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Specialty Egg Market Continues to Grow Despite Label Confusion


By David Bernard


SpecialtyEggs1-MW for webSometimes free-range eggs are not really so free range after all. While the growing specialty egg industry has advanced animal welfare and supplied retailers with more nutritious, flavorful eggs to sell, it has also misled at times, and there continues to be confusion among consumers over the various types of eggs. With no legal standards as to what constitutes most of the main types of specialty eggs, including free-range, cage-free and pasture-raised, retailers can end up selling eggs laid by hens that are not treated as well as one might think.

The term “free-range” is generally taken to mean that hens have access to the outdoors. It does not necessarily mean, however, that the bird actually goes outdoors. “Free range often means there is just a small hole allowing passage from indoors to outdoors,” said Dan Brooks, Director of Marketing and Communications for Vital Farms, a national specialty egg producer based in Austin, Texas. “However, the birds are often given no encouragement to go outdoors, and the small hole inherently makes it difficult for the bird to get outside. Or a producer might let the birds outside, but only for a small amount of time each day.”

For many consumers, free-range is an attractive term that conjures images of wide open spaces and grass-covered hills where hens wander freely. However, that definition more closely applies to another type of specialty egg: pasture-raised. Vital Farms, the only third-party certified national producer of pasture-raised eggs, as defined by respected verifier Certified Humane, provides 108 square feet of outdoor space per bird. In addition, the company rotates hens between areas that contain fresh grass and feed. Unlike typical commodity egg-laying hens, the company’s birds are not treated with hormones or antibiotics.

Pasture-raised eggs provide a wealth of benefits for consumers. Compared to commodity eggs from caged hens, pasture-raised eggs have been demonstrated to provide more vitamin D (four times the amount), beta carotene (seven times), vitamin E (three times) and vitamin A (66 percent more). They may also contain 33 percent less cholesterol and 25 percent less saturated fat. According to Brooks, pasture-raised eggs taste better as well. “We get so many emails from customers where they say, ‘Thank you. This is the best egg I’ve ever tasted,’” he said.

In addition to pasture-raised and free-range eggs, there are also cage-free eggs, in which hens typically live indoors in a floor-based housing or aviary system, rather than in the small, two- to-three-bird cages typical of the commodity egg industry.

SpecialtyEggs2-MWStill, even within the three main categories of specialty eggs, there can be even further demarcations, such as organic and Non-GMO Project Verified eggs, as well as nutritionally fortified eggs. Through the use of specialized feed, nutritionally fortified eggs contain higher levels of one or more nutrients, such as omega fatty acids, protein, beta carotene, vitamin D, vitamin E, folate and various antioxidants. USDA organic, the only regulated category in the specialty egg industry, pertains mostly to the feed that is used to grow hens. The label means the producer uses feed that is non-GMO and has been grown or produced without the use of pesticides. Free-range and pasture-raised eggs can be certified as organic. Cage-free eggs cannot be certified in this way.

Whether it is because of the more humane treatment of hens, enhanced nutritional benefits or better flavor, consumers have spoken, boosting the specialty egg industry to roughly 10 percent of the larger $9.4 billion U.S. table egg market. This is double what the specialty egg market was just five years ago. There has been a particularly sharp increase over the last 18 months. This jump is partly due to an increase in the price of commodity eggs (attributed to higher grain prices). Now that consumers are absorbing less of a hit when they move up to specialty eggs, there appears to be a changing consumer mindset.

“Food isn’t just something that people are using for nutrition nowadays,” said Jasen Urena, Director of Specialty Eggs at NestFresh, a national specialty egg producer and distributor based in Fullerton, California. “It has actually become part of their value system. The animal welfare aspect of specialty eggs and the environmental sustainability aspect with organic and non-GMO – these are becoming hot topics to consumers. And this has caused amazing growth over the last 18 months.” According to Urena, some mass retailers on both coasts are seeing specialty eggs account for a whopping 30-35 percent of sales, up from 6-7 percent just five years ago.

NestFresh produces and distributes cage-free, free-range, pasture-raised, non-GMO and organic eggs, including nutritionally enhanced varieties, through its brands NestFresh, The Country Hen, Horizon Organic and a variety of retailer private labels. The company forgoes the use of hormones or antibiotics, as is typical of commodity egg producers. Its products are all certified as humane by several third-party verifiers.

Consumers are not the only ones driving the specialty egg trend, however, with state regulators getting into the game as well. Beginning in January, California will outlaw the use of conventional cages, although legal wrangling continues over whether the statute as written also bans larger, so-called “enriched” cages that hold 15-20 birds. Other states are considering similar laws.

While both consumer awareness and specialty egg sales are increasing, there appears to be much room for growth. At least 90 percent of domestic table eggs come from caged hens that average just 8.5 inches by 8.5 inches of living space. “Our research indicates that most consumers are simply not aware of this, and those that are do not support it,” said Jenni Danby, Marketing Director at The Happy Egg Co., a national specialty egg supplier based in San Francisco. “Consumer education is such a large part of what we do. For a bird with a 30-inch wingspan to have a space that is smaller than a piece of standard printer paper – we think consumers are entitled to know this.”

The Happy Egg Co. supplies free-range eggs from hens that do not receive antiobitics or hormones and are free to roam in grassy fields every day with at least 14 square feet of space per bird. This space allotment handily exceeds all current third-party free-range standards. The two-and-a-half-year-old company supplies over 4,000 retailers, and its products are all certified as humane by several third-party verifiers.

Some producers are finding that humane treatment of hens pays a production dividend. John Brunnquell, President of Warsaw, Indiana-based Egg Innovations has seen the benefits of moving from a commodity, caged production model to various levels of specialty production. After taking over his family’s egg farm following college, Brunnquell decided to transition to specialty eggs. “Every time we took another step forward in animal welfare, whether it was adding perches, letting the birds outside [or] expanding the outside area – every time we did this, our production went up,” he said.

Not only did Egg Innovations’ egg output increase, so did the quality. “We’ve seen deeper, darker yolks and improved shell strength, and we attribute this to a healthier bird” Brunnquell said. “Now on flavor, that’s obviously a subjective discussion, but it’s typical for consumers to come back to us and say, ‘These eggs taste different. They taste better.’” Egg Innovations is a national supplier of free-range and organic free-range eggs, including several types of nutritionally enhanced eggs. The company, which is preparing to launch a third-party certified pasture-raised egg, does not use hormones or antibiotics, and its products are certified as humane by several third-party verifiers.

This story was originally published in the December 2014 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.


Gourmet, Kitchenware Retailers Perfectly Positioned for Gift Basket Success


By Amber Gallegos

Gift baskets make for a great presentation and can be a visual summation of the possibilities within your retail store. A gift basket does not have to be expensive to be special or rewarding for the retailer who sold the basket as well as its giver and ultimate recipient.

DSC07189[Retailers] have access in their current store to so many wonderful and delicious products and a great supply, so there’s no reason for them to not combine them and make a multiple sale instead of making a lot of individual sales,” says Shirley George Frazier of Frazier has written two books and created a series of instructional DVDs on gift basket business and design. With her speaking engagements and business consulting, she has spent the last 24 years fully engrossed in the gift basket industry.

Frazier points to the inventory of gourmet and kitchenware retailers as cost saving in itself, since there is no need to purchase additional products to fill the baskets. Gourmet meal elements and snacks that are complementary to kitchenware are typically already at hand. Putting the gift basket together can be as simple as pairing an elegant colander with olive oil, pasta and sauce. Using the colander as the base eliminates the need for a basket as well. Just add a lovely bow for a thoughtful gift.

Think about the products themselves that retailers have and how baskets are not a requirement, especially for those who have culinary types of products,” says Frazier. “You have the woks and the bowls for mixing, pots and pans, anything with that cavity inside of it, whether it’s shallow or deep. You’re saving money right there by not buying baskets per se.”

Cuisipro ICSS Cone 3x3.6 HiResFrazier recommends retailers try focusing on a single kitchenware item and then adding more inexpensive edible products that fit together under a common theme. For example, pair Cuisipro’s Ice Cream Scoop and Stack with delicious sweet sauces and toppings in an ice cream bowl for an easy-to-make ice cream-themed basket.

Retailers can make their gift basket business even more budget-friendly by looking for savings on supplies. Collect the excess packaging materials that inventory arrives in. Packing paper can be wadded up to fill basket bases, and packaging shred can be reused. Cellophane that sometimes comes with packages can also be put to use again by shredding it in a regular office shredder and using it as a clear filler. Combine shredded cellophane with colored shred to instantly convey glamour.

DSC07182Small touches such as a decorative bow will go a long way in terms of presentation, Frazier says. However, this too is in area where retailers can save money and time. Rather than exerting the effort making custom bows by hand or teaching staff how to do so, premade pull bows can be used for an equally dramatic effect. “Doing this will save time and keep employees … on the selling floor instead of in the back room making bows and getting frustrated,” she said. “Making gift baskets is a mostly joyous occasion and certainly it’s joyous around the holidays, so you want everyone happy, including your staff. You can allow them to be creative but not have to learn a new skill on a temporary basis.”

Since presentation is everything, place an assembled gift basket next to the cash register, on display in a window or on a shelf to let customers know that it is an option, while also attracting more business. Doing so will give customers ideas about who they might like to give one to or prompt a conversation about further options.

Customers are looking for the wow factor in whatever they select … That’s not only for individuals, but for people who represent the corporate world,” says Frazier. “Once a representative sees a gift basket appropriate for their client, there’s a very good chance that they will want multiples of that same gift. So creating gift baskets and having them prominently on shelves, even at the cash register – if appropriate and there’s enough room – really encourages the customer and convinces them to speak with you, the retailer, about making duplicates. So that sells more inventory.”

This story was originally published in the November 2014 issue of Kitchenware News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.


Virginia Vacationers and Loyal Locals Alike Flock to TASTE


By Lucas Witman


When a retail store that has become a local institution goes up for sale, the thought of it changing hands can be a frightening one for a clientele that has grown to rely on it as a staple of their daily lives. And the pressure of maintaining continuity is likely to scare off many potential buyers, unsure if they are up to the task of becoming the caretakers of such an important symbol of the community. Luckily for the residents of and visitors to Coastal Virginia, however, the Pruden Family embraced this challenge when the local specialty food hub TASTE went up for sale in 2006. The family has not only been successful in protecting the retailer’s unique heritage, but also in growing the company into something bigger and better.

“Like most people that grew up around here, I had been a loyal TASTE fan my entire life,” said Jon Pruden, President and Co-owner. “I would grab TASTE sandwiches every weekend and enjoy them at the oceanfront with friends. That’s a ritual for people around here. When I heard through the grapevine that TASTE may be for sale, I jumped at the opportunity.”

TasteUnlimited1TASTE was originally founded by Peter Coe as a wine and cheese shop in Virginia Beach. Throughout the three decades Coe spent as the company’s owner, he was able to build the TASTE brand into a true specialty food experience. In 2006, Coe sold the business to the Pruden family. Jon Pruden’s father, also named Peter, had previously retired in 2000, after selling the family’s third generation ham curing business, and he welcomed the opportunity to come out of retirement and join the new company. Today, the company is truly a family affair, combining the talents of Peter, Jon, Jon’s brother Taylor and Jon’s wife Tracie.

Today, TASTE operates six locations in Coastal Virginia, including shops in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Newport News and Norfolk. There are also plans in the works for a seventh location in Suffolk, which will open in 2015. The stores have become go-to shopping destinations in their communities for those looking for specialty foods, prepared foods, beer and wine, desserts and more.

Among TASTE’s specialty food selections, by far the most popular among the stores’ customers are the company’s housemade and private label items. Shoppers have been flocking to TASTE for years to pick up the company’s locally famous house dressing. More recently, TASTE has garnered positive attention for its pimento cheese. In addition there is also a full TASTE lineup of packaged nuts, including 10 different nut varieties – perhaps the company’s top-selling specialty food offering.

TasteUnlimited2However, not every product sold at TASTE is made in-house or available as part of the company’s private label offerings. The company pays special attention to filling its shelves with unique local and regional products. “Beyond the products that carry our name, we’ve embraced everything local and just happen to be fortunate that we’re in such a vibrant food part of the country in eastern Virginia,” said Pruden. Particularly popular among TASTE shoppers are the hams from Edwards of Surry, Virginia Ham Company, granola from Good News Granola Company (Pruden calls it the best granola he has ever tasted), Fresh Batch Jams and the spreads from Durham, North Carolina-based Big Spoon Peanut Roasters.

Although the six TASTE locations offer a similar shopping experience, the Pruden family strives to give each store its own unique identity. “In terms of their product offerings, they are very similar, but each has its own unique footprint and store layout,” said Pruden. “That’s something we like. We like to have unique atmospheres at each location.” One store that is particularly special is the recently remodeled Bayville Farms location on Shore Drive in Virginia Beach. Located on the grounds of the now-defunct Bayville Dairy Farm, TASTE has truly embraced the surrounding landscape, constructing a singular barn-like structure for the store, adorned with natural reclaimed wood, barn doors and other place-specific reminders of bucolic living. In summer, customers can grab a sandwich or a scoop of gelato and wander out onto the picturesque grounds to sit at a picnic table and enjoy the scene.

TasteUnlimited3Operating in an area that sees a tremendous influx of tourists each summer presents TASTE with some unique opportunities. “From a tourist perspective, it’s great to be able turn them on to foods that they may have had no exposure to before, even specific food types like Surry country hams. A lot of people from the North may have never tried that before,” said Pruden. “People like to have something to take back home and give them something distinctive with a regional flavor to it. We do have a lot of housemade items and private label TASTE items and a rich array of locally produced gourmet food items.” In recent years, TASTE has taken advantage of its summer tourist business to help grow the company’s online retail presence. Visiting shoppers return to their homes around the country and visit the TASTE website to purchase items they miss from Virginia.

Still, TASTE does not rely on summer visitors as its only customer base, and the company has its share of loyal local shoppers as well. The Pruden family likes to reach out to locals with special events and classes that appeal to Virginia foodies. For example, the company operates a monthly Chef’s Table Cooking Series at its Norfolk location, where attendees have the opportunity to get up close and personal with well-known area chefs. And in the summer months, the music series at the Bayville Farms stores brings acoustic musicians to the grounds every Friday afternoon.

As the Pruden family finishes out its first decade as owners of TASTE, it is their goal to continue serving as an important part of their local community and to keep creating a unique shopping experience for their customers. “I think that TASTE is genuine and unique and multifaceted. It really is a true specialty food experience – not just a shopping trip or a trip to a restaurant,” said Pruden.


This story originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group. Read about other specialty foods retailers here



Navajo Nation Passes Junk Food Tax

First Nations Development Institute, a national Native American nonprofit organization that works to improve Native economies and communities, today sent its congratulations and appreciation to the Navajo Nation for passing – again – an increased sales tax on junk food sold on the reservation.

The added tax on junk food, as well as the elimination of sales taxes on healthy foods, were the key legislative priorities of the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance (DCAA).  Both bills – together called the Healthy Diné Nation Act of 2014 – were passed on January 30, 2014, but only the elimination of sales taxes on healthy foods survived and was signed into law.

The first time the junk-food tax passed, it was vetoed by the Navajo Nation president.  But after the Navajo Nation Council again passed the added tax last week, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly has signed the legislation. With today’s signing, both bills will now be law on the Navajo Nation. Now the Navajo Nation has become the first in the country on two fronts: 1) the first to eliminate a tax on local fruits, vegetables and water, aiming to increase access to fresh and healthy foods and, 2) passed a tax on junk food, including sugary beverages sold on the reservation, with revenue aimed at supporting health and wellness programs across the Navajo reservation.

“It has taken a long time, but we applaud the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance and appreciate its persistence, patience and great effort at getting these passed and signed, in what we believe to be the first special junk-food tax in both the U.S. and Indian Country, which makes it a trailblazing precedent as we attempt to address the root causes of diet-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease that are particularly rampant on reservations and in other Native American communities,” said First Nations President Michael E. Roberts. “We commend DCAA and the Navajo Nation for proactively exploring legislative efforts to combat these detrimental health issues troubling Navajo and other Indian communities.”

Public Criticism Steers FDA in Proposing Changes to Food Safety Modernization Act

By Lucas Witman


After receiving thousands of comments (including 15,000 unique responses to the Proposed Produce Safety Rule alone), the Food and Drug Administration recently released its Supplemental Proposed Rules for the pending Food Safety Modernization Act, and many stakeholders are still dissatisfied with how the Act is developing.

FSMA, first signed into law in 2011, was created as a mechanism for preventing foodborne illness in the United States by modernizing the regulatory framework under which both domestic and foreign food companies operating in this country are required to conform. The Act covers the establishment of mandatory preventive control standards and produce safety standards for food facilities, the mitigation of the risk of intentional contamination of the food supply and the maintenance of food importer accountability. Although lawmakers originally intended FSMA to be fully implemented just a couple of years after it was established, deadlines have been pushed back several times, and public commenting on the Act is ongoing.

After further consideration, and in response to comments it received from the public, the FDA has announced Supplemental Proposed Rules for FSMA in four key areas, including changes to the Foreign Supplier Verification Program, Preventive Controls for Human Foods, Produce Safety and Preventive Controls for Animal Food rules.

According to Clay Detlefsen, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Council for the International Dairy Foods Association, the most substantial of all FSMA rules for his industry is the Proposed Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food. Detlefsen calls the rule “HACCP on steroids,” referring to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system with which food companies are currently required to comply. The Preventive Controls for Human Food rule mandates that every food facility implement a written food safety plan that details how that facility is working to eliminate potential food hazards.

The FDA received 8,000 comments on the original Proposed Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food, and as a result, it is offering several alterations. According to the FDA, one of the most frequent comments it received regarding this rule concerned the fact that farms that pack and hold their own Raw Agricultural Commodities and food facilities that simply hold RACs for other farms are erroneously subject to the same food hazard requirements. Under the new Supplemental Proposed Rules, farms and facilities that hold RACs for other farms are not subject to the Preventive Controls Rule. In addition, the FDA has amended its definition of a “very small business,” to mean a business that has less than $1 million in total annual sales of human food, increasing the number of businesses that are exempt from complying with the Preventive Controls Rule.

For the first time, under the Supplemental Proposed Rules, the FDA is creating guidelines for a risk-based requirement for a written supplier verification program, with risks determined through appropriate activities, such as onsite auditing or sampling and testing. The FDA said that public comment generally demonstrated support for including a provision in FSMA that would require food companies to document and verify the safety of their domestic suppliers when potential hazards exist.

Regarding changes to the Proposed Rule on Foreign Supplier Verification Program, the original FSMA language was criticized for requiring domestic companies to conduct in-person audits of foreign facilities, a process that could be burdensome to many companies as well as difficult to implement at foreign facilities that might find themselves immediately host to a cavalcade of foreign inspectors. “Consumer groups want the boots on the ground in every facility,” said Detlefsen. “I frequently made the argument to the Food and Drug Administration – if that foreign supplier is supplying 500 importers, what’s it going to look like as far as how many people are going to have to go to that facility?”

In the Act’s new language, the importer will be tasked with determining appropriate verification activities and the frequency of such verification based on a risk evaluation. Possible verification activities may include annual onsite auditing, but it may also involve remote sampling and testing or some other activity. The one exception to this would be if the foreign supplier is controlling a known serious hazard, in which case annual onsite auditing will be mandatory.

Another criticism Detlefsen and others have of the original Proposed Rule on Foreign Supplier Verification Program concerns the fact that importers are tasked with controlling hazards at the level of the supplier. Detlefsen likens this requirement to a grocery store being required to document the safety of the food one’s customers are preparing. “If we were talking about ground beef, and the supplier was Safeway, and I was the customer, Safeway would have to come to me at least annually and get paperwork that basically said yeah, Clay Detlefsen – he’s cooking those burgers just fine,” he said. “That would be controlling the hazard. I think this is totally bizarre, and it’s going to cause a lot of friction.” The revised rule is more nuanced, requiring importers to consider risks on a case-by-case basis in determining appropriate supplier verification activities.

The lion’s share of FSMA public commentary centered on the Proposed Produce Safety Rule, where interested parties focused their criticisms on the microbial quality standards for agricultural water and the use of raw manure in agriculture. Regarding agricultural water, the original FSMA rules stated that farmers must demonstrate through extensive testing that water being used contains a statistical mean of no more than 126 Colony Forming Units of E. coli per 100 milliliters of water. In addition, the maximum allowable concentration in a single sample was limited to 235 CFU per 100 milliliters. After consideration, the FDA has revised these figures. The statistical mean requirement remains unchanged, but the single sample maximum allowable concentration requirement has been scrapped in favor of a new statistical threshold requirement whereby the mean average of the upper 10 percent of samples cannot exceed 410 CFUs per 100 milliliters.

The FDA has also amended its original requirement that farms test agricultural surface water every seven days during growing season, instead creating a tiered testing model. A farm will have to create a baseline through repeated testing over an initial two-year period, but after that, the farm will simply be required to fill out an annual verification survey to demonstrate safe water quality. The baseline must be reestablished through further testing every ten years.

The FDA’s treatment of how raw manure is to be used in agriculture has been a contentious piece of FSMA negotiations, with the agency clearly demonstrating a preference for the use of compost in agriculture over the use of manure. Under the original FSMA rules, farms would be required to wait a minimum of 9 months to harvest crops after raw manure had been applied to the field. Under the Supplemental Proposed Rules, however, FDA officials have admitted that more scientific testing is necessary before such a rule can be established. Officials have pledged to defer any decision on the 9-month interval issue until a comprehensive scientific study is conducted – a process that could take as much as five years.

“We’re going to try collectively across the produce community to address these concerns, and I think there is agreement across the board that composting is the way to go, but there are limitations to composting,” said Samir Assar, Director of the Produce Safety Staff in the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Stay tuned now. We are currently working on a framework, and we hope at some point soon we will be able to provide that framework.”

The deadlines for the final FSMA rules are now staggered throughout the second half of 2015 and the first half of 2016. On August 30, 2015, the FDA is scheduled to publish its final Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule. On October 31, 2015 the final Produce Safety and Foreign Supplier Verification Program Rules will be announced. The final Third-Party Accreditation rule is scheduled for March 31, 2016. And the Sanitary Transport Rule will be finalized on May 31, 2016. Larger farms and food companies will be required to comply with these rules within one year after they are published, but small businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees) would not be required to be in compliance for two years. Very small businesses with less than $1 million in annual revenues for food sales will be subject to modified preventive controls requirements and will not be required to comply with FSMA for three years.

For those companies hoping to begin preparations to be in compliance with FSMA rules, the task is currently somewhat complicated due to fluctuating requirements and the lack of a specific framework for demonstrating compliance. According to FSMA rules, preventive controls must be implemented by “qualified individuals,” but critics argue that this requirement itself presents a conundrum.

“[Qualified individuals] don’t exist,” said Dennis D’Amico, Assistant Professor in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources at the University of Connecticut. “We don’t have a training yet, so we have nothing to compare it to. Right now, there are no qualified individuals, by definition, because it has to be related to a standardized, accepted, recognized curriculum. And we don’t have that yet.”

D’Amico is currently working with both the FDA and the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute for Food Safety and Health as part of the newly created Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance, an organization tasked with creating training materials and courses that will educate people on how to implement FSMA rules in U.S. food production operations. When completed, the FSPCA curriculum will be publicly available online for use by anyone. The agency will also create FSPCA certificates, identifying those who go through the necessary training as “qualified individuals.”

“The Alliance, as it exists, is supposed to serve as a hub for preventive controls knowledge – a place where you guys can turn to with your questions. It’s also supposed to be a direct link between FDA and industry. So you don’t have to call the FDA. You can go right to the Alliance members,” said D’Amico. “We’re also charged with coming up with guidance for major industry sectors. The idea is to come up with industry-specific … hazards you should be looking for: These are some preventive controls that are common. This is how we verify those.”

D’Amico argues that even for smaller companies that do not have to comply with FSMA rules for several years or which may be exempt from certain rules altogether, it makes sense to think about getting into compliance as soon as possible. “Market demands are now requiring these types of plans anyway, so, although you might be exempt from the government, your market may demand it. Case in point: Whole Foods’ new push for third party audits is just one example. There’s going to be many markets that are going to have demands for food safety plans,” he said. “You also have to remember that FDA maintains the power to withdraw exemptions. If you’re suspected of a foodborne illness, they could withdraw your exemption. So you might want to be prepared if that exemption gets pulled.”

Those interested in commenting on the FDA’s FSMA Supplemental Proposed Rules can do so online at For more information on FSPCA, visit


This story originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group


Artisan Bistro Announces New Premium Frozen Burrito Line

Artisan Bistro, creator of modern organic frozen entrées, bowls and bakes, today announced its new line of artisan burritos, featuring a savory blend of high-quality sustainable  proteins, organic vegetables, grains and spices all wrapped in one-of-a-kind organic gluten-free tortillas.  Using sustainably-caught wild Alaskan salmon, antibiotic-free beef, free-range chicken and meatless ‘pork carnitas,’ the new burritos offer consumers a healthy and delicious lunch, dinner or snack.

“Many people are busy and barely finding time to eat on-the-run, so hand-held meal options have become wildly popular,” said Leo Griffin, Chief Executive Officer of Artisan Bistro Foods, Inc.  “To create our burritos, we took one of the nation’s favorite convenience foods and gave it our signature artisan upgrade with bold spices, clean proteins and organic whole grains and vegetables that consumers can feel good about eating and feeding their families.”

All Artisan Bistro Burritos are gluten free, contain at least 75 percent organic ingredients and have between 11- 14 grams of protein. The big, artisan-crafted 7-ounce burritos will be available in natural food stores and grocers nationwide in January, and have a suggested retail price of $3.79. Varieties include:

  • Beef, Jack Cheese & Ancho Chili – A classic Oaxacan-inspired mix made with organic brown rice, robust ancho chilis, red bell peppers, onions and antibiotic-free beef.
  • Chicken Tinga & Chipotle – A traditional Mexican-inspired wrap made with organic brown rice, onions, cilantro, smoky chipotle and all-natural chicken.
  • Wild Alaskan Salmon & Poblano – A uniquely delicious blend made with poblano peppers and wild Alaskan salmon, combined with organic brown rice, spinach and parsley.
  • Meatless Carnitas & Salsa Verde – A savory and flavorful combination made with meatless carnitas, tomatillos and onions.

 Artisan Bistro’s entire cast of nutritionally-rich frozen meals are made with delicious, non-GMO ingredients, like sustainably-caught wild Alaskan salmon, free-range chicken, premium organic vegetables and a variety of organic whole grains and legumes, including quinoa, lentils and garbanzo beans.  All dishes contain 70 percent or more organic ingredients and are gluten free to deliver wholesome, fresh and unique options for anyone seeking great-tasting alternatives to cooking or eating out. Artisan Bistro meals are available in natural food stores and grocers nationwide, including Whole Foods, Target, Safeway, Publix, Wegmans and Sprouts.  For more information, visit

10 Reasons to Send Gourmet News a Press Release

1. You have a new product to introduce.

2. You have a new employee to introduce.

3. You have won an award.

4. You have promoted an employee.

5. You have opened a new facility.

6. You have made a major charitable contribution.

7. You have achieved something you’re proud of and want to tell the world, even if nobody’s giving out awards for it.

8. You want to issue an open invitation for members of the specialty foods industry.

9. You have a worthy cause that you’d like to publicize.

10. Your competitors are sending their press releases to Gourmet News!

Address all press releases to Here are some tips to guide you through your press release.

Gourmet News is a publication of Oser Communications Group.


How to Get Your News into Gourmet News

The press release you send to Gourmet News doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy — in fact, the less fancy it is, the better — but there are a few things you can do to improve your chances that we’ll grab your item out of the avalanche of mail we receive and publish your item.

Never add emphasis by typing words entirely in upper case, LIKE THIS, or by capitalizing words in ways that don’t follow standard Associated Press style, such as: the Best and the Most Wonderful Product on the Planet! In general, you should capitalize your brand names, unless your brand is properly spelled in lower case only, but other attributes of your products should be typed in restrained lower case.

Be sparing with adjectives. Sure you want to describe your product in lush, sensuous terms, but remember that you’re not writing for consumers, and if you go overboard with your adjectives, most or all of them will just be deleted before publication, and if you make that too difficult, you run the risk that your article will simply be discarded.

Trademark registration notices are appropriate on the first mention of the registered item in the body of your copy. Trademark and registration symbols are never used in headlines and will be edited out after the first reference.

If your press release is about a product, include a suggested retail price and the quantity contained in the retail package.

Send your press release either in the body of an email or in an attached Word document. If you send it to us in a pdf file, we may not be able to extract the text, and in that case, we’re likely to discard the release rather than asking you to send it in a format we can use.

Attach a print-quality image to your email whenever you have one you can share. If you send multiple images, either attach them to separate emails or compress them with a file-zipping utility. Or let us know that you need to send multiple images and ask for transmission instructions.

That’s all there is to it! Send all press releases to And remember, we love to get your news and we love to share it with the world. Don’t be shy about sending us your news — just make it easy for us to share it!

Coco Polo Chocolate Now in Your Dekalb Farmers Market


Coco Polo is now offered for sale in Your Dekalb Farmers Market in Decatur, Georgia. Your Dekalb Farmers Market is a pioneer in fresh food distribution; receiving direct shipments of unique products from around the globe, without costly warehousing and distribution delays. The result is a collection of the highest quality, lowest cost, and largest variety of fresh and organic food products currently available.

“If you have not heard of them, they have quite a story of their growth….this family business was literally built by the hands of the community. Up to 100,000 customers per week have supported the store for over 40 years. It’s an honor to be included in their family of products,” says Diane Yamate, Co-Founder of Coco Polo. “They do all the things that we would like to see done in the natural community: simplicity, responsibility, and a commitment to health.”

Coco PoloCoco Polo offers a unique and healthy addition to the chocolate shelf. Unlike standard chocolates in dark colored packages, Coco Polo features bright, exciting packaging contrasted with gold that catches the eye while scanning the store aisle. These rich chocolate bars come in both Milk and Dark flavors with 13 rich varieties. Coco Polo’s seven dark chocolate bars are all vegan and include: 70% Dark, Elderberry, Cherry, Cocoa Nibs, Almond, Ginger, and Toasted Coconut Chia. Coco Polo also offers milk chocolate in the following varieties: 39% Milk, Almond, Cherry, Elderberry, Hazelnut, and Mango.

Already in Whole Foods Market, Mom’s Organic Market, Sprouts Farmer’s Market, and The Fresh Markets, Coco Polo aims to offer the most delicious, sugar-free, real chocolate available in traditional and brand new flavors.


Writing Effective Fancy Food Show Marketing Copy


By Lorrie Baumann, Editorial Director, Oser Communications Group

Here are some quick tips for writing marketing copy that will start your sales conversation with prospective buyers even before they reach your Fancy Food Show booth.


  1. Remember whom you’re writing for! When you’re writing marketing copy to place in Gourmet News or a flyer to hand out at your booth, you’re writing for your customers, not for the general public. That means that you can use jargon or terms of art that you wouldn’t expect members of the general public to understand. However, you should also keep in mind that even your customers might not be familiar with abbreviations and acronyms that are specific to your company. Don’t assume that everyone knows what you mean when you shorten or abbreviate your company name, for instance.


  1. But also remember that the ubiquity of the Internet means that anything you write might ultimately be seen by anyone. That means that you shouldn’t put anything in your marketing copy that could embarrass you or your company if it’s seen online.


  1. Keep in mind that your marketing copy for your Fancy Food Show exhibit should reflect your goals for the show. There are many ways to focus your article, but you should start by picking one point to focus on and sticking with that through your entire article.
    • If you’re there to sell a specific product or to introduce a new product or product line, keep your focus on that. Be sure to mention how your product is distinguishable from the many others on the market. If your product has certifications or verified dietary attributes, mention all of them.
    • If you’re there to introduce your company to prospective customers who may not know anything about you, consider making your article a profile of one of your company leaders, either your CEO or someone who will be physically present in your booth during the trade show. Keep in mind that specialty food retailers want to know the story behind your products so they can share that with their customers.
    • If you’re there to remind your customers that you value your relationship with them, consider making your article a case study about how you solved a problem for one of your customers. That’ll remind your other customers that you’ve been there for them too.


  1. Don’t forget to include a call for action. That means making sure that your article includes an invitation to stop by your Fancy Food Show booth during the show as well as contact information for how you can be reached after the show.


Finally, if you’re writing an article for insertion into Gourmet News, remember that Oser Communications Group has an experienced editorial staff ready to help you out. Whether you get stuck and need a friendly suggestion about how to get started or you’d like to have someone glance over your draft and give you suggestions about how to smooth out your article’s flow, a five-minute phone call to our editorial staff might save you hours of stress. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 520.721.1300 and ask for the editorial department.


Gourmet News is a publication of Oser Communications Group, and it’s not affiliated with either the Fancy Food Shows or the Specialty Food Association.


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