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Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board Names Suzanne Fanning VP, National Product Communications

The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) has named Suzanne Fanning its new Vice President, National Product Communications.

Fanning, immediate past president of The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), has achieved record level results in sales, public relations, social media and consumer/influencer engagement for several global brands, including Spectrum Brands and Fiskars. Her innovative social business strategies have been featured in Advertising Age Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes Magazine, Entrepreneur and on the cover of PR Week, as well as in many best selling marketing books. Most recently, The Chicago Tribune featured her in its business section, and Forbes identified her as “one of social media’s top movers and shakers.”

“Suzanne comes to WMMB with a wealth of communications knowledge and experience that will help us expand the number of people across the country with whom we share the Wisconsin dairy message,” said Patrick Geoghegan, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at WMMB. “We are excited to welcome her to our team.”

In her new role, Fanning will work with national media and develop programs for influencers, bloggers, retailers and culinary experts to drive awareness and conversations about Wisconsin cheese to keep it in the news, on the menu and in stores. She will manage the websites, the publications, and events and serve as a national spokesperson for Wisconsin’s dairy promotion organization.

For information about Wisconsin Cheese, visit EatWisconsinCheese.com or connect with the company on Facebook and Twitter.

A Serious Foodie Delivers a World of Peppers

By Lorrie Baumann

Jim Pachence takes peppers more seriously than most. He’s the entrepreneur behind Serious Foodie, which offers a line of cooking and finishing sauces that feature fusion flavors, most of which celebrate the flavors of peppers grown around the world. His idea was to focus on the unique flavors of the peppers, rather than relying solely on their burn.

Pachence, who has a Ph.D. in biophysics, started Serious Foodie in 2015 after a 40-year career as a serial entrepreneur in the medical devices industry, followed by culinary training in the U.S. and Europe. He and his family then worked for a few years to develop recipes based on the peppers and flavors he’d discovered during his world travels.

“I started off as a very serious amateur cook,” he said. “While phasing out my biotech career, I wanted to do something around the culinary business. We had thought of wanting to do something in culinary art, and I had an interest in – not necessarily hot – peppers. I wanted to know why the world has so many peppers. Why and how do peppers taste different when they’re grown in different places?”

“Some chilies are very harsh and are bred simply to be hot, not to be flavorful, sometimes painful,” he continued. “We started to look at the opposite: What are the species that are bred to be flavorful? Why are there a thousand Mexican varietals?”

The answer to those questions, he decided, is that different varieties of peppers are cultivated around the world to complement the various flavors that typify their cuisines as a whole. For instance, the aji panca pepper from Peru is used in just about every Peruvian dish in one way or another, Pachence said. It’s used both fresh and dried, sometimes in a paste.

When it’s fresh, it has a sweet, slightly smoky, fruity flavor that inspired Pachence to experiment with how it could be used in sauces that would complement the vegetables and proteins that comprise the American culinary lexicon. “It’s slightly spicy, has multiple levels of flavor, is truly unique to the cooking of that country,” he said. “The taste is used everywhere. The Peruvians use it on their vegetables, so we played with that. Meaty fish, incorporated into a ceviche – those are some of the examples where we reflect how the sauce is used in the U.S. versus how it’s used in Peru. We made a Blood Orange and Aji Panca sauce, which reflects the bracing acidity that you see in the Peruvian dishes, but using our own fusion twist.”

BloodOrange_IMG_0683The Blood Orange and Aji Panca Cooking Sauce is one of seven different sauces in the line that started three years ago with Roasted Hatch Chile Cooking Sauce, which was the result of a friend’s invitation to visit him in New Mexico and take in the Hatch Chile Festival, an annual Labor Day weekend celebration of southern New Mexico’s most famous crop. “As I started to do my culinary experiences, I was interested in the local cuisines of semi-exotic places around the world,” Pachence says as he explains how a visit to a small-town harvest festival evolved into a family business that employs his son, Paul, as its marketing executive and his daughter Lisa as a part-time sales executive, with the occasional assistance of his wife, who’s still a practicing physician. “I wanted to teach my children what it meant to be an entrepreneur,” he said. “I’m just very strong on the entrepreneurial spirit and how that helps people around the community. It helps create jobs. It helps improve the local community. I like to connect the community – that whole idea of thinking globally but acting locally.”

“The science geek in me went about creating the sauces systematically, trying to find the flavors in the chile that would match with flavor profiles,” he said. He ordered himself a supply of Hatch chiles and started playing with different combinations of fruits and herbs with the peppers, and ended up with a blend of the peppers with passionfruit juice and herbs. “We created something that people really liked and wanted to buy,” he said.

From there, the line grew to seven different sauces targeted at consumers from 25 to 55 with discretionary income, who are really interested in both gourmet food and healthy eating, but who don’t necessarily have a lot of time to experiment with flavors in their own cooking. The sauces are all natural with no artificial preservatives or genetically modified organisms. They have low salt and low sugar. “We approach cooking as a holistic, healthy, flavor-packed experience,” he said. “We show people how you can make a gourmet meal without using a lot of fat that adds extraneous calories.”

The sauces are also gluten-free, and while a couple of them include anchovies, the others are vegan. They’re made in small test market batches at a commercial kitchen in St. Petersburg, Florida, and by a co-packer based in Albany, New York, who’s familiar with the demands of artisanal food production, according to Pachence. “We try to keep the flavor profile medium or lower, as far as the spiciness is concerned,” he said. “Most people can tolerate the sauce. We always say that you can always add hot back into it, but you can’t take it away.”

The sauces are currently sold in 150 stores around the country and perform best for medium-size gourmet shops that also have meat and cheese departments, Pachence said. “Almost every sauce we have has a personal travel experience associated with it,” he added. “We’d tasted something like this somewhere else that we wanted to recreate.”

Kroger and Murray’s Cheese Announce Merger

The Kroger Co. has purchased the equity of Murray’s Cheese, as well as its flagship location on Bleecker Street in New York City, to form a merger of the two companies.

“For cheese lovers and connoisseurs, it doesn’t get more authentic than Murray’s,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s Chairman and CEO. “Our customers are excited to buy the unique offerings of Murray’s Cheese right in our stores, and we’re excited to ensure this iconic cheese shop will remain a part of the Kroger family for many years to come.”

New York’s most iconic cheese shop, opened in 1940, Murray’s has been delivering the finest selection of cheese, meat and specialty food items to New Yorkers, chefs and cheese lovers nationwide through a robust online business. Since the two companies formed a unique partnership in 2008, Murray’s has offered the same fine foods and cheese expertise to the Kroger family of stores.

“When the Kroger and Murray’s relationship started in 2008, we wanted to figure out how to bring the finest cheese and charcuterie to more people,” said Daniel Hammer, Kroger’s Vice President of Culinary Development and Deli/Bakery Merchandising. “Today, we have more than 350 Murray’s Cheese shops in Kroger locations from coast to coast – and that is thanks to the incredible passion and commitment of the team at Murray’s to empower associates to share their love of cheese with customers. We look forward to learning from the very talented team at Murray’s and working together to grow the business and build the iconic Murray’s brand.”

Murray’s former Owner and President, Rob Kaufelt, will remain affiliated with the business as a strategic adviser. Nick Tranchina will continue to lead the Murray’s Cheese team in New York and will report to Daniel Hammer at Kroger.

“Rob’s dedication to his craft has placed Murray’s on the map among the culinary elite while also making specialty cheese more accessible to mainstream consumers,” said McMullen. “We look forward to Rob’s continued influence on the business, helping to tell the Murray’s Cheese story and building its brand.”

“It has been my honor and privilege to work with so many tremendous, talented people over the course of my 45-year career in food retail, especially the last 25 years at Murray’s here in New York City,” said Kaufelt. “When I set out on this journey, my goal was simply to run the best cheese shop in Greenwich Village. I’m proud that we’ve been able to maintain the spirit and service of a mom-and-pop neighborhood shop amidst our growth into the national market. I am pleased to pass the torch to our able staff, who will carry Murray’s into the future.”

Murray’s Cheese shops in Kroger stores replicate the same experience customers enjoy at its Greenwich Village flagship store. Each shop carries hundreds of cheeses, charcuterie, olives, crackers and specialty food items from all over the world. Murray’s is deeply involved with product selection, staff training and development, merchandising and promotions.

Other highlights of the special partnership between Murray’s Cheese and Kroger include:

  • In December 2016, Kroger and Murray’s Cheese opened their 350th store location in Bloomington, Indiana. At the time, Kaufelt said, “This is an exciting milestone for Murray’s and the specialty cheese industry. In 2008, we pioneered a store-within-a-store concept at a handful of Kroger stores. Between 2008 and 2012, we opened 38 stores, and in 2016 we opened nearly 100. This partnership has exceeded our wildest expectations.”
  • Murray’s staff has trained thousands of Cheese Mongers and Certified Cheese Professionals through its relationship with Kroger. Between the two companies, the American Cheese Society named as Certified Cheese Professionals 29 team members in 2016, 20 in 2015, and 13 in 2014.

Financial terms of the merger were not disclosed.

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