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Top Stories for 7/23/14

Larger Companies Quietly Begin Shift to Non-GMO Ingredients

While the stigma against GMOs is strong in specialty foods, mainstream producers are starting, quietly, to test the waters by shifting ingredients. Still, finding the right alternatives poses challenges. More than 90 percent of the soybeans and corn grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered, going into animal feed and ingredients such as soy oil and corn starch. Creating a non-GMO product requires a completely separate supply chain, leading to changed flavors or slow transitions. When Ben & Jerry's moved toward GMO-free ingredients, it ditched Hershey's Heath bars in its Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, not only bringing in a new toffee but changing the name to Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch. Kellogg's is currently working to make its Kashi branded products GMO-free, but putting together an ingredient supply chain will take a number of years. Keeping an eye on consumer demand, larger companies will ultimately take the path most profitable, reports NPR. Full Story

Maple Syrup Consumption at Record High as Production Drops

While a 10 percent drop in maple syrup production is expected to stifle U.S. consumption this year, U.S. households used a record 7.6 ounces of maple syrup in 2013, up 33 percent from 2012 and 29 percent more than the average usage of 5.9 ounces between 1992 and 2012, according to a report (PDF) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. This consumption is valued at a record $2.30 average per household, up 32 percent from $1.74 in 2012. The average 2.9 ounces consumed per capita also represents a record high and was up sharply from the average 2.2 ounces of the past 20 years.

American Craft Beers Find Fans in Europe

The American craft beer movement is booming domestically and beginning to gain traction overseas. European countries, recognizing the spike in quality of U.S. brews, are beginning to import a number of offerings. U.S. craft beer exports increased a six-fold in the past five years. In 2013, 282,500 barrels were exported, compared with 46,000 barrels in 2009, according to the Brewers Association. Although the number is growing, it's remains just a fraction of the 15.6 million barrels produced by craft brewers in 2013. Among those continental entrants are Green Flash Brewing Co., which began making and selling beer in Europe through a deal with Belgian brewery Brasserie St-Feuillien, and Brooklyn Brewery, which opened a craft brewery and restaurant with Carlsberg Sweden and is distributing throughout Scandinavia, reports Arizona Daily StarFull Story

KeHE Acquires Nature’s Best

KeHE Distributors is enhancing its business structure with the acquisition of Nature’s Best, a California-based distributor of health and natural food products. The combined resources of KeHE and Nature’s Best will expand its national distribution capabilities, broaden its natural and organic expertise, and augment distribution solutions across all food retail channels. “Nature’s Best's two Leed Gold Certified warehouses, state-of-the-art warehouse management system, and highly respected Cadia product line will be significant and immediate enhancements to our value proposition," says KeHE president and chief executive officer, Brandon Barnholt.

KeHE provides natural and organic, specialty and gourmet, international and multicultural, and fresh products to natural food stores, chain grocery stores, independent grocery stores and other specialty product retailers throughout North America. Completion of the acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions. 

Restaurant Franchises Have High Hopes with Unique Offerings

The mantra "think different" has entered the lexicon of the fast-casual restaurant, with a number of franchises aiming big with unique offerings. Kono Pizza, which serves pizza in a cone form, is eyeing franchise locations in California, North Carolina, and Florida; the company's co-founder sees it becoming the next McDonald's. Meanwhile, Smoke's Poutinerie, based in Ontario with 80 locations in Canada, is looking to expand its poutine menu internationally; the late-night snack favorite tops french fries with brown gravy and cheese curds and a variety of other ingredients, which the company plans to adapt to new markets, with such options as double-smoked bacon and flatiron steak, reports EntrepreneurFull Story

New Mushroom Treatment Removes Bitterness from Chocolate

U.S. food technology company MycoTechnology, Inc., has developed a new process that will reduce the bitterness in cacao beans. The company uses specific mushrooms that remove undesirable traits of food and combine health benefits of mushrooms. MycoTechnology sterilizes the beans and injects them with strains of mushroom root. The beans are then put in a sealed bag for seven to 21 days, feeding on moisture, oxygen, and sugars the beans produce. MycoTechnology is already in talks with several major chocolate manufactures, according to the company, reports Business Insider. Full Story

CA's Malibu Coast Receives AVA Status

Vintners along the Malibu Coast of California have been granted American Viticultural Area status. The designation allow the 52 vintners—such as Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards, Colcanyon, Montage, Malibu Sanity, Malibu Family Wines, and Casa Dumetz—in the region to place the Malibu Coast AVA label on their wines. The vineyards in the designated area began the application process three years ago as a way to present an identity to the wine grown in that area. The Malibu Coast AVA encompasses 368 square miles and a majority of the 198 acres of vineyards in the Santa Monica Mountains. Two previous AVAs in the area, Saddle-Rock Malibu and Malibu-Newton, will join the Malibu Coast AVA, as they share characteristics such as high elevations, warm temperatures, marine fog, and well-drained soils that contain volcanic material, reports Los Angeles TimesFull Story

Anastasia Confections Introduces Rum Coconut Patties

Anastasia Confections' new pirate-themed Rum Coconut Patties (SRP $2.99–$5.99) joins the company's collection of sweets. The product is available in a 12-ounce, rustic, pirate-themed box, containing nine rum-flavored Coconut Patties, made of shredded coconut dipped in a dark chocolate coating and individually wrapped to prolong freshness. An 8-ounce box with six rum patties also is available. Anastasia Confections offers Rum Coconut Patties in classic original, Key lime, piña colada, mango, almond, and orange flavors. Select flavors are available in 8-ounce, 12-ounce, and 16-ounce boxes, as well as countertop 2-packs and single-serving sizes. The company has also introduced Coco Bites in resealable pouches for quick snacking or a light dessert, containing individually wrapped, bite-size versions of the patties. Other products include Salt Water Taffy, Coco Bites, Chocolate Alligators, Coco Rhumbies, Citrus Jelly Candies, and an array of chocolate and gummy treats. All are GMP, HACCP, and kosher certified.

Delmarva Coast Becomes Craft Beer Destination

Since Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Rehoboth Beach, Del., started making beer 20 years ago, the coast of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, known regionally as "Delmarva," has been transformed from a summer escape into a year-round tourist destination. More than a dozen breweries now dot the DelMarVa coast, and Dogfish Head has grown into a a multimillion-dollar enterprise that features multiple alehouses, production facilities, and a beer-themed inn in Lewes, Del. The interest in craft beer in the area resulted in a website and app to help visitors navigate the beer and wine scene, which today includes Ocean City Brewing Co., 16 Mile Brewing Co., Tall Tales Brewing Co., and Burley Oak. Several brewers aren't shy about expansion. Burley Oak makes about 1,200 barrels of beer annually and bottles by hand on a folding table at the back of its production facilities, but the owner is looking to quadruple the brewery’s beer-making capacity by 2015 as customers are there year-round now, not just during the summer, reports The Washington PostFull Story

Bratwurst Maker's Bizarre Ingredients Sell Big

Gummy bears, s'mores, and caramel apple are common flavors for ice cream, but less so for bratwurst. Not at Grundhofer’s Old-Fashion Meats: the Hugo, Minn., company offers 110 unusual ingredients mixed right into the meat, including the aforementioned sweets, that are offered year round by owner Spencer Grundhofer, who opened the store seven years ago. He recently sold 100 pounds of the caramel apple variety in less than a week, and the gummy bear variety is a best seller. Grundhofer started working in a butcher shop when he was 10 years old, packing meat in boxes but soon moved up to cutting meat. Once he had his own full-service butcher shop, the experimentation began. The gummy bear brat began as a joke but became a serious seller. Grundhofer believes that no matter what unusual ingredients are added, what matters most is that the brat meat has to be good. The rising cost of pork has forced Grundhofer to raise prices by about 40 cents a pound and a package of five big brats, depending on ingredients, to an average of $8, depending on ingredients, reports Minneapolis Star TribuneFull Story

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