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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.”

The Happy Chocolatier Launches Signature Truffle Cubze

1-HappyChocolatierFILL-CSThe Happy Chocolatier™, LLC recently went national with Cubze, the company’s signature cube-shaped truffle confections for the specialty food, gift basket and retail gift trades. Cubze are truffle centers formed into one inch cubes, coated in rich milk or dark chocolate and hand-wrapped in jewel-toned foils with an inspirational message about happiness.
Made by hand with the finest all natural ingredients, Cubze truffles are available in a variety of flavors including chocolate, chocolate raspberry, chocolate cappuccino, chocolate mint, chocolate walnut, cookies and cream, cranberry walnut, and peanut butter. Each piece is a one-inch cube.
The Cubze gift collection includes a variety of attractive gift boxes and bags with seasonal bands. In addition, the Cubze are available in bulk for display in candy cases or for use in gift baskets or in counter displays.
For information on wholesale ordering, contact The Happy Chocolatier by email at, by fax at 978.268.5025 or by phone at 781.910.0904. Also, visit the company online at

Cherry Cordials from Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company

3-ChocolateChocolateFILL-CSPlump Maraschino Cherry Cordials from Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company contain no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no preservatives and no high fructose corn syrup. The gourmet confections are naturally cordialized in a liquid center and dipped in all-natural milk chocolate. Your customers will taste the difference in this all-natural version of a classic sweet treat.
Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company’s Maraschino Cherry Cordials are available in eight-piece, 4-ounce boxes for a SRP of $11.95.
For more information, visit Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company online at or at In addition, contact Dan Abel Jr at 314.338.3501, ext. 130.

Vintage Bee’s Creamed Honey with White Chocolate Almond

4-VintageBeeFILL-BGJust like the luscious nougat one might find inside a chocolate-covered cherry, but minus the cherry, Vintage Bee’s Creamed Honey with White Chocolate Almond features only raw creamed honey without any added sugar, preservatives or dairy. The product can be used as a syrup over ice cream, as icing for brownies, as a topping for bagels or as a sweetener for coffee or oatmeal. Try it right out of the jar for a great pick-me-up. There is truly no wrong way to eat Vintage Bee’s Creamed Honey with White Chocolate Almond. And with less than ½ a gram of fat per teaspoon, the product is a great alternative to a candy bar.
Vintage Bee’s Creamed Honey with White Chocolate Almond is available in an 8-ounce jar for an SRP of $7.99.
For more information, contact Vintage Bee at 919.699.6788, or visit

Graycliff Chocolatier’s White Chocolate Passion Fruit Bonbons

GraycliffChocolatiers-CSThe team at Graycliff Chocolatier believes in creating the finest chocolate from the bean to the bar, using only the highest quality ingredients sourced from fair trade origins. It is also the company’s aim to incorporate a taste of the Bahamas into every bite. With that in mind, the company introduces its White Chocolate Passion Fruit Bonbon.
Made from scratch using Jamaican cacao beans, the soul of this chocolate is enrobed in silky white chocolate. The bonbons are then beautifully hand-painted in reds and yellows.
At the ‘heart’ of this masterpiece lies fresh passion fruit, pureed and blended with a hint of fresh lime zest to further enhance the natural flavor of this fabulous fruit.
Graycliff Chocolate is truly authentic, truly delicious and truly Bahamian.
For more information head to

Chocolate and Confections from Prova Inc. and Sotiros Foods

macaroonsProva Inc. has been processing and making vanilla products, cocoa flavorings and coffee extracts for 67 years. Using proprietary techniques, the company’s flavoring products are more concentrated and more heat stable than conventional products. These flavoring products perfectly complement entremets, ice cream, cream desserts, mousses, biscuits and confections.
Sotiros Foods Inc. is a foodservice distributor, serving the professional chefs in Chicago for 28 years. Sotiros Foods is committed to bringing in any of their products even if they do not normally stock it.
Sotiros Foods has represented many of its suppliers, including Guittard Chocolates, for more than 10 years. Guittard Chocolate Company has been processing cocoa, and making traditional chocolate products and confectioners coating for 145 years. The “Collection Etienne” artisan product line was recently expanded to include more couverture chocolates, each made with all natural non-GMO ingredients, such as pure cane sugar and real vanilla beans. Current offerings include two white (31 and 35 percent), two milk (38 and 41 percent), seven dark (55, 58, 61, 64, 70, 72 and 91 percent), one organic milk (38 percent) and one organic dark (66 percent).
These two fine companies, Prova Inc. and Sotiros Foods Inc., sampled and sold their products at the Chicago Fine Chocolate Show from Oct. 18 to 20, 2013, and at the National Chocolate Show from Oct. 20-22, 2013. Contact Glynn Searl at 708.371.0002 for additional information.

Amarena Fabbri: The Extraordinary Cherry from Italy

Fabbri-CSThe Fabbri Company of Bologna, Italy has its humble origins in 1905, when it was started by Gennaro Fabbri and his wife Rachele. The company’s story begins in Portomaggiore, a small town in Emilia Romagna, with wild black cherry orchard. Once she picked the cherries, Rachele Fabbri slowly cooked and semi-candied them in copper pots, transforming them into a wonderfully delicious treat that became known in short time as the Amarena Fabbri.

Decadent, delicious and intensely flavorful, Amarena Fabbri cherries are still produced from wild black cherries. The cherries are a fleshy, dark red variety with a burst of flavor that is both sweet and tart. These luscious cherries and their rich cherry syrup are crafted today using the same family recipe developed more than 100 years ago. In addition (and important to the modern consumer), the Amarena Fabbri are gluten-free, kosher and Halal-certified.

Amarena Fabbri cherries are perfect for candy centers or enrobed in chocolate. The essence of these cherries makes them ideal for mixologists to use in innovative cocktails, especially the famous sparkling Amarena Amore Mio (made with Prosecco wine). They are equally appreciated and enjoyed as a delicious topping for gelato, ice cream, cheesecake and desserts, as well as in a multitude of savory dishes and preparations.

Whether you are creating a new recipe or just spooning them out of their beautiful opaline vase, Amarena Fabbri cherries will make any dessert or dish a memorable experience—one that is authentically Italian.

Inquiries for Amarena Fabbri or other Fabbri products can be made by emailing or by calling 718.764.8311.

Wicked Jack’s Tavern True Jamaican Rum Cakes from Aroma Ridge

AromaRidge-GBSRum lovers and cake lovers alike will fall for the exquisite, rich, full taste of Wicked Jack’s Tavern True Jamaican Rum Cakes. Carefully crafted recipes derived from generations of Jamaican tradition have produced a rum cake so flavorful and so powerful that it has quickly gained a reputation as the best tasting rum cake available anywhere. Moist, buttery texture and a rum-soaked glaze add delicious detail that make all other rum cakes walk the plank.

Wicked Jack’s Tavern True Jamaican Rum Cakes are baked in four distinct and unforgettable flavors, with the standout being Chocolate Rum. Each flavor has its own unique taste characteristics, but all feature the unmatched flavor of true Jamaican Rum.

Wicked Jack’s Tavern True Jamaican Rum Cakes are available in 4-ounce, 20-ounce and 33-ounce sizes. The company also offers up a line of hand-roasted coffees.

For more information, call 770.421.9600 or 800.JAVA.123. You can also find out more about the company at

Price’s Fine Chocolate from Sweet Shop USA

FINAL BOX TO PRINTWith a century of sweet perfection under its belt, Price’s Fine Chocolates is commemorating its centennial anniversary with the brand’s newly updated look and expanded 2013 product line. In honor of the brand’s 100 years in the confectionery trade, favorites including Annaclairs® and Pecan Brags® have been modernized with a sophisticated new package design and delicious product images. Furthermore, candy lovers can now enjoy the latest introductions to the Price’s family, which include White Pretzels, Milk Chocolate Pretzels, Milk Chocolate Covered Swiss Mints and Chewy Pralines.

Standouts in the Price’s Fine Chocolates product line include Annaclairs (sweet vanilla cream centers rolled in pecans and dipped in milk or dark chocolate), Milk Chocolate Pecan Brags (milk chocolate, caramel and pecan halves), Chocolate Peppermints, White Pretzels and Milk Chocolate Covered Swiss Mints.

For more information on Price’s Fine Chocolates, contact Sweet Shop USA at 800.222.2269. Also, visit the company online at

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