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Artisanal Cheese Partnership Springboards Creativity for Cabot Creamery

By Lorrie Baumann

Cabot Creamery’s partnership with Cellars at Jasper Hill won an American Cheese Society first-place award for Cabot Clothbound Cheddar Select and another first place for Cabot Clothbound Cheddar last July and now is inspiring new Cabot Creamery cheeses created for distribution in mainstream grocers, says Craig Gile, New Product Manager for Cabot Creamery.

The recipe for the clothbound cheddars was developed jointly by Cabot Creamery food scientists and Cellars at Jasper Hill Cheesemaker Mateo Kehler and was designed to make a cheese with a sweet, nutty finish. Cabot Creamery’s large production capacity made it possible to produce large quantities of the cheese – as much as 5,000 pounds a month, depending on market demand, which peaks during the winter holiday season. The cheese is aged for a few months at Cabot Creamery and then sent over to The Cellars at Jasper Hill for affinage, packaging and eventual sale to specialty cheese shops, where it fetches around $25 a pound for wheels aged 12 to 14 months. The difference in scale between the two companies means that while Cabot Creamery can make massive amounts of cheddar cheese for the mass market and take advantages of the economies of scale that come with that kind of production, which depends a great deal on consistency, The Cellars at Jasper Hill can take a small percentage of that product and lavish a great deal of attention on it to produce a product that commands a premium price for its uniqueness. Cabot Creamery also gains access to the artisanal cheese market as well as the cachet of having its name on award-winning cheeses sought after by cheesemongers. “Not only do we get a link to that artisanal cheese world, it gives Cabot the reputation that we’re able to make the artisanal cave-aged product as well,” Gile said.

As the partnership has prospered, though, it’s had some additional effects as Gile, who moved over from managing Cabot’s warehousing and grading to new product development, has had the chance to share knowledge with Jasper Hill Cheesemakers Mateo and Andy Kehler. “We’re each pursuing different areas of what we’re trying to do, and we’ve learned a lot from them,” Gile said. “We’re getting a lot of insight into what the artisanal base is looking for and finding paths to the customers that shop at these cheese shops.”

“I really like what that whole cheese shop environment brings to us,” he continued. “It’s a place to launch new cheeses, to get honest feedback about what you’re working on, to get their feedback from customers…. What I like about the cheesemonger role is that we have people selling it who have passion about the product and can tell the story about it. It’s another challenge for us to come up with products that are exciting…. You have to convince cheesemongers that you have an exciting, interesting, and high-end product.”

Founders_x_Legacy-7That insight into the artisanal cheese market has inspired the cheesemakers at Cabot Creamery to apply that information as well as knowledge about new cheese cultures as they’re figuring out how they can use their existing cheddaring equipment to make new cheeses with different taste profiles. Instead of just adding new flavoring ingredients to existing cheeses, they’ve begun developing the recipes to create entirely new cheeses that the company is able to produce in quantities large enough to target the lines at mainstream delis. These cheeses, which Cabot has dubbed its Founder’s Collection, aren’t intimidatingly different from the mainstream, but they’re definitely designed to appeal to the novice turophile who’s ready to take a step up from the cheeses he’s used to picking up at the supermarket. “These are aimed at the deli counter,” Gile said. “We didn’t want to launch four new cheddars, so we’ve got three cheddars and another unique cheese…. We were looking for a way to add genuine value to the product, not just to make it look pretty.”

The Cabot Creamery Founder’s Collection includes Cabot Private Stock, which has the familiar tang of the New England-style cheddar that consumers expect from Cabot Creamery but with a stronger Northeastern bite to it.

AdirondackAdirondack is made in the New York facility acquired with the 2003 acquisition of McCadam Cheese Company by Agri-Mark, the dairy farmer cooperative behind Cabot Creamery. Aged 1.5 to two years, it’s similar to Cabot Private Stock but made with the McCadam original stock cheese with its tangier citrus bite that lends a unique flavor profile compared to Cabot’s Vermont cheddars.

LambertonLamberton is similar to Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, except that it’s packaged in plastic rather than with cloth bindings. The name is a nod to one of Cabot’s original founding farmers, and the cheese has a buttery sweetness overlaying the traditional flavors of a strong yankee cheddar.

The last is Orne Meadows, which is completely different from most milk cheddars. It has powerful nutty notes redolent of a Grana-style Alpine cheese with a subtle New England sharpness to it. “That one, we don’t actually call it a cheddar on the package,” Gile said. “ We just say it’s a unique Vermont cheese.”

Wild Planet Foods Embarks on Land-Based Products

Wild Planet Foods is venturing off-sea into the development of land-based food with the launch of its new Organic Roasted Chicken Breast.

chickenMoving from fin to feather, the new Organic Roasted Chicken Breast is the first non-seafood item in Wild Planet’s line. While this is a new category for the company, the addition fits harmoniously with Wild Planet’s mission to provide consumers with food options that are healthful for the body and wildly good for our planet. Wild Planet’s Organic Roasted Chicken Breast features USDA Certified Organic Free-Range Chicken raised on an organic diet — featuring non-GMO corn grown on land that is free of chemicals fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

“Our new chicken, along with all future land-based items that will follow from Wild Planet Foods, is sourced from organically operated farms— which is essentially the land-based equivalent of pole and line fishing,” said Founder of Wild Planet Foods Bill Carvalho. “At Wild Planet, we believe there is really no difference between being a steward of the land as well as the sea. It’s a known fact that chemical runoff from conventional farming practices has had a negative effect on our waterways which ultimately lead to our oceans — creating dead zones that make it impossible for sea life to survive. Offering products like our new Roasted Chicken Breast not only allows Wild Planet the privilege of supporting and advocating for organic farms and farmers, but it’s also a step towards keeping our waterways and oceans healthy and supportive of a viable, healthy marine environment.”

Wild Planet’s new Organic Roasted Chicken Breast contains only two ingredients — chicken seasoned with sea salt. There is also a no salt added version available. Wild Planet Organic Roasted Chicken Breast provides 40 percent more chicken than other 5-ounce can offerings, due to the fact that only Wild Planet roasts their chicken without the addition of added water, liquids or fillers that are commonly found in other brands. The flavorful, natural juices remain to provide a delicious rotisserie taste. This new Organic Roasted Chicken Breast can be used to make sandwiches, soups, burritos, and is an especially great salad topper.

Wild Planet’s Organic Roasted Chicken is available nationwide in supermarkets and natural food stores for a suggested retail price of $5.49. For more information about Wild Planet Foods, visit their website at www.wildplanetfoods.com.

New Meat Topped Pizzas from American Flatbread

American Flatbread has expanded its premium line and entered a new product category with three new meat topped pizzas – Pulled Pork & Pineapple, Pulled Pork, Pineapple & Jalapeño and Uncured Pepperoni & Uncured Bacon. These new pizzas are a great alternative to takeout pizza and make delicious, restaurant quality last minute dinners for families on the go.

American Flatbread’s pizzas are premium handmade flatbreads that are wood-fired in earthen ovens and are made with organic and all natural ingredients. They are made with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors. The flatbreads have a light, crisp and flavorful bite.

Uncured Pepperoni & Uncured Bacon – Crispy bacon and pepperoni with a tangy organic tomato sauce on a handmade flatbread.

Pulled Pork, Pineapple & Jalapeño – Sweet pineapple, fiery jalapeno with smoky pulled pork, barbeque sauce and organic tomato sauce on a handmade flatbread.

Pulled Pork & Pineapple – Sweet pineapple, smoky pulled pork, barbeque and organic tomato sauce on a handmade flatbread.

The pizzas are available in 10-inch and 12-inch. The 10-inch pizzas retail between $6.99 – $7.99 and the 12-inch pizzas retail between $8.99 – $11.99. The new American Flatbread pizzas are available in select retailers across the country.

Burnett Dairy Cooperative Acquires Cady Creek Farms, LLC

Burnett Dairy Cooperative has acquired a 100 percent interest in Cady Creek Farms LLC., a retail deli cheese company located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, which was a 50/50 partnership between Burnett Dairy Cooperative and Dairy Deli Solutions.

The purchase will serve to provide a more integrated product portfolio of cheese products and go-to-market sales approach for the overall organization. Burnett Dairy will continue to provide employment to all of the employees of Cady Creek Farms and will maintain existing operations in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“This strategic acquisition will allow our farmer-owned cooperative the ability to better serve our customers and marketplace with innovative products while continuing to provide the same wholesome, quality products our customers and consumers have come to know and trust,” said Dan Dowling, President and CEO of Burnett Dairy Cooperative.

Cady Creek Farms was formed and created in 1998 as a partnership between Dale and Wendy Marcott of Cady Cheese Factory and Pete DeMars and John Landmeyer of Dairy Deli Solutions. In 2013, Burnett Dairy Cooperative acquired Cady Cheese Factory and as a result of the acquisition, assumed a 50 percent ownership interest in Cady Creek Farms LLC. “We will proudly continue to offer the Cady Creek Farms™ brand of products that are in retail deli today; furthermore, this will serve as a strategic expansion to the Burnett Dairy Cooperative family of brands including Burnett Dairy™ and Wood River Creamery™ found in the retail dairy and specialty cheese cases,”” Dowling said.

Burnett Dairy Cooperative, farmer-owned since 1896, is a place where farm families work side-by-side with crop and dairy experts to produce the highest quality milk from the ground up — a place where a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker then creates cheese in inventive flavors and crafts new varieties in limited batches. Brands include Burnett Dairy and Wood River Creamery in retail, and Fancy Brand in foodservice. Cady Cheese, LLC is a division of Burnett Dairy Cooperative and is a longhorn and deli horn manufacturer located in Wilson, Wisconsin.

Kroger Family of Stores Hiring 14,000 Employees

The Kroger Co.  will hold open interviews in its stores nationwide on Saturday, May 14, to fill an estimated 14,000 permanent positions in its supermarket divisions.

“We have openings across the country for friendly, hard-working associates to join our team,” said Tim Massa, Kroger’s group Vice President of Human Resources and Labor Relations. “We are looking for people who are passionate about making a difference for customers and communities – and want to do it in a fun, team environment with great benefits and advancement opportunities.”

Over the last eight years, Kroger has created more than 74,000 new jobs. This figure does not include jobs created as a result of capital investment, such as temporary construction jobs, nor does it include increases due to the company’s mergers.

Kroger’s total active workforce grew by more than 9,000 during 2015. More than 90 percent of the new jobs are in the company’s supermarket divisions, ranging from full-time department heads and assistant store managers to part-time courtesy clerks and cashiers. The company hired more than 7,000 veterans in 2015, and has hired more than 35,000 veterans since 2009.

Sprout Organic and CROSSMARK Announce Partnership

Sprout Nutrition and CROSSMARK, Inc. announced a new nationwide partnership to bring organic whole foods to babies, toddlers and all family members. The partnership gives Sprout expanded category presence and broad access to retailers with consumer insight capabilities while broadening CROSSMARK’s presence within the baby and organic family snack categories.

With this agreement, Sprout is investing in proven capabilities that will drive growth of the Sprout brand nationally. Sprout gains a knowledgeable sales force with a solid track record in the organic space and access to more than 5,500 retail merchandisers across the country. Retailers will benefit from collaborative planning to bring dynamic innovation and category/shopper insights to the rapid growing organic segment of the baby category.

The partnership with CROSSMARK is an important part of a major new brand investment by Sprout, under new ownership of private equity firm North Castle Partners, and a new CEO, Rick Klauser, a 10-year veteran of Gerber. The brand revitalization was ignited earlier this year with a packaging graphic redesign, the launch of 15 new products and a major marketing investment to drive retailer and baby category growth. Sprout also plans to build on its momentum, by adding new items in the fall, including Sprout Smash, an organic fruit puree snack expanding the brand into the squeezable snack category. The improved speed-to-shelf capability will allow parents to find healthy, whole organic foods at their favorite retailers.

“Securing national distribution and strong retailer partnerships are both strategic priorities for us. Our new relationship with CROSSMARK represents a significant building block to achieve this important milestone,” said Rick Klauser, CEO of Sprout. “Organic baby food is a Millennial mom’s expectation for what’s best for her baby. Parents are setting a higher bar for product quality and clean, honest, labeling. It’s no surprise that this would influence the expectations parents have for premium organic purees that we deliver through our honesty pledge: non-GMO, only whole fruits and vegetables (never concentrates, preservatives fillers or thickeners), and transparent labeling.”

“CROSSMARK is honored to work alongside Sprout as they continue to grow and set the standard in organics. Our analytics capabilities and retail representation across the country will help Sprout drive an increasing presence nationwide as they bring ‘real, honest and pure’ products to market and give parents increasing confidence in their choices,” said Steve Schuckenbrock, CEO of CROSSMARK. “This partnership is a win- win.”

Artisanal Cheese Partnership Springboards Creativity for Cabot Creamery

By Lorrie Baumann

Cabot Creamery’s partnership with Cellars at Jasper Hill won an American Cheese Society first-place award for Cabot Clothbound Cheddar Select and another first place for Cabot Clothbound Cheddar last July and now is inspiring new Cabot Creamery cheeses created for distribution in mainstream grocers, says Craig Gile, New Product Manager for Cabot Creamery.

The recipe for the clothbound cheddars was developed jointly by Cabot Creamery food scientists and Cellars at Jasper Hill Cheesemaker Mateo Kehler and was designed to make a cheese with a sweet, nutty finish. Cabot Creamery’s large production capacity made it possible to produce large quantities of the cheese – as much as 5,000 pounds a month, depending on market demand, which peaks during the winter holiday season. The cheese is aged for a few months at Cabot Creamery and then sent over to The Cellars at Jasper Hill for affinage, packaging and eventual sale to specialty cheese shops, where it fetches around $25 a pound for wheels aged 12 to 14 months. The difference in scale between the two companies means that while Cabot Creamery can make massive amounts of cheddar cheese for the mass market and take advantages of the economies of scale that come with that kind of production, which depends a great deal on consistency, The Cellars at Jasper Hill can take a small percentage of that product and lavish a great deal of attention on it to produce a product that commands a premium price for its uniqueness. Cabot Creamery also gains access to the artisanal cheese market as well as the cachet of having its name on award-winning cheeses sought after by cheesemongers. “Not only do we get a link to that artisanal cheese world, it gives Cabot the reputation that we’re able to make the artisanal cave-aged product as well,” Gile said.

As the partnership has prospered, though, it’s had some additional effects as Gile, who moved over from managing Cabot’s warehousing and grading to new product development, has had the chance to share knowledge with Jasper Hill Cheesemakers Mateo and Andy Kehler. “We’re each pursuing different areas of what we’re trying to do, and we’ve learned a lot from them,” Gile said. “We’re getting a lot of insight into what the artisanal base is looking for and finding paths to the customers that shop at these cheese shops.”

“I really like what that whole cheese shop environment brings to us,” he continued. “It’s a place to launch new cheeses, to get honest feedback about what you’re working on, to get their feedback from customers…. What I like about the cheesemonger role is that we have people selling it who have passion about the product and can tell the story about it. It’s another challenge for us to come up with products that are exciting…. You have to convince cheesemongers that you have an exciting, interesting, and high-end product.”

That insight into the artisanal cheese market has inspired the cheesemakers at Cabot Creamery to apply that information as well as knowledge about new cheese cultures as they’re figuring out how they can use their existing cheddaring equipment to make new cheeses with different taste profiles. Instead of just adding new flavoring ingredients to existing cheeses, they’ve begun developing the recipes to create entirely new cheeses that the company is able to produce in quantities large enough to target the lines at mainstream delis. These cheeses, which Cabot has dubbed its Founder’s Collection, aren’t intimidatingly different from the mainstream, but they’re definitely designed to appeal to the novice turophile who’s ready to take a step up from the cheeses he’s used to picking up at the supermarket. “These are aimed at the deli counter,” Gile said. “We didn’t want to launch four new cheddars, so we’ve got three cheddars and another unique cheese…. We were looking for a way to add genuine value to the product, not just to make it look pretty.”

The Cabot Creamery Founder’s Collection includes Cabot Private Stock, which has the familiar tang of the New England-style cheddar that consumers expect from Cabot Creamery but with a stronger Northeastern bite to it.

Adirondack is made in the New York facility acquired with the 2003 acquisition of McCadam Cheese Company by Agri-Mark, the dairy farmer cooperative behind Cabot Creamery. Aged 1.5 to two years, it’s similar to Cabot Private Stock but made with the McCadam original stock cheese with its tangier citrus bite that lends a unique flavor profile compared to Cabot’s Vermont cheddars.

Lamberton is similar to Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, except that it’s packaged in plastic rather than with cloth bindings. The name is a nod to one of Cabot’s original founding farmers, and the cheese has a buttery sweetness overlaying the traditional flavors of a strong yankee cheddar.

The last is Orne Meadows, which is completely different from most milk cheddars. It has powerful nutty notes redolent of a Grana-style Alpine cheese with a subtle New England sharpness to it. “That one, we don’t actually call it a cheddar on the package,” Gile said. “ We just say it’s a unique Vermont cheese.”

Dairy Farmers in Step with Local Food Movement

By Jorge Gonzalez-Garcia

Two California dairy farmers are finding a new way to turn the fluid milk they produce from a product they can sell at commodity prices into a gourmet product that commands a premium price from consumers eager to enhance their experience of food.

Noel Rosa and his brother, Rolland, own and operate Rosa Brothers Milk Co., based in Tulare, in the heart of the nation’s richest agricultural area. Rosa Brothers is very much a family operation, with seven members actively involved. The farm employs 35 workers, covers 600 acres, and manages a herd of about 1,000 Holstein dairy cows.

The Rosa family connection to this rich farmland goes back seven decades. “The farm was started by my grandfather in 1953, continued by my father, and now by my brother and I,” says the 47-year-old Rosa. “That’s a span of more than three generations that our family has been here working the farm and producing dairy products.”

In the fall of 2012, Noel and his brother took a big chance and built a creamery to produce and distribute specialty products like whole milk and flavored milk in glass, and premium ice cream. The idea was to distribute the products to local retailers. A small store was added next to the creamery for local visibility and direct sales.

The brothers made the move for a couple of reasons. One was in response to severe swings in commodity prices in 2009. “They can be very tough financially for a medium-sized dairy farm like ours,” Noel explains. “We needed to create more stability in terms of product, pricing and sales revenue.”

The other reason was the growth of the local food movement in his area. Rosa saw that it was picking up steam. “Our research showed that consumers preferred milk in glass bottles,” Rosa says. “They love the taste, they like that it comes from a local farm, and they support bottle recycling. What we’re doing is a natural extension of the growth of the farm to table movement right in our own area.”

A hundred miles to the northwest, in a small valley next to the river Merced near the town of Winton, lies PH Ranch, home of Top Line Milk Company. It used to be a working cattle ranch. Now it’s the dairy farm owned and operated by Paul van Warmerdam and his wife Sonya. They farm 860 acres, have 55 employees, and manage a herd of about 2,500 Holstein cows.
Top Line Milk is brand new to the specialty milk products business, having launched at the recent Natural Products West Expo 2016 show in Anaheim this past March. “I can’t really point to our specialty milk sales because we’re just starting out,” says the 51-year-old van Warmerdam. “But people at the show loved our milk, and our low and slow pasteurization method. They told us it reminded them of the taste of milk when they were kids, and milk came right off a local farm.”

Van Warmerdam and his wife had talked about expanding into premium dairy products in years past. Then came 2009, with wild swings in commodity prices. “2009 was a bad year,” he says. “We had record low milk prices and high feed prices, and a lot of people left the business.” That experience reinforced their goal of building a successful dairy business that could withstand fluctuations in the commodity market, and that they could leave to their children. Moving into specialty milk seemed like a creative way to do that.

They also considered glass bottles for their milk, but opted instead for white plastic bottles to reduce ultraviolet light exposure and extend shelf life. “We made that decision for a number of reasons,” says van Warmerdam. “We didn’t want to be the third or fourth glass milk bottle company. Also, we wanted to be able to sell into smaller convenience stores. The extra space needed to handle glass returns can be an issue. So those were all factors.”

Top Line Milk emphasizes its low and slow pasteurization process. “Low and slow is our slogan,” says van Warmerdam. “The milk comes out of our cow, we add the minimum of heat to meet pasteurization standards, and it goes into the bottle. It cannot be any fresher or tastier than that. And that was our goal from the beginning.”

Van Warmerdam is now looking to build out his distribution network. “We would like to grow regionally to the Bay Area, and then Sacramento and Fresno,” he says. “We’re in a niche market, so our rollout will be slow and strategic.” Closer to home, he plans to take advantage of traffic passing by his place by setting up a drive-through window for a couple of hours a day so customers can buy directly.

For Noel Rosa, wholesale growth has been solid. “In our first full year of creamery operations, we grew from zero to 70 retail outlets,” he says. “And we won new product of the year in 2013 at the Fresno Food Expo. That gave our sales a boost.” This year Rosa Brothers is selling product in 225 stores in its area.

Industry insiders do not see explosive growth for the specialty milk market, and they caution against unrealistic expectations. “We project slow, steady growth for this segment of the market,” says Murray Bain, Vice-President for Marketing at Stanpac, the large Canadian container manufacturer which supplies bottles to premium milk producers. A California Dairy Advisory Board report for 2015 shows that milk in glass bottles amounted to less than two percent of total sales for the entire state.

Noel Rosa understands the challenge of operating profitably in a niche market. And he takes the long view that as long as there are customers who prefer milk in glass, support the farm to table movement, and are willing to pay a little more for premium quality, he will have buyers for his products.

Lee Delaney Appointed Executive Vice President, Chief Growth Officer for BJ’s Wholesale Club

BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. announced that Lee Delaney has been appointed Executive Vice President, Chief Growth Officer effective May 9, 2016. Delaney will be responsible for the company’s merchandising and supply chain organization, and will report directly to BJ’s President and CEO Chris Baldwin.

“I am very excited to welcome Lee to the BJ’s team,” said Chris Baldwin, President and CEO of BJ’s Wholesale Club. “Lee’s strategic capability, extensive experience and high credibility in the industry make him a perfect fit for our team. With a talented merchant organization already in place, adding Lee to our team will ensure that we will not only maintain but accelerate our progress.”

Prior to joining BJ’s, Delaney was a partner in the Boston office of Bain & Company, and a leader in the firm’s consumer products practice. While at Bain, Delaney advised clients on corporate strategy, created new market entry plans, supported client acquisitions, and advised on large cost reduction programs. Prior to joining Bain in 1996, Delaney worked for Electronic Data Systems and Deloitte Consulting advising clients on a variety of engagements.

“I am delighted and feel privileged to have the opportunity to join the BJ’s team,” Delaney said. “BJ’s holds a unique position in the wholesale club retail channel. I look forward to working with BJ’s executives, merchants, and all of BJ’s team members to unlock the tremendous value I see in this segment of the market.”

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Announces $10 Million Share Repurchase Program

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, Inc.’s board of directors has authorized a new two-year program to repurchase up to $10 million in shares of the company’s common stock.

Repurchases under the company’s new program will be made from time to time at management’s discretion on the open market or through privately negotiated transactions in compliance with Securities and Exchange Commission Rule 10b-18, subject to market conditions, applicable legal requirements and other relevant factors. Repurchases of common stock may also be made under a Rule 10b5-1 plan, which would permit common stock to be repurchased when the company might otherwise be precluded from doing so under insider trading laws. The share repurchase program does not obligate the company to purchase any particular amount of common stock and may be suspended, modified or discontinued by the company without prior notice.

“We are pleased that our strong balance sheet and cash flow enable us to return value to stockholders through this new share repurchase program, while at the same time continuing to invest in the company’s long-term growth,” said Kemper Isely, the company’s Co-President. “Our board of directors and the senior management team strongly believe that the company’s growth prospects are not fully reflected in the company’s current stock price. The share repurchase program demonstrates our confidence in the strength of our business and our commitment to delivering shareholder value.”

The company had approximately 22.5 million shares of common stock outstanding as of May 5, 2016. The company expects to finance the share repurchase program through borrowings under its revolving credit facility.

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