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D’Artagnan: An Obsession with Quality

By Lorrie Baumann

Ariane Daguin thinks that the way forward for brick-and-mortar grocers is to focus on selling their customers better food rather than more food. As the CEO of D’Artagnan, which distributes high-quality meat and poultry products to fine-dining restaurants as well as to grocers across the U.S., she has a bird’s eye view of how the American grocery business is evolving to try and meet the challenge of online grocers.

She notes that over the past decades since the end of World War II, grocers have been offering their customers more and more – more food, greater variety, year-round supplies of products once thought of as strictly seasonal. “You cannot have quality if you offer too many flavors of too many different products,” she said. “We have created a market for a lot of things we don’t need but that are pushed to us.”

The tide of consumerism inspired by modern marketing and the media’s obsession with what’s new and different has led inexorably to bigger stores and growing costs to operate those bigger stores. Those higher costs and the consumer expectations that caused them are now creating greater competitive burdens for brick-and-mortar grocers struggling to survive against online retailers. “The grocer has a big conundrum – which is the rent,” Daguin says. “It’s survival – they need to pay the rent. The problem is that it doesn’t work any more, because e-commerce has taken over. The consumer has so much more convenience and choice with e-commerce that the grocer has to really worry.”

Daguin suggests that the way to deal with this problem is to follow the lead of those successful grocers who now emphasize quality and who are creating a sensory and educational experience in their stores instead of just pushing volume. “To bring new clients in the store, you need to propose experiences that they cannot get online: true education from knowledgeable store employees, personalized custom fabricating, butchering and cooking in store, tastings…” she said.

Focusing on quality rather than variety is the approach she has taken in her own 33-year-old company. “What we did from the beginnings of D’Artagnan was to thrive towards excellence in all facets of the company, pushing farmers to very strict animal husbandry rules, slaughterhouses to process and butcher with more care, to stop bloating meats with water, controlling temperatures from loading docks to trucks to store … for one reason only – the quality of the product at the end,” she says.

D’Artagnan’s Green Circle chickens provide a handy example – they are raised free-range and fed a diet of actual vegetables, are certified-humane and air-chilled. They’re also antibiotic free. “We were the first ones, and we’re still pretty unique in that we demand that all animals be antibiotic free from birth,” Daguin says.

The chickens are processed in small slaughterhouses rather than in industrial-scale facilities, chilled with air rather than water and brought daily to a D’Artagnan warehouse in Georgia, Texas, Illinois or New Jersey. The air chilling reduces their weight, raising the cost per pound, but it means that there’s no dilution of flavor. “We get our deliveries from the chicken slaughterhouse every night,” Daguin says. “So every day, they get the one-day-old chickens. Nobody else can say that.”

From the warehouse, the chicken is put on a truck that has extra temperature controls to ensure that the chicken arrives at the market as fresh as possible, with the longest possible shelf life for the retailer. “We take this totally to the need of the retailer. They need the maximum shelf life for the products, and minimum quantities in each case,” Daguin says. “These are not corn flakes that fly off the shelves.”

Small-Batch Pacific Northwest Flavors for Seafood

By Lorrie Baumann

Seattle Artisan Foods offers a line of condiments, simmer sauces and seasonings all designed to enhance the seafood that has long helped define the culture of the Pacific Northwest. Ingredients for the products are sourced locally whenever possible, and the products are handmade in Seattle, Washington, and bear names reflective of that locale, said Seattle Artisan Foods Founder and Owner Beverly Rhodes. “We’re a company of three: myself, my chef and my son, who’s my accountant,” she said. “And my dog is the mascot.”

QueenAnneCioppino_V2WAt present, the product range includes two simmer sauces, two condiment sauces and two seasoning mixes. The most popular in the line is Queen Anne Cioppino Simmer Sauce. Named for Seattle’s Queen Anne borough, where the company’s kitchen is located, this classic Italian American sauce is seasoned with a Pacific Northwest twist. Cioppino is traditionally made from whatever seafood the boats brought to the dock that day, and in Seattle, that means Dungeness crab, clams or mussels, shrimp, scallops, squid and white fish, including cod and halibut. The company’s chef recommends about a pound of mixed seafood with the sauce, and just a few minutes of cooking at home produces an entree that serves four. The 16-ounce jar retails for about $8.99.

SAF Group 01-15-18_PrintBelltown BBQ Shrimp Simmer Sauce is another sauce named after one of Seattle’s boroughs, and it’s also a top seller for Seattle Artisan Foods. “It’s an acidified sauce with a sweet heat and a tang that’s outstanding,” Rhodes said. “Everyone loves the Belltown BBQ sauce. It goes with frozen or fresh shrimp. Steamed potatoes or rice, a little bread, a few minutes in the pan and you’re done – it’s like a pasta sauce for shrimp.” The 16-ounce jar retails for $8.99, and when prepared as directed, it serves four.

FlagshipTarter_V2WThe two condiment sauces in the line are Flagship Tartar Sauce and Shoreline Cocktail Sauce. Flagship Tartar Sauce has a mayonnaise base with capers, sweet peppers, lemon juice and “just the right amount of dill, so it’s a good complement to a fried fish dish,” Rhodes said. It’s packaged in a 10-ounce jar that retails for $5.99. Shoreline Cocktail Sauce includes garlic and onions along with horseradish and some lemon juice to brighten the flavors. “Just grab a shot glass and throw in your shrimp or crab,” Rhodes said. The 10-ounce jar of this also retails for $5.99.

There are two seasonings: Lemon Herb Seasoning was designed especially for white fish like halibut, cod or rockfish, but it’s also good on chicken, while the Seattle Artisan Foods Salmon Rub combines some brown sugar and a little bit of heat for a sweet and spicy flavor that offers a true taste of Seattle.

All of the products are shelf-stable, and although distribution is currently limited to the Pacific Northwest, national distribution is on the horizon. For further information, call Seattle Artisan Foods at 877.337.0672 or visit

Schuman Cheese Celebrates World Championship Honors

Seven new medals prove Schuman Cheese continues to earn its reputation as a world-class cheese maker. Schuman’s flagship brand, Cello, earned Best in Class honors in the Aged Asiago category, as well as medals in other categories. Meanwhile, Schuman’s Yellow Door Creamery picked up a silver medal for Tuscan Hand-Rubbed Fontina. Both brands earned recognition in several other categories, as well.

All winning entries were made at Schuman’s Lake Country Dairy, which Schuman Cheese opened in 2006 with a singular passion: to make great specialty cheeses. Thanks to rich pastures, pure, fresh water and the careful husbandry of a select group of family farmers, the very best milk from Wisconsin’s dairyland goes into every wheel.

The result is a family of highly awarded cheeses, including these winners from among this year’s record-breaking 3,402 entries in the World Championship Cheese Contest:

Asiago for webCello Asiago proves that some things truly do grow better with age. Aging for 10 months, a bit longer than most, results in a superior, traditional smooth and balanced flavor. Cello Asiago took Best in Class honors in the Aged Asiago category, while a Cello Extra-Aged Asiago wheel earned third place in the category.

Every wheel of Cello Artisan Parmesan is brined, hand-turned and shelf-cured for optimal quality and a complex flavor composition that is truly a delicious work of art. In the Parmesan category, Cello Artisan Parmesan earned a silver medal, while Cello Organic Copper Kettle Parmesan rounded out the category with a bronze medal.

The heritage of Italian cheese making – hand-crafting, brining and careful shelf-curing – gives Cello Fontal its smooth, creamy texture and mild, slightly sweet flavor. It also gave Schuman Cheese a silver medal in the Open Class for Semi-Soft Cheeses.

TuscanNewLabelWheel_2-21-18Schuman Cheese’s Yellow Door Creamery brand encourages people to enjoy the amazing range of flavors possible with cheese. The Yellow Door Creamery Hand-Rubbed Fontina line continues to validate this award-worthy concept with its robust rubs hand-smeared on wheels of creamy fontal cheese. The Tuscan variety (a rub of classic Italian herbs and spices) earned silver in the Open Class for Flavored Semi-Soft Cheeses, while Bergamot & Hibiscus (a custom bergamot and hibiscus spice blend) earned a bronze medal.

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