The Gourmet Retailer Honors 20 Companies with Industry Innovator Awards

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The Gourmet Retailer Honors 20 Companies with Industry Innovator Awards

In a sense, Belgioioso Cheese began over a century ago in Italy where Errico Auricchio’s great-grandfather began making cheese. In 1979, Auricchio moved his family to America, settled in the rich dairy land of Wisconsin, and began making cheese of his own of the highest quality from traditional recipes. Today, the company produces a brilliant array of award-winning Italian-style cheeses including American Grana, Asiago, Burrata, Fontina, Fresh Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Mascarpone, Provolone, and many more. All the cheeses are manufactured, aged, finished, packaged and shipped from their own state-of-the-art production facilities in the areas around Denmark and Pulaski, Wis.

Known for its sleek, modern designs, Bodum has been recognized by countless awards – achievements that speak to the aesthetics and function of its housewares products. In addition to the recent 2010 iF Design Award given to 14 individual products and the 2009 Good Design Award which recognized nine individual products, Bodum has been honored with multiple Red Dot Design Awards, Housewares Design Awards, Design Plus Awards and others. “To be a true market leader in innovation, design and function you need a different mindset and must always come up with new ideas fast and first,” explained Thomas Perez, president of Bodum USA Inc.

Companion Group
With more than 30 patents issued during the last 26 years and more pending, The Companion Group’s product line includes three brands – Charcoal Companion®, Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue™ and Patio Companion®. In short, this leader in the grilling and outdoor entertaining category offers hundreds of grilling tools such as a grill top pizza stone, vertical poultry roasters, skewer shields, spice rubs–everything a retailer needs to have an outdoor entertaining program. From their first chimney starter, to one of their newest products, Moistly Grilled®, a two-piece cast iron unit that rests on the grill and holds water to humidify the grill cooking environment, Companion Group continues to drive innovation when it comes to grilling tools and accessories.

Cypress Grove Chevre
Mary Keehn began raising goats in the 1970s to provide her children with healthful milk, for which Keehn was recognized as one of the country’s premier breeder of Alpine dairy goats. Cheesemaking naturally followed, and since 1983 she has been making world-class, award-winning goat cheeses including her signature creation, Humboldt Fog, a unique American cheese that stands as an exemplar of the concept of terroir. With the abundance of rain, fog and other singular climatic conditions in Humboldt County, there is perhaps no other place in the world where one could successfully make this great cheese. Keehn has also been an avid cheerleader for the burgeoning artisanal cheesemaking scene in the U.S., graciously sharing her knowledge and expertise with up and coming cheesemakers, and she has been one of the stalwart supporters of the American Cheese Society.

Divine Chocolate
Launched in the U.S. in 2007, the genesis of Divine Chocolate was the formation of Kuapa Kokoo in 1993, a farmer-owned cooperative set up to sell cocoa to the state-owned exporter. In 1997, working with Twin Trading, The Body Shop, Christian Aid and Comic Relief, the cocoa farmers of Kuapa Kokoo decided to create their own chocolate bar and formed the Day Chocolate Company. The Body Shop eventually donated all their shares to Kuapa Kokoo, thus making them the only Fairtrade chocolate company which is 45 percent owned by the farmers. Being a Fairtrade organization, they receive a better deal for their cocoa and additional income to invest in the community. Co-ownership gives farmers a share of the Divine profits and a stronger voice in the cocoa industry. In 2009, Divine Chocolate Ltd. Managing Director Sophi Tranchell was awarded an MBE for her service to the food industry. The company now makes a whole range of high-quality dark and milk chocolate bars, cocoa beverages, and specialty chocolates.

Encore Foods
Encore Foods is an importer of specialty foods from the Mediterranean, notably France, Italy, Spain and Greece, as well as wild and blended rice and heirloom beans from the U.S. The company was established in 2004 by Ron Johnson, an intrepid food entrepreneur who had previously launched two highly successful food companies; France America in 1978 and Gourmet America in 1990. Johnson works with many of the small, family-owned artisans with whom he has partnered for many years. Together with his son Jeremy, Johnson continues to seek out sterling examples of olive oil, vinegars, olives, condiments, crackers, sauces, and other foods from producers whose adherence to high quality ingredients and traditional methods of production help form the heart of our gourmet food business.

Phil Meldrum, another Gourmet America alum, launched FoodMatch in 1996. The company quickly became a leading supplier of all-natural Mediterranean foods, specializing in bulk and retail olives and antipasti. Today, the company adheres to fully sustainable, fully traceable product line includes more than 350 products from the Mediterranean countries as well as the United States, Argentina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Chile, Denmark, India, Mauritius, Peru and South Africa. Sourcing from small, family-owned farms these all-natural foods are a true expression of their origin.
FoodMatch works side-by-side with their farmers to establish sustainable farming practices, and all of its products are fully traceable. FoodMatch is a supporter of City Harvest, a member of the Whole Grain Council and a Gold Medallion Member of the Mediterranean Foods Alliance.

Fusion Brands
Kraigh and Anna Stewart have put their skills in furniture design to work in the gourmet kitchenware industry, designing functional yet visually striking products made with silicone. The couple was inspired to create their first product, the foodloop, in 2003, when trying to make chicken rolls. Since then, they’ve put their creativity to work, creating unique designs to tackle everyday kitchen tasks.

Keurig Inc.’s K-Cups have revolutionized the coffee category—with its single-cup brewing systems. Keurig , which is Dutch for “excellence,” markets its patented brewers and K-Cups® through retailers, office distributors and direct channels. Introduced in 1998, Keurig’s innovative single-cup brewing system lets coffee drinkers brew perfect coffee, one cup at a time, in less than a minute. Now a division of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Keurig’s K-Cups feature coffee from a variety of roasters and in May, a line of brew-over iced teas were introduced.

Honey Ridge Farms
Honey Ridge Farms, Brush Prairie, Wash., has evolved from one locally sourced honey into a line of 22 artisanal honey-based products, including award-winning balsamic honey vinegar. Under the leadership of Leann Goetz, Honey Ridge Farms offers a variety of single-floral source artisan honeys from the western United States, as well as other all natural honey-based gourmet foods. The company sources these premium honeys from local artisan beekeepers from several states. Goetz’s son Ryan Lieuallen is a fifth-generation beekeeper who works alongside his grandfather tending hives.

Harold Import
The Harold Import Company began life in 1957 as a distributor for porcelain dinnerware. The family-owned company, headed today by scion Robert Laub, is a leader in supplying tools and equipment for the kitchen and dining room. While continuing to provide a range of high-quality porcelain bakeware and tableware, they also excel in cooking tools and gadgets, coffee, tea, and wine accessories, award-winning cookbooks, and essentials for Asian cooking, seafood, canning, BBQ, entertaining, and even innovative cleaning products. One of the most highly regarded companies in the industry, they are well known for their superior customer service, low minimums and fast shipping. More recently, they have expanded their H.I.C. branding and packaging program, creating an exciting new look for the same great company.

Jasper Hill Farm
Jasper Hill Farm is a small family farm founded in 1988 in Greensboro, Vt., the same year that saw the demise of five local dairy farms. In July of 2002, brothers Mateo and Andy Kehler purchased 15 Ayrshire heifers and began their life as dairy farmers and cheesemakers. Mateo is the cheesemaker, Andy manages their herd of dairy cows, and together with their wives, Victoria and Angela, they make three award-winning cheese varieties: Baley Hazen Blue, a luscious and creamy blue named for an old military road that traverses the northeast region of Vermont; Constant Bliss, a soft-ripening cheese based on a recipe for Chaource; and a seasonal washed-rind cheese called Winnimere that is washed with a locally made Lambic beer. They have also recently completed a cheese-aging cellar that is managed by Victoria Kehler where they age the cheeses from 10 other area farms. The two couples continue to make farmstead cheeses with the aim of creating a vehicle for the renewal of their local dairy economy in the form of a business model that can be replicated on other dairy farms.

Lactalis is family-run group based in Laval, Mayenne, in the dairy region in the west of France. They are one of the largest dairy companies in the world, manufacturing and representing some of the most celebrated cheeses in the world. Founded in 1933 in France by the Bresnier family, the company today employs over 25,000 people in more than 140 countries. Their impressive lineup of brands includes Président, Sorrento, Precious, rondelé, Galbani, Mozzarella Fresca, and Valbreso Feta among others. Lactalis is well represented domestically by Lactalis USA. and

Lotus Foods
Intending to “do nothing less than have an impact on the future of our planet by influencing how rice is grown,” Lotus Foods has quietly helped usher in a new era of specialty rice. Beginning in 1995, Caryl Levine and her partner Ken Lee have been able to link some of the world’s poorest and most disenfranchised rice farmers to the global marketplace. Employing a novel method of growing rice called the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), these farmers have been able to greatly increase their yields of rice, lower their production costs, and ultimately increase their net income, all without requiring capital expenditure, the purchase of seeds or the use of chemicals. They currently have 12 varieties of rice, including three new varieties of SRI grown rice, Madagascar Pink Rice, Volcano Rice from West Java, and Mekong Flower Rice from Cambodia. Other varieties of rice include Bhutanese Red Rice, Forbidden Rice, Brown Kalijira, Carnaroli, and Organic Jade Pearl Rice, plus their signature mirror finish stainless steel rice cooker/steamer.

Mozzarella Company
Frustrated by a dearth of good fresh mozzarella in her native Texas, cheesemaker and author Paula Lambert returned to Italy where she had been a graduate student, apprenticed at a small cheese factory, and in 1983 founded the Mozzarella Company in Dallas. Today, Lambert and her crew make over 35 different award-winning cheeses from both cow and goat’s milk, evoking the flavors of Italy as well as the indigenous flavors of the Southwest. Lambert has been an enthusiastic supporter of the American Cheese Society, and she regularly shares her knowledge of food and cheesemaking through classes and workshops across the country. She is also the author of two seminal cheese books, The Cheese Lovers Cookbook & Guide and Cheese, Glorious Cheese (both from Simon & Schuster).

Numi Tea
Numi Tea began in 1999 when brother and sister, Ahmed and Reem, combined their love and belief in the transcendental properties of tea with their individual passions for photography, art, and culture. Today, they represent a broad array of specialty teas including loose tea, teabags (using full leaf tea with no added oils or flavorings), herbal infusions, ready-to-drink bottled teas and tea accessories. Numi has introduced such innovative teas to the U.S. as Rooibos, Lemon Myrtle, Honeybush, Dry Desert Lime, handcrafted “Flowering Teas,” and their exciting new line of Puerh teas. Reem’s original art, based on Ahmed’s photographs, illustrates every package of Numi Tea. In 2007, Numi opened its first Tea Garden next to their warehouse in Oakland, Calif.

Stonewall Kitchen
From its beginnings as a farmer’s market vendor, Stonewall Kitchen has established itself as one of the leading specialty food companies. Known for its best-selling Wild Maine Blueberry Jam, the York, Maine, company started by Jonathan King and Jim Stott, continues to introduce new innovative products year after year. Since the company’s launch in 1991, Stonewall Kitchen has received 26 sofi awards from the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade and has been awarded the coveted Outstanding Product Line Honors three times.

Vermont Creamery
Even though the name has changed, the Vermont Creamery, which was launched in 1984 under the name Vermont Butter & Cheese Co., is guided by the same tenets its founders Bob Reese and Allison Hooper identified years ago: crafting artisanal dairy products in the European style by using a network of more than 20 local, family-owned farms. Over the years, the creamery has earned numerous awards, including a gold sofi award at the 2010 Summer Fancy Food Show for its Crottin.

Vinturi Red Wine Aerator
This little device, which aerates wine quickly and effortlessly, has been a best seller at many gourmet stores and wine shops around the country since it hit the market in 2007. It was named by Entrepreneur magazine one of the “Revolutionary Inventions of 2007” alongside the iPhone and Kindle. A bestseller at retail, it is also used and endorsed by more than 200 Napa Valley and Sonoma wineries. Not just a one-hit wonder, the company unveiled an aeration tool designed for use with white wine last year, and has also introduced the Vinturi Tower, a stylish stand that holds the wine aerator and creates a dramatic presentation to showcase the wine aeration.

Improving customers’ quality of life through creation of innovative products remains the heart of Zojirushi’s corporate philosophy. Best known in gourmet circles for its rice cookers and its line of Home Bakery bread machines, the 92-year old company stays one step ahead of ever-changing consumer tastes. Zojirushi continues to introduce cooking and food preservation products that are high in quality and attractive in design.