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Prairie Farms Dairy and Swiss Valley Farms Announce Merger Agreement

Prairie Farms Dairy and Swiss Valley Farms have entered into a merger agreement. Both companies are farmer-owned dairy cooperatives and recognized leaders within the dairy industry. The combined entity will bring together two well-known brands and will expand sales opportunities for both cooperatives.

Under the terms of the agreement, Prairie Farms will merge the assets of Swiss Valley Farms into Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc. Assets include five manufacturing plants that produce cheese and whey powder located in: Luana, Iowa; Shullsburg and Mindoro in Wisconsin; Rochester and Faribault in Minnesota. Swiss Valley Farms CEO Chris Hoeger will continue to oversee the operation of the plants. The combined company will operate under the name Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc. The terms of the merger agreement must be approved by cooperative members from both companies.

“The merger with Swiss Valley was driven by our commitment to build value for our cooperative members and is consistent with our growth strategy. Swiss Valley’s contributions will allow us to diversify our product portfolio and expand into new markets,” said Ed Mullins, Executive Vice President and CEO of Prairie Farms.

Chris Hoeger, Swiss Valley’s CEO, stated, “We are very excited to be joining forces with Prairie Farms. This merger offers numerous benefits for our cooperative members and is an ideal opportunity to bring together two industry leaders. We will leverage the strengths of both companies to offer a broader range of products and to enhance and expand relationships with customers.”

As Prairie Farms and Swiss Valley collaborate on pre-merger integration activities, their employees and customers can expect a business-as-usual environment. If approved, the deal is expected to close mid-2017.

Davidson’s Organics Refreshes the Cup that Cheers

By Lorrie Baumann

Davidson’s Organics celebrates its 40th anniversary with rebranded packaging, a new line of tea jellies and a new line of specialty tea chocolates.

“Consumers today live very busy lifestyles. They’re looking for simplicity, value and health benefits – all in a simple format,” said Kunall Patel, Davidson’s Organics Owner and Director. “Our new package design meets all those needs while providing a very visual, trendy and high-profile look.”

While Davidson’s Organics has been in business since 1976, Patel and his family bought the brand in 2007 after the company, which had been growing organic teas in India since the 1920s, decided to vertically integrate by acquiring a business active in the North American market. Today, the same farmer cooperative of third-generation tea growers grows the tea leaves in India, and Davidson’s Organics imports them to its plant in Sparks, Nevada, where the teas are blended, manufactured, packaged and shipped to retailers.

“We’re the only tea company today that’s 100 percent vertically integrated from farm to cup,” Patel said. “This is different from the majority of other operations who outsource sourcing, blending, manufacturing and distribution. We do everything under one roof.”

dsc_3219The company currently offers about 300 flavors of USDA-certified organic and kosher-certified tea – the largest product range of organic teas on the market. They include 11 distinct product categories: black, green and white teas; dessert teas that mimic the flavor profiles of classic desserts without the calories; honey teas that contain real organic honey inside the teabag that dissolves out into the cup as it’s infused; tulsi “holy basil” teas; rooibos-based red teas; holiday teas inspired by the season but available year-round; decaffeinated teas, chai; and traditional favorites – the Darjeeling, Ceylon and Irish Breakfast teas. They’re available in tea bags, as loose leaf tea and as brew bags designed for iced tea.

“The brand’s new packaging is designed to stand out on the shelf and portray the products’ clean-label health benefits, company story, key certifications and simple ingredients that are easily and quickly assimilated to influence buying decisions,” Patel said. “The consumer has very little time to analyze a product,” he said. “To engender loyalty you need something more than just price.”

davidsons-earl-grey-jellyThe celebration continues with a new line of tea jellies, the first of their kind on the market. The tea jellies are made by infusing real tea leaves, grown by the farmer cooperative of third-generation tea farmers in the Darjeeling region of India who grow the company’s other tea products. Pectin and cane sugar are then added to make the jelly. The jellies come in four flavors that reflect the four best-selling Davidson’s Organics teas: Earl Grey, White Pomegranate, Classic Chai and Coconut Vanilla.
“The jellies reflect the true flavors of the tea blend,” Patel said. “There are a lot of jellies out there. There’s no other real tea jelly that’s made out of infused organic tea.”

The Earl Grey Tea Jelly pairs very well with meat or cheeses, according to Patel. “It’s a wonderful addition to any backyard barbecue or dinner,” he said. “It makes a perfect combination of salty and sweet at the same time.” Consumers would use the Chai Tea Jelly as they might use a pumpkin butter in a holiday feast – as a complement to bread or cheeses. White Pomegranate Tea Jelly is a tart and fruity spread that pairs well in spring-time treats, and the Coconut Vanilla Tea Jelly is perfect as an addition to scones or croissants.

Following along with the thought that tea need not be just for drinking, Davidson’s Organics is also introducing a new line of specialty tea chocolates made with certified organic dark cacao chocolate sprinkled with loose leaf tea, molded into bars, and then sprinkled with more tea. The chocolate comes from a cooperative of 400 third-generation cacao farmers from the Esmeraldas region of Ecuador.

“It’s a perfect marriage and celebration of three generations of organic agriculture,” Patel said. He noted that although there are cultural differences between the two groups of farmers – the tea growers in India and the cacao growers in Ecuador —the partnership has benefited from a shared respect for each other’s agricultural tradition.

The 70g bars are 65 percent dark chocolate in three flavors: Earl Grey Lavender, Classic Chai and Coconut Vanilla. They retail for about $6.99.

Meal Delivery Service Caters to the Health-Conscious But Busy

By Lorrie Baumann

Terra’s Kitchen is one of those meal kit delivery services that have been springing up all over the country, and while it’s only just over a year old, it’s taking off nationally by offering convenience, freshness and flexibility to busy individuals with a wide range of dietary requirements and concerns about the environmental sustainability of their choices. “We know that there are many different ways to eat in a healthy manner,” said Michael McDevitt, the company’s CEO. “We’re meeting the needs of many different types of consumers.”

McDevitt started the business just 19 months ago. “I got the news that I was becoming a father, and I wanted to do everything I could do to reinvent the childhood I had growing around the table, which seemed to have fallen off,” he said. “People are just so busy today.”

“We exist to connect family and friends back around the dinner table. That’s why we are here,” he continued.

The company has four pillars to its brand: health, talk, balance and convenience. Recipes for the meals are developed as a cooperation between the company’s Creative Culinary Director, Libbie Summers, and its Director of Nutrition, Dr. Lisa Davis, PhD, PA-C, CNS, to ensure that they’re both tasty and nutritious, and variety is a key, with more than 40 seasonal offerings on the company’s website at any given time. Customers can filter the menu offerings according to several dietary regimes so that the choices they’re offered meet their own needs, whether that’s Paleo, vegetarian, gluten-free or just generally nutrition-conscious. Most of the meal choices are priced between $10 and $15 per serving.

Ingredients for the meals are prechopped and packaged for shipment in a reusable vessel that the consumer unpacks at home and then puts back outside for pickup the next day by the same service that delivered it. The vessel is delivered back to Terra’s Kitchen, where it’s sanitized and reused. There’s no outer box or gel packs to make the kind of excessive packaging waste that many critics of meal delivery services have pointed out as a conflict with environmental sustainability. Individual ingredient items, organic or non-GMO when possible, are packaged in recyclable plastic containers – 4-inch by 4-inch plastic boxes of the kind that consumers are used to seeing as packaging for deli salads in their supermarkets. Consumers may recycle the plastic containers either by returning them to the vessel to be delivered back to Terra’s Kitchen or putting them into their own municipal collection, or they often find other ways to use the containers, McDevitt said. The minimal packaging drops the amount of packaging waste for a Terra’s Kitchen delivery to about 8 ounces per week, or about 25 pounds per year, which compares to about 450 pounds a year for some of the company’s competitors.

Along with every meal, as part of the company’s brand pillars, the customer gets a table talk topic that’s designed to spark conversation. Topics range from light-hearted philosophical questions to nutrition information about the actual meal the consumer is eating. “We do what we can to spark conversations around the table,” McDevitt said. “We have a lot of fun helping table talk.”

The company’s focus on balance and convenience means that every meal offered can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. McDevitt says this reflects that the company is conscious of the time and effort needed to prepare a healthy meal and aware that its customers are looking for help managing both their time and their nutrition. “Everybody knows how they should be eating, but it’s very difficult to take those steps,” McDevitt said. “We take the majority of the prep work out of the meal by sending everybody pre-cut ingredients.”

Terra’s Kitchen ships from both the East and West Coasts to cover the entire nation. Subscribers order weekly meal deliveries for up to four or five weeks. They can to go back and alter their choices ahead of each shipping date, and they can choose the days of the week on which they’d like their shipments to arrive. “The benefit is that you can do all of your meal planning for a month in a 10-minute sitting,” McDevitt said.

The average customer is likely to order two or three dinners and two or three grab-and-go items to pack for office lunches. Terra’s Kitchen does not yet offer traditional breakfast items. The company requires a minimum $65 order for each shipment. “You’re signing up for meals to come in the container, which comes in a weekly basis, but you can skip weeks and only have it come on the weeks that you want it,” McDevitt said. “We are very much aware of our clientele. The most typical consumer is a busy, two-income family with young children, both working, both very busy. We’re also having tremendous success in the empty nester market as well, those people who have time on their hands and are just looking for a more convenient way to gather around the table together for dinner – other than going out to dinner.”

He added that, “It started for the purpose of helping families getting together around the table, and we’re having tremendous success with that.”

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