you snacking choices.

“We’re excited to roll out these two new special flavors, particularly since they will really ‘pop’ among the ready-to-eat popcorn category,” shares Amplify Snack Brands President and Chief Executive Officer, Tom Ennis. “Dusted Dark Chocolate and Jalapeño complement our entire SkinnyPop portfolio nicely, now offering fans an indulgent sweet flavor and subtle spicy kick.”

Both new flavors are available in 4.4-ounce bags at retailers nationwide.

Albertsons Companies Appoints Susan Morris Executive Vice President, East Region

Albertsons Companies has appointed current Denver Division President Susan Morris to the position of Executive Vice President of Retail Operations over its East region. Morris is filling the vacancy created when Kelly Griffith announced earlier this month that he would be leaving the company.

Since March of 2015, Morris has led the company’s Denver division team, overseeing over 130 stores in five states. She joined Albertsons when she was 16 as a customer service clerk in Colorado, and worked at store level until she graduated from Colorado State University when she accepted a job at the division office. Her career has spanned roles from Store Director to Corporate Grocery Sales Director, Vice President of Bakery and Operations and, upon the sale of Albertson’s Inc.’s assets to SUPERVALU, Vice President of Customer Satisfaction. In 2010, she was Senior Vice President of Sales and Merchandising when she left SUPERVALU to join Albertsons LLC. In March 2013, Morris moved from her role as Vice President of Marketing & Merchandising for the Southwest Division to Intermountain Division President.

“Starting at an entry level position and working your way up to a leadership role is very much alive and well at Albertsons Companies, and Susan is the latest example of that,” said Wayne Denningham, Chief Operating Officer. “In the span of our company’s history, we have helped to develop some of the greatest retail leaders in the industry today, and Susan is certainly an excellent addition to that list. Her experience in grocery is invaluable both as an operator and a merchant. We look forward to her taking on this key role as we look to continue to grow and strengthen our operation while furthering our goal of becoming the favorite local supermarket across the nearly 2,300 neighborhoods we serve.”

Action for Healthy Kids and ALDI Team up in Southern California

Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) and ALDI have partnered to invest in Southern California communities through AFHK’s School Grants for Healthy Kids initiative. The ALDI investment of $175,000 will help 15 Southern California area schools to improve their overall wellness environments through grants and technical assistance during the 2015-2016 school year.

Funding supports the establishment or expansion of school health teams; implementation of school wellness programs to drive effective health initiatives utilizing AFHK’s Game On program to identify and target areas of need; and engagement of parents, community members and ALDI employees to promote wellness at school and at home. The ALDI-funded program will benefit more than 11,000 students at the selected schools where, on average, 71 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced meals.

Grocery Survey Finds Wegmans Now America’s Favorite

Wegmans is now America’s favorite grocery retail, according to a new large-scale consumer study of more than 10,000 consumers conducted by Market Force Information® (Market Force). Publix Super Markets came in as Americans’ second-favorite grocer, followed by Trader Joe’s in third place. This is the first time in four years that Trader Joe’s did not rank first.

Wegmans Rises to the Top
For the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent grocery shopping experience and their likelihood to refer that grocer to others. The results were averaged to rank each brand on a Composite Loyalty Index.

After not earning enough votes to make the list in 2015, Wegmans garnered double the votes in 2016, resulting in a score of 76 percent, enough to secure the top spot. Publix ranked second for the fourth year in a row with an earned a score of 75 percent, followed by Trader Joe’s, which slipped 5 percentage points from 2015 for a score of 73 percent. Hy-Vee and ALDI rounded out the top five.

Wegmans, founded in 1916, is known for its fresh produce, reasonable prices and massive stores. The Rochester, New York-based chain is expanding modestly, but steadily and winning over more devoted customers along the way. Its focus on employee training to ensure customers have the best experience has been a winning strategy that creates superfans eager for a new location to open near their home.

Publix Has Best items, ALDI Best Prices
Market Force sought to uncover which brands excel in specific operational and service categories that set leading grocers apart.  It found that Publix and Wegmans led in most areas, including the ability to find desired items, cleanliness and specialty department service. ALDI was the price leader, followed by WinCo and Costco. Trader Joe’s, known for its friendly service, ranked first for cashier courtesy. ShopRite, Meijer and Kroger offer the best sales and promotions. Hy-Vee also performed well across the board, ranking in the top five in many categories.

Organic and Local Foods Taking Root
Shoppers are increasing seeking local and organic foods while grocery shopping. The study showed that 49 percent of consumers prefer to purchase organic items when given a choice. Produce, meat and dairy were the most frequently purchased organic products, followed by packaged canned foods, packaged dry foods and frozen foods. Less popular were organic baby products, paper products and personal hygiene products. Purchases of organic options for all but two categories increased one to three percentage points from 2015, indicating a growing importance on the availability of organic selections. A majority (58 percent) of shoppers also indicated that locally sourced meat, produce and dairy products are important.

Prepared Foods Warming Up
As more shoppers are crunched for time, prepared foods continue to be a popular choice, with two thirds indicating they purchased some form of prepared food from their grocer in the previous 30 days. Forty-three percent did so once a month, 19 percent once a week, and 8 percent twice a week or more. Convenience was overwhelming the most popular reason for purchasing prepared foods, but many also turn to pre-made foods as an alternative to dining out or because of the quality of food offered.

The most common types of prepared meals purchased were ready-to-eat main courses and ready-to-eat side dishes/appetizers/desserts. Ready-to-cook main courses and ready-to-cook side dishes/appetizers/desserts ranked third and fourth, respectively.

Home Delivery and Click & Collect Not Yet Widely Used
Despite the rise in alternative shopping and delivery methods, 99 percent still do their grocery shopping traditionally – a trip to the store to buy and bring home products. In the past 90 days, just 5 percent ordered online for home delivery, 2 percent ordered online and picked up groceries in-store, and 2 percent used “Click and Collect” – ordering online and collecting through the grocer’s drive-up. Of the 4 percent who have ever tried Click and Collect, 73 percent were satisfied with the experience and nearly half are repeat users.

Apps and Circulars Holding Steady
Market Force’s study found approximately half of consumers used a grocery app in the previous 90 days. The most prevalently used apps are those offered by specific grocers, while a nominal amount of consumers opt for third-party apps such as Checkout 51, SavingStar and Yummly. Consumers are primarily using apps to obtain coupons, followed by scanning barcodes, comparing prices and availability, and creating grocery lists.

On the more low-tech end, printed circulars have not diminished in popularity. About half of consumers are reviewing them once a week, and 14 percent are reviewing them three to four times a week. They’re also influencing where and how consumers shop. Seventy-nine percent said they plan their shopping trips based on what is in the circulars, 65 percent clip coupons from them and 61 percent use them to compare prices between grocers. Of particular interest to grocers is that nearly two thirds shop at a specific grocer because of the promotions offered in a weekly circular.

Survey Demographics
The survey was conducted online in February 2016 across the United States. The pool of 10,025 respondents represented a cross-section of the four U.S. census regions, and reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with 54 percent reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 67 percent were women and 33 percent were men.

Capatriti Extra Virgin Olive Oil Earns Stringent USDA QMP Seal

Capatriti® Extra Virgin Olive Oil, manufactured by Gourmet Factory™, has qualified for the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Quality Monitoring Program (QMP) seal. The USDA Quality Monitoring Program verifies the purity and quality of a brand’s extra virgin olive oil. Capatriti Extra Virgin Olive Oil was required to meet meticulous program criteria in order to qualify for the seal. Upon entering the Quality Monitoring Program for its extra virgin olive oil, Gourmet Factory agreed to allow the USDA to conduct unannounced visits to review and inspect quality assurance records, randomly sample product for chemical analysis and sensory evaluation, and verify labels on an ongoing basis.

“It’s important that we, as a manufacturer and industry partner, provide consumers with the correct information about what is pure extra virgin olive oil – the taste, the aroma and the color,” stated Themis Kangadis, Gourmet Factory CEO. “As a family-owned company, we know that trust is the most important part of any relationship, and by earning this stringent USDA QMP designation, we are looking at our consumers as family by increasing their knowledge and making their choice easier.”

Confusion about EVOO is nothing new in the marketplace and is still an ongoing issue. According to a 2010 UC Davis report, “69 percent of imported olive oils labeled as ‘extra virgin’ failed to meet the international standard for extra virgin olive oil.” More recently, a 2015 report from National Consumer League found that six out of 11 (about 55 percent) of EVOO from four major retailers failed to meet the EVOO requirements.

The USDA QMP seal indicates that USDA samples of Capatriti Extra Virgin Olive Oil have passed USDA quality and purity analysis. Additionally, the USDA also reviewed the performance of the company’s production processes, quality assurance measures and record-keeping system. Under the program, the USDA will continue to monitor Capatriti’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil, conducting unannounced plant visits to verify quality assurance measures and test the extra virgin olive oil.

Victoria Fine Foods Sauces at Sur La Table

Victoria Fine Foods and Sur La Table are launching a new line of artisanal pasta sauces created exclusively for the Sur La Table customer.The line consists of the following five varieties:

  • Organic Pomodoro Sauce
  • Fra Diavolo Sauce
  • Roasted Garlic Sauce
  • Vodka Sauce
  • Chianti Marinara Sauce

All sauces come in 24-ounce jars and are available in Sur La Table stories nationwide, as well as on the Sur La Table website and catalog. The suggested retail price is $12-$13. All sauces, except the Vodka variety, are Non-GMO Project verified.

Just like Victoria’s premium and Organic sauce lines, the Sur La Table artisanal sauces are made with just a handful of ingredients which are featured prominently on the front of the label: ripe plum tomatoes, fresh onions, fresh garlic, fresh basil, olive oil and salt. No artificial flavors or colors are ever added.

The Sur La Table artisanal pasta sauces owe their rich flavor to the superb quality of the tomatoes and a slow kettle-cooking process. The San Marzano-style plum whole tomatoes are grown in the volcanic soil of coastal Italy, long considered the source of the world’s finest tomatoes, and slow cooked them in small batches with fresh, hand picked basil, fresh garlic, and fresh onions.

“This is Victoria Fine Foods’ first co-branded partnership, and we are thrilled to be launching this venture with Sur La Table,” says Tim Shanley, CEO, Victoria Fine Foods.  “Our brands and mission are very similar, with a focus on the highest quality, best-tasting ingredients and the desire to help consumers achieve kitchen victories every day.”

Gourmet News

Follow me on Twitter