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Meijer Bringing Store-to-Door Delivery to Chicago and Rockford

Meijer and official home delivery partner Shipt will offer their increasingly popular store-to-door service beginning July 13 to nearly 2.5 million households throughout the Chicagoland suburbs and Rockford. The home delivery service launches as part of an expansion across six states that has so far resulted in more than 250,000 deliveries this year, combining personalized shopping with fresh grocery and a wide selection of daily essentials available 24 hours a day.

Using the Shipt smartphone app or placing orders from their computers or tablets, members are able to access more than 55,000 items available at Meijer stores, note any preferences, choose a one-hour delivery window and pay for their order. Fresh produce, meat, dairy, as well as hard-to-carry items like pet food, diapers and cleaning supplies can all be delivered to shoppers’ doors when it is convenient for them – as soon as one hour after the order is placed, or up to one day in advance.

“Our goal is to provide store-to-door convenience to as many of our customers as possible,” said Art Sebastian, Vice President of Digital Shopping for Meijer. “We believe that the personalized service that Shipt offers, coupled with the freshness and wide selection our customers love about Meijer, is the perfect meld of online shopping and our brick and mortar locations. Whether you’re too busy or just have difficulty getting around a store, the ability to shop digitally and have it delivered when its most convenient provides a life-changing alternative to the way you’ve always shopped for our groceries.”

Meijer has aggressively rolled out the service since launching in Detroit last September and now offers home delivery throughout Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The massive greater Chicagoland launch will cover more than 4,500 square miles and include more than 200 zip codes in Aurora, Algonquin, Bolingbrook, Bloomingdale, Crystal Lake, Elgin, Flossmoor, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Joliet, Mokena, Orland Park, Oswego, Rolling Meadows, Round Lake Beach, St. Charles, Wheaton and Tinley Park, as well as Michigan City, Merrillville, Highland and Portage, Indiana.

“People in the Midwest love to shop Meijer because of their vast selection and high-quality products,” said Shipt CEO and Founder Bill Smith. “With this latest expansion of our partnership into Chicago and Rockford, more than 2.5 million households will have the ability to shop tens of thousands of fresh grocery and household items without having to travel to the store.”

Shipt memberships are available for an annual fee of $99 and members have access to free delivery on all orders over $35. For orders under $35, there is a $7 delivery fee. Shipt plans to hire 10,000 people across the six-state expansion with Meijer this year. Shipt displays a commitment to each of the communities it serves and plans to identify opportunities to help eliminate hunger and food insecurity in these communities.

Top Note Tonic Earns a sofi as Best New Product

By Lorrie Baumann

Top Note tonics are attracting attention among the fans of craft beverages, most recently with a sofi Award for Top Note Indian Tonic Water, named the best new product in the cold beverages category by the Specialty Food Association this year. The company’s other products include a Ginger Beer as well as a range of other European-style tonics in Bitter Orange, Bitter Lemon and Gentian Lime flavors.

Mary Pellettieri, Noah Swason, Founders Top Note TonicTop Note tonics are produced by La Pavia Beverage, LLC, founded in 2014 by Mary Pellettieri and her husband and partner, Noah Swanson and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “We decided to go into this business because we were very intrigued by craft beer,” Pellettieri says. “As I was concocting and crafting some syrups for that, using traditional recipes, I found that I liked the syrups just with carbonated water.”

Pellettieri’s interest in beer was long-standing. She began her career at the Siebel Institute of Technology, a research institute and school of brewing technology founded in Chicago in 1868, where she was a chemist and microbiologist and taught sensory management. Her career has taken her from there to Silliker Labs, Goose Island Beer Company and then MillerCoors before she left the brewery giant to start her own company. After more than 20 years of working with craft beers, she was in an ideal position to recognize the potential of the beverage she’d created. “To me, it’s more than just a mixer. It could be an herbal soft drink on its own,” she said. “It’s a radler [also known as a shandy] when mixed with beer.”

Pellettieri’s experience had taught her to appreciate the tonics she’d tasted in Europe, where the category was burgeoning with many more products and flavors than were being offered to the American market, where tonics tended to have harsher flavors that could mask the rasp of alcohol when they were mixed into cocktails based on mass-marketed spirits. But after distillers of craft spirits began producing smoother liquors, there was no longer as much need to hide the harsh taste of the alcohol. Pellettieri figured that created a gap in the market for mixers with bright, clean flavors, including the herbal elixirs that she loved.

“We just saw that the category of sparkling beverage needing some innovation, some dusting up,” she said. “I just thought: Why not someone who understands bitter, who understands beer? Why not me?”

“The tonic category in the States has been sleepy,” she added. “If you go to Europe you’ll see that it’s much more of a burgeoning category and much more diverse in its offerings.”

The Top Note product line started with mixable syrups that could be added to cocktails, stirred into sparkling water to make a soda or drunk on their own. “It’s still a tonic, and there’s still some bitterness to it, so I always warn people. Tonic lovers really love it,” Pellettieri said. “It’s still true to the tradition that a tonic is a bitter, sour and sweet beverage.”

The Top Note tonics pair well with the same kind of foods that complement other bitter beverages like an IPA beer or a dark espresso, and Pellettieri has recently expanded the line by packaging the tonics in four-packs of ready-to-serve bottles and adding a Ginger Beer that can be consumed either as a mixer or on its own. “We designed it with the idea that flavor is most important,” Pellettieri said. “That’s selling out faster than we can keep up with right now.”

The Top Note tonics are currently being distributed locally in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, where they’re in both liquor and specialty grocery stores, but the products have also recently launched through KeHE. The Top Note Indian Tonic Water will be in the sofi Award showcase at the Summer Fancy Food Show, and Pellettieri plans to exhibit her line at the Winter Fancy Food Show in 2018. She says her production line is scalable for the orders that the sofi Award and the KeHE launch are bound to bring. “We’re ready,” she said. “We are ready. Everything’s in place.”

Organic Farm Brings Freshness to the Table

By Lorrie Baumann

Bradley Stroll’s childhood dreams for his future were born with the seeds he bought in his elementary school classrooms for a nickel a packet. He’d buy the seeds every year to start the summertime gardens those seeds were intended to encourage, and with his seeds in the ground, he’d dream that he’d grow up to be a farmer. Life didn’t turn out that way – at least, not at first.

Bradley Stroll_FMF PictureToday, though, he’s up at 4:30 in the morning, every morning of the year, because that’s what it takes to be a successful organic farmer about 90 miles from Manhattan Island in New York. Stroll, his wife, Cathy, and an all-female crew of 11 employees now operate Fresh Meadow Farm, a 56-acre organic farm where they grow vegetables that Stroll sells to New York City gourmet chefs. They also make quiches, artisan pies and desserts and cheesecakes that appear on New York menus. When the growing season is over for the year, there’s equipment to be repaired and plenty of other maintenance to take care of as well as marketing trips to New York to find new customers for next year’s crops. “There’s always work to be done,” he says. “It’s just different work.”

Stroll got where he is today by way of a path that led him through a long career as a chef, including working as the banquet chef for New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Stroll then founded Food Gems, a specialty wholesale bakery that continues through this day, and that calls on the skills he practiced while he cooked and baked for a living from the time he and Cathy graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. When his kids had finished college, he and his wife were ready to add to his cooking life, and eight years ago, they decided to follow the dream he had growing up. “I love growing stuff,” he says. “I always grew stuff in my back yard.” He went looking for a piece of land he could farm.

IMG_0775The 56-acre parcel he found had been lying fallow for years, which meant that no chemicals had been applied to it for enough years to make it possible to obtain organic certification without the usual three-year transition time. “I bought a rundown farm and rebuilt it,” Stroll says. “We started from scratch.”

His most immediate challenge was finding his farming staff to get a crop started. “You have to nurture everyone who works for you,” he says.

Finding customers for those crops and the products they make from them came next. Stroll’s long career as a chef had already taught him that white-tablecloth chefs, accustomed to ordering their vegetables without thinking much about how they were grown or where they were coming from, weren’t always willing to accommodate the realities of New York’s growing season and its hiatus for winter. “Their delivery schedule isn’t your delivery schedule,” Stroll says. His new prospective customers also didn’t appreciate that Stroll’s vegetables had to cost more because the weeds and insects that attacked the plants had been kept under control through human labor rather than with applications of chemicals. “The reason organic costs more is not because it’s snooty,” Stroll says. “It’s because it’s expensive to grow. That’s what makes organic expensive – it’s all hand labor.”

Stroll had to visit those chefs in person to explain those realities to them face to face before he could win their business. “If it wasn’t hard, then everybody would be doing it,” he says. “There’d be no reward.”

After several years of selling to New York chefs, Stroll has the answers they need, which includes assurances that their previous produce suppliers would still be happy to have their business every winter – that if they bought local certified organic produce from him, they wouldn’t be burning the sources they’d still need to depend on when Stroll’s soil is frozen for the winter. Then in the summer, they’d have available an abundance of farm-fresh, locally grown organic produce with which to tantalize their guests’ taste buds. “When the tomatoes come due, it’s all your tomato specials then,” Stroll says. “Some guys are easy. They understand. Some don’t.”

Some of those chefs complain about the feast or famine nature of seasonal crops. Sometimes they ask why Stroll can’t sell them fresh vegetables outside their season, so that they could order eggplants from him in April and jalapenos in June, but that would mean bringing in vegetables from somewhere warmer during New York’s winter months. Stroll doesn’t do that. “If I don’t grow it at Fresh Meadow Farm, I don’t sell it to you,” he says. “Some take it very well. Others don’t.”

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