getting fresh: It's not a job; it's an experience!
In the first half of the week, I found myself shuttling back and forth from our offices in Deerfield, Ill., to the American Association of Candy Technologists’ (AACT) meeting in nearby Lincolnshire, Ill., at the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort.
For those of you unfamiliar with the AACT, it’s a great group of candy/food technologists, operations personnel, educators, students and managers “dedicated to the advancement of the confectionery industry.”
Each year, the association holds its annual national technical seminar in Chicagoland, putting together seminars focused on candy formulation, production, processing, packaging, quality control and assurance, safety, logistics -- well, you get the gist.
In addition, each year the association presents an individual in the industry with the Stroud Jordan award, an honor that recognizes his/her services to the industry, particularly in the areas of education and technical research.
It’s no surprise that several past Stroud Jordan award winners, i.e. Pat Hurley (Spangler Candy Co.), the late John Kitt (Mars/Wrigley) and Jim McGovern (Jelly Belly Candy Co.) were also Candy Industry Kettle Award recipients. Others, like Patrick Huffman and this year’s Stroud Jordan recipient, Judy Cooley, have been nominated for the Kettle Award. When you’re good, people notice.
All of the above have given back to the industry and are still giving, which is essentially what organizations like the AACT as well as groups such as the PMCA, the Retail Confectioners International, the National Confectioners Association, the Craft Chocolate Makers of America and many others are all about.
The AACT has several chapters throughout the country (California, Milwaukee, New Jersey/New York, Philadelphia, Rocky Mountain and Chicago), and if you’re looking for a group to network with that’s knowledgeable about the nuts and bolts of confectionery formulation, processing and packaging, I suggest you give them a call.
But actually, I digress. It was during the AACT’s wine and cheese reception on Monday that I had a chance to chat with Ed Seguine, chocolate research fellow with Mars North America. Seguine, who’s also a former Stroud Jordan award holder, happens to be one of the most knowledgeable people I know regarding chocolate, cacao and related flavor notes.
As Seguine puts it, “Chocolate is not a flavor; it’s an experience!” When I mentioned some of the great beans coming from various exotic parts of the world, he was quick to point out that one shouldn’t overlook the beans from West Africa.
“When you have good West African beans, it’s all about the experience,” Seguine says. “Just close your eyes and savor. But with Madagascar, you want to talk about the chocolate, because you sense that the fruit is there. Even if you’re alone, you want to talk about it.”
Seguine is passionately involved with identifying chocolate’s flavor notes, a lifelong endeavor that will undoubtedly help this and the next generation of chocolatiers and chocolate makers. He’s promised to help me in developing my palette for tasting chocolate and we’ve agreed to set aside some time to do so at the next industry function.
But then, that’s the kind of people one meets at these association events. Moreover, it’s what sets aside this industry from others.
After all, it’s not a job; it’s a lifelong experience!
Hershey's Judy Cooley receives AACT's coveted Stroud Jordan award
Yesterday at the American Association of Candy Technologists’ (AACT) Technical Seminar in Lincolnshire, Ill., John Urbanski of Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate presented Judy Cooley, principal scientist – international research & development, The Hershey Co., with the association’s coveted Stroud Jordan award.
Cooley, who has worked in the confectionery industry for more than 30 years, was acknowledged by the selection committee for her “willingness to assist in any situation and take the lead in others; this is what our industry needs at this time in its history.”
Having served on several AACT committees, Cooley has also been active with the PMCA and the National Confectioner’s Association. She was also nominated for Candy Industry’s Kettle Award in 2007. Cooley holds two patents and has published several papers involving confectionery processing, product development and exports.
Separately, Kevin Silva of The Warrell Corp. presented three AACT national scholarships – renamed this year the AACT John Kitt Memorial Scholarship in memory of the recently departed industry expert – to the following students: Tessa Porter of the University of Nebraska, Becky Keuhan, University of Wisconsin, and Heather Mendenhall, University of Wisconsin.
For more information, visit www.aactcandy.org.
Blommer Chocolate Co. promotes Peter Blommer to president
Chicago-based Blommer Chocolate Co., expanded its chief operating officer’s role today, promoting Peter Blommer to president. Blommer will be responsible for setting strategic direction for the company and for overall execution of its business plan. All functional areas of the company will report directly to him, including sales, operations, finance, commodity procurement, quality assurance and research and development.
In making the announcement today, Joe Blommer, second-generation co-ceo, said, “Strong leadership, dedication to quality and customer service, and commitment to profitable growth have characterized Blommer Chocolate Co. for 70 years. Today’s announcement of Peter’s promotion to president and chief operating officer underscores our ongoing commitment to these values and reflects our confidence in his proven leadership ability as we continue to build a strong and healthy future for our company.”
Noting that it was a privilege to lead the Blommer team, Peter pointed out that the company has grown “by building strong, trusted partnerships with our customers, and by delivering outstanding processing capacity, flexibility and innovation to meet their needs. We help them manage commodity risk in an increasingly volatile environment and are leaders in advancing sustainable cocoa farming.”
He also credited the company’s “exceptional team of dedicated employees and family members, present and past,” and “deep commitment to quality and customer service” for its success.
Blommer Chocolate Co. is North America’s largest cocoa bean processor and ingredient chocolate products supplier and has four strategically located manufacturing facilities: Union City, Calif.; Chicago; East Greenville, Pa.; and Campbellford, Ontario, Canada.
For more information, visit www.blommer.com.
Spangler eliminates allergen worries
To ensure a safer Halloween for all, including children diagnosed with allergies and intolerances to food ingredients, Spangler Candy Co. takes particular care that its candies such as Dum Dum Pops, Saf-T-Pops and Circus Peanuts are free of the most common allergens (wheat/gluten, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish and soy).
“We know how difficult birthday parties and holidays like Halloween can be for children with allergies to foods like wheat, nuts and dairy, or with food intolerances, like celiac disease," says Pat Hurley, the company’s director of technical services.
"Kids shouldn't have to feel left out of the fun. And parents shouldn't have to worry that their children might eat something that could be very harmful. We want everyone to be able to enjoy Halloween and other special events."
As a result, Bryan, Ohio-based Spangler Candy Co. annually requires its suppliers to certify that their ingredients meet its allergen standards.
“We also adhere to very strict manufacturing processes," Hurley adds. “Spangler Candy produces each one of its products on a dedicated line and thoroughly cleans those lines daily. In a final safety check, Spangler Candy has its finished products tested at least twice a year by an independent food lab to ensure that they are free of any traces of unwanted ingredients.”
For more information, visit www.spanglercandy.com.
Mintel predicts growth in stevia market
A new report from Mintel predicts the all-natural, calorie-free sweetener stevia to maintain its growth streak. In fact, it predicts the stevia market could exceed $2 billion by the end of 2011.
The FDA approved the use of rebaudioside A in U.S. food and beverages in December 2008. The stevia market earned $21 million in 2008 and by mid-July 2009, sales topped $95 million.
However, in order for sales to increase, manufacturers need to educate their consumers about the sweetener. Currently, nearly 70% of Americans have never heard of stevia, 62% say they have no interest in trying it and 11% say they think stevia is unsafe and plan to avoid it, reports Mintel.
On the other hand, Mintel notes that 25% of people say they might be interested in stevia, but they haven’t tried it yet, while 11% say they have tried stevia and plan to continue purchasing it.
“Step one is for manufacturers to get the word out,” says David Browne, senior analyst at Mintel. “At this stage, heavy demo-ing of stevia products in stores, along with copious distribution of free samples, are just as important as promoting stevia’s all-natural, zero-calorie positioning.”
For more information, visit www.mintel.com.
sweet of the week: Maple Ice Mints
Toronto-based Big Sky Brands is “tapping” into its Canadian roots with the exciting launch of new Maple Ice Mints. These deliciously cool treats offer the refreshment of a mint, combined with the natural sweetness of real Canadian maple sugar.
Available in two uniquely refreshing flavors, Original Maple and Wild Blueberry Maple, Maple Ice Mints are packed 30 pieces per tin, each designed with an attractive wood grain finish and featuring embossed logo graphics. Suggested retail is $1.99 per unit. Available merchandising displays include 9-ct. open stock trays and a 36-ct. mixed flavor counter unit that features both Original Maple and Wild Blueberry Maple flavors.
For more information, visit www.bigskybrands.com.