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Division Winemaking Announces 2016 Releases

Well known for production of lesser-known wine varietals, Division Winemaking Company’s (DWC) founders Kate Norris and Tom Monroe celebrate summer with their sixth vintage release, offering carefully selected wines prime for the season. The 2016 summer releases include two distinct variations of Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant & Pétillant Naturel, a personal expression of Norris under her Gamine label, as well as DWC Chardonnay “Trois” the first single chardonnay release from this vineyard, Pinot Noir “Deux” and Pinot Noir “Trois.”

Norris launched the Gamine label at DWC in fall of 2015 inspired by her love for the Rhone Valley region of France. DWC new releases are currently available online, are distributed to 17 states, Canada and France, and available at the SE Wine Collective. Recently DWC launched a brand new way to experience Oregon wines through their two-tiered membership-based wine club featuring all DWC wines. The club serves as a great way to taste your way through new wines, learn about unique varietals, and experience the next wave of Oregon and Washington winemaking with select wines sent to your door or available for pick up at the winery twice a year. Featuring the “Undivided” collection with six wines shipped twice a year and the “Divide and Conquer” with a customer choice of 12 wines, also released twice per year.

Norris and Monroe arrived in Oregon in early 2010 with youthful energy and armed with the wealth of experience and knowledge that they learned in France. Not being taught the more traditional New World winemaking methodologies most commonly seen on the West Coast, provided the opportunity to start their own winery uninfluenced by the New World norms. The wine company has become an ambassador for the new generation of Portland produced wines and serves as a guide to the hottest upcoming varietals and wines such as Gamay Noir, Chenin Blanc, and Old World-style rosés. Determined to make approachable and balanced wines though minimal manipulation, they have a passion to work with well farmed terroir expressive vineyards, many of which are organic and/or Biodynamic®, celebrating the varietals they as winemakers love to drink. Now in their sixth vintage, Norris and Monroe represent a new generation of winemakers that are looking beyond the status quo to create unique styles of wine, with a purpose, a story and without traditional barriers.

2016 Summer Wine Releases

2015 Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant & Pétillant Naturel
The bubbles are back and in two fun and distinct expressions! This is the second vintage of sparkling wine made under Norris’ personal project, Gamine Wines, which started with the idea to create a lovely, fresh and approachable ap ro style bubble with a richer grape varietal picked early to preserve acidity and liveliness. The 2015 vintage in Oregon had record heat units. Tom and Kate both love the Quady North Mae’s Vineyard in the Applegate Valley AVA in southern Oregon and had worked with the grapes as the sole component of their Loire clones dominated based Division Cabernet Franc, and Kate’s Gamine Syrah. Herb Quady has become one, if not, the best growers in the region, grew up in the family of the famed Quady Winery in California’s Central Valley, later became the vineyard manager for Randall Graham’s Bonny Doon wine empire before first coming north to southern Oregon with his sights on applying organic farming techniques to a region with mostly undiscovered vineyard potential. His Mae’s Vineyard block slopes southeast into the Applegate Valley in what can only be said as one the prettiest spots we’ve seen in the state. Loamy/clay and marine sediment overlay sits on top of a large granite slab (yes granite!), which makes this a truly distinctive site to work with. picked our Grenache very early to preserve acidity and the fresher vibrant flavors and weight.

2014 Division Chardonnay “Trois”
The Willamette Valley is typically one of the coolest and wettest major wine growing regions in the U.S, which clearly favors the delicate, but seemingly boundless potential of the Pinot Noir grape that seems to show its best on the fringes of suitable farming. While 2014 was not a cool and wet year, it was one of those extremely rare vintages where we experienced enough warmth throughout the season, as well as harvest time dry weather to bring in really amazing high quality grapes at the optimal moment! We have been very fortunate to work with some of the best Chardonnay sites in the Willamette Valley and again are ecstatic with the old vine Biodynamic Davis 108 at Cooper Mountain Vineyards’ Old Vines site (1978 planting). The Gross family has created one of Oregon’s greatest stories dedicated to truly sustainable farming and wines made very naturally, so we feel very akin the Gross’s and their winemaker, Giles de Domingo.

The wine is light and airy, but still full and rich. The aromatics begin with a slight amount of well integrated reduction that shouts graphite and flint. The palate has great presence and begins with well structured white peach skins, to some lemon crème and ends with a distinct calcium/lime minerality. The 2014 Division Chardonnay “Trois” brings a very classic Old World character to it that will lend itself to extended ageing. If you’re going to drink now, a bit of decanting is helpful and will help coax out the complex expression.

2014 Division Pinot Noir “Deux”
The Willamette Valley is typically one of the coolest and wettest major wine growing regions in the U.S, which clearly favors the delicate, but seemingly boundless potential of the Pinot Noir grape that seems to show its best on the fringes of suitable farming. While 2014 was not a cool and wet year, it was one of those extremely rare vintages where we experienced enough warmth throughout the season, as well as harvest time dry weather to bring in really amazing high quality grapes at the optimal moment! Vista Hills is a 42-acre vineyard that sits high atop the Dundee Hills AVA, reaching heights of nearly 900 feet, which is quite high for the Willamette. The slow ripening conditions and well-draining Jory soil are ideal for Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and the site is farmed LIVE certified sustainable and Salmon Safe, producing premium fruit without taking a toll on the special environment it’s nestled in.

The wine is red fruit dominated with amazing palate width that exemplifies the ferrous Jory soils. The palate is all cherry and strawberry with iron like mineral tones and is texturally well developed. This wine is purely high quality classic Oregon Pinot Noir that is drinking exceptionally well at the time of release and will likely age well.

2014 Division Pinot Noir “Trois”
The Willamette Valley is typically one of the coolest and wettest major wine growing regions in the U.S, which clearly favors the delicate, but seemingly boundless potential of the Pinot Noir grape that seems to show its best on the fringes of suitable grape farming climates. While 2014 was not a cool and wet year, it was one of those extremely rare vintages where we experienced enough warmth throughout the season, as well as harvest time dry weather to bring in really amazing high quality grapes at the optimal moment!

First planted in 1980 on what is believed to be the remnants of an active volcano, this certified organic vineyard is situated between 660 and 860 feet in elevation on Nekia, Jory and Rittner soils. The elevation aspect lead to warm and sunny days and very cool evenings, which helps the Pinot Noir from Temperance retain its legendary acidity while still demonstrating intensity and complete phenolic ripeness. Temperance Hill is farmed by Dai Crisp, one of the best viticulturists in Oregon, or in the U.S. for that matter, with impeccable care and dedication.

This ruby colored wine is all cherry and intense mineral on the palate that has soft coating tannins that fit perfectly with the textual components. The initial aromatics are pure Pinot Noir traits with deep black cherries and fresh dried tobacco leaves.

Salazon Chocolate Company Puts Beer in Chocolate Bar

Organic, salted dark chocolate and pumpkin beer together? Yes, please! Salazon Chocolate Co., a premium chocolate maker known for its line of organic salted dark chocolate bars is launching a new fall seasonal chocolate bar made with Flying Dog Brewery’s The Gourd Standard Pumpkin IPA.

The new fall release, 72% Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Pumpkin Beer (at a suggested retail price of $3.99), incorporates actual ingredients from Flying Dog’s fall seasonal beer, The Gourd Standard Pumpkin IPA, including German Noble Hops, Flying Dog’s custom pumpkin spice blend, and sea salt infused with The Gourd Standard Pumpkin IPA.

“We’ve all seen chocolate paired with wine, but it actually pairs just as well with craft beer,” said Pete Truby, Founder of Salazon Chocolate Co. “And we couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with one of the leaders in creative craft brewing, Flying Dog Brewery, which is also based in Maryland.”

“We view craft beer as an art form and jump on the opportunity to work with like-minded artisans,” Flying Dog Chief Marketing Officer Ben Savage said. “Creativity and commitment to the craft is something Salazon shares with us, and it yielded delicious results.”

The 72% Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Pumpkin Beer bar will be available starting in September at select Whole Foods Markets, Safeway, Earth Fare, MOM’s Organic Markets, New Seasons Markets, and a number of independent natural foods stores and online.

BelGioioso Introduces New Snacking Fontina, Mini Mascarpone and Mini Ricotta

BelGioioso Cheese, Inc. is introducing three new items that meet consumer’s needs for individual sized, portion-controlled snacks.

“Following on the heels of our enormously popular Fresh Mozzarella Snacking Cheese, we decided to expand the line to include a Fontina Snacking Cheese,” states Sean Moran, Vice President of Sales. “At just 70 calories, its mild, buttery flavor truly brings a smile with every bite.”

In addition to the Fontina Snacking Cheese, BelGioioso has created a 3-ounce Mini Mascarpone[TM] cup designed for freshness and convenience and a 5-ounce Mini Ricotta[TM] single-serve cup.

“The Mini Mascarpone and Mini Ricotta are petite sized cups of our all-natural, award-winning cheeses, offering freshness, convenience and portion control for the consumer,” says Moran. “The cheese is packed with protein and calcium and offers a healthier alternative to traditional snacks.”

As with all BelGioioso cheeses, the new offerings are made using traditional Italian cheesemaking methods. They are all-natural, rBST-free, gluten-free and contain no gums or fillers. The Mini Mascarpone cups are a perfect size for a healthier spread option, with each serving at nearly half the calories of butter. The Mini Ricotta cups provide an individual serving of 16 grams of protein and 60 percent of the daily value in calcium and is packaged for use as a single serve breakfast option with fresh fruit and granola, or as a fresh, creamy dip for vegetables. Each mini portion of the Fontina Snacking Cheese is full of flavor and has only 70 calories. Individual packages are printed with the BelGioioso signature snacking smile logo.

Protein continues to be top of mind for consumers in relation to satiety, weight management and sustained energy with 51 percent of consumers seeking out protein rich snacks for their daily diets. With the key drivers of snacking occasions being time, convenience, health, portion control and exploration, BelGioioso’s new Snacking and Mini protein rich cheeses provide a delicious and flavorful snack choice.

The 70-calorie Fontina Snacking Cheese contains three cubes, packaged into individual 0.75-ounce packages and available in 6-ounce retail bags packed 10 per case. The 3-ounce Mini Mascarpone cups are packed 18 cups per case, while the 5-ounce Mini Ricotta cups are packed 12 per case.

Record Traffic in America’s Organic Produce Aisles

Americans are gobbling up more organic fruits and vegetables than ever before, from organic blueberries and organic apples to organic packaged greens and cut-up organic vegetables ready for their children’s lunch box or their family’s dinner plate.

Over half of all households in the United States now purchase organic produce. The sale of organic bananas alone – now a $165 million market – soared by more than 30 percent last year. Organic “value-added” vegetables (think chopped kale, peeled carrots and ready-to-cook squash) grew by a whopping 54 percent in 2015 to almost $150 million.

“The organic produce market is growing and strong, and it is driving trends in produce innovation across the board,” said Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) on Thursday at the first-ever Organic Produce Summit, held in Monterey, California.

The inaugural sold-out event on July 13 and 14 attracted more than 500 attendees representing every facet of the organic produce industry, and included a trade show with more than 70 exhibits from leading organic fresh fruit and vegetable producers. The event showcased the booming $13 billion organic fresh produce marketplace with a series of educational sessions hosted by OTA, and featured key industry speakers and networking opportunities.

Digging deep into the produce aisle, Batcha gave a State of the Organic Produce presentation on Thursday, unveiling the findings of a report on the produce-buying habits of Americans compiled for the Organic Trade Association by Nielsen, the global information and measurement company.

According to the OTA 2016 Organic Industry Survey released in May, fresh organic produce sales in the U.S. reached $13 billion in 2015. (Total sales of organic fruits and vegetables, including fresh, frozen and canned, amounted to $14.4 billion.) The $13-billion market includes $5.7 billion worth of organic produce sold in the mass market (supermarkets, big-box stores, warehouse clubs), $4.7 billion sold by specialty and natural retailers, and $2.7 billion in direct sales (farmers’ markets, CSAs, online).

Nielsen measures organic sales primarily from the mass market, and puts organic produce sales at $5.5 billion. The Nielsen figures do not include specialty and natural retailers, nor direct sales. Further, Nielsen’s data reflect grocery coding systems, which are based on retailer description and in which organic can be under-represented.

The Nielsen figures, however, delve down to the specific types of organic vegetable or organic fruit sold, providing detailed information on the buying habits of consumers in the major category of supermarkets and big-box stores.

“We are excited to be sharing these numbers and findings on the rapidly growing organic produce sector,” said Batcha. “The more we know about the market and what consumers want, the better the organic produce grower, distributor and retailer can respond to meet the needs of today’s food buyer. Understanding the organic produce consumer will drive the future growth of the sector.”

Since 2011, the sales of produce in this country have increased over 25 percent. Convenience, a greater awareness of the health benefits of produce, and an increased interest in local food sources largely contributed to the increase. And driven by the desire to improve upon already healthy food choices, organic fruit sales have soared 123 percent during that time, while organic vegetable sales have jumped by 92 percent.

What’s big in the organic produce sector? A few standouts in the produce section:

  • Organic bananas: Sales up a solid 33 percent from a year ago.
  • Organic blackberries: Sales up a sharp 61 percent from a year ago.
  • Organic salad greens and organic baby carrots: Sales of each up 11 percent versus a year ago.
  • Organic Pink Lady Apples: Sales almost double (up 96 percent) that of a year ago.

The U.S. organic industry saw its largest dollar gain ever in 2015, adding $4.2 billion in sales. Total organic food sales in the U.S. were $39.7 billion, up 11 percent from the previous year. Organic produce sales accounted for 36 percent of the organic market. Almost 13 percent of all the produce sold in the United States now is organic.

The Nielsen findings showed that today’s organic produce shopper tends to be more kid-focused than the average produce shopper, and that the huge majority of these enthusiastic organic produce buyers – 77 percent – are going to their favorite grocery store or supermarket chain to buy their organic fruits and vegetables.

The findings bear important insights for retailers looking to draw more shoppers to the fresh produce section, as the booming demand for organic produce will spill over into purchases of conventional produce, said Batcha.

“Data show that the organic shopper is an extremely health-conscious consumer who is completely dedicated to eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Organic is a top choice because of the confidence in organic as THE choice to avoid foods grown with toxic and persistent pesticides,” said Batcha. “Because of this health-driven commitment retailers should not be afraid to differentiate organic produce on their store shelves. Shoppers recognize the USDA Organic seal and respond to positive messaging about what organic delivers, but at the end of the day they want to fill their carts with farm fresh foods — benefiting the entire produce section of the store.”

Upgrading the Whiskey Sour

By Micah Cheek

Bittermilk: The name is made up, but the quality isn’t. “We wanted to evoke a more southern feeling. We wanted to do another avenue of business. The idea is, the labor is in the bottle; just add booze,” says Owner MariElena Raya.

Bittermilk, purveyors of cocktail mixers, has won a sofi Award in the Cold Beverage category for its No. 3 Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour. The mix, made with bitter orange peel, lemon and honey smoked over barrel staves, is made for mixing with bourbon for a whiskey sour, or tequila for a smoked honey margarita. The company, based in Charleston, South Carolina, was inspired by the experiences of owners MariElena and Joe Raya as they operated their Charleston bar, The Gin Joint, after their house-made mixers began receiving lots of attention. “We got a lot of people asking for the recipe, but coming back and saying they had trouble finding the ingredients or it didn’t taste the same.” says Raya. “People often refer to them as bitters – they have bittering agents in them. We use organic juices; we use some interesting culinary techniques like barrel aging.”

Bittermilk’s first big break, an award from Garden & Gun magazine, gave an unexpected boost to the small company. “We won as a finalist in the beverage category, for the No.1 Old Fashioned. We went to selling 10,000 bottles in December. And we’re hand bottling and capping them. We had a small warehouse that we used a lot for our bar, and then it just went nuts. That was an amazing award to win,” Raya says.

Soon after, Bittermilk products became finalists in both the Good Food Awards and sofi Awards. “The acceptance of the product has been wonderful. We spent a great deal on branding. It really paid off,” says Raya. “A lot of people want to stock the product. They love the look and it fits into their store. Customers say they bought it because it looked neat, and they come back and say it’s like they’re addicted to it.”

With a gold sofi for the shelf, Raya is hoping to increase Bittermilk’s footprint. “Buyers can recognize the award and know it’s important. We’re not sure what to expect, but we’re really excited to branch out,” says Raya. “We haven’t delved into the Northeast that much and the Midwest. California’s been a great area for us, and all of the Southeast. The Northeast is still untapped.”

Bittermilk’s strongest sales have been during the holiday season, and Raya is preparing for it with some new options. Gift sets and new packaging have been in the works, as well as seasonal flavors. “We’ve done a lot with the No.7 – we’re doing it as a seasonal mixer. Last year, we did a Gingerbread Old Fashioned. This year, we’re coming out with a Yuletide Old Fashioned with sour cherry,” says Raya.

Raya has also released a line of bar syrups under the name Tippleman’s. “The Tippleman’s line is geared more to the restaurant industry, and people who want to explore more with cocktails,” she says. “We’re selling just the maple syrup that we cook over oak staves, and the burnt sugar – you can make a really great tiki drink with that.”

Specialty Food Producers Take Home the Gold

By Lorrie Baumann

La Pasta‘s Radicchio, Parsnip & Apricot Ravioli has won the 2016 sofi Award for Best New Product. Radicchio is sauteed with a little bit of balsamic vinegar to bring out the sweetness of the vegetables and then folded into ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheese together with roasted parsnips and dried apricots. The filling is then enclosed in La Pasta’s signature pasta with black pepper pasta stripes.

“We got lucky. It happens,” said Alexis Konownitzine, President of La Pasta, “Our chef Kristen made the product and will be at the Fancy Food Show.”

La Pasta already had several sofi Awards for products including its Marinara Sauce and Beet, Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Ravioli. This year’s winner was selected from among 23 finalists in the Best New Product category by the sofi judging panel of culinary experts in a blind tasting. Overall, 28 products were named winners and 100 named finalists from among 3,200 entries this year.

This year’s judging diverged from the methodology used for the past couple of years, in that the judging was completed before the Summer Fancy Food Show and winners were named at the same time as finalists. This process was designed to make the judging more fair and transparent, according to the Specialty Food Association, which owns the sofi Awards program. The products were judged by criteria that awarded 70 percent of the product’s score for taste, which included flavor, appearance, texture and aroma and 30 percent for ingredient quality, which included a consideration of whether any of the product’s ingredients were artificial and whether they were combined in a creative or unexpected way. One winner was chosen in each of the 28 judging categories, and the top 4 percent of the entries in each category were named finalists. No awards were presented this year in classic, foodservice or product line categories, which were part of last year’s contest.

CFM_Prosciutto-sliceFinalists for the Best New Product award included Dalmatia Sour Cherry Spread from Atalanta Corporation, Jansal Valley Boneless Prosciutto Toscano D.O.P. from Sid Wainer and Son Specialty Produce and Specialty Food, Organic Stoneground Flakes Cereal — Purple Corn from Back to the Roots and Sliced Prosciutto (Domestic) from Creminelli Fine Meats. “Prosciutto is everywhere in the U.S., but we do it differently, using whole-muscle Duroc pork that’s 100 percent vegetarian-fed with no antibiotics ever. We layer it in the tray by hand instead of by machine,” said Kyle Svete, Creminelli Fine Meats’ Director of Sales for National Accounts. “We invest in people, not machines. It’s part of who we are – people, animal, craft…. We have machines to help us do our job, but it’s really about the people. The recyclable tray and the elegant look of it elevates the product and the category.”

“We’re proud of it. We put the ingredients right on the front of the label,” he added. “That’s all there is to it – time, love, pork and sea salt.”

Chocolate-covered Cocomels – 5 Salts from JJ’s Sweets, Gourmet Honey Spread: Salted Honey from Cloister Honey LLC, Wild Boar Salted Star Anise Single Origin Organic Dark Chocolate Bar from Hagensborg Chocolate Ltd., Original Tangerine Sriracha from Just Jan’s Inc., Mr. Hot Stuff Pepper Spread from Steppin’ Out LLC, Clementine Crush Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Enzo Olive Oil Company/P-R Farms, Inc. and Deschutes Brewery® Black Butte Porter Truffle from Moonstruck Chocolate, Co. were also among the finalists for the Best New Product Award.

JulieAnn CaramelsOther finalists were Pineapple Habanero Caramel from JulieAnn Caramels, Frozen Passion Chia Lassi from Monsieur Singh LLC, Chicken Fat (Schmaltz) Premium Cooking Oil from Fatworks LLC, Avocado Oil Mayo and Licorice Mint Tea from Chosen Foods, Inc., Chili Crunch Bar from Vivra Chocolate, Vegan Stone Ground Hazelnut Butter from Karmalize LLC, Raspberry Amaretto Preserves from Robert Rothschild Farm, Orange Artisan Fruit Cracker from Simple & Crisp, Gluten-Free Coffee Brownie from Savvy Girl Baking Company and Dark Moon from Marin French Cheese Company.

In the remaining categories, Brussizzle Sprouts from Pacific Pickle Works, Inc. was named the best appetizer. The Spice Hunter, Inc.’s Coriander Lime Global Fusion Rub was named best baking ingredient, baking mix or flavor enhancer, Ginger Hemp Granola from Michele’s Granola LLC was the best in the category for breads, muffins, granola or cereal, and Vermont Creamery’s Bijou was judged the best cheese. Vermont Creamery’s Bonne Bouche was a finalist for the award both this year and last year.

Money on Honey by Droga Chocolates won the sofi in the chocolate category, and Bittermilk LLC’s No. 3 Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour won the award in the cold beverage category. Bittermilk was a sofi finalist last year with the same product. Non-GMO Salted Caramelized Fig Spread from King’s Cupboard was named the best condiment, and Sea Salt & Vanilla Farmstead Goat Milk Caramels from Big Picture Farm LLC received the award for the best confection. Big Picture Farm won sofi Awards last year for best new product with its Raspberry Rhubarb Goat Milk Caramels and for best confection with its Goat Milk Chai Caramels. Moon Dance Baking’s Holly Baking Cookie Brittle Cinnamon & Spice was named in the category for cookies, brownies, cakes or pie.

Barnier Pimento Sauce with Preserved Lemon from FoodMatch Inc. was named best cooking, dipping or finishing sauce. Cranberry Pistachio “The Original” from Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps was named the best cracker. Epicurean Butter’s Organic Cocoa Coconut Butter was named in the category for best dairy or dairy alternative product. “The reason this is something really new and innovative is that this is organic pasteurized cream, organic coconut oil, organic honey, organic canola oil, organic cocoa powder and Himalayan pink salt. It’s good on crepes, pancakes French toast. We actually just love it on a baguette,” said Janey Hubschman, who co-founded Epicurean Butter with her husband John, who’s the chef and still does all the formulations for the company’s products. “It’s got a lovely mouth feel with the butter and the coconut oil and then the finish of the salt.” The Organic Cocoa Coconut Butter is part of a product line that includes 13 finishing butters, of which two are organic. The company has just installed new equipment in its plant that allows Epicurean Butter to produce single-serve squeeze packs. Each of those has 190 calories for a 1-ounce serving, and Hubschman expects that the single-serve packaging will draw a lot of interest from the producers of home-delivered meal kits.

bourbon maple hi res (2)Bourbon Matured Maple Syrup from BLiS LLC was named the best dessert sauce, topping or syrup. Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate’s Single Origin Drinking Chocolate 72% Belize, Toledo received the sofi Award for the best hot beverage. Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate was a finalist in the chocolate category last year with its 72% Madagascar, Sambirano bar. The Gelato Fiasco’s Ripe Mango Sorbetto was named the best ice cream, gelato or frozen treat.

Cioccomiel, a spread made from hazelnuts, cocoa and honey, won the sofi Award for the best jam, preserve, honey or nut butter. It is imported by Marcelli Formaggi LLC.

Fermín Chorizo Ibérico Picante / Fermín Ibérico Pork Dry-Cured Chorizo Sausage Spicy from Fermin USA was named the best meat, pate or seafood.

Stöger Organic Austrian Pumpkin Seed Oil was named the best oil. It is imported by Los Chileros, which won a finalist award last year for the same product.

NorthAfricanChermouladressingwozzGustiamo, Inc.’s Pianogrillo Sicilian Cherry Tomato Sauce took home the sofi Award for the best pasta sauce, while the best pasta was Pastifico Artigianale Leonardo Carassai, made in Campofilone, Italy, and imported by Bravo International Inc.

Wozz! Kitchen Creations, which won the 2015 sofi Award for best salsa or dip with its Kiwi Lime Salsa Verde takes home the gold in the salad dressing category this year with North African Chermoula Dressing. This year’s award in the salsa or dip category went to American Spoon Foods’ Pumpkin Seed Salsa.

Hickory Smoked Spicy Candied Bacon from Little Red Dot Kitchen LLC won the sofi Award this year in the category for savory snacks. The best sweet snack came from Creative Snacks Co. with its Organic Coconut Bites.

Dinner Tonight Black Bean Tortilla Chili Mix from Backyard Safari Company won the award for best soup, stew, bean or chili. ParmCrisps Mini Aged Parmesan Crisps from Kitchen Table Bakers won the award for the best vegan or gluten-free product. Kitchen Table Bakers was a finalist last year for its Jalapeno Parmesan Crisps. Finally, this year’s best vinegar was Balsamic Nectar from Boulder Flavours.

Destination Stonewall Kitchen

By Lorrie Baumann

York Company StoreStonewall Kitchen is known across the U.S. as the maker of a range of specialty foods products that runs from mixes for breakfast classics like blueberry muffins and chocolate chip scones to dessert sauces and confections, but in the Northeastern United States, the brand also belongs to 10 retail stores that have become recreation destinations for New England tourists as well as local shoppers. “It’s just a neat part of our business. As we think about food businesses in general, there are not a lot who can go to customers with the empathy that comes from operating stores themselves. We can say things to other retailers like, ‘We know that this pricing can work for you because it works in our retail stores,’” said John Stiker, Stonewall Kitchen’s Chief Executive Officer for the past 18 months. With his background in consumer packaged goods rather than in retailing, he came to Stonewall Kitchen unsure about how the retail operation fit into Stonewall Kitchen’s overall business, but he’s come to appreciate the role it plays in keeping the company in sympathy both with its customers and with consumers. Consumers, in turn, have given the Stonewall Kitchen stores a role in their weekend and vacation plans, their social media posts and the recipes in their lifestyle blogs. “It’s a big part of how guests get to know the brand,” Stiker said.

Mornings start at the Stonewall Kitchen stores with the opening of up to 100 jars to be sampled that day. “If you want to try something that’s not open, we’ll open it for you,” Stiker said.

That sampling yields not only enthusiastic customers but also a wealth of market research that the company uses in its product development. “In 10 stores, we generate 4 million samples a year. That’s not something that other food companies have the ability to do,” Stiker said. Test kitchens in three of the stores have regular sampling programs in which they seek customer reactions to products in development. “It’s a neat part of the business that we think is crucial to the brand in establishing our heritage and authenticity,” Stiker said.

Peach Blossom StoryMerchandising is also a huge part of Stonewall Kitchen’s efforts to create a guest experience that will bring customers back time and again to see what’s new and interesting in the store. “When you come in, you see something different than what you saw two months ago,” Stiker said. “Five times a year, the company’s merchandising team sets up four or five seasonal display tables in the smaller stores and up to 10 in the York location. Each merchandise story is designed to be a visually interesting evocation of a theme that’s decided a season or two ahead of time. Each combines food products made by Stonewall Kitchen, food products made by other companies, soft goods such as tea towels and table linens, hard goods such as gift items and cooking tools and items that are just there as props to support the theme. That might be a model sailboat for a sailing theme or a tiki torch for a grilling-themed display.

The displays give consumers ideas about items they could add to their baskets to complement the corn bread mix or dessert sauce they came in for and they encourage guests to explore the whole store rather than picking up a quick jar of jam and leaving with just that. The product selection varies greatly depending on the theme, the season and Stonewall Kitchen’s new product introductions. For fall, it’ll generally include products made with apple cider flavors, for instance, while holiday displays will almost certainly include confections, and in the summer, Stonewall Kitchen barbecue sauces will probably be featured. “For most of those seasons we have products we launch that are specific to those seasons,” Stiker said.

Our retail stores are really the epitome of our brand. It [Our merchandising] brings to life the fact that we are a lifestyle brand aimed at inspiring, encouraging and exciting the at home chef. Everything we do is aimed at showing even the novice cook how easily they can impress guests with outstanding food and can entertain in style. Much of our non-Stonewall Kitchen product is selected and placed with our seasonal stories to inspire our guests on how to bring together a look or a feeling to their get together or party, added Janine Somers, Stonewall Kitchen’s Director of Marketing.

Stonewall Kitchen its new products this year at the Summer Fancy Food Show. “We think we’ve got a great lineup planned for July of 2016. Some of it plays off what we started in January 2016, when we launched our first organic products. They have been just fabulously received, great blockbusters,” Stiker said. They include a pair of barbecue sauces, Honey Miso Barbecue and Sesame Teriyaki Sauce, and an organic Honey Orange Balsamic Salad Dressing. “It’s yummy,” Stiker commented.

For breakfast, a strength of Stonewall Kitchen’s product line, there’s also an Organic Pancake and Waffle Mix and an Organic Stonewall Scone Mix. “Both of which are delicious,” Stiker said.

Stonewall Kitchen will also be offering more very spicy condiments to appeal to more adventurous eaters, including Spicy Chili Bacon Jam that will appeal to the many current fans of the company’s savory jams, which do extremely well in the market, with Hot Pepper Jelly and Red Pepper Jelly among Stonewall Kitchen’s best sellers and its Maple Bacon Onion Jam, which is popular on pizza and also as an addition to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, according to Stiker. “Spicy Chili Bacon Jam should be able to do a lot of that,” he said.

For the dedicated chili-heads, Stonewall Kitchen will be offering Ghost Pepper Salsa. “It’s going to have a lot of heat to it,” Stiker said. It’s so hot that the company’s usual 28-employee tasting panel couldn’t really wrap their mouths around it enthusiastically enough to approve it for production, so Stonewall Kitchen called together a volunteer group of people who already knew that they liked a really hot salsa and let them try it. “That’s when we realized we had a winner,” Stiker said. “It’s an absolutely terrific but very hot salsa.” To quench thirst without putting out the fire after a taste of the Ghost Pepper Salsa, Stonewall Kitchen is introducing Spicy Margarita Mixer.

For home cooks who want traditional taste without the traditional time commitment, Stonewall Kitchen is expanding its Meal Starter line with Yankee Pot Roast Meal Starter.“It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect a meal starter for a Yankee pot roast to have,” Stiker says. “The home cook just adds the beef.”

The new product introductions include a number of other items from Farmhouse Cheesy Grits for breakfast to Creme de Menthe Chocolate Sauce that are also extensions of the kinds of products we expect from Stonewall Kitchen, and you’ll be able to taste them all by visiting the Stonewall Kitchen booth at the show, but while you’re there, be sure also to note new 2-ounce grab-and-go packaging for the company’s Ultimate Snack Mix and Spicy Ultimate Snack Mix. The Stonewall Kitchen snack mixes represent the gourmet indulgence end of the snack food spectrum, and these new products are designed as a convenient snack solution for the American consumer who wants a quick pick-me-up on the go. They’ll display well on a countertop or next to the cash register, Stiker said.

Anthony Bourdain Advises Grocers to Find Ways to Offer Authenticity

By Lorrie Baumann

Bourdain for web croppedThe conventional supermarket may be doomed by competition with online retailers and delivery services and by Americans’ search for authenticity in the foods they eat, according to Anthony Bourdain, a featured speaker at this year’s Dairy-Deli-Bake Seminar & Expo.

Dairy-Deli-Bake is a production of the International Dairy, Deli and Bakery Association, and the trade show was held June 5-7 in Houston, Texas. Next year’s event is scheduled for June 4-6 in Anaheim.

Bourdain pointed out the rapid evolution of Americans’ interest in their food, which has helped propel his career into the stratosphere. “Eighteen years ago, I was dunking French fries for a living, more or less,” he told a packed theater. “Life was relatively good, but I was quite certain that I would never see Vietnam, for instance.”

Today, Bourdain is better known as a best-selling author, television host and executive producer of CNN’s “Parts Unknown” than as the chef he was before “Kitchen Confidential,” his memoir of his young days in restaurant kitchens, became an unexpected best-seller. He is currently developing a New York City food hall modeled after a Singapore street market, a collection of small market stalls, where shoppers will buy fresh and freshly prepared products from a variety of vendors. The project is now projected to open in 2018, and in preparation, Bourdain has been giving a lot of thought to the kind of food Americans want to eat and how they want to shop for it.

He pointed out in his talk to the Dairy-Deli-Bake attendees that the American culinary tastes are evolving rapidly and pointed to the growing importance of organic produce in today’s supermarkets and to the popularity of kale as an example. “Kale, who used to eat kale? It was garbage,” he said.

Mario Batali was among the first to harness the power of television celebrity. He opened Babbo and started serving hooves and snouts, brains and kidneys, which is to say authentic Italian food the way they made it in Italy. No one was asking for this in America. Mario created a a market for that,” Bourdain said. “Everybody wants that now. This was entirely a chef-led thing. We care about who’s making our food now, for the first time in history. We also care about where our food comes from. We never cared about that before.”

“It’s been good for your industry. I well remember supermarkets and delis of the past where you walked in and there was two types of bread – Wonder Bread and some other stuff. Fresh herbs were never to be seen,” he noted.

Now, though, supermarket chains can’t keep up with the speed of this evolution, challenged as they are by the rapid development of options in the food marketplace such as meal kit delivery services and online grocers. In New York City, for instance, his grocery store shopping is already limited primarily to fresh ingredients, since he can have anything nonperishable that’s heavy or awkward to carried simply delivered to his apartment. “If it’s not perishable, and I don’t need to squeeze it, I’m buying it online,” he said. “I’m not trusting anyone to pick out my cheese for me. I want to poke that…. Can you keep up? I think you’re going to have to change and specialize.”

Bourdain predicts that supermarkets may eventually continue to exist only as either a virtual space or as a collection of specialty shops within stores – the concept behind his market. American consumers will always want to shop for their meat, their cheeses and their fish in person because they’ll want to be sure that they’re getting fresh product, but they’ll want to buy their meat from a specialty butcher who will sell them organ meats and specialty cuts rather than just the muscle cuts that supermarket meat counters typically offer today and that offer very little challenge to a cook eager to impress friends with demonstrations of culinary skill, Bourdain predicted. “I can train a reasonably intelligent poodle how to cook a filet mignon. I would rather be complimented on a cheek or a hoof,” he said.

Young people in particular are now following the lead of a new generation of rising celebrity chefs who aren’t so much interested in easy preparations of luxury ingredients. These chefs are increasingly likely to have come from an Asian or Hispanic family background and to have grown up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, and they’re now often celebrating simple bowls of noodles or street tacos with interesting flavors rather than the traditional American dishes – the foods they grew up eating in their homes and neighborhoods. He noted that 78 percent of Houston residents under the age of 30 are not of Anglo-Saxon family origin. “That’s a hell of a lot of people who grew up eating something other than meat loaf,” he said.

The young people who are following these young chefs are driven by an intense search for authenticity in their food, according to Bourdain. “What are people looking for in food now? What are they valuing? It has changed. I think what people are looking for more than anything else is perceived authenticity. They want that sense that they’re getting the real thing, the real deal,” he said.

For today’s grocer, the key to remaining relevant in the face of this rapidly evolving food marketplace might be to emulate the traditional cooks who spend their whole culinary lives doing one kind of food, sometimes through more than one generation, and, through practice, learn how to do that food very well, he said. “Find the thing you do better than anyone else…. Ask yourself what you’re good at first. That’s the way to relevance – asking yourself what you can do that the person across the street can’t do or won’t do,” he said.

“Swim against the current,” he advised. “Decide you’re not going to do what everyone else is doing just as well…. A certain level of fearlessness is required here – and confidence in yourself.”

House Passes GMO-Labeling Legislation

The chief state agriculture officials from around the country praised the House of Representatives today for passing bipartisan, national legislation on the disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients. National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) CEO Dr. Barbara P. Glenn issued the following statement on the bill’s passage:

“We thank Congress for working together over the past year, finding shared values, and passing a solution to stop a burdensome fifty-state patchwork of GMO labeling laws. This legislation reaffirms the safety of genetic improvements of today’s agriculture, while providing American consumers with marketing information about the ingredients of their food.  We look forward to President Obama signing this legislation into law and we stand ready to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to successfully implement this measure. ”

NASDA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association which represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries, and directors of the departments of agriculture in all fifty states and four U.S. territories.

Chocolate Companies Do Good Deliciously

By Lorrie Baumann

Guilt is not among the ingredients for this year’s introductions of specialty chocolates. Along with interesting flavors, chocolatiers are bringing products to the market that have a good story to tell to consumers with a wide range of concerns about which chocolate treat they can enjoy in good conscience.

Chuao Chocolatier’s new Enamored line of organic Fair Trade chocolates in three fruit-forward flavors with floral notes: Raspberry Rose, Coconut Hibiscus and Blueberry Lavender. As their names suggest, Raspberry Rose is made with radiant raspberries sugared with rose petals, Blueberry Lavender is made with blueberries lightly infused with lavender, and Coconut Hibiscus offers creamy coconut with a hint of hibiscus.

The line was created by the brand’s Master Chef and Co-Founder Michael Antonorsi as a tribute to women. “With the Enamored Collection, we wanted to create a product that celebrated ‘you,’ because who you are is enough,” said Antonorsi. “Spreading joy is the intention behind everything we do, and with this new collection we hope to bring a moment of joy to every person who experiences it.”

The Enamored line launched in June, and a percentage of sales goes to Girls, Inc., which shares the brand’s ideals of empowering women. “Girls Inc. is focused on empowering girls to discover their strengths and thrive,” said Judy Vredenburgh, President and CEO of Girls Inc. “This includes helping them build confidence and a positive self-image. We are thrilled to partner with Chuao Chocolatier as they launch this new line that celebrates women and inspires them to do just that.”

Chuao Chocolatier’s new line of bars are made with non-GMO ingredients. The suggested retail price is $7.00. For more information, visit Chuao Chocolatier’s booth at the Summer Fancy Food Show or visit www.ChuaoChocolatier.com.

Abdallah Chocolates is at the Summer Fancy Food Show with flavors we’ve seen before from the company, including its Caramel Almond Coconut, Sugar Free Caramel, Pecan Grizzly and English Toffee chocolates. The absence of a new flavor is due to the company’s construction this year of a new 90,000 square foot facility that’s been taking attention away from product development for the past several months, said National Sales Manager Madonna Schmitz.

The company is expecting to move into its new facility late this summer and to have the production lines running by the first of September, she added. For more information, visit the company’s booth at the Summer Fancy Food Show or visit www.abdallahcandies.com.

Sulpice Chocolat is a start-up company that’s sticking with the traditional flavors of a high-quality peanut butter cup but adding a boost of nutrition. A three-piece serving includes 7g of protein and 3g of fiber – attributes we associate more with nutrition bars than with candy, but this is very definitely a treat that feels like an indulgence. “We’re trying to make the candy aisle better for you,” said Anne Shaeffer, half of the husband and wife team that founded Sulpice Chocolat. For more information, call 630.301.2345 or visit www.sulpicechocolat.com.

Laima Chocolates’ Cheese Chocolate is made in Latvia with white chocolate and real cheese. The company also makes a full line of dessert-flavor chocolates, including Creme Brulee, Key Lime Pie and Tiramisu covered with dark chocolate. A 3.5-ounce bar of the Cheese Chocolate retails for $4.99. It’s been sold in the U.S. for many years in ethnic markets, and it’s been more widely offered by Aero-Cos for the past four or five years. Distributed in the United States by Aero-Cos International, the Laima Chocolates products are made by Orkla Confectionery & Snacks.

Heavenly Caramels Coconut Caramels, Pecan Caramels and Vanilla Sea Salt Caramels covered with chocolate are the newest product introduction from Utah-based J. Morgan’s Confections. A 4.2-ounce bag retails for $3.49 to $3.99.

The Heavenly Caramels line also includes several products that aren’t covered in chocolate and that feature flavors you wouldn’t necessarily associate with caramel, including Cinnamon Caramel, Old English Licorice Caramel, Coconut Caramel, Caramel Apple, Vanilla Sea Salt Caramel and Butter Caramel. Each 4.7-ounce bag of these varieties retails for $3.49. For more information, call 801.688.4999 or visit www.jmorganconfections.com.

This story was originally published in the June 2016 issue of Gourmet News.

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