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McCrea’s Candies: Sophisticated Flavors from Simple Ingredients

By Lorrie Baumann

McCrea’s Candies is a small New England candy maker with a product line exclusively composed of high-quality caramels elegantly packaged for gift-giving. Founded almost five years ago by husband-and-wife team Jason and Kate McCrea, McCrea’s Candies are made without corn syrup or artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

“Our flavors are done just like you’d do it in your own kitchen,” Jason says. “For ginger, we juice the root and add the juice to our candy. For our Single-malt Scotch flavor, we use real single-malt Scotch and pour that right into the batch.”

The McCreas were research biologists before they decided to start their candy company, and they use that scientific bent as they develop new flavors of their caramels today. “Understanding food chemistry helps enhance the flavors, and I use chemistry to understand how flavors come together and how to make nice balances. That’s really what we do,” says Jason. The McCreas currently offer 14 flavors, including Irish Coffee, Cafe Noir, Dark Roasted Mocha, Ginger Fusion, Rosemary Truffle Sea Salt, Highland Scotch and Tapped Maple.

McCrea’s Candies are now elegantly packaged for the gift trade after the McCreas learned from their customers that they loved the candies so much that they wanted to share them with their friends, so they were buying them as housewarming and hostess gifts, to send to children away at college or to present to dads on Fathers Day. “We do a lot of farmer’s markets around here, and customers would tell us,” Jason says. “They’d say, ‘I bought three sleeves and we ate them all, but I’d meant to give them to my son when he comes home from school, so now I need more.’ There’s no substitute for being out and talking to customers and listening to them telling you what they want. They’ll tell you the truth; ‘I like this; I don’t like that.’”

“We thought that was very interesting,” he continues. “We never had been going to gift shows – we had been going to food shows, but we decided to listen to our consumers and what they want to have and how we can accommodate them.”

As a result of those conversations the McCrea’s recently redesigned their packaging to focus less on the candy’s all-natural simplicity and more on its sophisticated flavors and high quality – without changing the recipes for the candy inside the packages. The product line’s packaging now includes two sizes of cylindrical sleeves plus a new-to-the line pillow box and a large party box that’s popular with customers who take them to dinner parties instead of a bottle of wine or present them as corporate gifts.

The Mill Fudge Factory Offers Mouth-Watering Gifts for 2015 Holiday Season

In time for the 2015 holiday season, the family-owned and operated Mill Fudge Factory & Ice Cream Café is now offering its delectable line of hand-crafted fudge nationally through its online shop at the The Bristol, New Hampshire-based small business, founded by the Munro family in 2006, uses the family’s secret Scottish recipe and 100 percent natural ingredients to create authentic fudge unlike any that can be found on this side of the Atlantic.

The Mill Fudge Factory fudge is available in an assortment of classic and inventive flavors, including Belgian Chocolate, Chocolate Walnut, Natural Peanut Butter, Scottish Whiskey, Pure New Hampshire Maple, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Pumpkin Pie and much more. The Factory also offers an assortment of decadent truffles and toffee. All confections are available in gift baskets and elegant sampler boxes.

“We take pride in creating fudge true to the recipe of my grandfather in Scotland and we do it right here in New England,” said Mill Fudge Factory Co-Owner and General Manager Noah Munro. “People tell us they can taste the care we put into our fudge. We’re so happy that we can now share it with folks across the U.S. Our fudge makes for a unique Halloween treat, a great addition to the Thanksgiving table and a fabulous Christmas or Hanukkah gift.”

Report: Non-GMO Products Growing in the Marketplace

In a global food and beverage market with retail value in U.S. dollars of more than $5 trillion, non-GMO products accounted for $550 billion of that total in 2014, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts. With sales of $200 billion for non-GMO foods and beverages, the United States accounts for 36 percent of the overall global non-GMO total.

In the U.S., there is a steady, ongoing increase in the number of products identified as non-GMO, notes David Sprinkle, Research Director for Packaged Facts. New non-GMO product launches in the U.S. have been estimated to be about 2,000 per year, up from just a few hundred a decade ago. This is taking place in both the retail market and in foodservice. Driving the market is an expanding consumer desire to have healthier foods with fewer added ingredients or an aspects that are not “natural,” even though that term has not been officially defined by either the Food and Drug Administration or by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Organic and natural foods accounted for the lion’s share of domestic non-GMO sales at 60 percent of the U.S. market last year. Packaged Facts projects that this share will increase to about three-fourths of overall non-GMO retail sales by 2019. The increase of organic/natural as a part of non-GMO reflects:

  • 1) the increasing popularity of organic food specifically and natural foods more generally with American consumers;
  • 2) the linkage between organic and non-GMO in consumer understanding;
  • 3) and the probability that there will be no resolution on a national level regarding mandatory GMO labeling on food and beverage products.

Looking ahead on a larger scale, Packaged Facts forecasts the total global market for non-GMO foods and beverages will almost double by 2019 due to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15 percent between 2014-2019, outpacing the CAGR for U.S. non-GMO sales. Nevertheless, the U.S. share of the global non-GMO market will hold at about one third.

Marie’s Dreams Seedless Cloudberry Preserve


marie'sAs A1 Tradehouse Corp., a Finnish Quality Product Company, launches its Marie’s Dreams brand made for the U.S. market, it wants to take us “back to the ’50s in a positive way.”

“The core of Marie’s Dreams brand is quality and enjoyment, but our vision is also to offer people something their parents and grandparents got in the 1950′s,” says Pekka Rantajarvi, CEO at A1 Tradehouse Corp.

“When people buy a Marie’s Dreams product, they know they get the real thing,” tells Rantajarvi. “Like in the ’50s, when the things were what they were supposed to be. Those days a scooter was made to last more than three months, and you didn’t need to read the small print to make sure you were not fooled. Today’s consumers face a much harder reality. We want to turn back the clock in a positive way!”

The first product out is Marie’s Dreams Seedless Cloudberry Preserve with 45percent wild cloudberries from the clean Arctic nature of northern Finland. “It’s delicious with ice cream, cheese, whipped cream, waffles!” says Rantajarvi.

“I know somebody can launch a product with much less berries for a better profit, but that’s not what Marie’s Dreams is about. We want to give people the real stuff when they buy a Marie’s Dreams product,” says Rantajarvi. “Marie is a young American woman who wants to enjoy real things. She also wants to share her love for quality with all Americans who want to have real stuff. I encourage everybody to visit to learn more about Marie and her dreams.”

Marie’s Dreams Seedless Cloudberry Preserve is available at selected specialty stores and quality food groceries starting in October.


Celestial Seasonings Unveils Refreshed Tea Packaging

Celestial Seasonings new logo Celestial Seasonings®, a brand of The Hain Celestial Group, Inc., has unveiled its fresh new brand look and feel–including refreshed tea packaging that highlights the brand’s heritage and a new, contemporary logo.

“We’re excited to introduce our refreshed packaging to consumers since we think the new boxes are an even better reflection of the Celestial Seasonings® goodness inside,” said Tom Arcuri, vice president of sales and marketing at Celestial Seasonings, Inc. “We kept the elements that our consumers loved from our previous boxes and built upon them to appeal to an even wider audience.”

The refreshed packaging blends many of the heritage elements for which the brand is known–including commissioned tea box art featuring iconic characters like Sleepytime® Bear–with a contemporary design. Consumers will find the same high-quality teas inside–the brand has not changed any of its recipes and continues to source its ingredients and blend its teas according to its strict “Blended With Care: From Seed to Sip” standard for purity and quality.

Celestial Seasonings maintains its strong belief in social responsibility, so its refreshed packaging will continue to feature an earth-friendly design. The brand’s cartons are still biodegradable and recyclable, and its signature tea bag omits strings, staples and individual wrappers–saving 3.5 million pounds of material from landfills every year.

The first Celestial Seasonings teas in refreshed packaging are available on store shelves now, with the full new shelf set expected to be in place by the fall. All items will also available at the Celestial Seasonings Online Store.

Snack Food Makers Turn to Clean Ingredients, Adventurous Flavors


By Lorrie Baumann

The global market for snack foods is now worth about $36 billion according to market research firm IBISWorld, which also reports that the industry is benefiting from the introduction of more healthy snacks and favorable product pricing. Over the next five years, the snack food industry is predicted to continue growing as the economy strengthens and people have more disposable income to spend, leading them to trade in their junk food for premium snack foods that meet their criteria for the flavorful foods with simpler ingredients labels that they’re seeking out for their meals.

There’s a lot of talk about a cleaner label. We’ve been seeing a lot more requests, and customers are coming up with their own lists of what they don’t want to see,” says AnnMarie Kraszewski, a food scientist at Wixon, which makes foods and flavorings used as ingredients by a wide range of product manufacturers. The companies with which Wixon works are asking for recipes that avoid anything artificial, anything that sounds more like it came from a chemistry laboratory rather than a pantry, she said. “It makes formulating a little more difficult, but in terms of the end product, it comes out rather nice, and the consumer likes to see the label, and so they feel better about the product…. Usually the customer tells us a profile they’re looking for. You try and make something that tastes fresh, whether that’s with herbs, unique chile peppers, things that make it a little more interesting. The bulk of the profiles that come in are savory, but there’s a lot of interest in sweet-heat or sweet-savory – a combination like maple and thyme, for instance.”

Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Chocolate Toffee

Laurie & Sons is a start-up company that’s making its Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Chocolate Toffee in La Marqueta, an East Harlem commercial kitchen incubator sponsored by New York City. The product received the 2015 sofi Award for Outstanding Chocolate, and it’s the first chocolate-enrobed crisp licorice toffee confection using real licorice root, according to Founder and Owner Laurie Pauker. The product is on the sweet side of the snack food continuum, and Pauker intends to keep her company’s product line of toffees and brittles firmly targeted at that category rather than among the gourmet gifts because Pauker and her three sons, who are the company’s chief product testers, believe that the era of calorie-dense, nutrition deficient snacks has passed. “It might be sweet snacks or might be savory snacks, but it’s all things made with good ingredients. The predecessors are no longer acceptable,” she said. “I think we’re moving more in that direction anyhow. People are snacking more than ever, and those foods need to be made better. They need to meet higher standards.”

The product line includes a couple of flavors of brittles that are baked rather than kettled: Toasted Almond Brittle and Mayan Spice Brittle. “It lets us make the product in a way that incorporates brown rice flour instead of some of the sugar. It’s incredibly light. It’s lower calories, but you feel like you’ve had something tasty and satisfying,” she said. “Portion control is easy because the pieces are sized to let you know what you’re eating, and they’re packaged in resealable pouches so you can take them with you.”

The candy that excited the sofi Award judges was inspired by a candy that Pauker’s grandfather used to give her when she was a little girl. “It was fantastic and it was chewy,” Pauker says today. “One of the things we’ve focused on is putting flavor in toffee. It’s a great vehicle for flavor and spice.” The Dangerously Delicious Black Licorice Chocolate Toffee is gluten free and flavored with bold black licorice underlined with freshly ground star anise and a little bit of pernod, a combination that lends depth to the flavor of the toffee. It’s made without corn syrup, preservatives or food coloring. The chocolate coating amplifies the licorice flavor, and each piece is topped with black Hawaiian lava salt to add crunch as well as flavor. “That took several months of experimenting to balance the right ratio of black licorice to star anise, but I think we found the right balance,” Pauker says. “As for the ‘dangerous’ part of the name, it’s dangerous because it’s so good and also because black licorice should not be eaten in great quantities. It’s like absinthe in that way. It has a little bit of a dangerous side to it.”

fusion JERKY

On the savory side of snacking, KaiYen Mai set out last year to make meat jerky that had the soft texture of the products made in her family’s company for the past 50 years but with modern flavors and ingredient labels that were cleaner than those of many of the jerky products already on the market. Her family had been making jerky in the United States for 35 years and in Taiwan before that, and when it came time for her to take over the family business, she decided to venture out with a new brand as well as keeping the family’s existing product lines on the market. Thus, fusion JERKY, which offers all natural, minimally processed beef, pork, turkey and chicken jerky in bold flavor profiles and with a soft texture that appeals to women and children as well as men, came to be. Basil Citrus Artisan Beef Jerky, Chipotle Lime Artisan Beef Jerky, Garlic Jalapeno Artisan Pork Jerky, Island Teriyaki Artisan Pork Jerky, Chili Basil Artisan Turkey Jerky, Rosemary Citrus Artisan Turkey Jerky, Lemon Pepper Artisan Chicken Jerky and Basil Citrus Artisan Chicken Jerky are offered in 3-ounce bags that sell for $6 to $7. They are made without preservatives or MSG and are gluten free. “It’s a clean label, so when you read the ingredients, you can actually read and understand it,” Mai said. There is currently not an organic product in the line because using all organic ingredients would make the product price-prohibitive in its market, she added. “We’re one of the first ones to do a natural chicken jerky. A lot of people are surprised by chicken jerky. A lot of people who don’t want to eat red meat turn to white meat, so this is another choice for them,” she said. “We’re also trying to make it affordable, which is why we’re not making an organic product at this time. I’d have to reduce the size and sell them for a much higher price. I just don’t think that’s affordable and reasonable for the average consumer.”

The Better Chip

The makers of The Better Chip are among those consciously defining their product line as lifestyle-focused alternative snacks for consumers who are looking for cleaner labels as well as exciting flavors. Ingredients for The Better Chip products, including whole grains and vegetables, are sourced straight from farms. All ingredients are gluten free and non-GMO, and they contain no trans fats. The company adds no topical flavor enhancers, so the flavors are inside the chips rather than coming off on fingers, says Andrea Brule, Vice President/General Manager. “We take a hard line on that. They’re not flavored like something, they just are.”

The Better Chip was designed to be merchandised in the deli department rather than on the chip aisle, so that they share that space with the items with which they’re usually served as part of a meal or at a party. The company very definitely had in mind that they wanted to make a chip that consumers would feel good about photographing and sharing on their social media. “When we developed the chip, we decided to source fresh ingredients and use that as a basis for a snack line that would meet those criteria for clean ingredients and healthy foods while at the same time using engaging flavors that are bragworthy, shareworthy. So when consumers put them on the table with hummus and yogurt dip and cured meats, our chips, in the variety of flavors they come in, are the canvas for how they want to express themselves,” Brule says. “They’re developed for today’s consumers with simple ingredients sourced straight from farms, ideal for entertaining and experimenting with…. My happiest days are when I see people engaging with the product in creative ways. The flavors and the colors really lend themselves to people looking for what they can create with it.”

This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.


New Fancy Food Show Products Delight with Taste, Innovation

By Richard Thompson

This year’s Summer Fancy Food Show introduced new and growing brands that aimed to update how we look at foods, from breakfast to all-natural desserts. Many of these news products stood out with their focus on reinvention, health and taste.

If there was one new brand that will be hard to forget, it would be the sweetened waffles from The Belgian Kitchen. Made using brioche dough infused with raw sugar, this frozen dough is an all-natural, butter-based dough that breaks out of traditional waffling by being marketed as a dough rather than a batter mix.

The Belgian Kitchen waffles are already enjoyed at five ski resorts in the Northeast and more than 60 foodservice businesses – including multiple frozen yogurt chains, and President Sean Lee has plans for expansion that will see this product targeted at the family market and being sold as frozen dough balls in retail chains. It’s simple and delicious, says Lee: “It’s a very simple product. It’s like the WD40 of doughs.”

Southern Culture Artisan Foods Founder Erica Barrett presented her own take on waffles with her ShortStacks Pancake and Waffle mix. Sixteen different pancake and waffle mixes offer flavors from Bourbon Salted Pecan and Oatmeal Raisin Cookie to Sweet Potato and Peach Cobbler. These non-GMO, vegan friendly and dairy free batter mixes are meant to be enjoyed by everyone, says Barrett.

Alongside the company’s ShortStack batter mixes were Southern Culture Artisan Foods Cajun Bacon Rubs in three different flavors, adding a zing to a breakfast meat favorite. Available in Original, Bourbon Pecan Praline and Sweet & Spicy, these rubs enhance not only bacon, but any meat.

The company’s 2015 sofi-nominated Garlic and Herb Stone Ground Grits captivated attendees with its flavoring that could complement everything from shrimp to bacon and eggs. “I started the company for one reason: to reinvent breakfast and for retailers to reinvent it too,” Barrett said.

Another up-and-coming company is reinventing the frozen pop with its line of healthy summer treats. Paleo Passion Pops, sweetened with all-natural fructose, doesn’t quibble about being a really healthy and delicious dessert for those who have an active lifestyle or those just looking for a dessert they can feel good about.

Kayla Cord, Administration and Marketing Manager of Paleo Passion Pops, said that the company’s founder invented these pops out of concern about the amount of added sugars in the American food supply. This led to a dessert line whose flavors include Orange Mango, Pineapple Ginger, Blueberry Pomegranate, Apple Crisp, Green Passion, Chocolate Passion and Strawberry Passion.

Each of these options can be considered super food as they are made with flax seeds, ginger, kale and green tea. They are allergy safe and made in a nut-free facility. While these are popular with fitness groups, says Cord, “We’re looking for everyone!”

Java To Go is a brand that offers exceptional coffee that tells the story of the lives of travelers, according to President and Founder Shaheed Momin. “We want to see where coffee is coming from and where coffee is going,” he says. “We want to reinvent the coffee experience.” The company is focusing on the fast paced lifestyle of Millenials and their social networking habits.

Along with traditional flavors like Original and Colombian, Java To Go also has Salted Caramel and Southern Pecan and seasonal offerings like Cookie Doodle and Pumpkin Spice. Each is an organic blend that follows fair trade standards and is high quality, according to Momin.

This brand of gourmet coffee is offered in various packages for different drinking habits. Coffee cans that come in 11 ounces and 32 ounces, single serve K-cups, and traditional stand-up bags with both whole and ground beans are available. Momin is most excited about his single serving coffee sticks that promote a lifestyle of adventure. “This coffee represents a love of travel,” he said.

Backyard Safari Company is breaking from tradition with its seasoning products. This four year-old company’s uniquely packaged “Dinner Tonight!” seasonings are aimed at making dinners an easy one-step process without sacrificing taste. Seasoning options include Burger Seasoning, Southwestern Chipotle & Lime Fajitas Seasoning, Salmon with Angle Hair Pasta Seasoning and the sofi-nominated White Bean Chili Seasoning. Each package has a suggested retail price of $3.95, serves between four to eight people and makes a complete meal in under 30 minutes.

Matchbox Backyard Grilling Spices come in matchbox-inspired containers that hold 2.6 ounces of seasoning. Made for backyard grilling without the fuss, each flavor is meant to “Start a Fire in the Backyard.” The line includes a Lemon Zest & Garlic Chicken Rub, Sweet & Savory Rib Rub, Seafood Grilling Herbs Rub, Peppered Garlic Steak & Burger Rub, and for a spicy vegetable kick, the Sweet Chipotle Grilled Corn Rub.

Kids can learn about fresh seasonings and how to grow them with Sunny Side-Up Garden Kits, also offered by Matchbox Backyard Grilling Spices. In six different varieties, each egg carton package contains soil, seeds and instructions. Kids will be able to grow green beans, summer squash and sweet baby carrots in the Little Fresh Veggie Garden, while the Little Goodnight Garden introduces kids to Evening Primrose, White Purity Cosmos and Evening Scented Stock. Each carton has a suggested retail price of $11.95.

Simply Gum uses a chicle base with no artificial sweeteners and is the only brand in the United States that uses 100 percent natural ingredients. Caron Proschan, Simply Gum CEO, says that the American consumer palate is more sophisticated than is normally granted and that the subtle flavor in each piece will be appreciated. Simply Gum flavors include Ginger, Maple, Fennel Licorice, Mint, Cinnamon and Coffee. Simply Gum products are available in five Whole Foods Stores in the New York area and Sprouts nationwide.

Ft. Greene Farms produces small batch relishes and hot sauces that have already been nominated in the Martha Stewart “Made in America” Jar Goods Category for the company’s whole line. The company’s flagship relish is made with champagne vinegar, yellow mustard seeds, sugar and water for a relaxed mustard flavor. Red Pepper Relish adds a little extra kick to that mustard seed base with red bell peppers, Scotch bonnet peppers, light brown sugar and red onions.

In the hot sauce category, Ft. Green Farms’ Charred Sriracha Hot Sauce is made with Fresno chili, lime juice, shallots, rice wine vinegar, garlic and sea salt. This hot sauce brings a fiery little kick that isn’t too hot for those who enjoy spicy foods.

Steve Millard Becomes CEO of Best Cheese

Best Cheese Corporation, importer and distributor of Dutch cheese brands and owner of Artisanal Coach Farm has named Steve Millard as its next CEO, succeeding Steve Margarites, effective August 12, 2015. Best Cheese Corporation is a full subsidiary of Uniekaas Beheer B.V. based in the Netherlands. Best Cheese Corporation markets and sells cheese and dairy products under brand names as Parrano, Uniekaas, Coach Farm and Melkbus. Best Cheese Corporation is based in Purchase, New York and operates an artisanal goat farm in Hudson Valley, New York.

Millard brings more than 15 years of strategic leadership, brand development and key account management experience in the dairy industry. Millard most recently served as Vice President of sales at Alouette, a division of France based Groupe Bongrain, a global leader in fine cheeses and chocolates. Before joining Alouette, Millard served as CEO and President of Emmi Roth USA. Before serving seven years with Emmi Roth USA, Millard worked for eight years with the Dannon Company, a subsidiary of Groupe Danone.

“I am excited to join The Best Cheese Corporation,” stated Steve Millard. “As the new CEO, my top priorities will be focusing on building our brands, growing our team and delivering the highest quality service to our customers. This is a terrific opportunity and I look forward to overseeing the continued growth of The Best Cheese Corporation and acceleration of Coach Farm.”

Millard has a Bachelor’s Degree from Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Bonne Bouche from Vermont Creamery

By Lorrie Baumann

Vermont Creamery’s Bonne Bouche cheese, discovered around 2002 by New York’s famous French chefs, is now becoming well known among consumers as well as a favorite among cheese mongers. The cheese has won multiple awards from the American Cheese Society, a gold award from the World Cheese Awards, and a gold sofi for Best Cheese or Dairy Product at the 2012 Fancy Food Show.

“We often submit that cheese because it’s our favorite. For Vermont Creamery, it is a well-known cheese. We’ve won a lot of awards with Bonne Bouche, and for the industry and for artisanal cheese, it’s a great example of where the market is going,” says Allison Hooper, Co-founder and Cheesemaker of Vermont Creamery. “It’s got consumer customers who really love it and ask for it by name.”

“It’s a very difficult cheese to make, so we’re super-proud of it,” she continues. “When it wins, it gets a nod that it’s a great cheese deserving of accolades.”
Bonne Bouche is an ash-ripened goat milk cheese made in traditional French style. Consumers often say it reminds them of a brie, and those famous French chefs likened it to the Selles-sur-Cher produced in the Centre region of France. It’s sold in a four-ounce round that’s shipped in a wood box at an early stage of its aging that gives the retailer a few weeks to keep it in the case at peak ripeness. The wood box allows the cheese to continue to breathe, wicking away excess moisture and also helping to prevent the cheese from drying out. “It’s also tall enough so that when the crate is shrink-wrapped with a perforated film, the film doesn’t touch the rind, which is important with these geotricum [mold] rinds. It’s very important that the rind continues to breathe,” Hooper says. “It’s the intention that, when the retailer gets this cheese, we’ve done everything right, so they don’t need to do anything with it except merchandise it.”

When the Bonne Bouche is fresh, it has the acidic tang expected of a fresh chevre. Then as it ages, the paste mellows and loses its acidity and gains a melon-ish sweetness with some of the yeasty taste of the rind. “It’s quite aromatic, but when you put the cheese in your mouth, it’s less strong-tasting than its aroma,” Hooper says. “It’s surprisingly mild, for the fact that it’s made of goats’ milk and that it is a ripened cheese with an aromatic rind.”

As it ages, the Bonne Bouche gets softer and sometimes gets a little runny under its edible rind. Consumers really like that softness, Hooper says. “It has a nice amount of salt in the cheese, which is important to the proper growth of the rind, and the saltiness add great flavor to the cheese.”

“While it is made from goats’ milk, it doesn’t have the characteristics that we think of with goat cheese. It tends to lose its goatyness as it ripens, she adds. “For those who don’t reach for goat cheeses, they are surprised by how much they like it.”


This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

Multi-Cookers Take Over Countertop Cooking


By Amber Gallegos

Within the realm of countertop cooking, a trend towards multicookers is on the rise. These small appliances take on double, or even triple duty, to compete to be the go-to appliance for daily cooking. They go beyond slow cooking or grilling, combining these basic functions along with a host of other settings to do everything from boiling, steaming, frying, sauteing, and baking, all in one machine.

KitchenAid took a major venture into the category with this year’s release of the 4-Quart Multi-Cooker and optional Stir Tower. The Multi-Cooker is basically like a slow cooker on steroids, with seven different cooking methods and four step-by-step modes. The cooking methods include sear, sauté, boil/steam, simmer, slow cook low or high, and keep warm. The step-by-step cooking modes are rice, soup, risotto, and yogurt. As cooks move through each step, the Multi-Cooker adjusts and displays temperatures and timing accordingly. The Multi-Cooker has precise temperature control that is applied and preset for each setting to ensure consistent results. The cooking can be programmed for up to 12 hours and the keep warm setting can be programmed for 24 hours There is also a manual setting that allows users to cook like on a regular stove top and select from warm, low, med-lo, medium, med-hi, and high. Each manual mode is adjustable within a temperature range to get just the amount of heat desired. A dual purpose cooking rack is included for steaming or roasting. The lid is clear tempered glass for easy viewing during cooking and it has an integrated strainer/pour opening. The cooking vessel features a nonstick CeramaShield™ coating that is 100 percent PTFE and PFOA free.

The separate Stir Tower is an accessory that mixes, flips, stirs, incorporates ingredients and stirs intermittently. It attaches to the Multi-Cooker for added cooking options, like making yogurt, risotto, meatballs and more. The silicone stirring paddle has two parts, a flip-and-stir wand that can be used alone, and a side scraper attachment that is optional to use in conjunction with the wand when making soups, sauces and stews to circulate ingredients thoroughly. The Stir Tower features three stir speeds and two intermittent stir modes. The KitchenAid Multi-Cooker and Stir Tower are available in silver, black or red with a suggested retail price of $349.99 for the Multi-Cooker, $229.99 for the Stir Tower accessory, and $549.99 for the Multi-Cooker and Stir Tower combined.

The Bellini Intelli Kitchen Master from Cedarlane Culinary was introduced to the U.S. and Canada market last year and is the machine closest in functionality to KitchenAid’s Multi-Cooker. The Bellini combines eight kitchen gadgets in one machine for chopping, blending, whipping, mixing, sauteing, steaming, stirring and boiling, even allowing for some of the tasks be done simultaneously. The machine differentiates from others partly because of the cutting blade that can, for example, quickly chop a whole onion and then sauté it right in the 2-liter stainless steel mixing bowl. The unit has 1000 watts of heating power and can heat up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. It has 10 speeds that can be selected from a rotary control, and cooking time can be set for up to one hour.

The Bellini includes accessories that enable the preparation of a variety of meals that go beyond one pot cooking. There is a stainless steel chopping blade and stainless steel stirring blade that lock into the bottom of the mixing bowl depending on what task the recipe calls for. A mixing tool snaps onto either blade for mixing tasks, like making a cake batter. Also included is a cooking basket that sits inside the mixing bowl so food can be cooked without hitting the blades below. There is a heat resistant spatula that is designed with a notch to lift the basket from the mixing bowl and scrape the sides. The dual steam accessory consists of two pieces, a container that sits directly on top of the mixing bowl and a top portion that is shallow with vents on the bottom and has a clear lid that is also vented. Cooks could boil potatoes in the cooking basket, steam veggies in the next layer, and also have fish steaming on the very top layer. The mixing bowl lid locks into place and has an integrated clear removable measuring cup. To ensure accurate recipe proportions, the machine also comes with an external digital food scale. With the Bellini Intelli Kitchen Master home cooks can make everything from a simple smoothie to a more complex risotto. It retails for $549.

The Philips Multicooker is a nice option for customers who want to spend less and don’t mind stirring the pot themselves. It has10 preset programs including slow cook, steam, fry/sauté, rice, risotto, stew/simmer, bake, yogurt, reheat and boil. A manual button allows users to change the time and temperature to any specific setting. There is a 24-hour preset timer that can be programmed to start cooking while you’re away so you can come home to a cooked meal. When cooking is done, the machine switches to keep-warm mode for up to 12 hours. The inner pot has a 4-liter capacity, is dishwasher safe, and has a nano-ceramic coating that is nonstick and scratch resistant. The lid of the Mulitcooker can be completely detached after use to allow for direct cleaning from every angle. Also included is a multi-use steam basket, spatula, spoon, rice scoop, and measuring cup. Using the Philips Multicooker, home cooks can prepare a variety of meals, from slow-cooked stews, braises and pot roasts to risottos and curries. You can also steam vegetables or rice, boil pasta, bake cakes or breads and make fresh yogurt. The Philips Multicooker has a suggested retail price of $249.

T-fal will debut the 7-in-1 Multi-Cooker & Fryer in September. With a suggested retail price of $99.99, the small appliance comes in at an even more affordable price point than the Philips Multicooker. The unit has more of an emphasis on the frying capability, with a 1.6-liter oil capacity, but with 1600 watts of power it can also braise, saute, simmer, brown, boil and keep warm, along with having a food capacity of 1.3 pounds. The removable bowl has a non-stick coating and the lid has a viewing window. The lid, bowl and basket are all dishwasher safe. The appliance also has a removable timer that allows cooks to leave the kitchen without fear of not hearing the timer go off.

BLACK+DECKER just introduced the Multi-Cooker – Slow Cook & Sear in June. The appliance is equipped with a slow cooker and stovetop function, making it easy to create true one pot meals. With a capacity of 6.5 quarts, it is bigger than T-fal’s Multi-Cooker and focuses more on slow cooking. The built-in stove finishes sauces, sears meats or sautés ingredients, while the slow cooker function provides a convenient way to cook tender delicious meals. The slow cooker can be turned to low, medium, high and keep warm while the bake and roast functions allow you to set desired temperatures from 200 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The removable ceramic coated pot has cool touch handles with an easy view glass lid. A roasting rack and recipe book is also included. The BLACK+DECKER Multi-Cooker has a suggested retail price of $99.99.

This story was originally published in the August 2015 issue of Kitchenware News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.


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