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Specialty Food Foundation Announces Embrace Hunger Relief Day

The Specialty Food Foundation is staging its first-ever volunteer event, Embrace Hunger Relief Day. On October 10, 2014, specialty food professionals across the U.S. will volunteer at local anti-hunger organizations to support the Foundation’s mission to help reduce hunger and increase food recovery.

The Foundation, established this year by the Specialty Food Association, has partnered with anti-hunger organizations in Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle to organize specific volunteer events. They include re-packs of bulk produce donations and assembling grocery boxes to deploy to a network of local food pantries and high-need schools.

Specialty Food Association members who are already involved in anti-hunger initiatives are encouraged to volunteer on October 10 at the organizations where they currently have a connection.

“We are harnessing the power of our members and their communities to raise awareness and take direct action to help address the continuing cycle of hunger in the U.S.,” says Ron Tanner, Vice President of Philanthropy, Government and Industry Relations for the Specialty Food Association.

For more information on Embrace Hunger Relief Day, click here.

Mamma Chia Enters the Snack Bar Category

Mamma Chia has now introduced the Chia Vitality Bar.

The new, organic bars lovingly combine nutrient-rich chia seeds with deep, rich dark chocolate, crunchy nuts, ripened fruit and sweet organic honey making this bar a truly delicious, anytime snack. The Chia Vitality bar is perfect for runners, bikers, yogis, and other athletes as well as anyone else seeking a nutritious boost to their day. Each bar delivers 1,000 mg of Omega-3s, as well as protein, fiber and more to provide vitality and energy to fuel your soul’s purpose.

Mamma ChiaWith a suggested retail price of $1.79, the Chia Vitality Bars are available in four mouth-watering flavors: Coconut Almond & Dark Chocolate with Chia; Peanut & Dark Chocolate with Chia; Cherry & Dark Chocolate with Chia; and Blueberry & Dark Chocolate with Chia. The new bars, along with all Mamma Chia products, are non-GMO, gluten free, vegan, kosher and USDA-certified organic.

Chia seeds are the richest plant-based source Omega-3s on the planet. An excellent source of dietary fiber, complete protein and antioxidants, both the Maya and Aztecs held this ancient seed in high esteem for increasing vitality and strength.

“Our new, organic Chia Vitality Bars are a delicious way to enjoy all of the nutritional benefits of chia in the convenience of a bar,” said Janie Hoffman, Mamma Chia Founder and Chief Executive Officer, and author of “Chia Vitality and “The Chia Cookbook.” “We’re thrilled to answer our customers’ requests for more organic chia snacks and tasty chia bars.”

Click here to read more about snack foods and here to read about other gluten-free products. You’ll find more vegetarian and vegan products here.

Fairway Market Names Jack Murphy, Co-Founder Of Fresh Fields, As CEO

Jack Murphy, a seasoned retail executive with strong experience in specialty food retailing, has been named Chief Executive Officer of Fairway Group Holdings Corp. Murphy was a co-founder of natural foods grocer Fresh Fields, Inc. before it was sold to Whole Foods, Inc., and most recently he served as Chief Executive Officer of Earth Fare, Inc., an organics and natural food chain with locations in the Southeast and Midwest.

“We believe that Jack brings very strong leadership to Fairway, and possesses highly relevant marketing and merchandising skills that are complementary to our organization,” said Charles Santoro, Chairman of Fairway Market. “Jack has developed and implemented business strategies for unique and highly differentiated brands, and brings great enthusiasm, perspective and leadership to the company.”

“I am very excited to lead this iconic food retailer known for its longstanding and unwavering commitment to providing a huge selection of high quality foods at great values to its millions of customers. Fairway Market is a true industry leader in innovative and exciting foods of all types. I’m honored to join this very special retail company and look forward to working with the entire Fairway Market team,” Murphy said.

In addition to co-founding and serving as Chief Operating Officer of Fresh Fields and as CEO of Earth Fare, Mr. Murphy was an Operating Partner at McCown Deleeuw & Co., the private equity firm that owned the 24 Hour Fitness chain; and a Vice President of Operations at Purity Supreme Supermarkets.

Bill Sanford, who was appointed Interim Chief Executive Officer in February while the company undertook a search for a new CEO, has decided to leave the company to pursue other interests.  Sanford joined the company in 2008 as Chief Administrative Officer and then served as Chief Financial Officer and President before becoming Interim CEO.  Santoro added, “Bill has made significant contributions as a member of Fairway’s management team for the last six years, and we greatly appreciate his leadership and commitment throughout his time at Fairway.”

Gluten Free Spice Blends from Virtuous Living

Virtuous Living seeks to make gluten-free living more enjoyable by manufacturing products, starting with a line of spice blends, that provide for a more healthful, flavorful and fulfilling gluten-free lifestyle. Virtuous Living spice blends are certified gluten-free, kosher, halal and organic.

Love is a robust blend that gives great flavor to every dish and can be used to season poultry, fish, beef or vegetable dishes. Faith is a blend of rich spices and ingredients that adds holiday flavor to cakes, pastries, and tea. It also tastes great in oatmeal. Hope adds gluten free, salt free flavor to any meal with an all-purpose blend that’s great on poultry, fish, beef or vegetables.


DeeBee’s Organics’ Tea Pops Nears 500-Store Milestone


DeeBee’s Organics’ TeaPops have undergone a massive expansion since the product’s official launch in August 2013. Once only sold in a local grocer in Victoria, B.C., TeaPops are now a staple in retailers across North America. Having recently entered the US, the family-owned brand nears its 500-store milestone – with no sign of product demand subsiding.

“It’s absolutely surreal,” says Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker, CEO and Founder of DeeBee’s Organics. “Just four months ago, we were in approximately 150 stores and now we’ve more than doubled that number. Thanks to our loyal fans, DeeBee’s TeaPops are in a rapid ascent – it’s been less than a year and we’re in close to 500 stores in North America… it’s more than I could’ve ever imagined!”

Laslo-Baker, Greg Hicklin, Nestlé’s former Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Business Development, and the DeeBee’s team collectively drive the brand’s marketing. This collaborative nature is a key component to TeaPops’ meteoric rise.

DeeBee’s TeaPops made its debut in the mega retailer, Whole Foods, earlier this year and are now popping up in stores from coast to coast. TeaPops are the world’s first certified non-GMO, organic, kosher, vegan and gluten-friendly tea-based treat, recognized as a one-of-a-kind product that suits many different lifestyles.

“We’re in several states just south of the Canadian border – Florida, Indiana, New York, Michigan, to name a few. We’ll be launching in California in September, just as we race towards our milestone!” adds Laslo-Baker. “Educating people on making healthy food choices is a passion of mine, but to see it advance into a nutritional movement makes me feel like we’re making a real difference.”

In Canada, TeaPops are found in Whole Foods, Thrifty Foods, Choices Markets and Le Couffin Bio. With a growing fan base, the healthy frozen treat is transforming the way families in North America view health and nutrition.


4th One World Award and 4th Lifetime Achievement Award Presented

“For decades and way beyond the Demeter movement, the Frey family farm has been an excellent example for economic sustainability, a concerted farming approach and a loving, caring relationship with nature.” With these words the OWA jury congratulated the Frey family on winning the OWA Silver Medal that is endowed with 2,500 Euro. Thirty-four years ago, Beba and Paul Frey started their Demeter winery which was the first organic winery in the USA. Today 30 family members coordinate the biodynamic cultivation and manage the self-sufficient farm. With success: their wines are internationally acclaimed and it was the Frey family that marketed the first sulfite-free organic wine of the world. Today, three thirds of the farm area is a designated nature preserve providing habitats for numerous plant species and wild animals.

The OWA Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to organic pioneer Fred Kirschenmann from the USA by IFOAM Executive Director Markus Arbenz and Percy and Louise Schmeiser. They stressed Kirschenmann’s tireless effort for farmers’ interests and his commitment for organic agriculture at the political and academic level. Being an internationally recognized leader, he is an impressive example for the sustainable effects that lifelong commitment can achieve.  He was actively involved in the foundation of the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society and the international certification agency Farm Verified Organic Inc. In 1995, Fred Kirschenmann’s farm was featured in the award-winning documentary “My Father`s Garden.” Currently he shares an appointment as Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. He is President of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture at Pocantico Hills, where he explores how rural and urban communities can work together to develop a more resilient, sustainable agriculture and food system.

This year’s OWA Gold Award was presented to two winners: the South Korean Hansalim Federation and the Timbaktu Collective fromIndia. Next to the Frey family additional OWA Silver Medals went to organic pioneer and activist Ibrahima Seck from Senegal, Biovega from Croatia as well as scientist and activist Professor Rita Schwentesius from Germany/Mexico.

For more information about the OWA:

About the One World Award (OWA)

In 2008 organic pioneer Joseph Wilhelm, founder and liable shareholder of Rapunzel Naturkost, initiated the international OWA award. The OWA honors individuals, projects and innovative ideas that make the world a better and more just place thanks to their positive ecological, economic and social impact. The winner of the OWA Gold receives a cash prize of 25,000 Euro and the winners of the OWA Silver award receive 2,500 Euro each. The prize money is donated by Rapunzel Naturkost. Partner and patron of the OWA is the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM). The OWA is presented every two years.

Robert A. Sigel named President of Associated Food Stores

Associated Food Stores, LLC has appointed Robert A. Sigel to the position of President. Sigel, who started his career at a family-owned business, has over 35 years of experience in the food industry including a long and successful tenure as the CEO of Millbrook Distribution Services. He is also a Director of Associated Food Store Holdings, LLC and an Operating Executive at AUA Private Equity.

Associated Food Stores is a portfolio company of AUA Private Equity Partners, supplying hundreds of independently-owned supermarkets throughout ConnecticutNew Jersey, and the New York metropolitan area. As President, Sigel will report to the Board of Directors and be responsible for the overall management of the business.

Andy Unanue, Managing Partner of AUA and Chairman of Associated Food Stores, LLC, said, “We are very pleased to have someone of Bob’s caliber and experience at Associated. The breadth of his experience in leading family owned, publicly held, and private equity backed businesses in the supermarket industry will be instrumental as the company  continues to grow its store banners and its market share in the New York tri-state area.”

“Associated Food Stores has a long history of providing value added services enabling independent supermarket owners to successfully grow their businesses. I look forward to working with our store owners, suppliers, and associates as we embark on our mission of expanding our services and our store concentration in the New York Metro area and beyond,” said Sigel, incoming President of Associate Food Stores, LLC.

Robert Sigel – President, Associated Food Stores, LLC
Most recently Sigel has been an Operating Executive at AUA Private Equity Partners. He started his career at Millbrook Distribution Services, a value added distributor of health, beauty care, general merchandise, and specialty food products founded by his father in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was instrumental in helping to rapidly grow the business, which became one of the largest distributors of its kind in the Northeast. He also played a key role in the sale of Millbrook to McKesson Corporation and ultimately became president and chief executive officer of McKesson’s Service Merchandising Division.

When McKesson decided to focus strictly on health care-related businesses in the late 1990s, Sigel worked with an investment partner to purchase Millbrook from McKesson. His vision was to grow the specialty food portion of the business, as well as to vertically integrate the company by acquiring food brands. Mr. Sigel and his partners formed a branded food group and eventually bought Manischewitz®, Guiltless Gourmet®, and Rokeach®.

In 2007, Sigel led the successful sale of Millbrook to United Natural Food (UNFI), where he held the titles of president and CEO of Millbrook, and was named an executive officer of UNFI and president of specialty distribution. Sigel assisted in the transition and worked on the integration of Millbrook into UNFI Specialty before retiring from the company in 2008. He then established R.A. Sigel and Company to acquire, invest in and consult to branded food businesses.

Sigel graduated from Bowdoin College with a BA in Economics, and the Whitman School at Syracuse University with an MBA in Accounting and Finance.

Which Mac & Cheese Brand Just Got Sold? It Wasn’t Amy’s!

Social media and phone lines were buzzing last week when news broke that Annie’s had sold to food giant General Mills. Customers were confused about whether it was Annie’s or Amy’s that had been purchased.

“It was definitely not Amy’s,” said Andy Berliner, co-founder of Amy’s Kitchen. A sigh of relief came from Amy’s fan base as the confusion was cleared and they were reassured that Amy’s will continue to produce their organic and non-GMO favorites as always.

While dozens of natural food brands have been acquired by global corporations eager to corner the growing organic market, Amy’s is one of a handful of privately held, family-owned major organic food brands left—along with Nature’s Path, Lundberg RiceClif Bar, and Organic Valley.

“We love to feed people. That is our passion. We also find it very satisfying to make foods for people with special dietary needs,” says Rachel Berliner, company co-founder. The 26-year-old company remains committed to making its delicious mac & cheese (of which there are seven different varieties), as well as over 250 other foods from scratch in its own kitchens.

In the midst of a shifting industry, Amy’s is staying true to its founding vision. Old fashioned? Maybe. Still cooking? Definitely.

Albertsons and Safeway Name Senior Leadership Team for Appointment Upon Completion of Proposed Merger

“We’re drawing on the strong talent within both companies to build an innovative, customer-focused and growth-driven company,” said Safeway President and Chief Executive Officer,Robert Edwards, who will serve as the combined company’s president and CEO.  “We are confident in this team’s ability to build a great company that’s positioned to win over the long term by earning the loyalty of grocery shoppers in every market we serve and delivering superior operational and financial results.”

After regulatory approval and closing of the transaction, the new company will have the following leadership team:

  • Bob Gordon, Executive Vice President & General Counsel
  • Shane Sampson, Executive Vice President, Marketing & Merchandising
  • Andy Scoggin, Executive Vice President, Human Resources, Labor Relations, Public Affairs & Government Affairs
  • Jerry Tidwell, Executive Vice President, Supply Chain & Manufacturing
  • Lee Wilson, Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer
  • Bob Dimond, Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, reporting to Wilson
  • Justin Ewing, Executive Vice President, Corporate Development & Real Estate, reporting to Wilson
  • Barry Libenson, Interim Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer, reporting to Wilson.  Libenson is expected to be with the new company through March 2015, at which time a successor will be named.
  • Wayne Denningham, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, South Region
  • Justin Dye, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, East Region
  • Kelly Griffith, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, North Region

The new company will be comprised of three regions and 14 retail divisions. The company will keep the focus and financial responsibility at the division level, but take full advantage of the expertise, vision and core capabilities of the corporate team.  The 14 divisions will be supported by corporate offices in Boise, Idaho, Pleasanton, California, and Phoenix, Arizona.

The division presidents for the new company, who will report to the chief operating officer for their respective regions, will be:

  • Dennis Bassler, Portland Division, North Region
  • Paul McTavish, Denver Division, North Region
  • Susan Morris, Intermountain Division, North Region
  • Tom Schwilke, Northern California Division, North Region
  • Dan Valenzuela, Seattle Division, North Region
  • Shane Dorcheus, Southwest Division, South Region
  • Scott Hayes, Southern Division, South Region
  • Sidney Hopper, Houston Division, South Region
  • Lori Raya, Southern California Division, South Region
  • Robert Taylor, United Division, South Region
  • Steve Burnham, Eastern Division, East Region
  • Jim Perkins, Acme Division, East Region
  • Jim Rice, Shaw’s Division, East Region
  • Mike Withers, Jewel-Osco Division, East Region

No banner changes are planned.

“We know the best way to grow our business is to have the highest quality fresh departments, lower prices, clean, well-stocked stores and the best customer service in the market,” said Bob Miller, Albertsons’ current CEO, who will become Executive Chairman of the combined company upon completion of the transaction.  “Our teams will focus on delivering what customers want locally, and we will give our store teams more flexibility to make decisions that are right for their neighborhoods.  The division teams will have the responsibility to have the right assortment for their markets.”

Safeway shareholders approved the proposed merger agreement on July 25, under which AB Acquisition LLC, an affiliate of Albertsons, will acquire all outstanding shares of Safeway.  The transaction is under review by the Federal Trade Commission and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year, pending FTC approval.


Options for Dietary Restrictions Abound at #ExpoEast

Natural Products Expo East opened this morning in Baltimore, Maryland with vendors offering everything from gourmet dog snacks to organic ethically produced and sourced anything at all that you might want to eat yourself. Among the offerings are, of course, any number of products designed to meet the needs of consumers observing a gluten-free diet, and the vendors’ interest in the category this year indicates that the trend is showing no sign of fading away just yet. New this year are a plethora of options in foods for consumers who have multiple dietary restrictions. As an example, ohso Good for you chocolate provides the consumer with 100% of their daily probiotics in a 70-calorie chocolate bar that’s also gluten free, dairy free and nut free. The bar’s probiotics are microencapsulated, so they’re protected from stomach acids, and are three to four times as likely to survive to replenish intestinal flora as a serving of milk or yogurt, the company says. See it in booth #4811 at Expo East or visit

Also checking off multiple boxes for those with dietary restrictions is a line of boxed mac and cheese-style dinners that are gluten free and dairy free. The company’s pastaríso Dairy Free Mac & Cheddar Style Sauce product, for example, is not just dairy free, it’s also vegan and free from wheat, gluten, soy, eggs and nuts. As you’d expect, it doesn’t taste like a full-on cheesy, creamy pasta dinner, but it’s certainly reminiscent of those flavors, and it doesn’t taste at all like cardboard. Taste it at booth #726 or visit for more information.

Traderspoint Creamery brought the yogurt recognized as the country’s best at the 2014 American Cheese Society competition. Based in Indiana, the company sources its milk from 100-percent grass-fed cows on its own farm and from a nearby coop of Amish farmers and packages the yogurt in single-serving glass cups. See them in booth #912 at the show.

thinkThin Lean Protein.& Fiber™ Bars is offering two limited edition flavors for fall: Dark Chocolate Peppermint and Pumpkin Spice. Each bar has only 150 calories, and both flavors are gluten free, non-GMO and kosher dairy. Taste them in booth #1230 or visit

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