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AJ’s Fine Foods: Celebrating Every Season

By Lorrie Baumann

At home in the most beautiful desert environment on Earth and headquartered in one of the nation’s half-dozen largest cities, Arizona-based AJ’s Fine Foods is a gourmet and specialty retailer with a focus on fresh and freshly prepared foods. “Quality is paramount, and customer service is as well,” says Ike Basha, Director of Operations for AJ’s Fine Foods, the gourmet brand for Bashas’ Family of Supermarkets.

AJ’s Fine Foods operates 12 locations, all in Arizona—one in Tucson and 11 in the Phoenix metropolitan area. There are no immediate plans for further expansion, as the company readies itself to exit the reorganization process attendant on a 2008 bankruptcy. “The recovery is going incredibly well. We’re very blessed,” Basha says. “The support we’ve received from our vendor community is unparalleled.”

In general, AJ’s Fine Foods stores do not attempt to meet every market basket need for their guests, although there are a few locations that do provide the product range to serve primary shoppers. Instead, the company’s focus is specifically on gourmet and specialty fresh-prepared foods and high-quality indulgences, including produce and other perishables. There are full-service bakeries staffed with bakers, decorators and pastry chefs, wine cellars staffed with expert cellar masters, and complete floral departments staffed with floral teams that regularly supply weddings and local resorts. The company’s aim is to make each guest’s visit to AJ’s a total experience rather than just a shopping trip, says corporate Assistant Director Jayson Mead.

Mead was particularly excited at the time of this writing by plans for a September chain-wide celebration of southern Italian foods and culture. “We sent a team back to Italy to experience southern Italy and Sicily,” Mead says. “We went back to source products that won’t be found in the States. Our team visited 14 different cities.” The products they sourced during that trip included fresh-harvest vegetables, peppers, olive oils and balsamics, anchovies and seafood, chocolates and marinated onions. Some of those products will be familiar to AJ’s guests, but many of them will be new. “If you haven’t traveled to southern Italy, they’ll be unique flavors,” Mead says.

Introducing new products to AJ’s guests is the duty of team members across all of AJ’s departments. The stores’ staff members are trained in AJ’s Inspired Epicurean Hours, voluntary meetings that are scheduled about 10 times a year. The meetings feature a meal service that incorporates ingredients and seasonal pairings from the AJ’s sumptuous grocery pantry. Each of the team members tastes every dish and has the opportunity to taste the dish in a pairing. Staff members are then trained in suggestive selling techniques that invite AJ’s guests to consider some of those pairing options for themselves. “At our last event, about 140 of our members volunteered to spend their time to learn about our products,” Mead says.

Training at the Inspired Epicurean Hours frequently includes a presentation by an individual vendor invited to demonstrate the company’s product line and its uses. The vendor might teach how to use a chutney in different ways or how to use a product in a party dish. “Typically, we’ll focus on flavors that are seasonal,” Mead says. “We’re conscious that we don’t just show our members a line and never get back to it. We try to show specific seasonal uses for those products.”

The frequency of these training events reflects AJ’s intense focus on seasonality. The company works hard to keep guests coming back to its stores to see what’s new, even when they are not naturally reminded of the calendar’s progression in a Southwestern desert climate.

For example, during peach season, AJ’s procures peaches from different growing areas and brings them together inside the stores with displays of peach sauces, desserts and chutneys. In celebration of peaches, the company’s produce buyers have gone so far as to adopt peach trees from one of their growers. “We sent our produce managers to hand-harvest those peaches,” Mead says, adding that the trip combined food fun with the hands-on educational experience of being among the trees and learning from the grower. “I’m sure there was some food and wine pairing along the way,” Mead says, chuckling.

Year-round, AJ’s guests can expect to be surrounded by an atmosphere that invites anticipation for the pleasures of the table. Stores feature bistros with kitchens open to the sales floor, offering dishes that showcase items from the AJ’s grocery pantry. Tuesday is Taco Tuesday, and certified chefs set up a station where they prepare tacos to order along with other dishes like pollo asado and carne asada. On Pasta Night, guests can order a dish with alfredo sauce or a beef bolognese dish. “The chef will actually prepare that entree right there on the sales floor,” Mead says. If the chef makes a dish with a featured ingredient, such as a grapeseed oil, guests will probably find a display of the ingredient along with signage describing other uses for the product and takeaway recipe cards for the chef’s dish.

Most AJ’s locations also have a brick pizza oven, Basha says. “It’s an outstanding pizza, with premium meats and cheeses and sauce.” However, AJ’s prepared food offerings do not end with pizza and pasta. “We do sushi too, with the fish we receive daily,” says Basha. “We have a sushi bar in most of our locations.”

The excellence of the Seafood Grottos in each store is another point of particular pride for Basha. Seafood is delivered to each AJ’s Fine Foods location, daily. “Our seafood deliveries are more frequent than the best restaurant in the state in order to provide quality ingredients and incomparable freshness,” he says. “Obviously, seafood is highly perishable, and we like to bring it in fresh and sell it fresh.”

Seafood has its seasons too, and AJ’s honors that with the same devotion to seasonality that applies to the rest of the store. During salmon season, the store’s focus is on king salmon. “To our knowledge, we’re the only ones in the state who bring in the Copper River King Salmon,” Basha says. “You don’t generally find king salmon in restaurants. It’s a premium product, and we treat it in a premium manner.”

Guests who want to make sure that they’re pairing that special salmon with the perfect wine can step down the aisle to the stores’ wine cellars. There they will find an expert to advise them. “Our focus in our wine cellars is in finding you what you’re looking for and, as our relationships with our customers develop, introducing them to wines and varietals and styles that will complement their enjoyment of fine wines,” Basha says.

The primary focus of AJ’s Fine Foods comes down to offering fine ingredients from folks who know and appreciate their products and are eager to share their experience with guests who are hungry for learning as well as for food. “In all of our locations, we’re very fortunate to have the members that we do,” Basha says. “Really, at the end of the day, it’s our people that make all the difference in the world.”

As Truffle Season Begins, U.S. Consumers Line Up for Luxury

“There is something so beautiful about not trying to outshine the product.”

– Squirrel Brand President and CEO J. Brent Meyer

By Lucas Witman

Each October, foragers in France, Italy and a handful of other European locales head into the wilderness, armed with a sack and a shovel and hoping to procure one of the rarest and most luxurious ingredients in the culinary world: the white truffle. Often accompanied by a specially trained dog, these modern foragers harvest truffles today in much the same way as adventurer-gourmands have done for centuries, navigating the forest floor and carefully digging along the roots of oak and poplar trees in search of the elusive, highly prized edible fungus.

It is difficult to imagine a specialty food product that originates in a peasant’s sack on a French hillside and eventually finds its way into the finest gourmet shops in the world’s biggest cities. However, this is precisely what is happening today, as foodies across the globe are purchasing fresh truffles and truffle products that find their way to market in this way.

The truffle has long been a popular ingredient in Italian and French cuisine, but in recent years, there has been an explosion in interest in the product within the American culinary market as well. Once reserved in the United States only for the very wealthy, today one can find truffle products in most grocery stores and specialty shops, where truffle oil, truffle paté, truffle cheese and truffle butter have developed a loyal following.

The mad dash by restaurants and specialty food companies to procure truffles begins every October 1, when the season for white truffles officially begins. This is the most highly prized variety of truffles, as they are the rarest and can never be cultivated. Truffle season carries on into the fall, as the black truffle becomes available in mid-November. In Europe, the harvesting season for truffles lasts until March. Buyers are often willing to pay anywhere from $300 to $1,500 for a single pound of the delicacy.

“It’s the rarity,” said Vincent Jeanseaume, Vice President of Sales for Sabatino Tartufi, explaining why people are willing to pay such high prices for this unique ingredient. “It takes a lot of effort, a lot of human resources to harvest a few kilos of truffles, and we might have to buy 10 kilos of truffles to sell two or three decent kilos.”

Founded in Italy in 1911, Sabatino Tartufi has become one of the largest distributors of fresh truffles in the world and the single largest importer of truffles into the United States. In addition to fresh truffles, Sabatino produces a wide array of truffle products, including oils, vinegars, sauces, salts, butters and prepared meals. All of the company’s products sold in the United States are made with authentic imported Italian ingredients and manufactured in a state-of-the-art 42,000-square-foot processing facility in West Haven, Conn.

According to Jeanseaume, Sabatino Tartufi sets itself apart from other companies in the U.S. truffle product market primarily because of the quality and freshness of its offerings. “We bring products that don’t get any fresher,” he said.

Still, Jeanseaume acknowledges that marketing truffles and truffle products in the United States is a completely unique enterprise, and Sabatino Tartufi has had to dramatically rethink its business model in reaching out to a U.S. consumer base.

“We very much have been able to adapt to the demand of the U.S. market,” said Jeanseaume. “We have that sort of flexibility and think-outside-the-box mindset that maybe the older Italian and French companies don’t have. Sometimes you need to shake things up and do things a bit different. We make certain things different here than we do in Europe.”

One of the ways that Sabatino Tartufi has been successful in reaching a U.S. clientele that is particularly hungry for luxury products is to focus on fine packaging. “We have some very consumer friendly packaging, and we try to give the brand a very unique luxury look to it,” said Jeanseaume. “We use the finest bottle companies out there. Being that we process truffle products—it’s not a cheap product—our customers expect this kind of packaging.”

However, simply re-envisioning the packaging was not enough to bring Sabatino Tartufi products into the shopping basket of the average U.S. consumer. For that, the company had to develop new products that specifically target this market. Sabatino Tartufi came out with truffle couscous, risotto, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese that were specifically designed for American palates. “Basically the idea is to bring to the average consumer a very easy-to-prepare gourmet meal,” said Jeanseaume. “The truffle mac and cheese is not something that would be popular in Italy, but it works here.”

Sabatino Tartufi is not the only company working to innovate the American truffle marketplace and bring truffle products into the kitchens of average food-loving consumers throughout the country. A number of specialty food companies are working truffles into their product lines in particularly creative ways.

Squirrel Brand may be best known as a high end producer of nut products for the specialty food industry, but the company is no stranger to the truffle trend. The company uses truffles in two of its products: Italian Black Truffle Almonds and Italian Black Truffle Almond Butter. A true culinary innovator, Squirrel Brand may in fact be the only gourmet company marketing a truffled nut butter in the United States.

“Let’s just say I have a muse,” said Squirrel Brand President and CEO J. Brent Meyer, explaining where the idea for the truffled almond butter originated. “My wife inspires many of our ideas. It simply made sense, and we did it. We have our Italian Black Truffle Almonds trademarked, so why not extend it further.”

Meyer recommends that consumers use his company’s truffled almond butter in any number of culinary capacities. It is delicious by itself, slathered on a piece of crusty bread, or it can be used as an ingredient in recipes, imparting a flavor that particular compliments arugula, figs and other items. However, Meyer cautions that because the product has such a unique flavor, it is best to keep things simple. “There is something so beautiful about not trying to outshine the product,” he said.

As Squirrel Brand has slowly introduced its Italian Black Truffle Almond Butter to retailers and consumers, Meyer jokes that it has often been a challenge getting people to understand the product. “If people like truffles, the response has been energetic and very positive,” he said. However, we get the occasional person who sees the word ‘truffle’ and they think we are sampling chocolate truffles. Needless to say, they [are] in for a surprise.”

For Meyer, when it comes to successfully marketing truffles and truffle products in the United States, the answer ultimately comes down to finding the right audience with an appetite for the one-of-a-kind flavor of this luxury ingredient. “We believe people either get it, or they don’t,” he said. “Fortunately, most folks in our industry do get it.”



Record Setting 2013 SFF Show Brings the Buyers Back to NYC

By Lucas Witman

Returning to New York City’s renovated Jacob K. Javits Convention Center this year after a two-year stint in Washington, D.C., the 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show exceeded all expectations, breaking records both for exhibit space and the number of attendees. The 59th Summer Fancy Food Show featured 2,500 exhibitors from the United States and around the world, presenting more than 180,000 specialty foods and beverages.

“It’s a great show for us,” said Lonnie Williard, Vice President of Marketing for Mediterranean Snacks. “I think that the amount of traffic was very strong. There was a solid flow of interested buyers and conversations throughout the couple days. It was a very productive show.”

At this year’s show, Mediterranean Snacks unveiled its new Tapaz 2 Go line, a collection of healthy, convenient, gluten-free, shelf stable and ready-to-eat mini meals in three varieties: classic hummus, roasted garlic and red pepper. Each Tapaz 2 Go package includes the company’s popular Lentil Crackers along with a substantial portion of hummus. Williard expressed her delight at how strongly the new product line was received at the show.

“We were just inundated with interest in Tapaz 2 Go mini meal solution. I think it’s because it’s shelf stable and doesn’t require the cost of a refrigerated supply chain,” Williard said. “The interest that we saw was from a very broad range.”

In addition to generally driving up interest in Tapaz 2 Go, the show and the conversations that took place during it were also productive for Mediterranean Snacks in helping the company think about how it will market the product line going forward. According to Williard, these conversations brought up marketing possibilities the company had not previously considered. She said, “[The show] definitely confirmed some of the ideas, and then on top of that it gave us some new ideas of where [Tapaz 2 Go] could be very well in demand—for instance in vending machines. We hadn’t thought of that. There’s a lot of entrepreneurial spirit here that takes it even further.”

Mary Waldner, founder of Mary’s Gone Crackers, expressed relief that the 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show was so well attended, apparently signaling a return to form after the brief economic downturn she has observed over the past few years. “I thought it was really good. I know last year things really picked up from the slump in the industry. I thought this year really maintained that same energy and certainly had a high attendance,” she said.

Mary’s Gone Crackers offers a wide range of crackers, cookies, pretzels and crumbs—all organic, vegan and gluten-free. At this year’s show, the company unveiled two new cracker varieties: Super Seed and Hot’n Spicy Jalapeño. Waldner said that when she founded her company over a decade ago it was difficult to draw interest in the product line, but at this year’s show she saw an unprecedented reaction to her company from buyers.

When we first started, there wasn’t much interest in organic or certainly gluten-free but now both of those categories are really huge,” Waldner said.

With companies like Mary’s Gone Crackers and Mediterranean Snacks so pleased with the reaction they received from attendees at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show, it was inevitable that brands which did not exhibit might regret the decision. That was certainly the case for Bhakti Chai, maker of gourmet chai tea and chai tea concentrate. The team at Bhakti Chai has been experiencing unprecedented interest in their company since receiving a 2013 sofi Gold Award at this year’s show, despite making the decision not to exhibit.

We were all really taken off guard about the award,” said Allison Salvati, Marketing and Sales Director for Bhakti Chai. “It’s been fantastic. From a foodservice standpoint, we have people calling and saying, ‘Hey, you won this award can we get some free samples…’ It’s a great feather in our cap.”

Salvati continued, “We think we have an award-winning product. This is a huge accolade. We know we have a worthy enough product for an award like this. It’s a huge acknowledgment from the industry. We’re really thrilled. It helps our distribution so much.”

Bhakti Chai is a regular exhibitor at Winter Fancy Food on the West Coast, but does not exhibit at Summer Fancy Food, because they are not yet distributed on the East Coast. That could change, however, as the company’s distribution continues to spread across the country.

For many of the exhibitors who were present at the 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, there is little time to rest, as many are likely already making preliminary preparations for the upcoming 2014 Winter Fancy Food Show, to be held January 19-21 in San Francisco. In addition, the 2014 Summer Fancy Food Show has already been scheduled for June 29-July 1 in New York. 

Summer Fancy Food Yields Successful Results for Brownie Crunch

The 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show took over the Jacob Javits Center along New York’s 11th Avenue, and hometown favorite Seth Greenberg’s Authentic New York Brownie Crunch was there. This year, attendees from all over the country and all over the world came to see the latest, most delicious consumer food products available. Folks from as far away as Switzerland and Panama popped by the Brownie Crunch booth. In addition, American food professionals, including everyone from representatives for Kroger and Chicago’s Treasure Island to noted distributors, stopped by to sample the very best part of the brownie: the crispy edges. Everyone who visited the Brownie Crunch booth enjoyed the all-natural snack that is only 120 calories per 1-ounce serving.

At this year’s show, the company showcased its new Southwest Brownie Crunch, which brings together the flavor of rich chocolate with the spicy taste of peppers—just like the confections leading chocolatiers are creating. Greenberg enjoyed chatting with attendees about how Brownie Crunch is delicious paired with a glass of milk, but it also works well in more grown up flavor pairings. At the booth, the jalapeño Brownie Crunch was paired with a pinot noir, chile pepper with a zinfandel and chipotle with a cabernet. All three flavors were also tried with small-batch bourbon. The wines were chosen for their strong varietal identity. This was one of the hits of the show for the company, as the pairings wowed attendees. Many responded: “I’ve never thought of this kind of pairing.” In fact, many were so intrigued that they returned several times, trying different wine pairings and experiencing the bourbon pairing as well.
Seth Greenberg’s Authentic Brownie Crunch is 100 percent all-natural, kosher and made in the United States. The product is available in a variety of tempting flavors, including chocolate chip, mint chocolate chip, toffee caramel, orange and cinnamon cappuccino. To learn more, visit Brownie Crunch: “It’s the brownie reinvented!”

Sticky Fingers Scones and Spreads

Put together the perfect holiday food gift with Sticky Fingers scones and spreads. Whether you need a quick gift for a neighbor or you are looking for something fun and festive for friends and family, Sticky Fingers Bakeries has got you covered this holiday season. The company’s extensive line of all-natural scone mixes and spreads makes putting together the perfect gift easy.

“You can match scone mixes with our Northwest jams or English curds to create all sorts of fun combinations,” said Tom Owens, CEO of Sticky Fingers Bakeries. “There is definitely something for everyone.”

The company’s holiday line-up includes Pumpkin Spice, Pumpkin Cranberry, Peppermint Chocolate Chip and Spiced Egg Nog scone mixes. The festive scones pair perfectly with a fruit butter such as Pumpkin Spice or the Cranberry Orange Curd, creating a gift that will delight anyone.

The best part about Sticky Fingers Bakeries’ products is that they are all-natural and free of any artificial colors or flavors, preservatives and trans and saturated fats. From the real fruit pieces in the just-add water scone mixes to the fresh eggs (not frozen) in the fruit curds, Sticky Finger Bakeries uses only the best ingredients. You know what you are giving is quality.

For more information call 800.458.5826 or head to

Lindsay Farms Specializes in the South

Lindsay Farms Specialties is a family owned business committed to creating high quality and unique Southern Gourmet specialty items that are rich in tradition, naturally nutritious and utterly delicious. Since 1985, Lindsay Farms has been creating southern delicacies in small batches from traditional family recipes. Lindsay Farms products feature the finest ingredients available, including the internationally famous Vidalia onion of southern Georgia, as well as many other vegetables and spices indigenous to the South. All Lindsay Farms products are inspired by beloved, time-honored recipes, reflecting the special ambiance of a bygone age. However, the products have been adapted for today’s gourmet contemporary cooks to form exceptional tastes that are as distinctive as is Lindsay Farms colorful packaging.

Some of Lindsay Farms’s unique best sellers include salsas (blackeye pea, mango lime, strawberry, tropical pineapple, wild Maine blueberry, raspberry chipotle, Georgia peach, mandarin orange and spicy Alabama peach), preserves (backyard blackberry, wild Maine blueberry, Georgia peach, Moon Glow pear, muscadine, mayhaw, key lime curd, fig, cantaloupe, praline pecan and peach), butters (pumpkin, sweet potato, apple, peach, praline pecan apple, cantaloupe and cherry apple), appetizer jellies (Raz’Berry Jalapeño, blackberry jalapeño, red pepper jalapeño, green jalapeño and peach jalapeño), relishes (Vidalia onion chow-chow, green tomato chow-chow, Vidalia onion relish, pear relish, and Vidalia onion corn relish) and barbecue sauces (Vidalia onion, Georgia peach and mountain apple).

“What a wonderful time we had at the Summer 2013 Fancy Food Show in New York,” said Joe Winton, owner of Lindsay Farms. “We enjoyed meeting many of our competitors and loyal retailers. It was a joy to see old friends and make some new ones. We hope you had a chance to stop by booth 4278 and say hello.”

If you did not have a chance to visit Lindsay Farms’ booth at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show, give the company a call at 800.243.4608, or check the company out online at

Jelly Belly Introduces 2013 Holiday Sweets and Gifts

A host of new gifts and time-honored gourmet confections from Jelly Belly Candy Company are ready to bring merriment to the holidays, all designed with the specialty retailer in mind.

The new Classic Jelly Belly® Glass Jar was designed with contemporary lines and a timeless design and is filled with 14.5 oz. of Jelly Belly jelly beans. The glass jar is an elegant and generous gift for corporate giving, family, friends and just about anyone on the holiday list—all at an excellent price point. The Jelly Belly Classic Jar includes a hangtag to guide fans through their discovery of all 49 flavors packed inside.

Also debuting this season is the whimsical Jelly Belly Countdown to Christmas Calendar, filled with Jelly Belly jelly beans in the flavors kids love most, packed into 24 small bags, one for each day leading up to Christmas. The generous 14.5-in. tall Advent calendar is poised to be a very popular gift for the holidays.

Jelly Belly also makes a large array of gourmet confections specifically for the holiday season, available in bulk or packaged in beautiful shimmering gift bags. New Gummi Christmas Lights, for example, are reminiscent of old-fashioned tree lights. The shape alone makes these gummies stand out among other holiday candies. Gummi Christmas Lights come in a mix of four fun flavors: blueberry, cherry, green apple and orange. The colorful confections will brighten parties and holiday gifts this winter.

Additional seasonal sweets from Jelly Belly include Reindeer Corn, a seasonal take on traditional candy corn, one of the most popular confections in the line, as well as the highly sought-after Sugar Plums, plump and chewy jells made in an elegant and fragrant plum flavor. Also, Sour Gummi Santas have the perfect blend of sweet and tangy cherry flavor.

The perfect gifting options, seasonal confections from Jelly Belly are packaged in Christmas Gift Bags, and Jelly Belly beans are packaged in holiday wrap that brings Christmas pizzazz to the 10-Flavor, 20-Flavor and 40-Flavor Gift Boxes. The gift boxes even include a space to write a personal greeting.

And don’t forget to hit all the Christmas bases with stocking stuffers from Jelly Belly. These small gifts have been top seasonal sellers for the company for the last few years. The Jelly Belly TABASCO® Jelly Bean Bottles are the perfect way for customers to add a kick to stockings come Christmas morning and the new Jelly Belly Buttered Popcorn Jelly Bean Box makes filling stockings a breeze.

Jelly Belly Candy Company makes more than 100 flavors of Jelly Belly jelly beans, the largest selection on the market, plus 70 other gourmet candies, including jells, gummies, chocolate-covered treats and seasonal sweets for major holidays. For additional information, contact Jelly Belly Candy Customer Service at 800.323.9380, or email

Hammond’s Brings Fresh Flavors to Gourmet Chocolates

Hammond’s Candies is expanding its line of award-winning gourmet chocolate bars with six new flavors that range from rich and classic to fun and quirky. Double Chocolate Truffle, Red Velvet Cake, Chocolate Crisp, The Cookie Jar, Caramel Mocha and the uniquely sweet and salty Pigs N’ Taters will join such flavors as Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Milk Chocolate Bar—named Most Innovative New Product of the Year in 2012 by the National Confectioner’s Association.

We’re seeing extraordinary growth in the popularity of this line of chocolate bars,” said Andrew Schuman, Hammond’s President and CEO. “The flavors hit a nostalgic note, but address a modern appetite. And they’re packaged beautifully so the candy experience encompasses taste, smell and sight. They’re designed to be a genuine sensory treat for any chocolate lover.”

Hammond’s built its reputation on the creation of stunning, hand-pulled candy canes and lollipops. Its diverse line of delicious milk and dark chocolate bars was launched in 2012 and carries on the Hammond’s tradition of respect for candy’s very special appeal.

The new chocolate bar flavors are made to the company’s exacting standards, featuring all-natural ingredients, pure cane sugar, real milk, cream and naturally sourced flavors. Double Chocolate Truffle and Red Velvet Cake include rich ganache, capturing their signature flavors. Chocolate Crisp is made with crispy rice for a satisfying crunch, while The Cookie Jar takes a twist on a classic with cookie bits of all kinds in white chocolate. Caramel Mocha softens sweetness and adds depth with a hint of coffee, and Pigs N’ Taters provides a sinful mix of chocolate, potato chips and crispy kosher bacon bits. All are beautifully presented in Hammond’s award-winning packaging, making them perfect for gifts and special treats.

More information is available at or by calling 800.CANDY.99 (800.226.3999). Follow Hammond’s Candies on Facebook at and now on Pinterest at

Bakto Flavors Keeping Vanilla Growing with Vanilla 2013 Symposium

While you may know Bakto Flavor for its delicious flavors and other baking essentials, you may not know that the company is a science-based organization that is passionate about spreading knowledge to make the world a more flavorful place.

Join Bakto Flavors November 5-6 for Vanilla 2013, the company’s seventh international symposium focused on the miracle orchid, vanilla. This meeting will address the economic situation of vanilla in different growing areas and the latest developments in vanilla research. The conference will be a meeting place for people involved in all aspects of the vanilla world, including academia, the food and flavor industry, brokers, vanilla producers and others.

Vanilla production is vulnerable to many threats, including diseases, low prices to the producers and low demand by buyers. Vanilla 2013 will focus on what is currently being done and what researchers and the vanilla industry need to initiate now to sustain production of the world’s most popular flavor.

The price of vanilla has recently gone up 10-20 percent, rattling vanilla experts and growers. However, the price has been historically low, and sustainability has been hard to maintain. Farmers need to be paid more in order to sustain their farms and maintain their businesses.

The Vanilla 2013 conference will also focus on understanding how the vanilla pod can accumulate such high levels of flavor compounds, which has so far eluded researchers. Richard Dixon’s group has recently generated very large gene sequence data sets from developing vanilla pods, and their investigation throws light on many aspects of vanilla metabolism. Furthermore, at Rutgers University, Dr. Belanger’s lab is examining the sequences from different developmental stages of the pod for genes involved in vanillin biosynthesis. Through this process, the “hunt” for the vanillin pathway genes is making huge strides.
For more information on Vanilla 2013, or to register to attend, visit


The History of Busha Browne

In 1836, Howe Peter Browne, second Marquess of Sligo, returned to Westport, Ireland, taking with him memories of the spicy and exotic dishes he had been served during his governorship of Jamaica. Known as “The Emancipator of Slaves,” the noble Marquess had earned himself a renowned place in Jamaican history for his two-year term of office. His had been the unenviable task of supervising the first stage of Emancipation, which was unpopular with the reactionary planters. In desperation, many of these planters subsequently sold their vast estates to the local managers who were known as “Bushas.”

The Marquess himself was among the first to free his slaves on his Jamaican estate, Kelly’s and Cocoa Walks Estates, which he had inherited from his ancestors, the Kellys and Brownes of Ireland, Jamaican settlers from the late 1600s. The Brownes became wealthy and were among the respected members of the plantocracy. They were famous for their entertaining and the variety of food they served.

A descendant of the family Sligo, Charles Adolphus Thorburn Browne, familiarly known as Charlie Browne, has spent most of his 75 years “cooking up a storm.” He whiled away many hours of his boyhood days in the kitchen of his family home, Tryall Estate in Hanover, Western Jamaica. Later, cooking became a hobby, and he retrieved from his family archives recipes for authentic Jamaican sauces, jams, pickles and condiments, made from the great variety of exotic Jamaican fruits and vegetables, all unique, spicy and delicious. Specially selected recipes from his treasure trove are now being prepared and bottled for Busha Browne’s Company in Jamaica, to be enjoyed today as much as they were more than 200 years ago.

For more information, visit Busha Brownes: “Fresh ingredients, artisan quality, Jamaican tradition preserved.”