Soup To Nutz

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As we went to press last month, the Summer Fancy Food Show was gearing up to present the latest and greatest in specialty foods. For the second year in a row, the show  was held in Washington, DC but will return to the Big Apple in 2013 now that the Javitz Center has been renovated. Show sponsor The National Association of the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, spotted the five top trends from this year’s show, which are: small batch mixers; local global; cookie cracker crunch; the new South; and chocolate change ups.  Noticeably missing this year from the 2012 trends list were the do it yourself kits.  For the most part I didn’t find too many “new” items, just line extensions or products  that have added the flavor of the moment (Sicilian blood orange and ginger) to their selections.  A couple of innovative twists I did see were a chocolate covered cheesecake dollop and a brownie crunch in three flavors from Seth Greenberg. However, my favorite tidbit of information came from Tom Gaffney, southern regional sales manager for Euro-American Brands. He told my colleague, Karen Fernandez and me the story of how the Ritter Sport Bar, celebrating its 100th birthday in 2012, got its name, shape and size. The story has it that in 1932 Grandma Clara Ritter decided to change the packaging of the 100 gram chocolate bar from a long and thin shape to a square, thicker shape all the while keeping the product at the standard 100 grams. Why? Because back in the day, men wore hats and sport coats as part of their daily wardrobe, and the pockets weren’t shaped to properly hold the chocolate bars. So, Grandma Clara reshaped the chocolate bar so it would fit nicely in the pockets and voila…the Ritter Sport Bar! I enjoy hearing the back stories to the brands we use every day. Other trends identified at the NASFT show were pistachio, in butters and desserts; beer as an ingredient in jams, chocolates and crackers; coffee and chocolate combinations; rosemary in sweets; and I also picked up a sample tube of bacon flavored lip balm. At the end of the show exhibitors donated more than 135,000 pounds of specialty chocolate, cheese, olive oil, pasta sauces, meats and produce to area residents in need via the Capital Area Food Bank, the DC metropolitan area’s largest hunger relief organization, as they help provide 100,000 meals to people at risk for hunger.

Two Mid-Atlantic retailers, McCaffrey’s Markets and A&P, have partnered with BrightFarms, Inc. with the goal of bringing local hydroponically grown produce to their stores year round. BrightFarms finances, builds and operates greenhouses at or near supermarkets, bringing the farmer’s market to the supermarket. The company is responding to consumers’ increasing demand for local produce and growing interest in connecting with farmers and producers. In McCaffrey’s case, BrightFarms and McCaffrey’s signed the grocery industry’s first long term produce purchase agreement (PPA) this past June marking a shift in the produce supply chain. The produce will be grown in a 50,000 square foot greenhouse on the historic Patterson Farm in Yardley, PA and will supply approximately 500,000 pounds of produce per year. In addition to supplying McCaffrey’s, the greenhouse will supply restaurants throughout the area by John Vena, Inc. whose family owned produce distribution business is located in the Philadelphia Wholesale  Produce Market (PWPM). “Both McCaffrey’s and John Vena are passionate about local produce as we are,” said Paul Lightfoot, CEO of BrightFarms. The ribbon cutting is scheduled for this fall. A&P has signed the grocery industry’s third long-term produce purchase agreement, becoming the only retailer of BrightFarms’ Brooklyn-grown produce from the world’s largest rooftop farm.  The multi-acre greenhouse will be built on 100,000 square feet of rooftop space, establishing a new national model for urban agriculture. BrightFarms’ Brooklyn will grow nearlyo one million pounds of local produce per year. Now customers will have the opportunity to purchase local lettuce, tomato, and herb varieties at their neighborhood A&P, The Food Emporium, Pathmark or Waldbaum’s in the New York metropolitan area. “Partnering with BrightFarms is a phenomenal opportunity to provide our customers with the freshest, local, and most sustainable produce in the supermarket aisle,” said Sam Martin, president and CEO of A&P. The greenhouse is scheduled to begin operations in the first quarter of 2013.

As we report in this month’s second lead, Giant/Carlisle has begun renovations of the Genuardi’s stores they purchased from Safeway, and are will complete reopening all 15 of the units before the end of this month. I stopped by the Jamison store after it opened July I and  was pleased to see the shelves abundantly stocked with products and aisles teeming with customers. The food court is open once again and the folks at Giant have added so much to the prepared food department; I don’t even know where to begin. The buzz from the customers was all positive.

Another retailer that purchased three of the former Genuardi’s stores, Weis Markets’, completed their renovations in mid-June. Weis did an amazing job in these stores by adding good lighting, cleaning up the place, painting and getting the stores up to Weis’ standard. The Doylestown store is expansive. The prepared food/produce/floral section of the store is merchandised with many items the demanding Bucks County clientele has asked for. Keep in mind they wanted a Trader Joe’s or a Whole Foods, not another traditional supermarket. Well, Weis has stepped up their game at this store. The floral department is especially noted as it makes a statement as one enters the store and the pasta section (important to me) has a good variety of brands from which customers can choose. As one of my friends told me, “I wasn’t disappointed.” I also received a coupon when I signed up for my “Weis Preferred Card.” McCaffrey’s is debuted its new store in former Genuardi’s in Newtown, Bucks County on July 15, just after we went to press on this  issue (look  for photos next month). I am sure it will be another winner for Jim and his very capable team. When I last checked in with Jim McCaffrey IV, he said customers are trying to come in to shop even though the store isn’t yet open.

Speaking of Bucks County, PA, I had the chance to stop in at the Yardley Inn, one of my favorite restaurants recently. I mention it because it is in Yardley, PA, a jump off of I95 at the first exit in Pennsylvania from New Jersey. It’s a great meeting place in between the metro New York and Philadelphia markets. Located on the Delaware River the Yardley Inn features outdoor dining in season and private party facilities as well.  Recently named the 2012 Best Restaurant in Bucks County by the Bucks County Courier Times, the Inn has a lively bar crowd at happy hour and a their own version of an early bird menu (4:30 to 6:15 pm daily) consisting of 3 courses for $19.95 that attracts patrons of all ages. My dining partner and I chose from that menu but added a delicious crab bisque and cocktails for a delightful meal at a very reasonable price. The food is great, the service is good. Reservations can be made online through Open Table. It has the Maria seal of approval, so you can’t go wrong!

It has been a little more than a year since the new PWPM opened its doors, so I reached out to Tad Thompson, business development manager, for an update. Tad had only positive things to say about the first year in the new digs. “Our 25 merchants are happy with the fabulous advantages of the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market,” he said.  One vendor closed up earlier this year, so we asked about new business and if sales were increasing at the market, Tad said, “New faces have found their way to the market.  While our stockholders keep their business affairs private, many have told me sales are up. Because of the controlled cold chain, shrink has been much lower here from the outset.  Product freshness and quality are up.  This is highly reassuring in the food safety realm.” He continued, “Hundreds of industry members have toured the market and all the first-timers indicated they couldn’t imagine how magnificent this place is until they saw it. It has been the job of one of our international guests to tour the world’s finest produce markets.  At the end of our time together, he told me: ‘This is the best produce market in the world.  Not by a little.  But by a lot.’  What a great opportunity we have here to take industry leadership and just build and build in the future!” If you would like to reach Tad for a tour, he can be found at tad@pwpm.net.

During the past month, I have received news from many of our readers about good things happening in our industry. John Fugazzie, director of dairy and frozen at A&P, received a certificate of appreciation for being an outstanding ambassador of Jobs4Jersey.com from the New Jersey Department of Work Force and Labor Development recognizing his work with Neighbors-helping-Neighbors, a group he founded in northern New Jersey. Neighbors-helping-Neighbors USA, Inc. (NhN) is a cost-free, highly successful peer-led volunteer support and networking group targeted to individuals who are actively looking for work and interested in reinvigorating their job search. Membership is open to anyone in career transition, including unemployed or underemployed individuals and recent college graduates in the fields of business, non-profit, and education, as well as persons re-entering the job market, struggling small business owners and retirees looking for part-time or volunteer work. NhN started in River Edge, NJ and has expanded to 21 meeting locations in six counties in less than 18 months. All meetings are held in local libraries. NhN embraces a ‘pay it forward’ ethos, asking all associates to contribute to other members by sharing job search techniques, related professional career development resources, personal referrals and generally providing a forum where members feeling empowered, energized and focused on the job search. John recently told me. The New Jersey Department of Labor is going to have NhN listed as a resource for job seekers who file through unemployment. “Everyone loves a grassroots organization completely volunteer free service that costs tax payers nothing,” John said. A tip o’ the hat to you, John, for going the extra mile to help people get back on their feet.  To find out more about this program, check out their website at www.neighbors-helping-neighbors.com.

South Jersey Biz magazine has named Wellshire Farms one of the best places to work in South Jersey. Lou Colemeco III started the business in 1996 in the basement of his home. He wanted his children to be able to eat meat products that were not over processed and without health benefits or nutritional value. Fast forward to 2012 and Wellshire Farms has more than 20 “team members” and has expanded to a compound that lies on 10 acres of ground and its offices are housed in a converted and renovated 1800’s stable. A true entrepreneur, Colameco believes the traditional office set up is confining and oppressive. “If you are stifled in your environment, you can’t think,” says Colameco.  On the grounds of this atypical headquarters one will find an enclosed swimming pool, gym, trampoline, walking trails and shuffle board court. Inside, the office features a large wood stove. There’s a corporate chef on the premises two-three times per week, who prepares meals for employees using some of Wellshire’s 350 different products. Fresh groceries are also brought in every week and employees are encouraged to prepare lunches in the company kitchen. If that’s not enough, other perks include closing early each Friday, recycling and composting on site, and a new NitroFill station to fill the tires of employees’ vehicles.

This month the circle of life brings us all good news. One of the hardest working women in the food industry, Donna Solt of Johanna Foods, married Craig Serio on June 30 in Chester, NJ. Best wishes to the newlyweds! We also welcome into the world  Mariella Foti, daughter of Leonard and Brianna Foti of Rosa Foods. Baby Mariella was born on June 28. Big brother Leonardo is reportedly quite happy with his sister’s arrival and already wanting to play trains with her.

Birthday Shout outs for the sizzling hot month of July go out to: Joe Fantozzi, White Rose; Kelly Tarzwell, Pepsi; Tim Summy, BBU; and to my son Gino Marfuggi Jr. Buon compleanno a tutti!

Celebrating marital bliss this month are: Jeff and Sandy Brown, Brown’s ShopRites; Paul and Monica McGurkin, Integrity Food Marketing; and Jim and Joan Kinney, former VP/GM of Food Trade News. Happy Anniversary!

 Quote of the month: “Opportunity is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and it is called work.” Thomas Edison