Getting fresh: Retailer whirlwind down South

Greetings from Atlanta, ya’ll! I’m down in here in the peach tree headquarters covering ECRM’s Spring and Summer Confectionery Event - lots of chocolate bunnies, chocolate hearts and chocolate crosses.
This is my second visit to the home of Coca-Cola, and CNN, and last time I was here (also for an ECRM event) I walked myself around the city so I could see the CNN building and the capitol dome. This time though, the wonderful ECRM folks took some of us on a tour of various retail stores around the area.
First stop was Buford Highway Farmers Market in Doraville, Ga. This place was intense, and by far the most interesting stop. Our group walked into a produce section that rivaled the Garden of Eden, spanning all the way from the entrance to the back of a very long warehouse-like store.
As we wandered, we found various ethnic food sections, such as ones carrying Hispanic and Asian specialities. Note, the word “section.” These were not just an aisle or two of ethnic foods, but rather sections large enough to be stand-alone stores. Of course, each section not only had the various cultural staples, but also a full-range of candies from their respective part of the globe.
We only had 15 minutes at this store though, and after I quickly ran through and glanced at each candy aisle, I wondered over to the Hispanic foods section and realized they were giving out samples of authentic quesadillas with chorizo meat. I had three minutes to grab one, but the guy took about five minutes to make it - decisions, decisions.
I said a prayer and decided to wait it out. Worst case scenario they’d leave me at the Garden of Eden. After I finally grabbed my sample, I sprinted back to the bus and apologized to everyone for keeping them waiting and silently thanked the Lord that I hadn’t been left behind.
Up next were Publix and Kroger, both in Altanta proper. These mainstream grocers serve the purpose of offering a reliable, easy-to-navigate place to shop in their respective neighborhoods.
Then, we made our way to Aldi, which was also located in the city. As a native of the Chicago area - where the chain has saturated the grocery market - I’m familiar with their amazingly low prices as well as shopping carts that require a quarter to use.
The fun part here though, as with many of the stores, was overhearing the comments my tourmates made about the store. Alone, I would have had no idea that certain Aldi confections, which sell for $1.99, typically would retail for $2.99. I also got to overhear someone one explain that the chain focuses on sourcing a popular item from a category and then sources it hard so they get the lowest possible price points.
Our next stop was the complete opposite of Aldi - Whole Foods Market in northeast Altanta. Here, candy bars sell for $8.99, and the flower section featured orchids. I told my colleagues on the tour that when I have $20 to spend on groceries for the week I go to Aldi, and when I have $20 to spend on lunch, I go to Whole Foods.
As we drove away, one of the tourmates pointed out how welcoming the store design for Whole Foods was, and after glancing back at the large entry way that looked like an old-fashioned Farmer’s Market and remembering the fresh look of the wood accents, I couldn’t help but agree.
Last on our list was Trader Joe’s, also located in Atlanta. My favorite part about this store was all the fun details, such as the pirate ship hanging from the ceiling, and the chalk-drawn mermaid on the sign. Most of the items, including the candy, were Trader Joe’s private label, but they were in no way meant to look cheap. Rather, they feature organic claims and promises of indulgent ingredients.
Overall, it was a wonderful tour, and a great opportunity to juxtapose all the stores in a way that’s only possible when you hit six grocers in three hours. Now excuse me while hunt down some Georgia peaches.

Packaged Facts predicts doubling of natural and organic markets by 2015

Far outpacing growth in conventional groceries, U.S. retail sales of natural and organic foods and beverages rose to nearly $39 billion in 2010, an increase of 9% over the previous year, and 63% higher than sales five years earlier, states New York City-based Packaged Facts in its most recent report, "Natural and Organic Foods and Beverages in the U.S.”
Moreover, the market research publisher believes that during the next several years the natural and organic foods/beverages sement will experience even greater growth. Packaged Facts projects 2011 will serve as a jump-start for the market as sales should ultimately increase by a dramatic 45% by the end of the year.
Overall projections are that the market will grow by 103% between 2010 and 2015, with total anual sales exceeding $78 billion in 2015. Helping to fuel growth are recent moves by major marketers and manufacturers seeking to capitalize on consumer demand for these products, Packaged Facts says.
At the beginning of 2011, Frito-Lay North America, the $13-billion snack food division of PepsiCo, announced that by the end of the year, approximately half of its product portfolio will be made with all natural ingredients. The change will affect three of Frito-Lay's biggest brands: Lay's potato chips, Tostitos tortilla chips, and SunChips multigrain snacks.
"The Frito-Lay products will in themselves have an enormous impact on the natural foods marketplace, and Frito-Lay's move will spur other manufacturers to invest more heavily in producing natural and organic products," says David Sprinkle, research director and publisher of Packaged Facts. "Since Frito-Lay's announcement, Kraft Foods and Coca-Cola have made strategic moves to better position themselves in the market."
A February 2011 Packaged Facts consumer survey found that 38% of the U.S. adults who are grocery shoppers buy organic groceries, and 58% buy packaged food products marketed as "all-natural" (but not organic). Furthermore, the Packaged Facts survey found that 37% of all respondents "strongly" (12%) or "somewhat" (25%) agree that they seek out natural and organic foods and beverages.
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Clif Bar expands CLIF Kid offerings

Emeryville, Calif.-based Clif Bar & Co. has launched two new items under its CLIF Kid line: Zbar Crispy, an organic rice crispy snack that is an extension of the original baked Organic Zbar line, and new Fruit Punch flavor for Zfruit, the popular fruit rope twist made with organic fruit puree.
“We know parents are always looking for healthy and delicious options for their busy, on-the-go families,” said Jennifer Yun, brand director for CLIF Kid. “Expanding CLIF Kid with different snacks and flavors means more great-tasting and nutritious snacking choices for kids.”
Made with 8 grams of whole grains and a sprinkling of toasted oats for a lightly textured crunch, Zbar Crispy ― like the original Zbar ― has a balanced blend of carbohydrates, protein, fiber and healthy fat to help curb hunger and stabilize energy levels that keep kids feeling full longer. It comes in three flavors, Chocolate, Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter, and has a suggested retail price of $0.89 per bar.
“Kids’ growing bodies have unique nutritional needs that differ from adults,” says Tara DelloIacono-Thies, research and development for Clif Bar & Co. “Zbar Crispy offers more calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin D than other family snack bars. These nutrients are essential for kids’ growing bodies, but are often lacking in their meals and snacks.”
CLIF Kid Zfruit (formerly Organic Twisted Fruit) is a tangy, chewy, organic fruit snack equivalent to one serving of organic fruit. It also provides an excellent source of vitamin C. Fruit punch joins Zfruit’s other flavors in Mixed Berry, Sour Apple, Strawberry, Tropical Twist and Grape. It has a suggested retail price of $.0.89 per fruit rope.
Clif Bar & Co. stresses that all CLIF Kid snacks are specially created for kids’ growing bodies, developing taste buds and active lives. They’re also USDA-certified organic and free of trans fats, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup; artificial sweeteners, flavors or preservatives; and ingredients sourced from GMOs.
For more information on Clif Bar & Co., please visit

Blommer Chocolate to triple capacity at Ontario plant

Blommer Chocolate soon will triple its capacity at its Campbellford, Ontario plant in Canada in an effort to meet demand from several large, long-term supply agreements. The company expects to complete the expansion of what is currently an 85,000-sq.-ft. plant, in the fourth quarter of this year, Blommer says.
Currently, the company uses the plant to manufacture specialty coatings, including the Vivid line of colors and flavors; yogurt and cocoa-based coatings; as well as protein-fortified products for the confectionery, snack and nutritional bar markets.
The facility, which has long embraced lean manufacturing methodology, recently was awarded the Excellence in Manufacturing Award from the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium.
“We’re very proud of the achievements of the Campbellford facility,” says Rick Blommer, vice president. “Their award-winning productivity levels and management style really stand out as superior. The plant has grown in volume four-fold since 2006, and the recent large supply agreements have led us to this sizable expansion.”
 Blommer Chocolate Co. is the largest cocoa processor and ingredient chocolate supplier in North America, with more than 600 employees and four strategically located manufacturing facilities in North America.
For more information about Blommer Chocolate Co., visit

Moline, Ill. confectioner Tom Lagomarcino dies

Long-time confectioner Tom Lagomarcino passed away last Saturday at the age of 95. He, together with his family, ran Lagomarcino’s, which dates back to 1908. The company currently operates two retail confectionery and ice cream shops in Moline, Ill. and Davenport, Iowa.
The Lagomarcino confectionery shops developed a reputation for handmade chocolates, hot fudge sundaes and traditional ice cream parlor treats. The company has received numerous accolades for its products and venue, including the National Geographic Traveler magazine dubbing Lagomarcino’s in Moline as the world’s best old-fashioned ice cream store as well as the James Beard Foundation presenting the company a Classics Award in 2006 for a family-owned business having an impact on the community.
A recent Quad City Times article noted that Tom, who worked in the business since he was a youngster, "welcomed customers into Lagomarcino’s with a smile, calling them 'my friend,' treating them with sweets and entertaining them with Big Band music along with his witty and wise sayings."
Tom is survived by his wife, Betsy, and six children. In 1981, Tom's daughter, Beth Lagomarcino, joined her parents in running the business. She was later joined by brother Tom Jr. and her sister, Lisa, all three of which continue to operate the Moline as well as Davenport stores.
Three years ago, the company celebrated its 100th anniversary with a block party. Tom greeted more than 2,000 people who attended the event, dishing out ice cream in his traditional cheery manner.
Lagomarcino’s was featured in Candy Industry’s June 2009 issue.
Services were held today at St. Mary’s Church in Moline and he was buried today at St. Mary’s Cemetery in East Moline, Iowa.
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Sweet of the Week: SaviSeed

Sequel Naturals, Canada
(866) 839-8863
SaviSeeds look like nuts and taste like nuts, but they’re actually seeds with the highest natural concentration of Omega 3 available from nature, making them a great option for peanut-free zones. Each serving contains 8 grams of protein and 20% of the recommended daily intake of fiber. They’re also gluten-free and certified organic.
Ingredients: (Cocoa Kissed) organic, sacha inchi seed, organic 70% cacao (cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, cocoa powder), organic cane sugar.
S.R.P.: (5-oz. packages) $9.99, (1-oz. snack packages) $2.99, (box of 12 snack packs) $29.99.