By Deborah Cassell
Editor
Confection & Snack Retailing
casselld@bnpmedia.com

getting fresh: Fresh-ward bound

Notorious B.I.G. had the right idea: “I’m going, going, back, back, to Cali, Cali …” All winter long here in sweet home Chicago, I have ached for a break from the cold and the snow and the windy city where I hang my hat (and scarf and gloves and earmuffs). Finally, the time has come. Tomorrow, I will head west for a visit with my closest friend, who, happily, lives in my favorite vacation destination: San Diego.

Last I checked, the weather this weekend in San Diego will be in the 60s, so I’ve definitely seen warmer trips to the area, but who cares? Having just been hit by my third cold/flu bug this winter, I need the fresh air and ocean that California promises. Whether it makes sense or not, just being on the West Coast makes me feel healthier. Maybe it’s the Pacific breeze. Maybe it’s the seafood platters. Maybe it’s the proliferation of fruit smoothies that appear on the menu at every corner café. The sun, the surf, the sand … California, take me away!

Although I technically will be off-duty until Monday afternoon, when I return to the Midwest (hopefully to find spring in the air here, too), as the editor of a retail magazine, I’m never completely off the job. While out of town, I cannot help but take note of that which might interest my readers.

For me, one of the highlights of vacationing is taking a trip to one or more local grocery stores, which give you a real sense of the locale. In San Diego, that means Albertson’s, Ralphs or Vons. And while I peruse the aisles of these well-shopped stores, I will take stock of the more regional products they offer, particularly in the all-natural and organic sectors.

Californians are known for their “green” attitude. For example, you’d be hard-pressed to find shoppers carrying petroleum-based plastic bags in my best friend’s neck of the woods. In Cali, reusable bags are the norm and not the exception to the rule, as they seem to be here in Illinois (despite growing interest in bags that don’t break under the weight of a gallon of milk; I recently converted my Ohio mother to totes from Jewel and Whole Foods for their durability – the “green” characteristics are more of a perk, methinks).

That’s not to say that we’re not green, all-natural or organic here in Chi-town, as Candy Industry editor-in-chief Bernie Pacyniak pointed out last week. After all, we play host to All Things Organic (to be held June 16-18 at McCormick Place), a conference that’s dedicated to, well, All Things Organic -- from cookies and crackers to candy and chocolate and everything in between. And like California, we are no strangers to Trader Joe’s, a retailer that’s well-known for its organic and fair trade selection.

That said, it’s not as easy here in Chicago to find dining spots such as Organic To Go, a California eatery I wrote about in my previous life as managing editor of Confection & Snack Retailing sister publication Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery. “Eat Clean, Save Green” is the mantra of this relatively new chain, which actually is based in Seattle -- another “green” American city. Organic To Go serves up breakfast, lunch and snacks, including baked goods, chips and cookies, and even caters events. According to www.organictogo.com, all its food offerings are “free of harmful chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones, and created with fresh ingredients sourced locally whenever possible.”

Then there’s In-N-Out Burger, a regular destination for Hollywood celebrities, California locals … and visitors like me. I’ll not soon forget my first In-N-Out Burger experience. In fact, I’m hoping for another one this weekend! “In a world where food is often over-processed, prepackaged and frozen, In-N-Out makes everything the old fashioned way,” explains www.in-n-out.com. To that end, all burgers are made from fresh, 100% pure beef (which they grind in their own facility), free from additives, fillers and preservatives; the lettuce is hand-leafed; the buns are baked one at a time from “old-fashioned, slow-rising sponge dough”; and everything is cooked in “100%, cholesterol-free vegetable oil.” Plus, get this: Not one In-N-Out Burger stop houses a microwave, freezer or heat lamp, so everything is, literally, made to order. “Quality you can taste?” I think so!

Needless to say, unlike Biggie, I’m not headed back to Cali “strictly for the weather” – and certainly not for the women. “Yo, I don’t think so …”

Wrigley building earns LEED certification

Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.’s Global Innovation Center (GIC) in Chicago has earned LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). To achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, Wrigley’s GIC was required to meet specific criteria such as improving water efficiency, using renewable materials and resources, constructing on sustainable sites and using innovation and design.

As a result, the company’s GIC features “green cleaning,” which requires the use of all-natural cleaning products without any harsh chemicals, automated temperature sensors, an irrigation system and lighting occupancy sensors, amongst other initiatives. In return, the building has reduced its water usage by 40% annually over the last two years and reduced its energy use by 10% over the last year.

“Improving our environmental profile within Chicago and around the world is the right thing to do for our business, our associated and our communities,” says Dushan Petrovich, president of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. “We are proud of the work we’ve done to earn LEED Gold certification for our Global Innovation Center. As a company with a commitment to Chicago, we are excited to contribute to the city’s vision to make our community more environmentally sustainable.”

For more information, visit www.wrigley.com.

Lily O'Brien's opens first-ever U.S. chocolate cafe in Manhattan

Kildare, Ireland-based Lily O’Brien’s, a manufacturer of premium truffles, pralines and organic chocolates, has opened its first chocolate cafe in Manhattan. The new cafe, located at 36 West 40th St. in the Bryant Park area, just blocks from Times Square and Grand Central Station, will serve a mix of signature-blend hot beverages and its luxury award-winning chocolate collections. 

The news was announced on Monday during a business breakfast in New York City hosted by Enterprise Ireland to coincide with Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s trade mission to the United States. Lily O’Brien’s plans additional locations in New York City and throughout the United States.

Since its founding in 1992, Lily O’Brien’s has created more than 180 varieties of premium chocolates based on the recipes of founder Mary Ann O'Brien.  The New York cafe marks a significant expansion for the company and paves the way for additional brand extension throughout the U.S.

The U.S. cafe operations will be run by Lily O'Brien shareholder Cathal Queally.

According to Queally, "We are very excited to see our first cafe up and running and to expand the Lily O'Brien presence in the U.S. market. We believe we are the first Irish chocolatier to plant roots in the region. In addition to the cafes, our growth strategy includes a plan to capture a share of the corporate/catering market segment, while taking advantage of other business opportunities that can boost our growth."

For more information, visit www.lilyobriens.ie.

Danisco Sweeteners names new executive v.p.

Effective April 2, 2009, Stéphane Constant will be the executive vice president of Danisco’s Sweeteners Division. Along with this appointment, Stéphane Constant will become a member of the Danisco Food Ingredients Board, responsible for driving the division’s strategy.  

Stéphane Constant brings more than 20 years of marketing and sales experience to the position. Previously, he worked at food chemicals and specialty ingredients groups Unilever, Quest International, Dupont-Solae, DSM, Rhodia and the Danisco Cultures Division. 

Stéphane Constant will report to Fabienne Saadane-Oaks, president of Danisco Bio Actives, and be based in Redhill, U.K. 

“Stéphane is a recognized business developer and leader, with the experience of managing for growth and profit and a proven track record to turn around businesses facing very competitive market environments,” Saadane-Oaks says. “I’m convinced Stéphane has the exact capabilities needed to lead Danisco Sweeteners on its road to recovery into a new and successful page of its history.”  

For more information, visit www.danisco.com.

The Hershey Co. purchases Van Houten company from Barry Callebaut

Effective February 28, 2009, Barry Callebaut sold 100% of its Asian consumer company Van Houten Singapore to The Hershey Co. Barry Callebaut will retain ownership of the Van Houten brand and give Hershey an exclusive license to the Van Houten brand name and related trademarks in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Australia/New Zealand for consumer products. Barry Callebaut will continue to use the brand name in its gourmet and vending mix business worldwide. The financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

For more information, visit www.barry-callebaut.com.

sweet of the week: Nahualli Trading Co. Organic Chocolate Seeds

After introducing its original Chocolate Seeds, Raleigh, N.C.-based Nahualli Trading Co. has launched an organic version. To make the Organic Chocolate Seeds, criollo cacao seeds sourced from fair trade and organic Ecuadorian farmers are shelled, roasted and then coated in organic dark chocolate. The final product has a suggested retail price of $9.95 for a 4-oz. bag and $17.95 for a 7-oz. bag. Additionally, at the end of summer 2009, the Nahaulli Trading Co. plans to launch Chocolate Seeds and Organic Chocolate Seeds in 1-oz. 100% recyclable containers. For more information, visit www.nahuallitrading.com.