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NestFresh Awarded First Non-GMO Project Verified Seal for Full Line of Nationally Distributed Egg Products

 

NF_Non-GMO_Brown_1NestFresh cage-free eggs is the first nationally distributed egg line to receive the Non-GMO Project Verified seal from the Non-GMO Project, a third party certification program that assures a product has been produced according to consensus-based best practices for GMO (genetically modified organism) avoidance. NestFresh (a division of Hidden Villa Ranch) is also the only egg brand to offer liquid and dry egg products that are also Non-GMO Project Verified.

To achieve non-GMO egg status, NestFresh chickens are fed non-GMO feed consisting of corn and soybeans, which are the most at risk for GMOs. The non-GMO corn and soybean feed is costly due to the limited amounts available. There is a routine schedule for the non-GMO feed to be tested and approved by the Non-GMO Project. On the non-GMO diet the chickens produce non-GMO eggs.

This unprecedented commitment to non-GMO verification by NestFresh is currently impacting approximately 400 acres of non-GMO corn and 380 acres of non-GMO soybeans. NestFresh is looking to expand its non-GMO impact by attracting more retailers, manufacturers and food service customers to the brand.

NestFresh works with multiple small farms across the country in a co-op system, providing more opportunities for family farmers so they can be competitive with larger companies.

“Non-GMO farming has a major environmental impact not only on the eggs we produce for NestFresh but also for my family that lives on the farm and for our entire community,” says Joseph Kropf, who is part of a Mennonite group of farmers in Tampico, Ill. “We grow and mill the corn in our community so low pesticide usage is important to us.”

This year, Whole Foods Market honored Hidden Villa Ranch for its private label version of NestFresh’s Non-GMO Project Verified eggs called Nature Fed (that are sold to Whole Foods Market exclusively), calling their commitment to non-GMO verification and supply chain development “groundbreaking.” For Whole Foods Market the non-GMO Nature Fed cage free eggs are helping them reach their self-proclaimed 2018 goal of becoming the first national grocery chain with total GMO transparency.

According to a recent report by Packaged Facts called, “Non-GMO Foods: U.S. Market Perspective,” products that do not contain GMOs will account for 30 percent of U.S. food and beverage sales by 2017.

The Non-GMO Project third-party verification program was launched in 2008 as an initiative of independent natural foods retailers who were interested in providing their customers with more information regarding the GMO risk of their products. For details on the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, visit: http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/understanding-our-seal

NestFresh cage-free and free-range eggs are Non-GMO Project Verified and available nationwide (MSRP: $3.49-$4.99). For distribution information call 877-241-8385; for more on the NestFresh brand visit: www.nestfresh.com.

 

Effortless Sunday Brunch

By Lorrie Baumann

With a very little advance planning, you can pull off a post-coital Sunday brunch that’s nearly effortless in its execution. The key to this is a lovely quiche from La Terra Fina, which has brought out a new line of ready-to-bake quiches in three varieties, all made from egg whites, so you won’t undo the healthy effects of a night of orgasmic passion with a dose of artery-clogging cholesterol. Put one of these gorgeous quiches in the toaster oven for a bit less than half an hour and then set it out on the table with a bowl of fresh raspberries and you’re almost there.

If you’re particular about your coffee, and who isn’t, look for one of the quality coffees bearing the Harvested by Women label that assures you that a fair share of the price you paid for the beans is going back to the women who would otherwise be powerless to fight sexist oppression in the poverty-stricken Third World areas where much of the world’s coffee is cultivated. You probably already have a coffee maker that produces a brew you like from these excellent beans, but if you don’t, the good folks at Kitchenware News can help you decide which of the many on the market is right for you.

Set out your quiche and coffee with a bowl of fresh raspberries (Driscoll’s is a brand that will assure you that you’re getting some of the best.), and a basket of muffins you baked from a Robert Rothschild mix, and you’ve served a brunch that will convince your lover that you’re definitely a keeper.

Improvisational Italian: Actor Louis Lombardi Introduces New Italian Food Line

By Lorrie Baumann

_MG_0005_ll_Louis Lombardi is a character actor who is best known as Agent Skip Lipari from The Sopranos. Lombardi has also had guest roles on Entourage, Heroes and CSI. His film work includes roles in Beer League, Natural Born Killers and Spiderman II. Lombardi has publicly stated his opinion that acting success is 10 percent about acting and 90 percent about hustling. In this spirit, he has turned the energy and ambition that led to his success as an actor toward the launch of a new line of pastas, pasta sauces, olives and olive oils named—what else?—Lombardi’s.

Lombardi recently took the time to speak with Gourmet News about the Lombardi’s product line in an interview he managed to fit in between lunch and picking his daughter up from school. We would present that interview to you in classic question-and-answer format, except that once you get Louis Lombardi started talking about food, you don’t really need to ask any questions. He will just tell you what you want to know. And he speaks so fluently and eloquently that you do not want to interrupt the flow.

“I cook like I’m an actor,” Lombardi says. “I like to improvise.” He adds, “I’m one of these guys who will spend ten hours in the kitchen cooking and cleaning.”

When it comes to the topic of meatballs, Lombardi varies from his grandmother’s recipe, making them from organic ground chicken and baking them instead of frying. “I sauté up some garlic and grill some onions and mushrooms, and then I add cilantro, fresh Parm, some mozzarella inside the meatballs. Roll them in panko and bake them with a little rosemary and garlic-infused olive oil on the baking pan so they absorb the flavor from the oil and get the crunch from the panko,” he said. “Don’t be stealing my recipe. I like to put garlic oil on the bottom, on the baking pan, and then [on] the meatballs, and then drizzle a little rosemary oil on top. Bake them up, and then keep them for the week. Put them in the sauce when you only have a few minutes to make a meal. My mother’s a true Italian…When she ate my meatballs, that’s what she talks about. They’re like her favorite thing now.”

Lombardi’s cooking style is all about using quality ingredients to cook modern, healthier versions of his Italian family favorites on the weekends and then organizing those into meal components from which he can improvise home-cooked meals after work on weekdays. He likes to make 20 or 30 pizza crusts at a time and store them in the freezer. He can then pull them out as he needs them and bake them topped with whatever he has on hand in the refrigerator.

“My favorite thing to cook is pizzas. I make 20 or 30 different kinds of pizza,” he says. “Pizza is dinner on an edible dish. Whatever you’d eat from a plate, you can put on a pizza.” That means southern fried chicken pizza, bacon and egg pizza for breakfast, even “grilled cheese with bacon and tomato pizza with cheese sauce, little bit of butter, little bit of garlic, cheese, chop up some bacon.” Lombardi’s southern fried chicken pizza is made with baked chicken cutlets, green onions, a little Tabasco sauce and southern gravy. Lombardi says, “Pizza is like a blank page. It’s like, ‘What can I write on this thing? What can I add to make this great?’”

Don’t feel like pizza? How about a pork chop? Lombardi prepares “pork chops pounded out thin and then stuffed with three or four different cheeses. Bake for 20 minutes, and then what you have is that gooey cheese between pork. Put in some hot pepper or mango chutney. You try that.”

Too early for dinner? How about lunch? “If I want a lunch, I get a healthy, nice lunch. Make three, four, five things on Sunday. Make some chicken cutlets and use them through the week,” Lombardi says. “Next week maybe eggplant, next maybe chicken meatballs, maybe a chicken salad. I’ll make grilled chicken breast, put them in the Tupperware. Then one day, you come home for lunch, chop up one with a little mayo, a little dill—you have a healthy lunch in five minutes. Maybe a pizza—garlic, oil, grilled chicken, maybe a little cilantro pesto, some mozzarella, maybe not even a sauce. It’s like a baked open sandwich, a cool meal that you would eat in a restaurant.”

_MG_9747_ll_publicityLombardi’s new line of retail food products comes out of that same insistence that food should taste good, that it should be healthy and that it should be a bonding experience for families. The line includes five kinds of pastas, olive oils and olives imported from Calabria, as well as pasta sauces made in New York from ingredients imported from Italy. They have all been extensively taste-tested by people whose opinion he respects as well as by members of the general public. “The marinara and vodka sauces are the two best sauces on the market,” Lombardi says. “I guarantee it.”

Lombardi says that this is food that he would feed his seven-year-old daughter, who is in the kitchen with him all the time “It’s for regular people. That’s what I am,” he says. “I want to be more for the regular person.”

Lombardi expects to have his online retail site for the products up and running within a few weeks, and he is currently seeking a distributor to put his products in stores. “I want to be in every market,” he says.

Once the products have reached the marketplace, Lombardi hopes that families will gather with them around the dinner table, the way that his Bronx Italian family gathered around the table every night with whoever else happened to be around at the time. “Don’t eat poison fast foods. Sit down with your kids. Spend $10 at the market, and put down a real meal, and talk to your kids,” he says. “It’s almost like a movement I’m trying to create. Sit down with your kids and make them a healthy meal. I believe that. I believe that children are the most important thing. I think food is the biggest bonding thing. Whether you’re fighting or whatever, everyone likes to eat.”

Emmi Roth USA Announces Marquee Sponsorship of Fifth Annual Wisconsin Cheese Originals Festival

For the second year in a row, Emmi Roth USA is supporting the Annual Wisconsin Cheese Originals Festival as a marquee sponsor. Hosted by Wisconsin Cheese Originals, a member-based organization dedicated to celebrating Wisconsin artisan cheeses and cheesemakers, the festival will be held Nov. 1-2 in Madison, Wis.

Themed “The Arrival of American Artisan Cheese,” the festival offers attendees the opportunity to meet more than 40 artisan cheesemakers during two days of tours, seminars, dinners and the popular Meet the Cheesemaker Gala on Friday, Nov. 1 at Monona Terrace.

Emmi Roth Grand Cru OriginalEmmi Roth USA Cheesemaker Israel Gonzalez will be at the gala serving samples of Roth® specialties including Grand Cru® Original, Grand Cru® Reserve, GranQueso®, Buttermilk Blue® and Moody Blue. Plant Manager and Cheese Guru Robert Frie will co-host a cheesemaker dinner with Chris Roelli of Roelli Cheese at The Old Fashioned on Saturday night.

“We are proud to have helped lay the groundwork for the rise of the specialty cheese industry in Wisconsin over the last 20 years,” said Steve Millard, president and CEO of Emmi Roth USA. “Wisconsin Cheese Originals shares our passion for specialty cheeses and we are thrilled to sponsor their festival, which brings together Wisconsin cheesemakers and cheese enthusiasts to celebrate our state’s vibrant cheesemaking industry.”

Visit www.wicheesefest.com for more information or to purchase tickets.

Product Review: SousVide Supreme Brings Celebrated Cooking Technique to the Masses

By Lucas Witman

SousVideSupreme-PRFew culinary techniques are as trendy right now as sous vide cookery. Peruse the menu at almost any fine dining restaurant in the country, and you are almost certain to find meats, vegetables and even eggs that have been prepared using this method. Celebrated chefs such as Joël Robuchon, Thomas Keller and Ferran Adrià have endowed sous vide cooking with an almost mythic air of haute cuisine through their impassioned support of the technique. However, since its inception, this technique has been reserved primarily for professionals, as the equipment used to conduct it (often repurposed laboratory thermal immersion circulators) is expensive and difficult to obtain. This is changing today, however, as kitchenwares company SousVide Supreme is finally bringing sous vide cooking to the masses.
Sous vide cooking is a particular method of slowly poaching foods at a steady, relatively low temperature. Foods are sealed in airtight plastic bags (often vacuum-sealed), where they are submerged in a water bath. Sous vide meats in particular retain a succulence that is often lost through conventional cooking methods. In addition, cooking tougher cuts of meat at a low temperature for a long time tenderizes them.
As an admitted connoisseur of kitchen gadgets and appliances, learning about the existence of SousVide Supreme’s home kitchen sous vide cooking equipment immediately piqued my interest. I was curious to find out if I could in fact use this appliance to recreate sous vide dishes from some of my favorite restaurants.
Upon receiving the equipment, I immediately knew what item I wanted to cook first in my SousVide Supreme. At a favorite local Italian restaurant, the chef has re-imagined the traditional bacon-and-eggs pasta dish, spaghetti carbonara, by putting something he calls a “perfect egg” on top. When the dish hits the table, one mixes the delicately poached egg into the pasta, and it forms the sauce for the dish. It did not take much coaxing from the chef to get his recipe for the perfect egg: He sous vides an egg in its shell for 45 minutes at exactly 145°.
The SousVide Supreme could not be easier to use. One simply fills the large metal water oven (there are fill level markings inscribed on it) and inputs the desired temperature and, if desired, cooking time. The machine quickly heats the water to the specific cooking temperature, where it is kept perfectly steady. An alarm sounds when the desired cooking time has been reached. Simply remove the cooked food from the water bath and enjoy.
My first attempt at creating a “perfect egg” was an immediate success. The low and slow cooking method creates a smooth, luxurious, delicately poached egg that practically disappeared into my pasta dish. One could also use the SousVide Supreme to create delicious poached eggs for eggs benedict or for use as a topper in a hearty soup. I doubt I will ever again poach an egg in the traditional manner.
In addition to the water oven itself, SousVide Supreme offers an extensive line of cooking equipment that completes the sous vide cooking experience. A zip sealer enables one to carefully seal plastic bags for submersion, while a vacuum sealer does the same thing, simultaneously removing all air from the bag. SousVide Supreme also offers an array of cooking pouches, sous vide seasonings, cookbooks and other accessories.
Already satisfied with my perfect egg, I then decided to use the equipment to cook some vacuum packed vegetables. Using the SousVide Supreme Vacuum Sealer and Vacuum Seal Pouches is practically foolproof. I filled a bag with chopped carrots and winter squash, added a couple pats of butter and some seasoned salt and positioned the top of the bag in the Vacuum Sealer. One simply clicks down on a latch, holding the bag in place, and presses a button. The machine then removes all the air from the bag and seals it tight. In a matter of seconds, my bag was ready to be placed in the SousVide Supreme water oven.
When doing sous vide cooking, one needs to be patient. Cooking my vegetables in the SousVide Supreme took two hours. I know that I could have boiled the vegetables in less than a quarter of the time. However, the results were worth the wait. The vegetables came out perfectly tender and cooked completely evenly. And by cooking them in a vacuum-sealed pouch, they were infused with the flavors of the butter and spices with which they were cooked. It was truly a home run.
The SousVide Supreme is destined to become a staple in my kitchen. And with the holidays coming up, I am excited to have a new gift to present to the many foodies in my life who, like me, think they already have everything they could need in their kitchens. Chance are, they don’t have this.

Culinary Collective Celebrates 15 Years of Spanish, Peruvian Imports

By Jazmine Woodberry

CulinaryCollective-SDGourmet importer Culinary Collective celebrated its 15th anniversary in September, marking a decade and a half of importing goods from Spain and bringing them to the taste buds of eaters stateside.
The business started as a hobby for Betsy Power and her business partner, Pere Selles, after relocating from Spain to Seattle so Power could attend graduate school.
“We moved and realized there wasn’t any good food from Spain in the Northwest,” Power said. “And we ended up starting at the right time. The commercial offices from Spain were really promoting wines from Spain then, and people were asking, ‘Well, what do I eat with those wines?’” That’s where Culinary Collective came in.
First a small business with a couple vendors, Culinary Collective now works with more than 30 vendors distributing more than 140 different products, many of which fall under the Matiz España line, which focuses on traditional Spanish ingredients like olive oil, paella rice and spices.
The Matiz España line launched in 2003 as a Culinary Collective brand used to promote and showcase the vendors behind the products. “Having one brand made a lot of sense from a marketing and financial standpoint, while allowing us to highlight the vendors and connect them to the consumers,” Power said.
After the bump in the exchange rate in 2006 and 2007, Culinary Collective pushed to incorporate Latin American items into its offerings. “When the exchange rate started going crazy, we expanded into Latin America using our same model—small producers, native foods. We weren’t looking to replace items from Spain but to use our same model in a new region,” Power said. “We bounced around and landed on Peru because there’s so much food diversity in Peru. It’s one of the most diverse food cultures in the world next to Mexico.”
This push brought to light the Zócalo Gourmet line, which marks the company’s expansion to South America. Zócalo Gourmet features Peruvian vendors powering a collection of all-natural foods such as grains, flours, beans and chili pastes.
“When we turned to Peru, we wanted to have a completely different brand and a different division,” To the delight of both Power, who suffers from celiac disease, and others with gluten sensitivity, the line contains only naturally gluten-free items.
Culinary Collective uses strict sourcing criteria to ensure that their products are all-natural and that their producers are rooted in their communities and operate under a fair trade model.
However, Power said what truly sets Culinary Collective apart from others is focusing on foods native to the countries from which they are importing. “A lot of importers bring in such things as piquillo peppers and white asparagus from Peru and it’s had an impact on Spanish vendors,” she said. “We wanted to focus on such items as kañiwa, purple corn, and aji or chili peppers—items that are native to Peru.”
The company’s expansion has spread to Culinary Collective customers as well, as the importer has branched out from importing select products to Seattle to serving customers throughout the United States and Canada. Through September 2014, Culinary Collective will be highlighting and promoting different vendors monthly to commemorate this milestone. Providing foods through both direct sales to retailers and through distributors, Culinary Collective will be going over each region’s vendors with a fine tooth comb and allowing retailers and consumers to access a passport-style voyage through Spain and Peru via Culinary Collective foods.
“The hard part is getting the products into the American market,” Power said. “Our resources are very limited, and competition is very high. I would like to let our customers know about our mission and why we’ve chosen each vendor and product and why they should purchase it. Consumers are really ready for that message and we could do a better job of making that known and getting customers on board, [as well as] working with the sales staff at the retail level to help promote these products.”

Online Markets Changing the Way Consumers Shop for Groceries

By Jazmine Woodberry

An increasing number of consumers across the country are ordering their groceries online, both from dedicated web outlets and from the digital iterations of brick and mortar stores, simply having these groceries delivered to them at home. Now, specialty foods companies are looking to adapt to this new retail climate in a $1 trillion grocery retail industry where more than $4 billion are spent by companies on online ads each year.
Working with more than 140 grocery brands, including Kroger, Shoprite and Albertsons, as well as more than 200 Consumer Packaged Goods brands, MyWebGrocer provides a suite of leading-edge eCommerce and eMarketing solutions to the grocery and CPG industries, with products for every digital touch point. Grocers can utilize MyWebGrocer’s software platform where shoppers can head online and do a range of things—from creating shopping lists, acquiring coupons and pulling up digital promotionals, to purchasing goods online for home delivery. Consumer packaged goods companies have the ability to follow a different path, with digital marketing campaigns for grocery websites, as well as ways to measure the effectiveness of those digital advertising efforts.
“Changing consumer behavior is pressuring grocers and CPGs to adopt digital solutions,” said Hudson Smith, Principal at HGGC, a MyWebGrocer investor in a release. Smith said he thinks “new eCommerce-focused entrants seeking to take share from traditional grocers” can look to online grocers both to shop online and enrich brick and mortar experiences via digital offerings.
MyWebGrocer is not alone in the push to move the grocery industry online. Founded in 1989, online grocery ordering and delivery service Peapod now serves customers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Peapod offers a unique online grocery shopping option that fits into consumers’ busy lives.
“In a time when schedules are more demanding than ever, Peapod offers more than an online shopping service—it’s a lifestyle solution,” said Bradley Porter, Peapod’s Director of Marketing. “And it’s evolving to help people knock out their grocery shopping wherever and whenever they’d like via a Peapod mobile app, virtual stores, and more.”
Peapod is expanding convenience with home delivery or drive-through-style pick-up. Same day, next day and advance scheduling are available, accommodating “anytime, anywhere” grocery shopping with a handy mobile app and virtual stores. Peapod also adds value with built-in sorting features for nutritional requirements and a ‘checkout counter’ that helps manage spending as you go. In a Consumer Reports study from fall 2012 on how online grocery shopping eases grocery bills, Peapod.com topped the list as a money-saving site where shoppers can spend less and get more.
In addition to dedicated online grocery services like Peapod, food retailers are also utilizing other online venues, not usually known for their edible offerings. This includes online megastore Amazon.
Daphna Havkin-Frenkel’s business, Bakto Flavors, started in 2006 with a few options but has since expanded to several dozen gourmet spice and flavoring options that move far past the company’s initial vanilla starting point. The growth of Bakto Flavors has been in part due to the availability of Bakto Flavors’ products on Amazon. With Amazon behind the company’s sales, the former small shop now has global customers.
According to Havkin-Frenkel, Bakto Flavors still utilizes brick and mortar stores in the New York City area to reach consumers, but the company’s proprietary website sales, partnered with the sales it makes on Amazon have made the Internet the company’s biggest overall sales forum.
Of course, despite the growing trend of online grocery sales, experts are quick to point out that time honored physical trips to the grocery store are not going away any time soon. Still, retailers and CPG companies that are not yet online would be wise to consider this as an important venue for future sales. “While weekly trips to the grocery store are a time-honored tradition, consumers in 24 markets across the country are eating up the idea of online shopping…where hand-picked, hand-delivered groceries are always just a click away,” Porter said.

British Specialty Food Companies Queuing Up to Enter U.S. Market

By Lucas Witman

Less than a decade ago, many Anglophiles and British expatriates living in the United States were compelled to seek out niche specialty retailers and online food stores when looking for their favorite U.K. brands. Today, however, nearly every major grocery store contains at least a small section of British imports, and picking up a package of PG Tips or a Cadbury Flake bar can be as simple as heading to the local market. For a country that once viewed British cuisine with a collective air of disdain, the recent explosion in popularity of U.K. imports in this country may have come as a surprise to some. However, for those involved in the burgeoning British specialty food industry, this trend has been a long time coming.

British culture has perhaps never been more omnipresent in the United States than it is today. One cannot navigate contemporary American popular culture without a proper education in Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, Simon Cowell and Adele. Recently, the 2012 London Summer Olympics, Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee and the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton have put Great Britain at the epicenter of international attention. It was perhaps somewhat inevitable that British cuisine would follow as the logical next trend to emerge from the British Isles

“I think British products have got a real sort of cache here,” said U.K. Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson. “Obviously there is a very longstanding close relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. The Olympics gave, I think, a huge shove in this great campaign of British culture, British history, British fashion, British music—and I think British food is part of that. There’s a real interest.”

According to Paterson, it is the British specialty food industry’s emphasis on family-run companies producing artisanal products in small batches using high quality, locally sourced ingredients that particularly appeals to a 21st century U.S. clientele.

“I think that probably the attraction for U.S. consumers is that they know that these are made by small niche family businesses working in small rural areas where you will have completely impeccable traceability of raw material and very reliable systems of production,” Paterson said. “You’re not buying anonymous meat products washing around the world commodities circuit in gray frozen blocks. These are local materials converted very rapidly into top class products and sold by the people who bought the material, who converted them into a food product and who actually shipped them and marketed them. I think that’s really attractive to many American consumers.”

Nina Uppal, Owner of New York Delhi, a British snack company most famous for its ViP Nuts brand, echoes Paterson’s sentiments. “There is such a desire for good food, for quality food and for innovation in food as well. You get all of that in the U.K.,” Uppal said. “The British brand alone draws so much attention from around the world, and that’s the impression we get wherever we go…People want to know what the Brits are doing next. That’s what we see. We not only offer the quality, but it’s also the innovation. Those are really the two things that you need when it comes to great food.”

Unfortunately, for British companies anxious to enter the U.S. market and reach out to a brand new consumer base that is increasingly hungry for U.K. imports, there are potential roadblocks as well. Navigating U.S. regulations, getting FDA approval and filling out necessary paperwork can be serious challenges to small food companies hoping to introduce their products to the United States. However, Paterson emphasizes that his office and the U.K. government are committed to helping small companies overcome these obstacles, and he sees nothing that is truly insurmountable for companies that are committed to navigating the process.

For Paterson, the biggest challenge British food companies will face is finding the right American partners to help them get their products into the hands of consumers.

“I think the challenge is finding a good distributor and a good agent who they can work with,” he said. Uppal cites the same issue, saying her biggest concern is “getting a credible importer, somebody that understands your product, who is passionate about your product, and can get the right sort of distribution for it as well.”

Looking to the future, U.S. specialty food retailers are anxious to predict what might be the next major food trend to emerge from Great Britain. Both Paterson and Uppal have their own predictions for what foods, flavors and fashions are sure to show up next in the international aisles of grocery stores across the United States.

For Paterson, the one trend really dominating the British food scene today is the use of particularly strong, bold flavors. He joked, “With deepest respect to American chocolate…It does tend to be a bit bland compared to our chocolate. And I think bland might be another adjective one could apply to American cheese.” Taking a more serious tone, Paterson continued, “I think there is interest in quite strong flavored products. [British] chocolate is really strong. There’s [also] quite a lot of hot products, chili products.”

Uppal points to the growing interest among British consumers in eating healthier, cleaner foods. “The huge emphasis is on natural and non-GMO. People are very specific about what they’re eating. They’re very aware of what they’re eating and what goes into their food,” she said. “So I think the cleaner the ingredient, the better…It’s not so much the organic thing, though I believe that’s still popular, people just need to be reassured that what they’re getting, it’s nutritious. It’s good. It’s clean. That’s what they’re looking for.”

Paterson hopes to be able to promote increased trade between the United States and the United Kingdom, recently meeting with officials in Washington D.C. in an effort to promote a potential free trade agreement between the two nations. Ensuring that the recent successes experienced by British specialty food companies in this country are not merely the evidence of a fleeting fad but rather represent the beginnings of a long and fruitful relationship will require sustained work on the part of government officials and industry leaders alike.

Foodies and Cheesemongers Lament Looming Loss of Beloved French Mimolette Cheese

By Lucas Witman

Cheese loving consumers and cheese retailers alike are up in arms about a recent move made by the Food and Drug Administration to block imports of French cheese, mimolette. News of the possible crackdown came after American and French media learned that a 1,100-pound shipment of the cheese had been refused entry into the country when FDA inspectors in New Jersey found unacceptable levels of microscopic cheese mites on the product. Today, the future of mimolette in the United States is uncertain, as FDA rules may prohibit future imports of authentic French-made mimolette into the country.

Mimolette, traditionally made in Lille, France, is a hard cheese with a distinctive bright orange color and a mottled gray rind. Sometimes compared to a Dutch Edam or aged Gouda, this cow’s milk cheese is prized for its nutty flavor and chewy texture.

Mimolette is also distinctive for the way it is ripened: through the intentional introduction of cheese mites, which add flavor to the cheese while eating away at the wheel’s exterior. It is these mites that are at the center of the ongoing controversy surrounding mimolette.

The FDA has set the acceptable limit for cheese mites at six mites per square inch. The agency believes that a higher concentration of these microscopic organisms on cheese can negatively impact the health of those with certain allergies. The agency, however, denies explicitly blocking the importation of mimolette cheese. It states that it is merely enforcing existing food safety standards and conducting routine surveillance sampling.

“Technically there is no ban,” said Benoit de Vitton, North American Representative for Isigny Sainte Mère. “[The FDA] will tell you there is no ban, but there is a ban.” Isigny is a major French producer of mimolette cheese that is imported into the United States. According to de Vitton, by prohibiting the importation and sale of cheeses with a certain concentration of cheese mites, the FDA is effectively banning all mimolette imports, as this cheese requires these mites as a necessary element of its production.

“We bring the product to this country. We have to respect the rules,” said de Vitton. “We’ll do our best, but it is very difficult.”

With the exception of some die-hard mimolette connoisseurs, most consumers and retailers are likely to be little affected by a ban on one relatively obscure variety of French cheese. However, de Vitton is quick to point out that the FDA’s stance on mimolette has potential market implications reaching far beyond this one cheese. “There are a lot of other cheeses that are affected,” said de Vitton. “It’s going to be a threat to a lot of other cheeses that are aged.” This is because cheese mites call not only mimolette, but a wide variety of hard cheeses produced both in France and here in the United States, home.

“American cheese makers will tell you that of course they have mites too,” said de Vitton. “Any type of aged cheese will have mites.” He worries that a crackdown on one cheese could snowball into a wider cheese industry sweep.

When asked whether he believes that the FDA has a legitimate reason to be concerned with the concentration of cheese mites on mimolette or other hard cheeses, de Vitton responded definitively: “Absolutely not.” He thinks that the U.S. government is simply overreacting to a benign if somewhat unsettling organism that everyone inevitably comes into contact with each and everyday.

“It’s really sad,” said de Vitton. “You can eat [fast food burgers], and it’s going to make you sick five minutes after eating it. People eat these things all the time.” He argues that it is extremely unlikely that mimolette cheese offers much of a health threat to the public, especially as the mites live on the cheese’s inedible rind. “For two people who maybe could eventually get sick—It’s a hyper precaution,” he said.

The question remains whether mimolette will return to U.S. cheese cases in some form or another, or whether U.S. consumers will have to travel across the Atlantic for a taste of the cheese. “Mimolette and how it’s made today—you won’t see it,” said de Vitton. “For sure you won’t find mimolette with the rind ever again in the U.S.” He said that some cheese producers may attempt to wash the rind to eliminate the mites or to import the cheese without its rind, but this will mean that U.S. consumers will not have access to the cheese in its authentic form.

Asked whether he thinks there is a chance that the FDA might relax its six-mites-per-square-inch restriction, de Vitton predicts that there will be a change in these standards, but it will not benefit his industry. “Now it’s six mites per square inch. It’s going to be zero,” he said.

Meanwhile cheese hungry consumers in this country are not taking the FDA’s implicit mimolette ban in stride, with some taking to the streets to express both their disapproval with the agency and their passion for the dairy delicacy. At one recent event in New York City, protestors dressed in orange shirts, hats and sunglasses worked to educate passersby about the cheese, passing out free samples and spreading information about the ban.

The most important message the protestors at the event had for interested consumers, both those with a longtime affinity for mimolette and those who are new to the product, is to get it while you can. With many U.S. cheese retailers going through the last of their stocks it is unclear if and when they will be able to get more. Therefore, if you see mimolette at your local shop, now is the time to grab it.

For de Vitton, it is important that consumers and cheese retailers continue to stay abreast of the FDA’s changing food safety standards when it comes to cheese, as you never know when a product you love and rely on may be taken off the shelves: “It’s mimolette today. It’s going to be something else next time.”

Retailers Cope as Beef Prices Hit All Time High

By Lucas Witman

As the first days of summer began driving outdoor cooking enthusiasts to load up their grills with hamburgers and T-bones this year, many consumers were taken aback by the high prices of these seasonal staples. The price of beef nationwide hit a record high in June, with the national average price for steak standing at $4.81/lb. and the average price for ground beef reaching $3.51/lb. With prices still on the upswing, many consumers are being forced to consider switching to more inexpensive proteins.

The reason for rising beef prices is multifarious, according to Ty Freeborn, Owner and CEO of specialty beef producer Steakhouse Elite. “You’ve obviously got higher input costs, from corn to fuel,” said Freeborn. “More importantly, you’ve gone through six to eight years of drought in the largest cow producing part of the country.”

Over the past several years, as drought has plagued much of the country, the price of cattle feed has risen as well. As a result, ranchers have been forced to reduce the size of their herds. The reduction in herd size has led to an overall reduction in beef supply, in turn effecting a rise in prices. “There just aren’t the mother cows left to produce a calf every year,” Freeborn said.

There is little indication that cattle stocks will be replenished to pre-drought levels in the United States any time in the near future. “Historically, this trend is only headed in one direction,” said Freeborn. “I don’t know if you’re ever going to see America’s cow herd turn the corner and start growing again.” In short, higher beef prices are likely here to stay, and this is a reality to which consumers, retailers and the beef industry itself are going to need to adapt.

The good news for those invested in the marketing of beef is that consumers do not seem prepared to abandon the protein altogether, regardless of its rise in price. “Most consumers are staying in the beef franchise. They’re continuing to be customers,” said John Lundeen, Executive Director of Market Research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. According to NCBA research, just 24 percent of today’s consumers are eschewing steak altogether, because of price, and only 16 percent state that they are abandoning ground beef for the same reason. This means that the majority plan to continue to purchase the protein.

Although consumers may not be prepared to drop beef from their dinner plates, beef retailers and the industry itself will need to shift the way they reach out to these individuals if they are going to keep them coming back to the meat case. It will be increasingly important to identify what exactly shoppers are looking for when it comes to purchasing beef and to change the product accordingly.

According to NCBA research, the top three things consumers are looking for when making meat purchases is a longer shelf life (48 percent), freshness (46 percent) and freezer-friendly packaging (37 percent). In short, the same old plastic wrapped Styrofoam containers simply are not cutting it any more when it comes to satisfying consumers’ desire for a fresher, longer-lasting, freezer-friendly product.

“Extended shelf life packaging takes on importance,” said Lundeen. “With higher priced inventory, you have to take action to minimize shrink.” One company that is working to innovate beef packaging is Sealed Air’s Cryovac®. Cryovac is bringing vacuum seal technology to the meat case, offering beef purveyors a new type of packaging that helps the product stay fresher longer, that can be placed immediately in the freezer without transferring containers, that risks fewer leaks and that is more environmentally sustainable. “We know there are benefits here for the consumer for this packaging type,” said Lundeen.

The team at Cryovac acknowledges that effectively marketing vacuum sealed beef to a consumer populace that has always purchased their meats in the same type of packaging will require some work on their part, as well as on the part of retailers themselves. “Education on the features and benefits of vacuum packaging can change consumer perception,” said Jerry Kelly, Food Retail Expert for Sealed Air’s Cryovac Brand. “The more consumers know about the features and benefits of vacuum packaging, the more definite intent to purchase increases.” According to Kelly, after being educated about this new packaging, 76 percent of consumers were more likely to purchase vacuum packaged beef, with 58 percent much more likely.

Of course, it is not only the consumer that must be educated about the new packaging, but those who work behind the meat case as well. “We talk about education. We need to educate meat department people as well,” said Kelly. “We’re committed to helping retailers.”

While Cryovac is working to satisfy the growing consumer demand for a fresher, longer lasting product, Steakhouse Elite is responding to another prominent desire of those purchasing beef. For Freeborn, his company’s success is based on satisfying customers by giving them a product that is worth every penny they spend on it.

Steakhouse Elite specializes in American Kobe-Crafted beef, a high end product that outshines its competitors in the meat case in both taste and texture. “American Kobe-style beef has a unique texture and flavor that just can’t be matched,” said Freeborn. “People try to build a better burger by adding toppings and sauces. We made the burger itself better.”

Freeborn argues that grocery shoppers today are willing to spend a little more on beef if his company offers them something that they feel merits the cost. “It is bringing a lifestyle upgrade along with it,” Freeborn said about Steakhouse Elite’s Kobe-style beef. “People are buying into a better way of life for a few bucks. People like that.”

Still, regardless of what retailers and beef suppliers do to reach out to consumers, it is inevitable that for the time being some will eschew high priced red meat for less expensive protein options. According to Freeborn, there is little more that the industry can do to market beef to this group than wait for perceptions to change. “If you used to be able to buy a pork chop for $1.50, and now you see the pork chop for $3, you don’t see value in that,” he said. “It’s going to take a while for consumers to get used to it. It will take a little time for consumers to adjust.”

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