FoodChain ISSUE 178 l NOV 2021
Eyes on the fries Whether its Little Big Burger, Burgers Grilled Right, American Burger Co or its latest acquisition, Pizza Rev - what unites the restaurant brands operated by Amergent Hospitality Group is a total focus on great food
SPOTLIGHT ON: Led by Gregory George, Foodie
extensive knowledge makes it well-equipped to guide potential food franchisees to find the right business, and to open doors for aspiring food franchisors who dream of creating a popular and successful company
FoodChain ISSUE 178 l NOV 2021
Eyes on the fries Whether its Little Big Burger, Burgers Grilled Right, American Burger Co or its latest acquisition, Pizza Rev - what unites the restaurant brands operated by Amergent Hospitality Group is a total focus on great food
SPOTLIGHT ON: Led by Gregory George, Foodie
extensive knowledge makes it well-equipped to guide potential food franchisees to find the right business, and to open doors for aspiring food franchisors who dream of creating a popular and successful company
Chairman - Andrew Schofield Managing Director - Joe Woolsgrove Editor - Libbie Hammond Assistant Editor - Will Daynes Staff Writers - Alex McDonald, Danielle Champ Jessica Olley Managing Art Editor - Fleur Daniels Art Editor - David Howard Advertising Designer - Paul Gillings Sales Director- Alasdair Gamble Business Development Director - Philip Monument Research Managers Michelle Fontaine, Natalie Griffiths, Jo-Ann Jeffery, Ben Richell, Basil Sharpe Editorial Researchers Adam Blanch, Victoria Burke, Mark Cowles Jodie Garringer, Jeff Goldenberg, Dan Harrison, James Page, Wendy Russell Richard Saunders, Basil Sharpe, Kieran Shukri Advertising Sales Johanna Bailey, Mike Berger, Jessica Eglington James Fuller, Alex Hartley, Reid Lingle Theresa McDonald, Sam Surrell, Theresa Stark Gregory Waller Florida General Manager - Ryan Finn Boston General Manager - Joy Francesconi Custom Media Sales - Dan Bess Digital Sales - Mike Psimis Subscriptions - email@example.com Administration - Rory Gallacher, Ibby Mundhir Accounts - Rachael Leftley © 2021 Schofield Publishing Ltd
ello and welcome to the November issue of FoodChain. I am so glad to be able to reintroduce our Taste Tests! Albeit just one page this issue, I am confident this will grow back to more pages as the samples begin to flow back in the door. If you have a new product that you’d like us to feature, then please do get in touch. We are already very much enjoying trialing those we have been sent – to see what tantalized our taste buds this month, turn to page 18. Speaking of taste, how delicious does the front cover look? That pizza is from Pizza Rev, one of the brands operated by Amergent Hospitality Group. We spoke to the Company President Fred Glick, and he revealed the growth plans for Pizza Rev, as well as the burger brands in its portfolio. He also pointed out the importance of the right team and the fact that, as the face of the company, Amergent employees are known as its ‘spark team’ and stand on the front line of the firm’s mission to ‘spark positive vibes’ in the world. Following the challenging year that we’ve all been through, I think some positive vibes would be very welcome.
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ISSUE Features Sustainability
What is the right packaging option for your product and your business? Recyclable or compostable – what are the factors to consider?
Packaging 8 In the case study from Smurfit Kappa, we reveal how the Gosport site stepped in to help The Cheese Geek find the perfect box
Hygiene 10 With sound evidence backing up its efficacy, why isn’t UV disinfection being used more in the fight against Covid-19?
Tracklements has boosted production capacity and enhanced its environmental credentials by switching its energy supply from oil to liquid gas from Flogas
Up-to-date products and announcements from the food and beverage sector
The FoodChain team sample a selection of new and innovative foods and drinks
Awakened Foods 19
How a Welsh Government and EU-funded project has delivered a significant boost to the food and drink industry in Wales
Alliance 2 www.foodchainmagazine.com
Amergent Hospitality Group
South Caernarfon Creameries
Logtek Limited www.foodchainmagazine.com 3
En Route International
Billington Foods 4 www.foodchainmagazine.com
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Recyclable versus compostable
What’s right for your product?
ustainability is a hot topic, especially in the packaging world and it, quite rightly, is not going away thanks to the introduction of the Plastics Tax, which should hopefully come to fruition in April 2022. With this, comes the question: what’s the right packaging option for your product and business? Is it recyclable or compostable, or even a mixture of the two for the varying products within your range? Stephen Frankel, Sales Director at Polypouch, explains.
Recyclable Recycling is the act of taking products such as PET plastic bottles and putting
them into optimal conditions to break the plastic down back to its raw material to be used again. There are so many different paths that a business can go down when it comes to recyclable packaging materials, and although some are hard to recycle, there’s also a huge amount that are widely recyclable, such as code 4 LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) materials. This plastic option is the best choice at present for products requiring a defense barrier that can still be fairly easily recycled. It is suitable for almost every end use product, can be easily branded and customized, and has an extraordinarily long shelf-life.
Sustainability be recycled, is a smart way of getting your customers onto your website, while sharing your sustainability credentials.
If choosing to use a recyclable pouch, it’s important to also look at the areas you’ll be selling the product, and where it can be recycled. By making this information clear on the website, customers can understand the type of product they’re buying, if it can be recycled and, most importantly, how and where it can be recycled. At this point not all recycling centers and councils offer the same level of recycling capabilities, so it’s vital that this is thoroughly researched to enable the end user to have as much information as possible at their fingertips. It can even be printed on the item itself. Using a handy QR code, which then lists where the product can
Compostable on the other hand, is the act of taking a product that is most commonly known to be made of naturally derived materials in the right conditions that will break down naturally to make a nutrient rich soil. Businesses are beginning to see that compostable packaging is a solution to the landfill problem. With many consumers now having a dedicated compost heap at home, compostable materials simply get added to their existing heap and break down into the soil, ready to be used on the garden for many years to come. In order for compostable materials to compost effectively, they should have good air flow, moisture and a warm temperature. Industrial facilities are also on the rise, and can regulate the key elements that make the process easy and quick, such as air flow, moisture and temperature but on a much bigger and better scale. Some councils across the UK are looking for more compostable areas to make this a more common option. When compostable items end up in a compost pile and their organic matter makes nutrient-rich compost, there’s no denying that it becomes a great option for packaging solutions. Special considerations need to be made when choosing a product to go into compostable recyclable packaging options. Compostable packaging is suitable for dry products only, as any moisture will start the process of breaking down the packaging. It is great for a retail environment, but does have a shorter shelf life and considerations
must be undertaken for those handling the packaging, such as hands that are regularly sanitized and must be dry in order to touch the product. At Polypouch, our clients use compostable packaging for dried herbs, spices and tea and coffee, and this really works well as a solution for sustainable packaging. The starch in our compostable packaging is known as PLA, which is compostable, providing the composting environment complies with the recommendations. It is also suitable for industrial composting facilities if preferred. Sustainable packaging is the driving force changing the industry for the better. Whichever option you decide to choose, just knowing that recyclable or compostable packaging is making a difference to landfill and both have their varying benefits is a huge positive. The future of sustainable packaging is where both recyclable or compostable work together to make options for all products sold. The added bonus is how you communicate your sustainable packaging initiatives to your clients and end users. By integrating tech, smart maps, an app or a QR code that allows users to track the journey of their product, see where they can recycle or view the whole process allows consumers to feel part of the solution. Once consumers are on board with the process and buy into the ideology, it makes the transition to sustainable packaging a much smoother process. And this is really what we advise our clients to do, to take the extra step and thoroughly embrace the sustainable options available to them, be that recyclable or compostable. D
Stephen Frankel is Managing Director and Founder of Polypouch UK. Polypouch, which is located in Watford, began trading in early 2011, specializing in all pouch packaging. Polypouch stocks over 250 different pouches ranging in quality and size, and prides itself on its 48 hour turnaround time for print pouches. It also offers digitally printed bespoke pouches within two weeks of an order placed, thanks to its large warehouses located in Watford and Hemel Hempstead and its own office in China. In 2017, Stephen recognised that the industry was going to go down the recyclable route and joined CEFLEX - a European consortium of companies representing the entire value chain of flexible packaging. Stephen attends meetings four times a year to ensure that Polypouch is ahead of the game in its packaging options. For further information, please visit: www.polypouch.co.uk
Boxing clever The Cheese Geek: A delicious design challenge
t is probably an understatement to say that The Cheese Geek are passionate about cheese. Filled with excitement over pairing combinations for cheese boards, and possessing an intimate knowledge of which cheese goes well with which wines, the team behind the brand are fromage connoisseurs. From brie to Baron Bigod, they know their stuff, and are determined to make sure that customers garner as much joy from their cheese delivery as the team do themselves. That joy starts from the very moment the customer receives their carefullyprepared package. So, true to form, The Cheese Geek have poured their attention into ensuring that it’s a seamless first impression. Which is where Smurfit Kappa’s Gosport site stepped in. Richard Simpson - The Cheese Geek’s COO - got in touch with Wesley Dowe, Sales Executive at Smurfit Kappa Gosport via LinkedIn, and Wes has been working hard to meet his requirements.
The brief The Cheese Geek were growing fast, and needed to improve their packaging offering. They wanted nothing short of perfection: a box that would not only look good but work for their customers as well. They were after optimized sizing, as well as looking for a way to speed up their shipping process and cut down on labor hours. Importantly, they were also keen that the box should be sustainable: their hip London roots wouldn’t have it any other way.
Accelerating assembly One key problem that The Cheese Geek were keen to explore and tackle was how they could accelerate their packing process. Before meeting with Smurfit Kappa, they were using a FEFCO 0201 box, and had dedicated team members assembling the boxes as needed every morning, ready for delivery shipments to go out that day. Smurfit Kappa Gosport’s solution - a bespoke crash lock box design - meant that the boxes took seconds to erect, without the need for tape. This allowed employees to grab a box as and when it was needed and quickly assemble - a huge improvement for
The Cheese Geek operations. It saved money on manpower hours, gave more operational space to work with, and also meant they would always have a supply of ready-to-go boxes, no matter how many unexpected orders came in that day! Of course, this design wasn’t purely functional: it also gave an air of sophistication, allowing The Cheese Geek’s branding to shine, and continue the brilliant customer experience from browsing to unboxing.
Extending brand image The Cheese Geek pride themselves on being ‘the modern cheesemonger’. Born out of frustration that many people in the UK had no access to knowledgeable and engaged cheesemongers, they set about making their customer experience as enticing and exciting as possible. They know that every step of the customer journey is vital - and that journey includes the package arriving at the customer’s home. Smurfit Kappa Gosport had already put forward the idea of the bespoke crash lock boxes, which lent a perfect canvas for The Cheese Geek to put their own stamp on things. And so they did! Working together, it was decided that the packaging should be printed in flexographic print, in two colors. Flexographic printing not only produces vibrant results that can be printed on a variety of materials, but also dries quickly - so the turnaround of box production can be quick.
Sussing out sizing Playing into their green ethos, Smurfit Kappa Gosport recommended The Cheese Geek use bespoke sized boxes, enabling optimization for their contents and reduction in material use/wastage.
The more tailored the boxes’ sizes, the less air is shipped. This has two key benefits: more economical in terms of shipping space, as more boxes can fit into vehicle, and offers a way to make the brand eco-friendlier, reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Lastly, bespoke packaging designed to fit products contained, means that the contents are more secure and more likely to arrive intact. As with every step of the customer experience, The Cheese Geek are keen to excel! With The Cheese Geek’s intimate knowledge of their customer base, Smurfit Kappa Gosport identified two key sizes, which would fulfil their customers’ needs in a space-optimized manner.
Going green The Cheese Geek’s environmentallyfriendly aspirations didn’t stop at the size of their boxes. They were eager that their packaging should be made from sustainable materials, which is one of the reasons they chose Smurfit Kappa. Smurfit Kappa Gosport were able to supply FSC Certified material, and ensure that the end product would be recyclable after delivery - despite the printed branding. As we know, the fewer hurdles between a person and accomplishing a task, the more likely it is that they will complete it. The crash lock box design that was recommended eliminates the brand’s need for tape - making recycling the boxes easier than ever, as well as further reducing the Cheese Geek’s ecological overall impact. Working to bring The Cheese Geek’s packaging vision to life was a pleasure, and Smurfit Kappa look forward to doing more business with them in the future. D
Smurfit Kappa, a FTSE 100 company, is one of the leading providers of paper-based packaging solutions in the world, with approximately 46,000 employees in over 350 production sites across 36 countries and with revenue of €8.5 billion in 2020. It is located in 23 countries in Europe, and 13 in the Americas, and is the only large-scale pan-regional player in Latin America. Its products, which are 100 per cent renewable and produced sustainably, improve the environmental footprint of its customers. For further information, please visit: www.smurfitkappa.com/ecommerce
See the light
Why isn’t UV disinfection being used more in the UK in the fight against Covid-19? By Richard Little
here is a convincing argument - backed by sound evidence - for using UV disinfection to improve air in a range of buildings and work environments, including food processing plants, warehouse and logistics facilities and retail outlets, as well as HVAC applications. In fact, Jenton International has been promoting UV air disinfection against bacteria and viruses since the 1990s. UV itself has been used for disinfection applications for over 100 years and there is a massive body of evidence supporting its efficacy. It is mainstream for air disinfection in HVAC in the USA, Asia and Middle East with many installations in food facilities, offices and retail spaces such as supermarkets. In the past, we have always been astonished at how unresponsive the European market was in accepting the concept of simple UV disinfection wall
units. The proven proposition was that UV dramatically reduced the number of people catching colds, flu and TB from each other, especially at work – with regular coverage on the BBC as a ‘new concept’, and papers published in The Lancet and other publications to support this. However, this is nothing to how surprised we are this year, especially now that airborne transmission of SARSCoV-2 has been highlighted, with how reluctant UK state agencies are to use our simple and effective UV units for offices and other spaces where people are likely to gather. Plus, we have much bigger UV disinfection systems for HVAC and food processing plants. Fresh air is important for diluting SARS-CoV-2 and reducing the risk of getting Covid-19. The HSE website clearly recommends that recirculating air conditioning is turned off (https:// www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/equipment-
Hygiene and-machinery/air-conditioning-andventilation.htm). This is supported by the new government-issue film (https://www.gov. uk/government/news/new-film-showsimportance-of-ventilation-to-reducespread-of-covid-19). There is no doubt that fresh air through an open window is best. Back in 1859, Florence Nightingale said that ‘unless the air within the ward can be kept as fresh as it is without, the patients had better be away’. It’s not new! Our proposition has been that where fresh air isn’t available, or practical, in a food factory for example, UV disinfection is the next best thing as you effectively ‘make your own fresh air’. A McGill university paper published in The Lancet demonstrated in 2003 that UVC on its own in ducting in HVAC equipped offices could reduce sickness in buildings due to colds and flu by a useful 40 per cent. This was without all the handwashing and mask wearing required during the pandemic, so it is logical that combinations will be synergistic. In addition, a 2020 paper from Signify shows what was achieved in tests using UVC disinfection of SARS-CoV-2 at Boston University. This backs up previously calculated effects based on UVC’s performance against SARS-CoV-1 and surrogates, which proved to be correct. It is evident that SARS-CoV-2 can be easily disinfected with UV. Jenton’s products supply more than enough UVC to disinfect any SARS-CoV-2 passing through to 99.99 percent, and also many other viruses and bacteria. Jenton’s wall mounted GRU-V food UV light air disinfection system is suitable for use in large food production and processing facilities, or where fresh food is stored and handled. It helps dramatically improve indoor air quality and energy efficiency, whilst reducing airborne infection rates, absenteeism and building related illnesses. It is proven that coronavirus survives longer in cold places. The GRUV-V Cool® UV model is designed to clean air in cooler environments such as cold food stores and large refrigeration areas.
Food processing plants can help protect employees from the on-going threat of Coronavirus and ensure business continuity with Jenton’s GRU-V® Jet ceiling mounted UV air disinfection unit. Ideal for cold storage areas and production lines, the GRU-V® UV Jet air disinfection system is designed to be mounted horizontally approximately 500mm from the ceiling where it can disinfect up to 3,500m³ of air per hour. Air is pushed through the GRU-V® Jet by a custom-made industrial fan whilst four high power UVC lamps are optimally placed to expose all the passing air to maximum UV intensity. With the health and safety of workers a priority, Jenton’s GRU-V® Jet’s inlet and outlet louvres ensure everyone in
the production area is protected from UVC radiation, without the need for additional PPE. Jenton offers an on-site UVC sensor calibration service ensuring minimum downtime for customers, as well as health and safety audits once the unit is installed. The company has also developed modelling software to allow prediction of performance in different situations. Jenton is not a start-up taking advantage, but an expert in the development of high performance UV disinfection systems, with patents, products and partnerships with companies like Heraeus and Philips. Clearly UV disinfection can’t do everything, but it can make an effective contribution. D
Richard Little is Managing Director at Jenton International, which has been based in Whitchurch, Hampshire since 1996. It comprises a number of divisions: · JentonAriana is a provider of food packaging and processing equipment · JenAct specialises in UV disinfection · JentonDimaco is a manufacturer of label and data verification equipment · JentonUV is a specialist in UV curing of inkjet print and other ink and adhesive curing applications For further information, please visit: www.uvdisinfection.org.uk
Going green A switch from oil to liquid gas serves up big savings for Tracklements
eading British condiments maker, Tracklements, has boosted its production capacity and enhanced its environmental credentials by switching its energy supply from oil to liquid gas from Flogas. The move to modern, efficient liquid gas-fired Fulton VSRT steam boilers is expected to cut the company’s costs by a significant 21 per cent, whilst also reducing carbon emissions by almost 25 per cent and nitrous oxide (NOx) levels by 75 percent. The Wiltshire-based company has been making condiments for more than 50 years, and has an extensive range of over 60 artisan products, from mustards, ketchups and sauces to pickles, chutneys, jams and jellies. All ‘handmade in small batches’ using natural ingredients, these are made in unique jacketed steam cooking pans that mimic traditional homemade methods, and for the last 40 years they
By modernizing their steam raising equipment and changing their fuel type to liquid gas, Tracklements can expect an impressive 21 percent financial saving and a near 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions. These cost savings are based on current gas oil prices before the planned withdrawal of tax relief on red diesel in April 2022
have been powered by two Kerosene oil-fired steam boilers. “We needed to increase our steam capacity to support the continued growth of the business,” said Ben Read, Operations Director at Tracklements.
“But we’re also fully committed to improving our environmental footprint, so we wanted to move away from the higher carbon footprint, which oil represents. By replacing our ageing oil-fired steam boilers with the latest liquid gas-fired VSRT models, we’ve not only increased our steam capacity by 100 percent, but we’ve also cut costs, and significantly reduced our carbon emissions in the process. This was a major factor in our decision, as Tracklements continues to work tirelessly towards our goal of planetfriendly products.”
Cost savings Having worked with Fulton for over 40 years, Tracklements looked to them to specify a cutting-edge system that would help minimize its environmental impact. Fulton also recommended Flogas as a liquid gas supplier – one that could provide a reliable supply,
Case study and trusted on-going service. Flogas and Fulton partnered to deliver Tracklements a full turnkey, end-to-end energy solution that also included all necessary ancillary equipment, as well as service and training contracts. Commenting on the project, Jeff Byrne, aftercare and business development manager at Fulton said: “By modernizing their steam raising equipment and changing their fuel type to liquid gas, Tracklements can expect an impressive 21 percent financial saving, and a near 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions. These cost savings are based on current gas oil prices before the planned withdrawal of tax relief on red diesel in April 2022, so looking forward, they’re actually far more favorable. Cost and carbon savings can also significantly increase by up to 30 percent when combined with the potential steam system efficiency savings by running the latest fully-modulating, high-turndown liquid gas boilers. What’s more, our liquid gas-fired VSRTs will help minimize other pollutants, with NOx levels projected to reduce by 75 percent compared to the previous oil-fired steam boilers.”
at ways we can enhance efficiencies, and minimize the environmental impact of our artisan manufacturing process,” continued Ben Read. “We’re really glad to have now made a great step in that direction. Liquid gas is also more reliable for our business. Our tanks are fitted with auto-ordering technology, so as soon as they hit 40 percent, it triggers a re-order. It’s great peace of mind, and leaves us able to focus on making great green condiments.” Jude Hurley, Business Energy Manager at Flogas added: “This is a great example of how a simple switch from oil to liquid gas can have a major impact, logistically, financially and environmentally. Not only will the company benefit from a more efficient, reliable fuel with fewer emissions, but it is also setting itself up perfectly for a seamless transition to renewable green gas in the future. Bio-propane is chemically identical to liquid gas, so when the time comes for Tracklements to become carbon neutral, it can be simply dropped in without any changes to equipment or infrastructure. It’s an energy solution that’s truly fit for the future.” D
Enhanced efficiencies Tracklements has a strong environmental policy and holds ISO 14001 certification for its green credentials. “We’re constantly looking
Flogas Britain Ltd
As ‘Experts in Energy’, Flogas has more than 35 years’ experience in providing tailored energy solutions to commercial, industrial and domestic customers across the UK. For further information, please visit: www.flogas.co.uk/business
Based in the heart of Wiltshire, Tracklements has been making awardwinning artisan condiments for over 50 years. For further information, please visit: www.tracklements.co.uk
With manufacturing facilities in the United States, Great Britain and China, Fulton is a global manufacturer of steam, hydronic and thermal fluid heat transfer systems. For further information, please visit: www.fulton.co.uk
IndustryNews In fine spirits The Welsh are taking America by storm
Penderyn has eight whiskies now available
are finding favor in America. We must thank our
after Penderyn Distillery won Double Gold
in the US, including all five Gold Range bottles
incredible US distributor, ImpEx Beverages who
at the New York World Wine and Spirits
and the three Dragon Range bottles.
hasn’t been shy in singing our praises.”
2021 Competition. This amounts to over 70
What is really giving Penderyn a kick in the
prestigious international medals for Penderyn
US is the fact that Penderyn
internationally over the last few years.
now has four Kosher whiskies
Penderyn’s Port Talbot-born CEO, Stephen Daves, has been racking up hundreds of ‘Zoom
flying off the shelves. Penderyn’s US importer,
miles’ as US State-after-State has been ‘getting
ImpEx Beverages, has excelled
into the spirit’ of Penderyn with virtual whisky
at spreading the word from their
tastings. Business has been booming across the
base in San Francisco. Stephen
pond for Penderyn in more than 40 states.
Davies, Penderyn’s CEO said:
The Double Golds were for Penderyn Rich
“Winning in New York like
Oak Welsh Single Malt Whisky and Penderyn
this is particularly pleasing,
Sherrywood Welsh Single Malt Whisky from
especially since it’s the first time
their Gold Range, and a Gold Medal for
we’ve entered this particular
Penderyn Myth Welsh Single Malt Whisky,
competition. It is a clear
from their Dragon Range.
sign that Penderyn Whiskies
Snack time The Hershey Company has entered into a
a premium pretzel experience for consumers,
manufacturing locations would be in addition to four
definitive agreement to acquire Dot’s Pretzels
Dot’s Pretzels stand apart from all other
pretzel-seasoning facilities to be acquired with Dot’s.
LLC, the owner of Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels.
products in the pretzel category and represents
Dot’s Pretzels are a perfect complement to
55 percent of the pretzel category’s growth
approvals, and are expected to close by the end of 2021.
Hershey’s growing salty snacking portfolio,
during the past year.”
and would create an opportunity to reach
Hershey also announced it has entered into
new consumers in new occasions, advancing
a definitive agreement to acquire Pretzels Inc.
Hershey’s snacking powerhouse vision.
from an affiliate of Peak Rock Capital, a private
“As the fastest growing US pretzel brand, Dot’s
investment firm with numerous investments in
Pretzels would further accelerate our success
the food and beverage industry. Pretzels Inc. is
in the permissible salty snack category, along
a co-manufacturer of pretzels for Dot’s Pretzels
with our successful SkinnyPop and Pirate’s
and several other customers, and is a leading
Booty brands,” said Michele Buck, The Hershey
innovator in the pretzel category. Based in
Company President and Chief Executive Officer.
Bluffton, Indiana, Pretzels Inc. operates three
“With a unique range of bold, distinctive
manufacturing locations in Indiana and Kansas.
seasonings and a flavorful crunch that creates
When the transactions are completed, these three
‘Excels in connecting’ Customized transport systems for the food processing industry www.marvu.nl
The acquisitions are subject to customary regulatory
IndustryNews Legendary recipes The 40th Anniversary Edition of The Eli’s Cheesecake Cookbook: Remarkable Recipes from a Chicago Legend is now available. The book teaches readers how to make a perfect cheesecake just in time for the holidays. In addition to over 100 recipes, the cookbook takes readers on a historical ride from 1940 to present, through the lens of Eli Schulman’s colorful career and rise to restaurateur and baker extraordinaire. From surviving the Depression by selling shoes out of the back of his car to 35 years later creating ‘Chicago Style’ cheesecake in his restaurant’s kitchen, Schulman, with no formal culinary training, managed to create one of the country’s most loved desserts. When it came to cheesecake, Eli broke all the rules, (no water bath, and a fast and hot bake), resulting in a creamier texture than its New York counterpart, and baked on a shortbread cookie crust instead of graham. The cookbook includes 12 most requested recipes from his famous namesake steakhouse, as well as recipes for 21 cheesecake batters, 12 crusts and 15 chocolates, caramels, and compotes, allowing readers to mix and match as many as 3,177 different combinations to create their own signature desserts. Celebrity collaborations include honorary Chicagoans Miguel Cervantes, who portrayed Alexander Hamilton in the Chicago production of Hamilton: An American Musical, and reprises his role on Broadway, and acclaimed actor Joe Mantegna. The Eli’s Cheesecake Cookbook ($30) is published by Agate Publishing, Inc.
Get your copy at www.EliCheesecake.com with code CURE21 to donate a
portion of sales to CURE Epilepsy in November, or purchase wherever books are
sold. A cookbook and cheesecake combination gift box is also available.
Pepsi www.EliCheesecake.com Stronger Together – PepsiCo’s series of grassroots initiatives bringing tailored programming and support to communities across the country – is proud to announce a multi-year partnership with the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) to create curated, giveback initiatives supporting causes important to the players in each of the 12 team markets. The partnership kicks off in Los Angeles with Girls on the Run LA and LA Sparks six-time All Star and union president, Nneka Ogwumike.
To top off the partnership, Pepsi Stronger Together is pledging $50,000 to Girls on the Run LA to amplify its local community impact programs. Girls on the Run is dedicated to helping girls build self-confidence and boldly pursue their dreams to become community leaders - like Nneka. From physical activity and character development, to brainstorming programs that impact the community, the organization’s range of programming results in life-changing positive effects for its participants. As part of the donation, Pepsi Stronger Together will fund multiple participant-led community impact programs designed to make a difference for a locally relevant cause, decided upon by an advisory panel including Nneka, Terri Carmichael Jackson (Executive Director, WNBPA) and Derek Lewis (President, South Division, PepsiCo Beverages North America (PBNA)). In addition, Pepsi Stronger Together is also supporting Girls on the Run LA’s upcoming 5k races, providing hydration and equipment packs for the more than 340 girls taking part. Following the kickoff in Los Angeles with Girls on the Run LA, Pepsi Stronger Together will work with the WNBPA to identify needs in the other 11 WNBA cities across the country to continue to give back and invest in these communities where it counts.
Puffed goodness London-based startup, BEPPS Snacks are all about their pea, pulse and grain snacks, whilst hero’ing the black eyed pea. The UK-made snacks are vegan friendly, gluten free and always 90 calories or less per serving. There are five products in the BEPPS range, from the classically moreish Cheese Puffs (made with vegan cheese), Sweet Chili Puffs and the Salt & Vinegar Puffs to the newest selection, crunchy and light Popped Salt & Black Pepper Chips and smoky and sweet Popped BBQ Chips. The brand is seeing amazing growth and has recently announced £400,000 investment from early-stage venture capital investors, Ascension Ventures, who seek to back entrepreneurs making
healthy eating accessible to all with the ‘Good Food Fund’ (a fund also backed by challenger brand builders, Mission Ventures and Big Society Capital). www.beppssnacks.com
The Taste Test team were highly impressed with the BEPPS and not surprised to learn that they were Great Taste Award Winners. “I started my bag of Salt & Vinegar with the intention of trying a few, but they were so moreish I easily polished off the bag!” said our tester. “But as they aren’t calorie heavy, and have a good amount of protein, I didn’t have any food guilt – just a yearning to try the other flavors in the range!”
Holy smokes Dip company Holy Moly have released a new Smoky Red Pepper & Tomato Salsa just in time to warm up consumers as the chillier nights draw in. Whether drizzled on grilled halloumi, adding a twist to tofu, or a statement bacon sarnie, the Salsa is designed to elevate the taste of everything from mid-week meals and weekend faves to festive feasts! A blend of tangy tomatoes, fierce fireroasted red pepper, chilli, onions and black garlic, the dip includes a dash of lime and a pinch of sweetness from unrefined demerara sugar. The unique signature smoky infusion is thanks to a
combo of natural spices - chipotle, smoked paprika, cinnamon and cumin. As with all Holy Moly products, the salsa is crafted with the finest fresh, all-natural, clean ingredients with absolutely nothing artificial. https://holymolydips.com/
The team loved the Smoky Red Pepper & Tomato Salsa, giving it glowing feedback, with the tester reporting it have the perfect level of smokiness, and a great balance of flavors. The chilli gave a nice degree of heat, and it was perfect as a dip or a topping.
Low carb indulgence A brand new ketogenic and low carb snack has entered the market – welcome to Dark Chocolate Bites from Fatt! Described as a perfect low carb high nutrition (LCHN) choice when you’re looking for an indulgent, but healthy treat, these tasty bites, each made with the finest vegan ingredients, are filled with an almond and cocoa centre, and covered in a dark chocolate coating. Not only do they taste good, but they also deliver on health. Packed with brain boosting unsaturated fats, very low in carbs (just 3g per 27g portion) and high in prebiotic fibre to feed your good bacteria, they are
full of many vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, B and E, and they are free from sweeteners, palm oil, GMO, fillers, dairy and gluten. www.livefatt.com
“I was so impressed with the Fatt! Bites – they really did hit the spot when I wanted an afternoon indulgence,” said our tester. “The filling was rich and creamy, the coating was smooth and intense, and
I loved the two segments per pack. Without a doubt, one of the best low carb bars I’ve had!”
£185m boost to the Welsh food and drink industry from Project HELIX A Welsh Government and EU-funded project has delivered a significant boost to the food and drink industry in Wales, helping it develop hundreds of new products and create new jobs.
roject HELIX, which began in 2016, is a pan-Wales initiative delivered by Food Innovation Wales, a partnership of three food centres based in Anglesey, Ceredigion and Cardiff. It supports Welsh companies to develop innovative products from concept, design, development and manufacture, through to the consumer’s shopping basket, helping businesses grow and thrive. Latest figures announced at Wales’ major food and drink event, BlasCymru/ TasteWales in October showed the project has had an economic impact of £185.6 million to food and drink businesses in Wales, helped create 447 jobs and protected a further 2,306. More than 380 businesses and 943 individuals throughout Wales have been supported, of which 228 are new business start-ups. It has seen the development
of 1,240 new products and helped producers access 778 new markets. Supporting the food and drink industry through what has been an incredibly challenging year for the sector, Food Innovation Wales has been key in upskilling Wales’s workforce, supported the development of plant-based and healthier new products, and seen companies on a more sustainable footing by reducing waste, improving efficiency and developing new products. Through the ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre in Cardiff, Authentic Curries have received technical support in areas such as internal auditing against BRCGS Food Safety standards and basic food safety. As a result of the company maintaining their BRCGS Food Safety certification they have been able to secure two additional customers, launch 15 new products and retain sales of over half a million pounds.
Paul Trotman, managing director of Authentic Curries said: “The support we’ve received from ZERO2FIVE has benefited us no end. It’s been invaluable to have expertise from outside, coming in and auditing us in preparation for BRCGS. All of the involvement we have had with Cardiff Met University has been amazing and it helps things run a lot more smoothly.” Prof. David Lloyd, on behalf of Food Innovation Wales, said: “Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic have raised important questions over food security and skills availability. An increasing awareness of the climate crisis our planet is facing and the strain of diet-related disease on our communities has also made us take greater notice of the food we eat and where it comes from. “Whilst these questions pose fundamental challenges for Welsh food and drink manufacturing, they can also provide opportunities for Wales to be at the forefront of positive change. We can lead the way with sustainability, skill-development, a focus on local produce and the promotion of healthier diets. “This is where Food Innovation Wales is playing a key role. With our range of pan-Wales technical, operational and commercial expertise, we can support Welsh food and drink manufacturers to innovate and be more resilient to the challenges ahead of us,” he said. Project HELIX is supported through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 20142020, which is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Union. D https://foodinnovation.wales/
The real foodie Led by Gregory George, Foodie Franchises’ extensive knowledge makes it well-equipped to guide potential food franchisees to find the right business, and to open doors for aspiring food franchisors who dream of creating a popular and successful company 22 www.foodchainmagazine.com
Every one of our brands is on fire, and I am really proud of each of them. I think it helps that everyone at Foodie Franchises is incredibly passionate about fun food; as I’m sure our customers are too
reg George believes that there are eight key points to succeeding in the food franchise sector. While he discusses how Foodie Franchises has incorporated these points into its own operations, we learn how the business tycoon has not only established one of the leading names in the industry, but has also transformed his own life along the way. “You need a stand-out name,” he begins, “and with that, I have a great success story to tell you.” This story, he shares, is in regards to one of his brands; a nine-year-old concept called The Peach Cobbler Factory, which a friend referred him to after he stumbled upon it by happenstance. “I went to meet the owners – a husband and wife team– and knew from the second I walked into the dessert shop that they had something special. So, I explained how I work, I put together the partnership deal and within 72 hours, I was ready to invest in expanding the
business. Eight weeks later, we were executing marketing strategies, banking plans, and real estate locations to bring together 30 franchise agreements across seven States. To think that this team of two had been working their fingers to the bone for nine years and struggling to reach their potential simply because they just didn’t know how to scale up is quite heartbreaking, but now The Peach Cobbler Factory is receiving the largest and quickest return on investment I have ever seen,” Greg shares with us.
Since 2001, Greg has been a franchisor, franchisee and a franchise representative, and holds a wealth of industry knowledge that he believes is second to none. “What I have done is to help build these unique concepts that are all money-making machines. You can’t get cobbler in just any restaurant in the US, and you can’t get banana pudding in four different flavors in any restaurant in America. Another concept we work with is called The Dolly Lama, which is a waffle, ice cream and milkshake concept; you can’t get true Belgium or LIÈGE imported waffles anywhere else in America,” according to Greg.
Fast-paced success For the past 20 years, he has been directly responsible for developing over 46 national food franchise brands, of which Greg serves as a partner in five of these franchise brands. He has played an instrumental role in critical start-up phases, acquisitions and exits at a high
level for an array of businesses, and through this experience, he has devised a solid methodology to assist start-up businesses with their own growth, and now he discusses with FoodChain how to make this fast-paced success possible. “Obviously, you need a great product at a low cost, and facilities that could blow up the likes of Instagram. With that, an excellent customer service is paramount, while also balancing a low labor cost. Another important aspect is location, because you know what they say, ‘location, location, location!’ And finally, in today’s world, you have to be a savage marketer,” explains Greg, emphasizing that marketing plays an instrumental role in his line of work. His ability to get millions of eyeballs on the brands in his portfolio are paramount to said brands’ success. His strategy towards working with new clients takes effect in one of two ways: either they find him, or he finds them. “The truth is that with the pace that technology is moving, advertising and the media have to be able to adapt to stay relevant and impactful, and some businesses do struggle to keep up with that. As a result, their brand is what suffers. Sometimes, they just need a bit of guidance as to how to
navigate that territory, and I feel that the extent of my experience has helped me gain a knack for recognizing what works and what doesn’t. When I meet with a potential partner, I analyze their business model, I ask them a series of questions to understand how we can rebuild a future for their establishment, and then we get to work!”
The right direction Greg explains that it is particularly important to note how the days of wordof-mouth have changed significantly, with platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIN, YouTube and TikTok changing the way people receive information; something that Greg uses to his advantage. “I have the skillset as well as a fantastic team to use these channels to utilize them effectively. Consumers these days are looking for vivid pictures, short videos and free goodies. So, when I jump in and invest in a brand, the first thing I do is bring in my professional photographer, and a videographer to put together a dazzling marketing pack for our strategic partners. “On top of that, one of the avenues that I have secured for this company, and is an aspect that I believe pushes us that much further ahead of our competition, is having our own real
estate team, and great connections with banks that know they can preapprove our franchises because our brands make money. I have an inhouse marketing, graphics and video team constantly churning out marketing content for our franchise partners, and I believe that if you have marketing and real estate behind you, you are already heading in the right direction,” shares Greg. Given the state of the world over the past two years, one may assume that Greg’s businesses suffered a massive blow, considering he is on the front line of the restaurant industry. However, as he reveals, the circumstances of Covid-19 provided an environment that helped catapult his brands ahead of their competitors, owing to the fact that many of them were not full blown dine-in services. “Truth of the matter is, the pandemic helped out our franchise families in two ways. Firstly, our sales were the best they have been in the history of our portfolio of companies I have been involved with, because these brands are not sit-down restaurants, so customers were taking to go. Secondly, we had a delivery and catering element to reach a wider radius of customers. Additionally, the pandemic made it easier for us to find great locations,
and our partners saved sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in leasing second-generation buildings to renovate and put restaurants in them,” says Greg.
Despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic being catastrophic for many businesses, adversity is not novel to this CEO and company Founder. In what he calls his ‘ashes to glory’ story, Greg shares with us the intimate details of the personal trials he had to overcome in order to reach his own full potential. Not only is Greg a successful businessman, he is also a father, and with three children, he has done his best to instill an industrious nature and ambitious work ethic into each of
This inspiration would be the motivation he needed to turn his own life around. “When I arrived at the rehab center, I parked in the parking lot, and saw a tall man standing at the front door wearing this stylish jacket, and sunglasses, and thought to myself, ‘this man is definitely not from around here, he should be on the cover of GQ.’ I walked to the treatment center and the trendy gentleman who opened the door for me was actually my son, and I couldn’t believe it! He weighed 200lbs and not 135lbs, and was restored and healthy, and he said to me: ‘Let’s go home Dad, I’m ready to get on with my life’. I said: ‘no sir,’ and I grabbed him by the hand, went in, and asked if the director could bring everyone together. There were 52 addicts in total, and all
at 55 years old, I must tell you, I am an alcoholic!’” Greg continues; “That day, when my son and I left that treatment center, we committed to attending 90 days straight of Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and I vowed that alcohol and drugs would never touch my lips again, as long as I live, and now my son is four years clean and sober, and I am coming up to four years clean and sober,” he says. “Through this transformation, I was then able to actually create Foodie Franchises and execute; my brain started working, my skills truly came out, I’m not as aggressive as I used to be, I am calm as a cucumber, and I don’t live in extreme highs and lows any longer. Getting sober forced me to focus on becoming the best possible person,
them. Sadly, his first-born son suffered an eight-year opiate addiction that caused the George family a great deal of heartbreak. During the time that Greg was supporting his son in the ways only a father could, he also came to realize his own struggles with an alcohol and
of us were gathered in the kitchen, and I’m not sure why I felt so compelled to speak to them but nonetheless I shared my story. I said, ‘Hello, my name is Greg George, and I am very embarrassed right now because the young man standing in front of me, who looks absolutely incredible, is my
not only for my business, but also for my family. “Now, I also support others on their journey to sobriety. I’ll work with addicts and help get them to treatment on my own dime, I personally take them to the center, and help them in whatever way I can. Seeing them go through the
cannabis addiction. However, when Greg went to pick up his son from a 90day treatment center for what would be the last time, he was awe-struck by how seriously his son had taken his recovery.
son, and I am ashamed of myself as I don’t even recognize him. I’ve been smoking marijuana every day since I was 12 years old and drinking like a fish for as long as I can remember, and
same struggles that I experienced and motivate themselves to overcome those challenges is the most rewarding part of my life. Honestly, I feel that recovering from my drug and alcohol addiction
Ashes to glory
Foodie Franchises again be crippled by the ghosts of their past, Greg and his son now take on business-related problems with an enthusiastic exuberance, knowing that no challenge is too great to overcome. At the moment, as a consequence of Covid-19, companies are experiencing both labor and supply shortages, yet Foodie Franchises has found a way to stay ahead of these difficulties. “Most of the brands I work with only require staff of two or three people per shift. So, we pay them well, and ensure we hire only the best of the best. Tying in with that, as we discussed earlier, our facilities are beautiful and fun spaces to work in, and I believe that when the environment is exciting, staff are happy to work in them, and it encourages greater recruitment. “On the issue of stock, I always ensure that our franchisees do not have to worry about inventory. Accordingly, we buy hundreds of thousands of dollars of supplies, so that I never have to tell them that we’ve run out of, say, cups for example. My partners and I have a warehouse full of whatever they need to prevent a shortage of any kind.”
Passionate about fun food
has really propelled me to where I am today,” he says. In the same way that Greg restored himself from his addictions, it seems he has applied a similar approach to businesses looking
to restore themselves. His son, Andrew George, is now a partner of Foodie Franchises, and is continuing to bring great prosperity to his father’s legacy. Confident that neither of them will
Looking to the future, Greg is determined to continue to work with his son to make the dreams of potential business owners across the States a reality. In doing so, he will stay tuned in to the trends of upcoming generations to ensure his brand names remain unique and contemporary. “I have recently invested in a company called Buena Papa Fry Bar; this concept is based on the idea of loaded fries with a full meal on top, except this is what the entire menu consists of, and so far, that group is going incredibly well,” he expresses. In another venture, which happened to be a response to the change in demand during the pandemic, Greg also established his own national restaurant food delivery service: FoodChing. “Now, I can deliver food from my restaurants, as well as others. The key selling point to this particular service is that we don’t charge the restaurants any fees, allowing them to reach a wider customer base while saving on their costs. As a result, we have managed to launch FoodChing in 200 major markets for this particular avenue.” Over the next three or four years, Greg is determined to help his portfolio of brands reach $100 million in sales, and with a rejuvenated level of excitement, he has no doubt that this will be achieved. “Every one of our brands is on fire, and I am really proud of each of them. I think it helps that everyone at Foodie Franchises is incredibly passionate about fun food; as I’m sure our customers are too. So, we are going to keep doing what we do, to share what we love across the US,” he concludes. D You can find out more information about Foodie Franchises by visiting their website at: www.foodiefranchises.com
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Guilt-free snacking without compromise ParmCrisps has seen success with its Original oneingredient cheese crisp since 2016; now the company extends its’ lowcarb, high protein snack solutions with a successful Snack Mix range 28 www.foodchainmagazine.com
staple of charcuterie boards and lunch-boxes across the nation, ParmCrisps’products are known for their distinct flavor, simple goodness and diet friendly ingredients. The artisan crisp company is currently under the direction of Chief Executive Officer Samuel Kestenbaum, and the That’s How We Roll brand. Through its efforts to pioneer simplified, better-for-you snack alternatives, the company has been able to partner with nationwide retailers, including Kroger, Amazon, Whole Foods and others, in order to distribute its diverse range across the whole of the US. Falling under the umbrella of That’s How We Roll’s branding means that ParmCrisps joins Thinsters in the
brand’s over-arching mission to make the world healthier and tastier. That’s How We Roll’s parent company, Better For You Holdings, has established itself through the development and growth of delicious, on-trend products, which are composed of simple, well-known (and well-loved) ingredients. ParmCrisps has become an integral part of that mission, and its efforts certainly have not been in vain, as its products are now featured in the Safe Snack Guide. Emerging from trends in the food market that demanded more transparent food items without an abundance of artificial flavors and chemicals, ParmCrisps has seen success with its dialed back singleingredient approach. Made from 100 percent premium-aged Parmesan cheese,
ParmCrisps the crisps are oven baked to ensure the perfect crunch. A serving of original ParmCrisps contains a minimum seven grams of protein, and zero carbohydrates.
Flavor sensations The Parmesan used in ParmCrisps is sourced locally around the US, and baked in small batches to ensure stringent quality control. The crisps are then seasoned with a special selection of all-natural spices for peak flavor, before being distributed and sold in a number of outlets across the country. As a clean food alternative, ParmCrisps are safe for anyone on ketogenic or vegetarian diets, as well as any customers with gluten-free requirements. It is clear that stripping back on unnecessarily complex ingredient lists, and high sugar content, has spelled success for ParmCrisps, as the company has seen triple digit growth since its founding and is currently the category leader. ParmCrisps has since diversified its original cheese crisp into a vibrant array of products. The 100 percent cheese crackers are now available as a ‘snack pack’, made of six individually wrapped packets for easy portion control, as well as a family pack that is made for at-home sharing. There are also a handful of new flavors, including the crunchy-with-a-kick Jalapeno, the authentic four cheese, and a savory Sour Cream & Onion flavor. Even as its product range grows, ParmCrisps has remained true to its original mission by ensuring that all crisps deliver healthy snacking solutions with low carbs, high protein, and without additional sugar. The ParmCrisps range does not end there, either. ParmCrisps are also
available in a 3oz tub, which include a larger crisp size that are perfect for entertaining as part of a charcuterie board, as a carrier for dips or any other pairings with the delicious flavors of Parmesan, Everything, Four Cheese or Aged Cheddar. For those on-the-move, ParmCrisps also offers ready-made snack mixes, full of almonds and pistachios that are pre-mixed with the original ParmCrisps taste. As a replacement for traditional carbfilled snacks, ParmCrisps is not only a healthy alternative, but one that satisfies consumer cravings for a crunchy crisp, full of mouthwatering flavor. A quick look at the ParmCrisps website can provide a wealth of snack inspiration, as the company showcases the numerous ways in which its product can help satisfy those
It appears we are in the midst of a wholefood movement, and ParmCrisps are providing the crunch at its core. Having already proven that it can meet the needs of dynamic and emerging trends in the food market, ParmCrisps continues to deliver healthier alternatives with its new Snack Mix range. Available in three flavors, including Original, Ranch, and Smoky Barbeque, ParmCrisps’ new Snack Mix combines the simple, yet craveworthy ingredients of ParmCrisps and premium dry roasted nuts. ParmCrisps Snack Mix delivers satisfaction and nutrition, with high protein and low net carbs, without sacrificing taste. The success of ParmCrisps and its recently released Snack Mix range is bolstered by the company’s strong industry partnerships, not least with Whole Foods
snack cravings, whether paired with your favorite dips, a glass of wine or straight of the bag. It appears the options are limitless and that ParmCrisps will elevate any eating occasion.
and its parent company, Amazon. With the strong logistics infrastructure of these two entities behind it, ParmCrisps has been able to expand its reach, and in turn its customer base. In addition, the company has recently partnered with Bread and Butter Wines, to provide its customers with luxury night-in deals. It is clear that ParmCrisps is a company with its finger on the pulse. With a millennial-age CEO at the helm, the company is able to anticipate the needs and desires of a younger, emerging generation, who have grown up with food obscurity and want to take their diet back to basics. With the continued success of ParmCrisps originals and the new Snack Mix range alike, it is comforting to know that there are genuinely transparent food alternatives out there that do not compromise on taste. D www.parmcrisps.com
New range As the ParmCrisps brand promotes healthy snacking, and unlocks the possibilities of a creative diet, it has also been swept up in the latest entertaining trend: charcuterie boards. Browsing ParmCrisps’ Instagram and Twitter, you can see and hear the voices of satisfied customers who have used ParmCrisps as a core component of their lavish meat, cheese and fruit grazing boards. The end products look delicious, and inspire a new, communal way of eating that seems to work hand-in-hand with the fact that these boards are made up almost exclusively of single-ingredient food items.
Amergent Hospitality Group
Eyes on the fries A publicly-owned operator of popular restaurant brands, Amergent Hospitality Group is bringing great vibes and even better food to people around the United States
Amergent Hospitality Group
eadquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Amergent Hospitality Group operates and franchises some of North America’s favorite fast-casual, full-service restaurant brands. Formerly known as Chanticleer Holdings, the company was founded in 2005, but enjoyed its most successful period of acquisition between 2012 and 2015, when it added several new brands to its portfolio.
In conversation with FoodChain, the first brand Amergent President Fred Glick chooses to discuss is Little Big Burger (LBB). A 15-unit fast-casual burger chain from Portland, Oregon, LBB has developed a cult following since its founding in 2010 thanks to a fun, hip atmosphere, accompanied by burgers, truffle fries and root beer floats. “Little Big Burger is a chef-driven, regional brand up in the Portland/
Pacific Northwest area of the country,” Fred explains. “Its main item is a unique, smaller, taller, locally-sourced quarter pounder burger along with simple, delicious, social media hits like truffle fries and floats. We build these stores in urban environments and are about to add our second site in Eugene at the University of Oregon as part of a new wave of growth.” Amergent’s next core brand is Burgers Grilled Right (BGR), a gourmet
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Amergent Hospitality Group restaurant chain started in Bethesda, Maryland in 2008. From one humble location, the company and its famous flame-cooked burgers have grown across the country, and even ventured abroad. “Like LBB, BGR was launched by an award-winning chef and now has franchise outlets throughout the United States,” Fred states. “Again, everything at BGR is cooked-to-order and the menu also benefits from innovative, lesser-seen ingredients like bison. The burgers themselves are quite a bit bigger than LBB, and in general, it’s a little bit more high-end.”
Great food Rounding off Amergent’s collection of burger brands is American Burger Co, a smaller chain of restaurants with a sports bar atmosphere and built more heavily around a dine-in experience. It is joined in the Amergent portfolio by the company’s most recent addition: PizzaRev – a restaurant that empowers customers to ‘craft their own’ pizzas with homemade dough and the freshest ingredients. “We acquired PizzaRev in the fall of 2021,” Fred reports. “It’s a brand that went through a huge phase of growth a couple of years ago and we are getting ready to open up another three locations in Los Angeles over the next three months. With a choice of crust, sauce, and over 30 artisanal cheeses and toppings, at PizzaRev, customers can create their perfect stone-baked pizza and have it ready to take home in just three minutes.”
Amergent Hospitality Group All team members at Amergent, regardless of brand or department, are members of our spark team family. We ensure that everyone in the business has the correct tools, systems, technologies and support for the successful execution of their jobs and we remind them that they are here to make guests happy
As Fred suggests, success at Amergent begins with great food. Striving to focus on unique, memorable, and most importantly, great-tasting ingredients for all its brands, the firm’s restaurants make use of eye-catching products like Tillamook cheddar cheese, Daiya vegan mozzarella, pretzel buns, Aberdeen Angus beef, plantbased Beyond patties, truffle-infused
they always know which products are arriving next. We also perform internal taste tests before taking new products external and asking for feedback from some of our most loyal fans. “When it comes to trends,” he continues, “we tend to keep an eye on evolving requests and demands. If there is a macro trend that arises, then we will take it seriously. For instance, the rise in plant-based meat alternatives was a trend we felt was not going away, so we jumped in, tested all the different products out there, and selected the one we thought tasted best. Taste is really where we end up regardless of price and other factors. We want items that our guests will love.”
Wagyu beef, chipotle-spiced bison burgers and more. “In the main, we like to partner with local manufacturers directly, in order to help us stay on top of trends and flavor profiles,” Fred reveals. “Often beginning with an introduction from distributors, our relationships with food manufacturers are close and active we aim to keep them involved so that
The thought and care that Amergent puts into its products is reflective of the organization’s culture at large; this is not a business that concerns itself only with bottom-line profit, but about the wider positive impact it can have on its guests, its workforce, and all those with whom it comes into contact. As the face of the company, Amergent employees are known as its ‘spark team’ and stand on the front line of the firm’s mission to ‘spark positive vibes’ in the world. “All team members at Amergent, regardless of brand or department, are members of our spark team family,” Fred declares. “We ensure that everyone in the business has the correct tools, systems, technologies and support for the successful execution of their jobs and we remind them that they are here to make guests happy - creating great experiences is just as
Food Service Industry Consultants, Inc. AMERGENT HAS BEEN AN FSIC CLIENT FOR SEVERAL YEARS. President, Fred Glick contacted us to support Amergent after using our services at other Restaurant groups and he understands the value of using technology to inspect what he expects. “The group at FSIC are seasoned veterans who spent many years at high level positions in distribution and continue to help us ensure no money falls through the cracks,” states Glick. “They continue to save us money through their contract management portal as well as adding additional value through restitution on products that are overcharged.” At FSIC we’ve helped Amergent maintain Brand Equity and Guest Experience by monitoring every transaction off every invoice in order to make sure we’re getting the right product from the right vendor at the right price. Amergent was one of the first companies to jump on board with Allowance Source. We provide 100 percent transparency in the money that flows through the system & after being with a GPO who could not articulate what it was costing Amergent, they made the switch to Allowance Source. Amergent receives 100 percent of all contracts negotiated and most of the rebates earned through the ‘Book of Deals’ from Foodbuy Foodservice. This allows Amergent the best value available through FSIC’s Contract Management System and Foodbuy Foodservice GPO program. Many GPOs have stated for years, ‘it doesn’t cost you anything’, but Amergent has received a 400 percent increase in rebates with the Allowance Source program and has benefited from new Foodbuy contracts that were better for their brands. We are proud to support Amergent & will continue to monitor all transactions to lower their COGS so they can continue to grow and acquire additional brands. The health of their business is the health of ours. Jerry Wilhite - President & CEO | Food Service Industry Consultants, Inc. | www.fsici.com | 719.576.3264
Amergent Hospitality Group important as performing the technical burger-flipping, pizza-tossing side of things. “Of course, ultimately, it is a combination of care for guests and employees that will help us achieve the greatest profits,” he affirms. “If you don’t take care of your people then somebody else will. Communication, education and trust-building are all part of the process, as well as explaining to our team, whenever we can, exactly why we are in business. I think that last part, especially in terms of our core values and mission, really hits home for
many people – especially the younger employees. Nowadays, people don’t just work for a paycheck; they want to work for someone who gives them a cause to fight for and someone that gives back to their community.”
Love, service and care Over the course of the last 18 months, as the world battled against the Covid-19 pandemic, Amergent’s community focus has seemed more essential than ever. More than just remaining resilient and continuing to deliver great products to its guests, the
company aimed to ‘soothe the souls’ of ailing towns and cities across the US. “Since the pandemic hit in 2020, it’s been a challenge. Many people have left our industry and the ones who have stayed have had to deal with a situation in which people have not always been as compassionate as they could be,” Fred says. “Despite that, our employees worked with us and dug deep into our culture of love, service and care. Together, we doubled down on being kind. We didn’t get involved with any politics or divisive actions, but simply asked our guests how they wanted their food cooked and tried to create a really nice part of their day whenever they came to visit.” Thanks to its commitment to kindness, along with an ability to pivot to off-premises delivery solutions during the worst period of the Covid-19 crisis, Amergent grew its restaurants’ loyalty clubs by more than 100,000 members in 2020. Not content to rest on its laurels however, the company remains on the lookout for technology accelerators to help it create a more frictionless ordering and dining experience for its guests. “We believe that if we are not evolving, we are dying, so, going forward, we will continue listening to what our spark team and our guests want and devise strategies to give it to them,” Fred asserts. “One thing
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for sure is that convenience is here to stay and guests are willing to pay for it. Technology will certainly help with that. “During Covid-19, if you didn’t have
technology, you were out of business because guests couldn’t dine-in in most places. Delivery trends established in the pandemic will endure because,
in many ways, people now value convenience over food quality. As a result, in this ever-changing market, it is vital that brands have a tech stack that communicates and works together to create a frictionless experience. “At Amergent, our technology stack includes accounting software from R365, guest feedback from Ovation Up, 7shifts for scheduling and checklists, alongside partnerships with a range of major delivery companies,” he adds. “In particular, we have been really pleased with Toast POS technology and the company’s willingness to develop its product and collaborate with others. Similarly, Olo is best-in-class for integrating all our order options so that our team is not having to input every order that comes in by hand. Finally, our relationship with Thanx means we can see our loyalty members’ purchase history and preferences, from which we can build out promotions and target specific segments of the database.” Optimistic about the future, Amergent is now actively working on acquiring profitable and growing brands to add to its portfolio, with a number of major announcements in this area expected before the end of 2021. With the help of substantial levels of feedback from its employees and guests, the company is looking to learn, adjust and evolve. “It’s not about instigating a revolution. We don’t want to change
Amergent Hospitality Group
who we are. Instead, it’s about figuring out strategies that give guests what they want from our brand, and those things change based upon all kinds of factors,” Fred clarifies. “As I mentioned, convenience is the latest key trend and we aim to deliver on that, whilst still prioritizing quality and challenging ourselves to come up with new, innovative products.” As the company journeys onwards, collecting new brands and refining its ability to deliver guest satisfaction, Amergent will rely ever-more upon its growing spark team. Consequently, the firm aims to continue attracting the best people it can to the organization - people that believe in its customerpleasing formula of ‘love, care and service’. “In 2022, we want to double down on recruitment and retainment,” Fred announces. “We hope to come up with new benefit packages and higher wages for our team so that we can stay competitive, as well as continuing to attract the best employees around. “Hiring in this sector is a real challenge at the moment and we are forced to ask a number of questions: What is the new employment base for the restaurant industry? How do we get great people? How do we make them happy? How do we let them know that this is an industry of opportunities for young people who want to work hard and grow and have a career without,
necessarily, having to go to college? These are the demands we will be tackling in the years ahead, along with improving training, education, and
helping our current employees to grow in all aspects of their lives, as we grow and evolve with them.” D www.amergenthg.com
That’s a wrap
Crepini Having earnt its presence in more than 6000 stores, Crepini is encouraging customers to ‘leave the carbs’ with the help of its popular, healthy, versatile wraps
t age ten, Paula Rimer and her family emigrated from Russia to the United States. Before they embarked on a fresh start in New York however, the travelling party took a detour to Paris in order to visit relatives. It would turn out to be a fateful decision. Whilst in France, Paula fell in love with the French crêpe. In her mind, the light, airy, pancake could only be equaled by a similar treat from their youth – the Russian blini. Years later, even as Paula and her husband Eric Shkolnik forged successful careers for themselves in the American tech industry, the pair could not rid themselves of a desire to introduce crêpes and blinis to a US audience. Finally, in 2007, that dream became a reality and Crepini, an innovative new addition to the food industry, was born. “It was truly a love of food that brought us to the creation of Crepini,” Paula declares. “The name is a fusion of the French crêpe and the Russian Blini - although the final product is a more Americanized crêpe, and a healthy, betterfor-you wrap alternative, which is zero carb, lowcalorie, gluten-free, dairy-free, kosher (parve), versatile and durable, yet very thin and delicate. “Like all true entrepreneurs, we had a flexible plan and a can-do attitude. While we knew nothing about the food industry, and didn’t have any contacts in sales, marketing or manufacturing, we were passionate and determined to make Crepini happen.”
Incredible versatility Today, in 2021, Paula and Eric retain their longstanding enthusiasm for the perfect crêpe. Since the couple launched Crepini 14 years ago, their sons, Ari and Sam, along with Sam’s wife, Lisa, have all helped it become a fast-growing brand, sold in over 6000 stores worldwide. Always expanding and developing its product range, Crepini continues to add new recipes and innovative concepts to its portfolio. On a mission to deliver easy, delicious, and healthy products for the entire family, the business has, as of October 2021, sold over 500 million wraps and counting.
“Our core product range, Crepini Egg Wraps, has been created by family members with the intention and purpose of serving every individual, either for an at-home meal or an on-the-go snack. The possibilities, really, are endless,” Paula asserts. “Our present range includes a host of different versions of the Egg Wrap, including one type with gluten-free grains and another variety made with cauliflower. Usable straight from the packet, our wraps can be eaten cold, warm, or even crisped up for a crunchier snack. You can make a bacon, egg and cheese wrap for
breakfast, you can fold it and grill it like a panini, or just fill it with peanut butter and jelly. You can even use Crepini wraps to replace lasagna noodles for a low-carb, tasty alternative for dinner!”
Adopting automation Originally, all Crepini Egg Wraps were made by hand, but as demand has grown, the company has availed itself of the latest machinery and a 100,000-square-foot facility. With ten production lines set to be operational by the end of 2021, Crepini will soon be able to produce up to two million of the
industry’s lightest, thinnest, most healthy wraps every day. “We started automation in 2011 and it has been a great success. We look at efficiency as an opportunity to provide our consumers with great value for their hard-earned money, but equally, we will never sacrifice quality,” Paula says. “Nevertheless, there is much more to Crepini than machinery. We are a family-run business, and as well as training our staff in areas like food safety, we also treat them, and our suppliers, like family. We want long-term relationships and we like to keep things
Crepini in the community. For example, over 96 percent of our ingredients are local to New York State, all our packaging is from the USA and, as a proud American manufacturer, we pride ourselves on a US-based supply chain.”
more customers with the opportunity to enjoy fun, healthy alternatives to their traditional diet. “Going forward, we want to carry on supporting efforts to democratize and distribute our products so that everyone can enjoy the experience of living
fully and indulging in the joy of eating healthier with no concession,” Paula states. “Our vision is to bring fun and creativity to food in a carb-less way. Our culture, and our long-term ambitions, reflect this idea.” D www.crepini.com
As we head towards the end of the year, Crepini has recently launched its latest new product - Sweet Crepes with Cinnamon to spice up the Holiday Season. Containing only two carbs, the new festive crepes are another sign that Crepini will continue to be innovative in order to stay ahead of its competitors in the future. “We have several items in the pipeline right now,” Paula reveals. “It’s important for any company to stay attentive to the market and we are always reading comments and feedback from our customers and consumers. Most importantly, we take pride in challenging the category and broadening the possibilities for enjoyable, healthy snacks.” Nimble and responsive in its growth – the company deftly handled the challenges of Covid-19 – Crepini hopes to continue expanding its distribution at retail, revolutionizing the bread category in the process, and providing
The Shkolnik Family
Home to established brands like Ka-Pop! and Bubba’s Fine Foods, Awakened Foods has blossomed into one of the quickest growing and most highly innovative betterfor-you food firms in the US 46 www.foodchainmagazine.com
uthentic, simple and delicious – this is the not-so-secret recipe behind the vast and varied range of healthy snacks on offer from Awakened Foods, one of the USA’s fastest-growing food businesses. A holding company for family-favorite healthy food brands, such as Ka-Pop! and Bubba’s, Awakened also runs a highly successful private label and co-manufacturing
Awakened Foods also check all the major wellness boxes, including wholegrain, vegan, paleo, keto, ancient grain and more. We do this across all our growing platforms, and do so with incredibly simple ingredients that make for a craveable taste that keeps customers coming back for more. “A lot of consumers have lost trust with brands in today’s market due to what they perceive to be inauthenticity. People in stores are constantly turning over packages to try and find out what is being hidden from them. We, at Awakened, are trying to bring that trust back. It’s been a success so far and you can see that in the reviews we have had online and in-person. For instance, we’ve given our vegan cheese to dairy managers without telling them that it’s vegan. They love it, and the look of shock on their faces when you tell them that it’s dairy-free is incredible!”
Great tasting range
business in Awakened Food Crafters. Part of what sets Awakened apart from its competition is the company’s commitment to authenticity and transparency. When the business says it creates delicious, healthier snacks, it not only believes the claim, but can back it up.
“There are so many consumers out there nowadays looking for healthier food options,” CEO Dustin Finkel says. “The problem is, most of the foods that are supposedly healthy do not taste good or are not true to their health claims. At Awakened, we provide products that are not only absolutely delicious, but that
Launched by Dustin in 2018, Ka-Pop!, gained major traction when it appeared on Shark Tank in 2020. Famous for its popped chips and puffs made simply from the Ancient Grain sorghum, coldpressed oil and seasoning, the company’s huge range of flavors and freedom from allergens, dairy or gluten, have helped it become a perennial bestseller in snack aisles across the nation. Ka-Pop!’s sister brand, Bubba’s Fine Foods, is another member of the Awakened family. Launched in 2014 by Jared Menzel and his brother-in-law Jeff Schmidgall, Bubba’s harnesses the power of green Saba bananas to produce healthy, paleo-friendly, Keto, and grainfree snack mixes with big, bold flavor. “Bubba’s is an incredible brand that focuses on what we like to call ‘food tribes’,” Dustin explains. “A lot of modern consumers are eating in a particular ‘tribe’, which could include keto, paleo, or grain-free. At Bubba’s, we want people to be able to eat delicious foods no matter what their dietary requirements are, so we have developed an amazing, great tasting range that takes that into account. “The only problem we’ve had,” he continues, “is that ‘Bubba’s’ as a name just doesn’t represent the quality and premium nature of the products we are offering, nor does it really reference the
food tribes we aim to serve. As a result, later in 2021, we will be instigating a complete transformation and rebranding process, which will involve a change in name from Bubba’s Fine Foods to B. Fine Foods. Our new packaging will say things like ‘B. simple’, ‘B. keto’, ‘B. paleo’, and what we are communicating by that is really just ‘be yourself’. We want consumers to know that we support their food choices.” The third and final element of Awakened’s contemporary offering is Awakened Food Crafters, a manufacturing group that produces the company’s own brands, as well as co-manufacturing for others – from start-ups to some of the USA’s biggest retailers and CPG brands. Operating from two Colorado-based facilities – a dedicated top 12 allergen free facility and a gluten-free, paleo site – Awakened Food Crafters is a trusted partner at the heart of the industry. “Awakened Food Crafters is an amazingly synergistic part of the business. It’s an important third leg to the Awakened Foods’ stool because the brands support the manufacturing and the manufacturing supports the brands,” Dustin reports. “It allows us the flexibility and creativity to innovate quickly and move rapidly on market trends. We can go from idea to in-market launch in six weeks or less. “Ultimately, this means we can effectively support growing companies in building their businesses, and help established firms innovate in a way they would not be able to within their corporate infrastructures. At Awakened, we understand the challenges many brands are going through because we have been through them ourselves, so we try and take the weight off for them.” In recent times, Awakened Food Crafters has carried out a number of major projects, including the development of a new flavor for a large retailer in less than four weeks, and the short-notice production of 600 additional cases of a new product within 14 days. Backed by market-leading R&D capabilities, this flexibility and nimbleness has proven to be an outstanding differentiator. “We leverage an agile R&D model and we are lucky to have some of the best R&D scientists in the business. Jared, our Vice President of Research and Development, is capable of developing whatever a client requests, regardless of flavor, platform or product,” Dustin remarks. “Another critical element of our R&D process is remaining in tune with trends. On the Bubba’s side of things, we had the two most successful keto launches on Amazon in 2020, but keto didn’t exist in the Bubba’s range before that. We were out in the marketplace, seeing the growth in keto, adapting our capabilities, adapting our products, and then we launched a keto range with excellence. That’s
Awakened Foods our level of flexibility, and innovation without flexibility is very, very difficult.” On the back of its growing reputation, Awakened plans to move into a new, 54,000-square-foot facility in 2022. The site will allow Awakened Food Crafters to grow its capacity to around $200 million in revenue, as it continues to support brands new and old. Of course, without people, Awakened’s advanced new facility would be nothing, and as such, Dustin is determined to recognize his employees’ hard work and support them in their efforts. “When I started this company, there were just two of us, but we now have over 50 team members, all of whom are incredibly important in what they do for us,” Dustin states. “In line with ongoing initiatives like weekly Core Value Awards, the goal now is to enable our people to feel real ownership for what they do. We are working towards a place where all employees, no matter what their level, know that their feedback is important and that we need it to shape the future of the organization. For instance, I can’t tell you what is going to work better on the line, but you know who can? The person on the line. I want them to give our team the power to bring those ideas forward.” Whether it’s with colleagues, suppliers or partners, Dustin is certain that relationship building will remain a key part of the operation at Awakened for the entire life of the business. For now though, after working with like-minded Boulder, Colorado firms to navigate the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, the firm is looking forward to an exciting year ahead in 2022. “We have incredible expansion plans with Kroger and Whole Foods in the pipeline and the revitalization of Bubba’s to B. Fine Foods is going to lead to a dramatic increase in awareness and sales,” Dustin asserts. “As I mentioned, our Crafters business also has a lot of opportunities to support other companies lined up, which will help take us to the next level.
The Finkel family
see how they perform within different channels. We have the potential to be so much more to so many companies and really have an influence on the trajectory of the natural foods industry.
“I am very excited about what we are building at Awakened. Hard work now will enable us to blossom into something beautiful within the next few years.” D www.awakenedfoods.com
“Looking to the future, we are a company with a lot of in-built flexibility and this means we can continue to innovate through our current brands, as well as incubate new brands and
Cream of the crop
Over 80 years since its founding, South Caernarfon Creameries remains dedicated to local Welsh produce and its flagship ‘Dragon’ brand 50 www.foodchainmagazine.com
he South Caernarfon Creameries (SCC) story began back in 1938, with John Owen Roberts. As the company’s founder, he was on a mission to help local dairy farmers work together in order to brand and market their own milk. From his original group, a modest collection of 63 local farmers, SCC grew over the next eight decades into Wales’s largest dairy co-operative.
To this day, the company stays true to its Welsh heritage by only processing Welsh milk, and ensuring the Welsh language is featured on the packaging of each and every product produced under its Dragon brand. “The site for the Creamery was carefully chosen. Rhydygwystl was selected due to its convenient location, being on the border between Llynˆ and Eifionydd. These two areas of North
South Caernarfon Creameries Alan Wyn Jones
West Wales continue to be renowned for their grass growing capabilities, as they enjoy mild drifts from the gulf streams of the Atlantic,” explains Managing Director, Alan Wyn Jones. “There was an old woolen mill on the site, which is where the laboratory stands today. It provided the ideal space to house milk processing equipment, as well as the very first pasteurizer in the country. Even in
its infancy, the directors knew the advantages of investing in the best and most modern technology of the time; this is something that the company still practices today,” he adds. In the 1950s, milk production reached a record high, and the cooperative leaders decided to start making cheese in order to use up the excess milk. The growth trend has continued to this day, with 15,000 tons
of cheese now being produced annually. Today, SCC offers a range of products, which are available across the UK. “Our current range is extensive: we offer a choice of Cheddars, from mild and creamy, to vintage cheeses that are matured on site for up to 18 months. In addition, we offer traditional territorial cheeses such as Double Gloucester, Red Leicester and, of course, Welsh Caerphilly. To meet people’s dietary
requirements, we also developed lighter cheddar, which was launched in 2012. Our lighter cheese is 30 percent lower in fat than the standard Dragon mature cheese range, and now we offer a half fat option too,” says Alan. The Welsh environment plays an important role in producing South Caernarfon Creameries’ cheese and butter. As Alan confirms: “Monitoring our environmental impact is a key area for us, and we are repeatedly investing in our green credentials. We are continually working towards successfully managing, and minimizing, our environmental impact, and we are integrating sustainable business practices into our everyday operations. Last year we achieved ‘Level Three’ of the Welsh Green Dragon Environmental standard, and are now working towards ‘Level Four’.” One product that epitomizes how the company works in harmony with the Welsh countryside is its unique Cavern Aged Cheddar: “This cheese is made to a special bespoke recipe, and matured for a minimum of 11 months,” reveals Alan. “It is then transported from the Creameries to local Welsh Slate Caverns, an UNESCO World Heritage Site and continues to age 500 feet underground. This traditional ageing process takes place in old mining caverns, which have been converted into cheese caves. This process adds unique characteristics to the taste and texture of our cheese. “We were inspired to develop a signature cheese that enhanced our
great cheddar and made it into a truly delicious and different product. Cavern Cheddar has true provenance, and its story is steeped in Welsh history.” Alongside the cheese caves, SCC also makes use of some more conventional production facilities: “Unlike many cheese companies these days, all of our cheese is produced and packaged on site. Our flexible manufacturing system is able to make a range of different cheeses to meet the demands of our customers, and milk is delivered direct to site from our members’ farms to be processed,” Alan states. “Additionally, we continue to store and mature our cheese on site, in order to monitor the maturation process, and ensure we deliver the highest quality cheeses possible.” Made up of over 140 farms, SCC is a dedicated network of farmers and workers, who in many cases have generational relationships with one another. “We have close bonds with all our farmers, and we know that they really care about their herds and the milk they produce. All of our members are Red Tractor assured, and work hard to conserve the Welsh countryside. The cows graze on lush grass and enjoy some of the most spectacular views that Wales has to offer – including the ˆ Peninsula and Snowdonia National Llyn Park,” affirms Alan. The people behind SCC are also integral to its success, as Alan speaks to the company’s positive interpersonal dynamic: “Our business is
only as good as the people who work for it, which is why company culture is so important,” he says. “The key to this success is an open management style, a positive working environment, competitive salaries and employee benefits, training and job promotion opportunities, and good communication with clearly defined expectations. Our farmers work together, have a say in their future and that of the Creamery. As our members, they do not just supply us with milk they also own a share in the company,” he continues. Thanks to the dedication of its farmer network, South Caernarfon Creameries continues to grow. “Our three-year, £14.4 million expansion plan will increase cheese production by a further 50 percent, and create some 30 additional roles by 2024,” Alan explains. “The Welsh Government is backing the investment with a £5 million grant from the Rural Communities’ Rural Development Program. The creamery will increase production from its current level of 15,000 tons of cheese a year to 23,000 tons, and the growth is projected to increase demand for Welsh milk, from the current level of 130 million to more than 200 million liters a year as turnover ramps up,” he adds. With 80 years of success under its belt, and further expansion on the horizon, South Caernarfon Creameries hopes to move further into the European market; as Alan announces: “We are working closely with our export
South Caernarfon Creameries partners, who will help us identify key customers in our target markets, therefore enabling us to forge strong relationships, and deliver quality Welsh cheese to the continent. “We hope to expand by operating a balanced market portfolio, which will allow us to quickly take advantage of any new opportunities, whilst also reducing business risk. Currently export makes up approximately five percent of our market portfolio, something we’re hoping to grow to 15 percent over the next five years.”
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The company’s long-term plans are even more impressive, as Alan reveals: “Following our £11 million investment back in 2016 and our planned £14m investment over the next few years, we aim to become the leading mid-tier cheese manufacturer in the UK. Sustainability and environmental performance will be at the heart of what we do in order to achieve our objectives. “Having already more than doubled our turnover and profitability in the last five years, our medium-term objective is to deliver on our ambitious growth targets from £60 million to £85 million over the next three years. We also aim to continue delivering the best milk manufacturing price in Wales to our farmers and provide sustainable opportunities to our wider stakeholders,” he concludes. D www.sccwales.co.uk www.dragonwales.co.uk
A valuable ally Now 100 percent employee-owned, Alliance is one of the UK’s largest, and most progressive, providers of non-food equipment and disposables to the catering and hospitality sector
tocking over 30,000 products, from cleaning materials to glassware and kitchen utensils to bar supplies, Alliance is one of the leading providers of non-food catering equipment and disposables in the UK. For Managing Director David Elder, the company’s success begins with its unique take on culture and the impact this can have on an organization.
When Alliance was launched 21 years ago, David and his team created three key principles upon which the company needed to act in order to be successful. The tenets the company’s leadership team settled upon were Staff Satisfaction, Customer Satisfaction and Cash Management. “Staff satisfaction was always going to be vital,” David says. “We knew that if staff didn’t feel secure and respected
in their roles, they wouldn’t perform. As a result, we have always strived to make their time at work as fulfilling and meaningful as possible, which allows for an environment where creativity can flow and team members are much more likely to stay with the business. We are hugely serious about what we do here, but we also don’t have many job titles or much of a hierarchy, which facilitates better problem solving and more personal accountability. “In terms of customer satisfaction,” David continues, “we realised early on that many of our competitors were simply not hitting delivery time targets or they were applying product switches that customers didn’t know anything about. We responded by carefully managing our stock, delivering great service and having an open understanding with our customer base. This transparency develops a trust and gives us long-term relationships. It also develops our reputation, which in turn opens up more opportunities with new contracts and clients across the board. This, in turn, helps with our cash management and puts us in a much more stable financial position than those companies being forced to make replacements or not winning any return business.”
Variety and choice As of September 2021, Alliance operates from a national distribution center (NDC) and 13 regional depots, each with its own dedicated General Manager and sales team. This advanced network allows the company to cater for a wide range of clients with varying needs. “Our distribution network allows us to work with regional customers in a much more intimate way, providing
local service without burdening our depots with activities like commercial purchasing, HR or finance, which we can deal with centrally,” David explains. “The network also enables us to seamlessly cater to different customer types. For example, there are customers who are most interested in control and compliance. They tend to be heavily brand-driven and want to make sure that brand-standard products are going into specific stores, whether they be in Plymouth or Aberdeen. Our NDC deals with most of these control and compliance style accounts. “Alternatively, we have a lot of customers looking for differentiation from the big brands,” David adds. “They want variety and choice and they can’t be managed in the same way as many of the big nationals. These clients need a much more intimate relationship with a supplier and that is why they often go through our regional, local branches.”
“Our Alliance On-Line platform runs in parallel to our National and Regional networks, offering our full product selection to the market, whether trade account customers or not. As a complete aside, it also acts as an early entry point for new business. We reach out to customers who have tried our site a few times, and seem to like it, and we develop those customers into trade accounts which we manage through our Regional platforms.”
A foothold in Europe Alliance’s Ireland location is the company’s most recent addition. Opened in 2019, the site has been tremendously successful in serving existing Alliance clients - many of whom operate in both the UK and Republic of Ireland - as well as providing the firm with a foothold in Europe. “We had looked at opening up in Ireland many years before we actually did, but we decided, at the time, that it would be better to focus on the UK,”
David states. “When we finally did open two years ago, we started to change the game over there in terms of service and reach. We quickly realised that our competition was far behind us in terms of service and reach. Our new Alliance Ireland On-line site has changed the market there for sure. “As a company with a lot of major clients in the UK that also operate in Ireland, we were able to get traction very quickly. Of course, the pandemic meant some things went on hold for a while, but now everything is opening up again and business is very, very good. “One more added bonus of an Irish location is its position in Europe. Brexit has created a lot of challenges for the UK, but being in Ireland has enabled a lot of things to work for us in terms of purchasing and our reach into the European markets.” An enduring factor behind Alliance’s continuing popularity with clients is the firm’s ability to supply everything a hotel, hospital, caterer or similar setting
Cofresco Foodservice Kitchen Hygiene All Wrapped Up Cofresco Foodservice, brand owners of Wrapmaster, have been supplying and working with Alliance Disposables for several years. As a trusted and valuable customer, Alliance Disposables have been a crucial partner for Cofresco Foodservice in securing Wrapmaster dispensers and refills into the NHS and local authority supply chains. Trusted by professional chefs for over 25 years and, with over three million dispensers in the market in over 36 countries, Wrapmaster is the award-winning, market leading brand of dispensers for cling film, aluminium foil and baking parchment in the HORECA sector. Designed to improve hygiene and safety, Wrapmaster dispensers come in a variety of sizes to suit the demands of any professional kitchen from large hotels to mobile food operations. Wrapmaster dispensers are endorsed by the Craft Guild of Chefs in the UK, recommended by food hygiene practitioners, and proven to help chefs save time and money.
could need to be successful. From front of house profit products to back of house cost ranges (and everything in between) Alliance continues to provide vital catering and hospitality solutions thanks to its experience in the market. “Whatever the requirement, our expertise sets us apart from both our regional and national competitors,” David asserts. “Collaboration helps too, and by way of example, we are currently working very closely with a major national to support them in the refurbishment of their infrastructure. The conversation started in the sense that they had a problem, we had warehouses and vehicles, and by working together we could find solutions. “More recently, we have been supporting one of the UK and Ireland’s premier leisure operators with the refurbishment of their lodges in both the UK and Ireland. If you put the value of service into perspective, this is a business at such high occupancy levels that they can’t afford to have any of their lodges not available for customer occupancy following refurbished, simply because they have customers booked all year round. By having an operator like ourselves working with them, they are able to maintain their rate of business and we have been able to expand into a new area of operation. It’s a project we have really enjoyed working on and one that we are excited about going forward.” Not only has Alliance been busy acquiring new business of late, but the company has recently undergone a major transformation in its management structure. In July 2021, it was decided that 100 percent ownership by an Employee Ownership Trust was best for Alliance’s longevity, culture, durability, stability and future growth. “Employee ownership means that shareholders are effectively working in the business,” David points out. “While myself and my fellow directors have no interest in working elsewhere, we still need to start thinking about bringing through the next generation of management. Selling a business to either a trade buyer or venture capital company can end up substantially changing the way a business operates, but we didn’t want to do that. Protecting
Alliance our customers and protecting our staff was a priority, and consequently, a key driver in finding a different way forward. “With the help of the Government’s EOT scheme, we decided employee ownership was best. It not only safeguards the culture of the business, but it means employees gain a vested interest in Alliance’s success. We are very proud to say that the running of Alliance, and the firm’s future, is now in the hands of the people that matter most – the company’s workforce.”
Quality service Over the course of the last 18 months, strong contacts and lasting relationships in the public sector have helped Alliance continue growing in a difficult business climate. Bolstered by its ability to supply some of the most essential items coveted by public authorities during the pandemic, such as cleaning materials and PPE, the company is set to round off 2021 in a better position than ever. “Since Covid-19 started, we haven’t stopped,” David declares. “In fact, we have seen trading levels significantly ahead of where they were before the pandemic and that is massively encouraging. Customers are now opening up again all over the place and they are demanding products immediately, so the pressure on us is huge but we are responding very positively. “In years to come, I think we will continue doing the things that have made us a great business over the last two decades. One of the reasons Alliance has been attracting new customers and new contracts lately, on top of our existing customer base, is because we have built a reputation for reliable, quality service. I think our strategy is correct for the market right now, so I’m certain that our growth will continue. “The potential for Alliance as a business is huge,” David concludes. “Our future success is going to be all about making sure the infrastructure we have keeps pace with the growth we envisage. After that, we see our existing management team taking more responsibility and really driving the business forward during the next ten to 15 years.” D www.alliancenational.co.uk
Something to taco ‘bout
Barberitos Offering a healthier take on traditional Mexican fare, Barberitos is founded on freshness and ready to grow
t was the turn of the Millennium and Downing Barber was living in Colorado. Though he liked his home in the Rocky Mountains, Downing’s heart was elsewhere. As a frequent traveler, he had, long ago, fallen in love with the Southwest United States. Awed as he was by the open spaces and natural beauty of places like New Mexico and Arizona, what really won Downing over was the region’s food. In particular, mission-style burritos. Every aspect of mission-style burritos fascinated Downing. From their preparation and freshness to their nutritional value and seemingly endless customizability, the southwestern staple became an obsession, fueling his mission to introduce it, and other flavorful, healthier Mexican foods, to the rest of the United States. After honing his culinary skills and perfecting recipes, Downing launched his first Barberitos store in Athens, Georgia in the year 2000. Offering a variety of Mexican food, all prepared in front of customers using farm-fresh ingredients, the company has grown from a single site to more than 60 units in the USA. The Barberitos mission might have begun with a burrito, but today, in 2021, the company also serves up a range of the freshest tacos, quesadillas, nachos and salads. Although customers benefit from a quickserve concept in-store, Barberitos’ food creations are painstakingly crafted for perfection. Behind the scenes, team members who value the importance of hard work, patience and uncompromising quality handmake everything from guacamole to marinades. Vegetables are chopped, cheese is grated, chips are fried and salsa is prepared daily to ensure freshness on every single customer visit. According to Downing, the speed of service at Barberitos is only possible because of the work that goes on in the restaurant chain’s kitchens up and down the country, and there is no intention of that changing, ever.
Health-minded One key differentiator for Barberitos when compared to its Mexican food competitors is the added focus on health. The company has always understood that good food is about more than taste, whilst also being acutely aware that eating healthily can sometimes be difficult, expensive and time-consuming in our busy modern world. Part of what appealed to Downing when he first discovered mission-style burritos was that they were not only delicious, but good for you - especially in comparison to many fast-casual food alternatives - and
thus the company’s menu is designed to present customers with the best of both worlds. Health-minded at its heart, the menu at Barberitos features seven meals under 300 calories and that contain six or fewer grams of fat. As well as offering a number of gluten-free options, the company never adds preservatives or extra fats to its food. All this is carried out in line with Downing’s core belief that taking care of yourself and enjoying a meal shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Freshness is a word often associated with Barberitos and it is a quality that keeps customers returning to the company’s stores nationwide. The secret behind this freshness is not really a secret at all; Barberitos food tastes fresh because it is fresh. Before the
– cutting corners is simply not an option when it comes to producing food that is ‘really, incredibly, unbelievably fresh.’ Barberitos’ commitment to quality does not go unnoticed by the rest of the industry and in August 2021, the company was named ‘Best Burrito’ in the Athens Banner-Herald Readers’ Choice Awards for the 19th year in a row. “The entire Barberitos team is so appreciative of the Classic City community for its continued support in voting us the best of the best,” said Barberitos Founder and CEO Downing Barber at the time. “I remember rolling my first Barberitos burrito in downtown Athens and never could have dreamed of this run of sustained excellence.” Still present in its hometown of Athens, Georgia, Barberitos is incredibly
research facilities. Pink chips were also served to guests, and customers were given the opportunity to add a charity donation onto their order. “Our mission is to serve our local communities, and the entire Barberitos team was dedicated to making an impact during Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” Downing remarked. “In addition to enjoying a fresh and tasty meal, guests joined us in giving back to these worthy causes that raise breast cancer awareness and provide relief to those fighting the disease.”
lettuce, tomatoes, meat, cheese and sour cream even begins to be prepared in its restaurant kitchens, the company is working closely with local farmers to procure pasture-raised beef, hormonefree chicken and completely natural dairy items. This strict approach to the sourcing of ingredients is carried out for the same reason that Barberitos refuses to install microwaves or freezers in its stores
active in its local communities, supporting everything from little league teams to Extra Special People (ESP), which creates opportunities for people with disabilities. In October 2021, the company launched its ‘Chipping in for a Cure’ initiative, which saw Barberitos locations donate a percentage of their sales to various local breast cancer treatment centers, foundations and
for example, the company hosted four giveaway days via the Barberitos mobile app. Offers included free cheese dip, free guacamole and free cookies. Alongside these giveaways, guests purchasing a regular drink received color-changing mood cups to celebrate the brand’s ‘Burrito Love’ campaign - an initiative designed to inspire kindness and bring joy to others, and which included a variety of collaboration with non-profit organizations. Finally, since September 2021, all Barberitos locations have featured custom-made posters showcasing a three-dimensional view of the chain’s guacamole and cheese dip. Developed from stateof-the-art technology by Semiotic Marketing International, the signs have the potential to change how point of purchase displays are created going forward. Always looking for new ways to develop, Barberitos recently appointed professional tennis player Kat Jokic as the chain’s brand ambassador. A decorated star on the court at the University of Georgia, Kat helped the Bulldogs win the SEC regular season and tournament titles. She was also crowned SEC Challenge Singles Champion and spent time as the number one ranked International Tennis Federation singles player in the country. As well as acting as a spokesperson on social media for Barberitos’ healthy, lifestyle menu, Kat
Burrito Love This fall, Barberitos took part in a number of programs and marketing efforts to increase brand awareness and reward its customers. During Q3
Barberitos will participate in promotions and visit Barberitos restaurants as she travels to tournaments around the Southeast. “We are excited to welcome Kat into the Barberitos family and look forward to watching her impact the brand with her focus on enjoying a healthy eating lifestyle,” Downing declared in September 2021. “Kat has always been a smash hit on the tennis court and we
are honored to have her contribute to our mission of serving farm-fresh food to the Barbs’ communities and its people.” Speaking at the time of the announcement, Kat expressed her passion for Barberitos and its healthier take on Mexican food. “As a student athlete, it was always important for me to refuel with healthy, filling meals, and Barberitos ‘aces’ it every time.
AKO Signs For over 15 years, Barberitos has entrusted AKO Signs with their signage needs. From wraps for catering vehicles to menu boards to channel letters, AKO is proud to have played a role in building the Barberitos brand. Since 1989, AKO Signs has been honing its sign making craft and providing exceptional customer service to the greater southeastern US. Signs are an essential part of any company’s advertising foundation. Every company needs signs to properly represent their business as well as assist the growth of it. Not only should signage be eye-catching but designed to showcase your location and draw in new customers. AKO Signs is dedicated to providing the appropriate signage for all types of business and applications. Whether you need signs to stay compliant or to boost your profits, AKO is ready to share its expertise and execute your vision. AKO Signs offers comprehensive sign services and products that vary in range and are customizable to any small or large business needs. AKO Signs is one of the most trusted sign companies in the industry because of its commitment to quality in production as well as materials. In addition to an assigned account representative, AKO Signs’ clients can receive a customized web store where they can log in, see a catalog of their products, order their signage, and pay - all from a portal through AKO Signs’ website. From concept to creation, AKO Signs is committed to finding the best custom fit for your signage needs.
This partnership is a natural fit for me because I have been a fan of the brand since I first moved to America from Bosnia in 2017. I am always seeking a healthy, tasty meal and can’t wait to stop by Barberitos locations during my tournament travels throughout the Southeast.” Looking to the future, Barberitos will continue to serve others with its hallmark focus on Food, Community and People. Determined to deliver exceptional service wherever its restaurants operate, the company, ultimately, hopes to become the market leader of the quick-serve burrito industry with its fresh, high-quality food served in an efficient manner. After 20 years of growth, the 2020s look set to become the ‘Decade of Barberitos’. Word is spreading, and the fresh, healthy Mexican food specialists are becoming the taco the town in communities across the United States. D www.barberitos.com
Getting down to greener business
Logtek Limited Having been around since the late 90s, Logtek Ltd is well acquainted with the intricate work needed to put sustainability at the forefront of the packaging industry, and with its dedicated team, the business is ready for 2022 to be just as successful as 2021
n March of 2021, Logtek celebrated its 25th anniversary; a milestone that recognized its success as a returnable transit packaging solution for major retail stores such as Marks & Spencer and Aldi. “We are part of the global Schoeller Allibert manufacturing business, and started off as part of the Linpac Packaging Group,” begins Lisa Tank, the Managing Director of the Birmingham business. Born in response to customer needs and originally used mostly for produce delivery in retail supply chains, the Logtek service was a way of managing returnable transit equipment to protect and control those packaging assets. “Because there are usually several millions of pounds worth of value on our customer’s balance sheet, Logtek was created in direct response to helping grocers manage these assets around the supply chain. “The focus is on reusing (hence ‘returnable packaging’) and it’s about moving this equipment efficiently
throughout a retailer supply chain. All produce has to be transported through retail supply chains in what is referred to as secondary packaging and our job is to make sure that packaging (crates, dollies, pallets and so on) is well managed and moves through the supply chain efficiently, and are washed and repaired ready for the next cycle,” she says. Delivering this service to retail customers means that the company has been able to develop four operational sites across the UK; purely to facilitate and support this impressive efficiency.
Service delivery Additionally, the growth in its facilities has also meant an expansion in the catalogue of products that Logtek can offer to its clients. “We built a small business in Spalding, Lincolnshire, that was originally focused on renting equipment to farmers and local agricultural businesses for seasonal use. The idea was to have rental equipment available for seasonal
produce like strawberries or asparagus. That rental part of the business has consistently grown, and has allowed us to add a greater range of products. It’s not all about hand-held Maxinest trays anymore; there are dollies, pallets, and bulk containers that are used widely across the agricultural markets and meat producers. “Now, we are widening our horizons even further with products that have been developed specifically for beverage and automotive markets for example. The Schoeller Allibert Group are supportive of growing the rental business and the focus is very much on offering all our customers, globally, a wide range of ways in which to realize savings and deliver efficiencies in using Returnable Transit Equipment. The rental service has grown significantly, and we hope that it will continue to do so,” Lisa shares. As she emphasizes, the point of a returnable transit packaging item is to allow its use to be extended to any point in the supply chain, in order to support with sustainable and cost effective solutions and removing the use of wasteful one-trip packaging methods. “The other new piece of technology that we are building into our bulk containers is SmartLink, which is a bespoke trackand-trace system, and enables users of our rental products to see where their
you are going to do and ensuring our customers come first. I believe that is the reason we have held our two major retailer contracts for so long. I have always believed in the perspective that looks at how we operate with people as individuals, and not only with businesses as a ‘b2b’ transaction, which means working closely with those involved. This is why I feel that our key customers renew contracts with us so consistently, because we deliver value, understand their supply chains and requirements and we work well with their people. We are a good fit. It is all about delivering a service and that is what we do first and foremost.”
equipment is and moving throughout their supply chains in real time. The overall focus is on delivering value in driving efficiency and managing loss and attrition throughout the supply chain. So, it can be extremely valuable to our customers to be able to see exactly where their product is at all times and to understand cycle and dwell times especially if there is use of 3rd party logistics involved,” she informs us.
When discussing a few of the key secrets that keep the company culture united to provide an effective service and valued product, Lisa shares that the leading factor is staying true to the core values of ‘Trust, Own and Deliver’. “My view is that it is our integrity that sets us apart, and I am sure everyone else here would say the same. Although it’s a term that might sound a bit overused, for me it is about doing exactly what you say
This, she continues, is why the company places enormous value on the team at Logtek, without whom the company wouldn’t be able to deliver. “We have just over 100 full-time employees across five sites; Equipment Control, admin, finance and our operations team who are on the front line doing a fantastic job and without them, we wouldn’t have a business. We do value our people, and don’t have a huge staff turnover, which I’d like to think is somewhat reflective of our culture. “I feel that this contributes to how we are able to handle a challenge as large and overwhelming as Covid-19. By definition, the culture has always been open and supportive. It is about listening to each other, working together, and appreciating the role that everyone plays in the company. Without our people, we have nothing. Of course, the past months have been difficult and testing at times, but we managed to keep all of our operational sites open and working really well. Everyone normally office based has worked extremely positively from home. Our head office in Birmingham has only recently reopened, and we are doing three days a week at the moment on a flexible basis to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of our employees remains at the top of our list,” she shares with us.
Logtek Limited As we come down from the peak of the pandemic, Logtek is going to continue to realign its priorities to put sustainability at the forefront of its operations. “I think compared to 2020, this year has shown how capable we are of contributing to a greener supply chain. We are expecting ten percent growth on last year, which is quite an encouragement. This has allowed us to look towards goals for 2022, and in planning our five-year timeline, which will see us looking at even more new rental products and associated services. In light of this vision, we are not leaving behind our core business, which is all about returnable transit asset management and working with our key retailers, which is always going to be the corner stone of what we do,” Lisa says. Now more than ever, it is crucial to be embracing the principle of reduce, reuse and recycle. “It makes more sense for our customers and for people
to consider using returnable packaging solutions. Our Schoeller Allibert mantra is all about ‘Making Plastic Packaging too Good to Waste’ with the emphasis on reuse and then recycling. At Logtek, we are going to be innovating that message to our full capacity for as
long as we can,” concludes Lisa. It is encouraging to see businesses like Logtek, which are absolutely passionate about acting on sustainability and environmental messages to contribute to a greener future. D www.logtek.com
Feeding the future
Savi Provisions Having offered the best in organic produce to the people of Atlanta for over 13 years, Savi Provisions now sets its sights on supporting a sustainable food future
nown for its friendly and casual environment, Savi Provisions is a neighborhood destination for locally-sourced gourmet and organic foods, fine wines, craft beers and spirits. Founded by Paul Nair - on a farm-to-table, chef-driven model, which focuses on quality, atmosphere and community over profit – the first location opened in early 2009 in Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood, and was inspired by New York City’s beloved delis and bodegas. Savi Provisions was created to act as an integral part of the neighborhood that each location serves, aiming to provide an affordable, gourmet and healthy market experience, and combine it with today’s demand for convenience and local sourcing. Today, under its Savi Franchise System, Savi Provisions has successfully opened several locations throughout the Greater Atlanta Area and has a recent market entry in Nashville, Tennessee. “The concept behind Savi Provisions was created initially out of need and a realization that there was a sincere demand for an urban, friendly and convenient place that people could come to for food, groceries, and fun,” Paul explains. “After spending time in New York City, I came to the conclusion that other cities needed what New York was so fortunate to have in virtually every part of the city: the neighborhood deli. These were places where people shopped, congregated, developed relationships and built upon community, and this need was how Savi Provisions was born. We take convenience a step further by offering online ordering for several of our locations, and we partner with third-parties to offer delivery of our gourmet foods locally.”
Something for everyone As Paul goes on to detail, what makes Savi Provisions so special is its dedication to the high-end products offered to its customers. “Quality offerings is what has ultimately led to the success and expansion of the concept,” he notes. “What also sets us apart is our focus on chefdriven, fresh-made meals. Our carefully curated wine and beer selection includes something for everyone, and our customers will always find some of the finest meat and cheeses in the area available. In addition to savory sandwiches, breakfast offerings, wraps and salads, customers can also expect to find gourmet sides and a long list of delicious, made-to-order options. “In recent years, we have witnessed a resurgence of the local farmer, the farmer’s market, farm-to-table, and
Savi Provisions a renewed commitment to understanding what we eat and where it originates. With Savi Provisions, we revisit the role of the original purveyors who built generational relationships with farmers, vineyards and distilleries to serve their local communities. We deeply value the relationships that we have built with suppliers and we are confident that their products have greatly contributed to the company’s ongoing success.” Paul is not short of a word or two about Savi Provisions’ own people either. “Our people are what makes the business work! We are grateful to our franchisees and their employees for their passion and hard work each day to uphold our collective mission of serving our communities. Savi Provisions is a brand that was founded with a vision to create opportunity and an unparalleled experience equally for people who work in the business and also who frequent the stores.”
beverages via Enomatic equipment. This feature provides a convenient option for dine-in, grab and go, and passerbys.” With every step it takes, Savi Provisions is dedicated to serving local communities. It is a key player amongst companies aiming to safeguard the planet through changing food habits, and its dedication to providing legitimate community spaces through a common love of food and wine is truly admirable. “Ultimately, we hope to be a designated space for gourmet foods and excellent customer service in every major city throughout the nation,” Paul concludes. “Through our franchise model, we hope to continue enhancing local economies and influence buying decisions towards healthy, organic foods that pour back into the community, and we plan to do so with the confidence that there are plenty of opportunities for future growth within the US and beyond!” D www.saviprovisions.com
In early June 2021, Paul announced the launch of a brand-new concept, dubbed UPop - which is short for Urban Provisions Offering Petroleum – which will be a highend food and beverage concept located in a new-to-Georgia gas station, Acro. UPop will offer chef driven prepared foods, beer, wine and liquor, as well as a bistro offering small plates. “UPop is a concept that elevates the traditional gas station experience,” Paul declares. “With it, we are further expanding our high-end convenience footprint in the South and beyond. This first location serves as the prototype for future locations, and we plan to expand this concept to consumers in Cary, Durham and Raleigh, N.C.” Savi Provisions’ recent achievements come in the wake of the company navigating the challenges poses by the Covid-19 pandemic. “In many ways, we were fortunate to have a model that already leaned heavily on prepared foods and takeaway items,” Paul states. “We pushed online ordering at several of our locations and implemented Drizly, which helped us facilitate alcohol delivery. “We also opened an Atlanta location at AMLI Lenox, which features a unique self-pour 14 beer tap wall, 16 wine options, and a variety of spirits. The bar is completely card-based to provide a lowtouch experience for guests. It will dispense
The sky’s the limit
Leveraging a global reach and agile approach to logistics, En Route International’s food and service solutions continue to help the travel industry deliver a customer experience of the highest quality 72 www.foodchainmagazine.com
t was the early 2000s and entrepreneur Alison Lessmann was travelling with a well known global airline. Midway through the journey, as the in-flight meal arrived, she was disappointed to be presented with bread that, in her opinion, was subpar for such a major airline. After raising the issue with the airline when she arrived home, it informed her that it was cutting ties with its current bakery and going
out to tender. With this knowledge in mind, Alison set to work launching her own business. Less than four months later, the fledgling company – En Route International – had won the airline’s baked goods contract. Since its founding in 2002, En Route has grown into a £50 million organization. Predominantly serving major airlines, the business maintains a key focus around the product categories
En Route International
of bread and bakery items, cheese, meals, snack boxes and handheld snacks like pasties and calzone. “En Route has concentrated on airlines and catering for 20 years now and our portfolio has grown significantly,” explains Global Managing Director Nick Wiley. “Thanks to a complex set of networks, we have the ability to deliver high quality products to around 100 locations worldwide,
as we help to solve the problems and challenges faced by airlines and caterers.” Through close analysis of consumer trends, En Route has always been able to develop product, service and operational solutions that are most deeply relevant to its clients. For instance, the increasing desire for locally sourced products has led to the firm using its global presence to source items and ingredients regionally, or closer to the point of consumption, whilst still delivering a consistent product experience for the consumer. Today, En Route operates from logistics hubs and offices throughout Australia, the USA, the UK, Europe, the Middle East and China, leaning on these sites to help it serve a prestigious customer base that includes the likes of British Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qantas, American Airlines, Jetstar, JetBlue, Air France and Emirates. Strategically sector-focused, the company is not distracted by attempts to appeal to a wide range of different industries, and consequently, possesses unrivalled knowledge and aptitude in the provision of solutions for airlines and airline caterers. “We regularly talk to manufacturers that see the travel market as a supply opportunity, but they simply don’t understand how airlines and airline caterers operate. The truth is that airline catering is as much about food as it is about very complicated operations or processes and logistics,” Nick argues.
“At En Route, our success is born out of an ability to be creative, agile and global. We take a creative approach to product type, packaging, delivery, and formulation - bearing in mind that items will be eaten at 30,000 ft and the taste buds are slightly different at that altitude. Our agility lies in our speed to develop and execute solutions. “Finally,” Nick adds, “with so many of our customers being international airlines and catering businesses, the global consistency of our execution has to be perfect. There is no point having a solution deliverable in one location when actually a company operates out of 35 locations, especially when consumer expectations of an airline are almost always brand-related - passengers expect to get a similar experience with a company like British Airways whenever and wherever they board a British Airways flight.”
Product quality Among its current projects, En Route is delivering high quality bread products across all travel classes for several airlines. Typically packaged in material that can be reheated safely onboard, each proposition is unique to the client, their brief, and their overall expectation in terms of product quality, consistency and natural variation. “When it comes to bread, we source from a broad range of different bread suppliers - each with a particular competence for particular product types - and combine those in a bag or box for
a specific cabin on a specific airline,” Nick reveals. “For example, first class might require four rolls in a bag for each individual passenger, business class might need eight rolls in a bag that go into a basket for presentation purposes, and economy rolls might be flow-wrapped. Whatever the need, we are capable of executing those requests across various airlines and caterers, and have done so consistently for years now. “In some cases,” Nick continues, “we are supplying our caterers’ bread requirements. So, for instance, where there might be supply chain issues, as there have been over the past two years due to COVID-19 and Brexit, we can fulfil a caterer’s requirement for product if they have a particular brief they need to carry out for an airline.”
Variety of cheeses After bread, cheese is perhaps the second-most popular En Route product category. More so than with bread, packaging plays a vital role in ensuring that the company’s cheese products reach
En Route International customers in the best possible condition. A chilled, single service offering that can hold a variety of cheeses and accompaniments such as crackers, chutneys, pickles, and dried fruit garnish, the product reduces operational complexity and requires limited crew intervention. “This proposition was developed alongside the presentation format – a slate that it is served on in the plane,” Nick reports. “We are also able to guarantee the quality and standard of presentation because we supply our cheese pre-cut in a rip and flip packaging solution, which requires crew to tear off the lid, put the slate on top of the packet, and invert it. This allows the cheese and garnish to be presented in a consistent fashion with no handling by the crew. It is a very slick, easy, low labor time, low wastage, full-integrated solution, which involves no cling-filming or plating up from the caterer.
Logical next step In line with its efforts to develop alternative packaging methods that are not only functional but help to reduce waste, En Route recently launched its’ new ‘The Cheese Board’ format, suitable for premium economy or pre-order offerings. A chilled, single-service, cardboard box offering that can hold a variety of cheeses and accompaniments such as crackers, chutneys, pickles, and dried fruit garnish, the product reduces operational complexity and requires no crew intervention. “Behind all this, there is a bigger cheese program, which sees us work with suppliers to find really interesting products that one normally wouldn’t see on an airplane. At the moment we have a cheese that contains nettle, which is pretty unique,” he notes. “Partnering and then working with smaller, artisan providers, we take hard cheese, soft cheese and blue cheese, and present it to customers with some narrative about ingredients, provenance and origins. It gives a more enjoyable, well-rounded meal experience, which is viewed as a really important part
of the journey for many of our airline clients.” Despite En Route’s dominance in the aviation arena, the company has always had an aspiration to diversify into new markets, and so, encouraged by lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, the business recently trialed products with a leading British retailer and launched direct-to-consumer sales as well as supplying the NHS. “One of the things a lot of businesses picked up during the pandemic was the importance of not putting all your eggs into one basket,” Nick says. “The logic behind working with caterers more regularly is that we are already engaging with them as part of our day job, so it makes sense to start looking at them as potential customers for their requirements in other categories, away from the airlines. “Beyond that, there is an expectation that rail transportation, cruise liners and ferries might be a logical next step for us within the travel market, but of course, we don’t want to be too closely exposed to one single sector because that would not benefit our resilience, so growth outside of aviation needs to be a careful, wellthought-out process.” As the airlines that make up its core target market continue to rebound from
the shock of the pandemic, En Route is beginning to see business trending upwards - a positive first step towards a bright future for the firm. While there may still be a sense of scale to recover for the company, as well as team repopulation activities to carry out, Nick is optimistic that the organization can continue building and journey forward in line with his aims for significant growth. “I think, over the course of the next three years, we are going to be realistic as we try and regain a proportion of our pre-COVID-19 business, before really trying to drive growth by focusing on the things that have always made us a success,” Nick declares. “The most critical part of that will be customercentricity - listening to customers, delivering on the promises we make, and solving their challenges. “The market is, understandably, going through a lot right now, but we want to be part of turning it around and making it as good as it can be. It might end up looking different in terms of how people approach travel or how certain airlines operate, but you can always rely on the aviation sector to try new things and find new ways to be successful. As a creative business ourselves, we hope to do the same.” D www.en-route.com
On cloud wine
As one of England’s leading wine producers, Chapel Down continues to establish a name for itself with an awardwinning range of sparkling and still wines, as well as highly acclaimed gins and vodka 76 www.foodchainmagazine.com
estled in the Kentish countryside, Chapel Down’s picturesque vineyards and herb gardens represent a new lease of life for English wine. Leading the market in high-end Kentish spirits, wine, and gin, Chapel Down’s range is known for exceptional flavor and quality. Opening its doors again following the outbreak of Covid-19, the company offers an updated range of Kit’s Coty wine, guided tours, tastings, and meals at its gorgeous on-site restaurant, The Swan. Known for luxury and transparency from grape to glass, Chapel Down’s wine is produced sustainably, locally, and with the consumer in mind. The difficulties of a pandemic have
certainly not slowed the progress of Chapel Down’s Winery, as the company emerges with a successful direct-toconsumer e-commerce platform, and leading retail partners, including Tesco, Waitrose and M&S. Now stocking 50 percent of English wine in supermarkets across the UK, Chapel Down continues to lead the newly emerging wine market in England, with the world’s fastest wine growing region. From 780 acres of rolling English countryside, Chapel Down produces its flagship range Kit’s Coty, as well as a plethora of other wines and spirits. With such a wide variety to choose from, the company offers an introduction to its wine with the Discovery Case, which includes six of its newest and most exciting releases. From Pinot Noir Rose 2020, delicately flavored with citrus and cranberry, to the 2018 Albarino, a crisp herbal white wine, this bundle offers an insight into the luxurious textures of a Chapel Down’s vineyard. Cultivating the perfect pairings for all Chapel Down’s wine cases is Josh Donaghay-Spire, Head Winemaker at Chapel Down. His latest range, Great Minds Drink Alike, is made of the most remarkable wines from Chapel Down’s partners across the globe. Providing a glimpse of the wine world’s cutting edge, the Great Minds range spotlights Domaine Gayda’s No’7 La Liviniere 2019, for its exceptional balance of vanilla and dark fruit flavors, and the No’6 Syrah 2020, for its spicy, rich palette. With such an unfalteringly elegant range of products, it is no surprise that Chapel Down has seen a 38 percent increase in sales over the last year. Despite losing approximately a third of its business due to retail shut downs in 2020, Chapel Down maintained its success, offsetting this loss with a staggering 467 percent increase in direct to consumer sales. The company has also received critical recognition in recent years, receiving a platinum medal for the Kit’s Coty Coeur de Cuvee range at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2020. Such recognition secures Chapel Down’s place as today’s leading producer of English wine. Now consolidating its success, Chapel Down has begun construction
Chapel Down on an updated winery, which will be located near the Kent vineyard. This new winery will be completed with computercontrolled heating and pumping systems, designed to conserve energy and reduce the company’s environmental impact. Chapel Down’s sustainability mission ensures its plans for the future. As a group of winemakers, Chapel Down’s people are used to thinking in generations, rather than years, and working closely with the land means that they know just how important a healthy environment is. As a result, the company makes continuous efforts to review the vineyard’s soil management program, in order to maintain humus-rich soils and aid natural cycles that help to keep carbon and nitrogen in the ground. Chapel Down has also re-introduced indigenous grasses to the area, in order to reduce the need for chemical herbicides. Reducing energy use is another way in which Chapel Down ensures it has a
minimal carbon footprint. In a winery or brewery, energy conservation begins in the foundations, and the Chapel Down’s Kent brewery is a perfect example of this. The specially designed buildings maximize natural lighting to reduce heat build-up, and maintain the perfect temperature year round. Sustainability is critical to the longevity and legacy of Chapel Down, as it enables production and tourism, whilst maintaining balance in a thriving rural environment. From sourcing raw materials, through to in-market communications, renewability and environmental consciousness is
factored into every aspect of the Chapel Down supply chain. The company even uses minimal packaging, and continues to focus on domestic sales, to highlight the importance of a sustainable model all around. Confident in its goal to promote organic, locally produced English wine with incredible taste, Chapel Down will no doubt continue to expand in the following years. The English wine market is a newly emerging space, full of opportunity for growth and creativity, and the company’s position as an industry leader is certainly something worth celebrating. D www.chapeldown.com
TECH Ltd We have been involved with Chapel Down over the past few years and they have really helped us get to know the machines used within the wine industry. They have trusted us when repairing their machines and sourcing replacement parts. Our relationship has gone from strength to strength. We are committed to keeping them in production and providing advice and assistance when needed. It’s an exciting future ahead working with such a forward thinking team at Chapel.
A touch of REAL ginger
Since 1987, Reed’s has been passionate about the sharp and sweet taste of REAL ginger, and, accordingly, continues to provide natural healthy refreshments made with fresh ginger root for its customers 78 www.foodchainmagazine.com
hat began as a journey to bring consumers natural ginger beverages 30 years ago has expanded into a business venture inspired to produce high quality REAL
ginger beverages across all sectors of the beverage industry. Reed’s has become a favorite name in grocery and natural food stores across the US, and Norman E. Snyder, the company’s CEO, discusses with FoodChain magazine
you. “In 2020, we introduced Reed’s Real Ginger Ale, making us the only mainstream ginger ale to use real ginger in our ale. We also came out with a zero sugar ginger ale, and then, following this, as part of our mocktails line, we introduced a Shirley Temple flavor, which is cherry and grenadine, that we call it Shirley Tempting – it’s incredibly tasty!” expresses Norm.
how the company has successfully overcome recent challenges to continue to deliver naturally delicious, and refreshing ginger-based beverages and candies across all channels and categories.
Driven by its mission to provide the world with high quality and naturally bold™ better-for-you beverages, Reed’s continues to drive innovation across categories delivering products that are simply better and better-for-
When it comes to this level of creativity, Norm is happy to share that a number of ingredients are creatively combined to produce a Reed’s drink: a hefty serving of an innovative Research and Development team, a shot of customer feedback, and a pinch of personal taste. “Sometimes our approach can be somewhat selfish: we look at what we like, and then we bounce around those ideas, and it expands into a game of hit-and-miss really. Either the taste works out surprisingly well, or it does not, and we have to go back to the drawing board. For example, lemonade has always been a great summertime drink, and it also happens to mix really well with ginger. So, when we tasted it, we were completely blown away.” Coupled with that, while the business takes great pride in tantalizing fruity tastes, it also places a substantial emphasis on the presentation of its canned beverages. “We make sure our artwork really pops to be as fantastic visually as the contents. Going back to
our lemonade spritz, because it tastes great, we had to create a design that is just as intriguing. The more variety of colors we have on our palette, the better, and then the product stands out on its own. This we learnt after one particular product launch where we didn’t really think too much about the design and found that the label colors were so similar that in the refrigerators, consumers were confused with differentiating our products,” Norm shares with us. Subsequently, the team has incorporated an eye-catching aesthetic to complement its product and to pop off the shelf as a billboard.
Growth and development On the people side, Norman describes the company culture as a highly entrepreneurial atmosphere where communication is paramount. “It is very fast, pragmatic, structured, and we try to put processes in place to make
sure operations are documented. We aren’t a massive company, which means we get to know everyone really well, and we look after each other quite closely.” This, he feels, is what will stand the business in good stead as it moves out of the pandemic and towards 2022. Norm is excited for the innovation and product launches that are soon coming to store shelves across the States. “We have a new offering joining our catalogue next year that we are working on behind the scenes, and we feel really good about. Innovation has been absolutely key for us to achieve this, and as a result, we have some pretty neat stuff being set up for next year that we are quite excited to share with people very soon,” he divulges. Looking at a longer timeline, of course Norman would like to continue to push the business in its growth
and development. “I’d like to see us stay profitable and get to a large enough scale where we really realize the potential of the categories we are gravitating towards. We co-developed an alcohol-based RTD mule that has been well-received, and we have taken over distribution in about twothirds of the country, and because it was a ginger-based product, most people who make mules use Reed’s ginger beer, so it made sense to take that avenue. These are just some of the ways that we are looking to stay true to who we are, in order to facilitate the tremendous amount of growth we have had so far. If we continue to build on that, I think that we will become a much bigger and better company.”
Facing challenges However, despite his keen outlook, he is not naïve to some of the challenges that lay ahead, yet he continues to demonstrate a pride and confidence in his team for the way in which they soldier through these obstacles. “One of the things we are facing now is navigating the supply chain challenges that are in expanse across the world. We have been trying our best to mitigate those and are planning for the longer term to instigate backup plans. However, in trying to react accordingly, there have been some inflationary pressures, so we have taken modest price increases, but we have absorbed a lot of that. “At the moment, the US is experiencing a shortage of cans, so what we’ve done is make early bulk purchases to protect ourselves and have a back-up supply of imported cans as well. Additionally, we have entered into longer term contracts to protect those supplies. Another area that we have battled with is the procurement of steel crowns for our bottles. This means, again, collaborating with our supplier network to make sure we have backup vendors and are ordering well in advance to make sure we don’t run out. However, in my opinion, the biggest challenge has been the lack of
Reed’s labor for the factories. What we have had to do is expand our network of manufacturing plants and with that, extra hands have been absolutely necessary. Many of these plants have been installed with greater equipment to be able to produce more. So, we have really had to expand our network of packers to keep up with the demand,” he says. As far as the supply chain issues are concerned, Norm believes that those challenges will straighten themselves out given time although will remain in the near-term. Although
many businesses are faced with similar constraints, he is confident that as the economy begins to stabilize, and manufacturers find their feet once again, pre-pandemic operations will soon flourish. Until then, the team at Reed’s is prepared to remain organized and equipped to continue to do whatever it takes to provide for their customers, and we look forward to catching up with Norm in the near future to hear more about the exciting developments happening at his factories. D www.drinkreeds.com
Macaran Printed Products Macaran Printed Products are a third-generation, employee-owned supplier of high-quality, label and packaging products. Our labeling solutions are found on some of the best-known brands in the world in the Spirits, Wine, Craft Beer, and Non-Alcoholic beverage markets. We know brand image is everything, so we bring our clients ‘Creativity without Compromise’. It’s a core tenet of our business, and one we take very seriously. Technical depth and a state-of-the-art press compliment give our customers the product development tools they need to ensure their brand is delivered to the market just as they intended. Our goal is to become the ‘Custodian of your Brand’. With unparalleled customer care and a commitment to technology and innovation, we build strong and meaningful partnerships with our clients. This customer-centric focus allows us to ensure consistency and reliability across every project, every time. We truly put our customers first in everything we do.
Creating a human-kind industry
Puratos’ expertise lies in the creation of delicious ingredients for bakery, patisserie, chocolate and dairy businesses, and the teams behind its success are encouraged and supported in order to thrive
uratos, more than 100 years old and proud, began as one building in Brussels. Thanks to a determination and dedication to succeed, alongside a successful strategy and dynamic management teams, over the course of its history, it has successfully grown to a group worth over €2 billion, rooted in over 100 countries. The UK division of Puratos (Puratos UK) has its innovation center located in the charming countryside of Fringford, Oxfordshire; and from here a team of patisserie, bakery and chocolate experts knead their experience together to produce ingredients and products for the baking industry. In conjunction with its two complementary production facilities in Simonswood and Buckingham, the British branch of the international company is thriving. UK Managing Director Julia Darvill shares some insights about what makes Puratos UK stand out from the crowd. “We’re known for our knowledge base and our innovative expertise in categories such as sourdough and fillings,” she begins. “We also spend more investment than any of our competition on understanding customer insights and predicting future trends.” This important side of the business will be touched on again later – first Julia gave more details on the company’s distinctive approach to how it conducts business, focusing on the cultivation of a culture of honesty and trust, not only with its people, but also its supply base. “We have to be exceptionally transparent with each other,” she says. “If you walk into our organization across any of the markets, there is a particular aura about us, we call it magic, and that is something that we’re also known for in our industry, and that I am very proud of. We’re very honest with each other; we feel free to take risks because we have an environment that supports learning from our mistakes. We are a purposedriven organization, which means that I can achieve my personal purpose in conjunction with the company’s corporate purpose because of how closely they are married, and I love that,” she expresses.
As an example of how the company’s ethos supports its staff, Julia elaborates on how the Puratos culture became particularly crucial during the Covid-19 pandemic, when she instilled numerous practices to ensure that her staff looked after themselves and each other. This is a topic very close to Julia’s heart. “We were heavily centered around community,” she says. “This meant that everyone became quite focused on supporting multi-functionally. To do so, we increased our virtual culture purely because we’re spread out across three sites with some strong and frequent communication platforms; we wanted to keep everyone safe and feel reassured. “Many people across the food industry suffered from burnout last year, so to try and avoid this, I co-wrote a program that has since gone into some of our Puratos global family, called People Fuel. This is a module that encourages employees to learn about themselves; what your limits are, how to implement downtime, and how you identify ways to energize and prevent stress in your colleagues. We have even reflected this externally, and have carefully selected partners and suppliers who invest and behave in the same way. We want to contribute positively to the wider food ecosystem that encourages future-proof wellbeing cultures,” she admits. “If there is one thing that Puratos is very, very proud of, it is that we consider human footprint as much as carbon footprint - we believe that how we do things is important just as much as what.”
Sourdough launch Not just focused on happier and healthier working environments, Puratos UK is also keen to focus on natural products that are properly sourced and produced. “If you go and experience the more artisanal brands that focus on sustainability and responsible sourcing, those products are just as delicious, and there’s a greater peace of mind in knowing that that company is ethically reliable as well. This is why moving forward, Puratos remains committed to promoting healthy working environments, and naturally delicious products, and we know that those who partner with us do the same,” Julia explains.
While it is encouraging to learn about how Puratos supported and prioritized staff wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is also interesting to see how coronavirus instigated an interest in consumers about their own personal health and welfare. This phenomenon has played a significant role in Puratos’ recent growth. During August 2021, the company announced the launch of its British-made living sourdough to feed the needs of customers looking for more gut-friendly foods. “For many years we’ve been interested in fermentation and sourdough and its natural benefits. We know that this category has grown exponentially in recent years. Our mission is to make some complementary, quintessentially British flavors and keep it as local and natural as possible. We’ve been working on developing a range of signature flavors that offer consumers great taste and peace of mind, and when it’s launched, you will see how unique they are!”
Future predictions Julia’s excitement about the sourdough product range was clear, and it was matched by her passion for healthier options in general. “A good friend of mine said, ‘I think in the future, we will see our kitchens as our apothecaries’,” she expresses, “and I love this idea that you walk into your kitchen thinking, ‘how am I feeling right now, and what do I need to administer to tend to that?’ I think that the food evolution will see us eating for our health, both physical and mental, as well as our immunity,” she notes. “This means that the trends we were targeting in our strategy towards before 2020 have been accelerated. We’ve seen everyone’s heightened sense of care for their immunity and their health, which seems to now be the norm. Our R&D teams are working exceptionally hard to tend to these demands for healthier options that are becoming part of everyday life,” she shares. Supporting the R&D team is a global platform called Taste Tomorrow, which looks at short and long term predictions on what might be coming in the food sector. “It’s quite exciting looking at the psychology of these trends, and that’s one of the most interesting things about
working in the UK – because we’re such a diverse population,” Julia added. “There are something like 13 different ethnic cultures in our local business, and I’m proud that we have nine different religions registered so the way we eat food and the way we hope to educate our children is really important to us.”
Growth strategy Tying in with how the business will continue to grow, Julia is also particularly excited about the future, and is determined to carry the pride for her team’s performance into 2022. “Everyone has been able to respond with great agility to some pretty hairy challenging timelines and customer demands. They’ve stuck together and looked after each other, so I’m very proud of everything we have done. But if we look at what lies ahead for 2022, we have to be able to sustain that. So, I’m excited about making them stronger and keeping our customers happy,” she says. “Beyond that, we are also going to continue our growth trajectory. One of the measures in place to do this is through acquisitions, and at the moment, we have a number of files that we are working through. We don’t believe in buying buildings or market share, rather we believe in acquiring great talent; people and ideas or technologies. We want to share how exciting it is to work for a business that wants to bring greatness in and cultivate it, alongside what we already have! At the same time, I am certain we’ll grow through acquisitions just as much as we will organically,” Julia reveals. She also sheds light on a Puratos global initiative called ‘Sparkalis’ which she describes as ‘an awesome and exciting project’. “Sparkalis is a start-up incubator that was launched about 18 months ago, and through this we’re trying to find really innovative, really interesting future-proof businesses to invest in that are related either to the circular economy, or CSR or things that are synonymous with our values and help us accelerate customer growth opportunities,” she explains. Puratos has refined its operations over the course of its century long history and its strategy has made it a favorite manufacturer of ingredients for the bakery, patisserie and chocolate sectors.
Puratos It might not have a brand name on the shelves, but Julia concluded with some thoughts on that. “We quite like being a customer’s trusted secret – we have the time and resources to help our customers with their problems and challenges. It is a privilege to work for a group that invests so much in its teams, R&D and innovation, and future-proofing technology, so we know that we can support our customers. After all, we want to bring delight and improves lives through food!” D www.puratos.co.uk
Applied Principles The Applied Principles software enabled Puratos to further improve on their high-quality compliance standards. By simply clicking on a smart phone screen, operatives can now extract and submit essential operational information from production lines and other operational areas. The system is used to capture and manage key CCP checks, packaging verification records, batch/traceability information, dispatch records, near miss reporting, daily start up checks, cleaning inspections, glass and plastic audits, and allergen contamination control checks to name a few. Over 4000 checks and inspections are completed every month in the Liverpool site alone. In addition, the Applied Principles software facilitates the creation of non-conformance reports in real-time. These are picture based and allows management to respond swiftly. With enhanced employee ownership, visibility and accountability, the company has seen a significant improvement in communication between departments. The system was fully implemented at the Liverpool site within a very tight timescale of only four weeks.
A seafood success story
Having adapted to the conditions of a pandemic with its indemand takeaway service, Shell Shack continues to innovate with the latest food trends, and brand new partner restaurants 86 www.foodchainmagazine.com
n this industry, you have to be ready to fight or shut your doors,” says Dallas Hale, Owner and Chief Executive Officer of Shell Shack. The last 18 months may not have been an easy ride for the restaurant industry, but Crafted Bar Concept’s portfolio of restaurants may just have the magic ingredient. From Shell Shack’s popular ‘to go’ service, to Sushi Marquee’s high energy dining experience, the company has weathered the storm of Covid-19, and shows no signs of slowing down. “The last 18 months for Shell Shack have been very good,” Dallas affirms. “Everybody was nervous when the Covid-19 outbreak began, but what we
refused to do was to shut down. We changed our model in order to provide takeaways, instead of dine-in meals. It was very successful, and our ‘to go’ sales went up 500 percent.” Adapting to the situation with a new streamlined takeaway dining model and extended menu, Shell Shack was able to protect its team from the uncertainty felt by many during the lockdown period of 2020. “We kept our staff employed and working by digging in and riding it out,” explains Dallas. “We also did some different things that were a bit out of our wheelhouse,” he adds. “The delivery orders helped us, as well as the fact that we were able
to serve alcohol. Both of those factors helped us out tremendously, and with the support of the Shell Shack team, all our concepts thrived.”
Increased demand For Dallas, keeping a successful restaurant means fighting for your team, and your concept, in the face of adversity. “We delivered and executed our services very well. There is a nationwide staff shortage going on, and supply chain problems, but we have tackled every one of those issues headon, and we are still running,” he asserts. With an established name and customer base, Shell Shack has been
able to keep its customers loyal whilst operating on a takeaway model. As Dallas determines: “The customers have been very understanding, they know their orders might take a few minutes extra as there is a major staffing shortage going on right now.” The ‘to-go’ system brought to light new ways in which Shell Shack could
use technology to streamline its services. Dallas explains: “It was almost overnight that our ‘to go’ orders spiked to 500 percent over what we were doing before the pandemic, and that did cause some confusion. “Every time we would put the phone down, it rang again. Some people thought
we weren’t answering, but it was actually that the calls were getting cycled through, due to such high demand. In response to these comments, we actually took our phone system and changed it to a queue system. “With our new system, everyone that calls will know their place in the queue and how long they need to wait; it even updates customers if their place in the line changes, so they know we are actively answering the calls and making headway.” Confidently responding to the needs of its customers, and using all possible resources to improve its service, has helped Shell Shack continue thriving. The company’s renewed success is also, in part, due to its new menu innovations, as Dallas confirms: “Thanks to all the concepts we have added to the menu, we
to understand how we could capture some of that without flat out doing the same thing, so we did a Nashville hot chicken sandwich, and it is amazing. We developed our own Nashville hot sauce, and the special comes with this as well as the option of Buffalo chicken. Now you can get a Nashville hot chicken sandwich with all that good stuff, and in the next three weeks we will be adding lobster and scallops to the menu,” he adds.
have not skipped a beat. As of today, we are rolling out even more new menu items for Shell Shack, with more coming out for Sushi Marquee next week [at time of writing]. We have really taken the situation at hand and responded to it by remodeling and upping our game 150 percent.” Shell Shack’s versatile menu makes the best use of local seafood, with an expansive palate, and a range of novel dishes on offer. “We added seafood
Shell Shack’s parent company, Crafted Bar Concepts, is known for its unique menus, and focus on the whole dining experience. Alongside Shell Shack’s famous fish-based innovations, the company is responsible for Sushi Marquee and Ebb and Flow. “It’s actually been a really good year for all our concepts,” reveals Dallas. “We have won a lot of awards and generally thrived. Shell Shack got best seafood in DFW, and Ebb and Flow got best new restaurant. Shell Shack is also sponsoring ‘national crawfish day’, and we have now founded national brunch month, which will be in the national bake calendar next year. “Additionally, Sushi Marquee got best sushi in DFW and best all-around
appetizers and onion rings to the menu, and we now offer fried oyster baskets as well,” Dallas details. “Nashville hot chicken is very popular in the US right now, and we wanted
restaurant in Frisco. To maintain this success, we have really been trying to think of new and better ways to keep everybody happy and grow the business, and our Sushi Marquee concept is
adding a full hibachi menu, which will happen in the near future.” Hibachi is a traditional Japanese grill; literally meaning ‘fire bowl’, the meal includes grilled seafood, rice, meat and vegetables. Dallas himself conceptualized the inclusion of a hibachi menu, and the new offering adds to Sushi Marquee’s already diverse menu. “With Sushi Marquee we have fun interactive videos and a DJ experience, as well as phenomenal food; once we really locked all that in, and I felt comfortable with it, I happened to be in a restaurant and saw the hibachi going on. Seeing that, a light bulb went off, and next thing you know we have a hibachi table in our restaurant. “We are rolling out the hibachi at the moment, by doing taste tests and a little bit of market research. Once we have taken it to the next level, we will be just about ready to introduce the experience at Sushi Marquee,” he discusses. Ebb and Flow is Crafted Bar Concept’s latest endeavor; known for its signature cocktails and ‘Plano’s best brunch’, the restaurant has seen success despite opening its second location earlier this year. “We opened our second location in Plano right in the middle of the pandemic,” states Dallas. “We have one in Deep Ellum and our second location in the Shops of Legacy in Plano, which opened about six months ago. They have been very successful despite opening during such uncertain times.”
New concept As Shell Shack, Sushi Marquee and Ebb and Flow all continue to flourish, Dallas and his team invest in marketing and social media to get the word out about their latest expansions. “Everything we do is with growth and marketing; we always keep our fingers on the pulse of everything,” says Dallas. “In terms of marketing, we are going all out on the public relations front; we are doing cooking shows and interviews, and really putting our brand out there. We also make good use of social media, always updating our Facebook, and the website, so that we can let everyone know about all that is happening at each concept.
Shell Shack “I was just on a show last week with one of the major food critics here in Dallas, who has a national TV show. We were talking about Ebb and Flow on there, and now I’m preparing to do a food show at the Texas fair to promote the new hibachi. We are always going non-stop,” he adds. Proving just how busy the Shell Shack team is, Dallas discusses plans for another launch in 2022: “At the start of next year we are planning to launch a new concept which is very exciting, and I hope it will be every bit as successful as Shell Shack, Sushi Marquee and Ebb
and Flow. It’s a great concept, and we are now in the process of perfecting it,” he announces. In the long-term, Crafted Bar Concepts will continue to expand through its existing restaurants and exciting new dining concepts, as Dallas concludes: “We will continue to focus on expanding all our brands, as well as some new concepts. It took us a few years to perfect our model, but now that we have it running smoothly and effectively, we want to duplicate it, and keep growing.” D www.shellshack.com
FPOS Group FPOS Group has been working with Dallas Hale since 1999. We have continued to bring him cutting edge technology to help grow his brand. This was never more evident than in the past two years. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we were able to push out new technology to help Dallas better run his business. When dining rooms closed, we provided the staff with devices they could use to take credit card payments curbside, and we provided them with integrated online ordering. As we got further into the pandemic, we were able to provide Crafted Beer Concepts with an advanced enterprise reporting tool. With this tool they were able to discover thousands of dollars in theft just during their demo alone. These are just a few examples of how FPOS Group has been able to help Dallas succeed. We look forward to providing him with best-in-class technology and service for years to come.
A resurgence to remember W The result of an amalgamation of two highly respected food manufacturers, Billington Foods is emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic in full force, providing vital support to its numerous customers as they embark upon their own recovery 90 www.foodchainmagazine.com
hile Billington Foods may be a newly established business – having been formed in September 2021 – it does possess a particularly strong heritage, seeing as it came about following a merger of two industry-leading food manufacturers, TSC Foods out of Scunthorpe and Billington Foodservice of Wellingborough and Newport. The result of this merger is a new entity that sits within the growing family of UK food and agriculture businesses that make up The Billington Group. Providing FoodChain with the background behind how Billington Foods came to be is its Managing Director Peter Allan. “The aforementioned companies were brought together, at least in part, due to a post-Covid-19 approach taken by
The Billington Group to examine its asset base, and focus on how best to respond to and capitalize on a very different looking market to the one that existed pre-pandemic,” Peter details. “By analyzing various product segments and determining which ones we expected and wanted to see grow over the coming years, we took the decision to bring together the best operational aspects of both TSC Foods and Billington Foodservice to create an operational center of excellence to serve our customers under the Billington Foods name.” Today, the business supplies the UK’s foodservice, retail and B2B markets from its factories in Scunthorpe and Wellingborough. Predominantly a bespoke manufacturer, its product expertise covers chilled and frozen
sauces and soups, frozen pies, and desserts. With all of its products developed to the highest of standards – with a leading technical and process team ensuring good quality and safety at all times – Billington Foods also offers a range of packaging capabilities, which allows its customers access to the right format to meet their respective needs. “Our intent when launching Billington Foods was to take everything that was great about the previous companies and build upon this to deliver long-term future growth. To that end, our sites boast first-class levels of culinary expertise and innovative flair, with our chefs working hand-in-hand with our customers on a daily basis,” continues Peter, whose responsibilities include bringing two past cultures together under one roof. “As well as
being laser focused on serving our customers, we also want to ensure that we are as operationally efficient as possible as we go into 2022. One of the ways of achieving these aims is through the development and recruitment of a fully engaged, end-to-end workforce who can enjoy the best working environment possible. This has meant investing in all manner of new offices and amenities, which our people are extremely grateful for.”
Business efforts The story of TCS Foods and Billington Foodservice becoming Billington Foods is one that cannot be told without reflecting back on the period of time that has come to be defined by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the significant impact it has had on the
food and drink industry as a whole. “Our story over the last 18 months will be one that is very similar to most in our field,” Peter explains. “With one third of turnover pre-pandemic coming from retail customers, and the other two thirds coming from food service and B2B clients, the onset of the national lockdown in March 2020 led to the company’s facilities shutting down almost all of their activities, baring producing a small number of lines for selected customers a few days a month. That understandably created a problematic situation in terms of working out how best to run said facilities at a fraction of their usual output in order to serve those customers, whilst still managing costs. “With so many external factors out of its hands during this time, what The
in the last couple of years, but it is because of the resilience of our people that the business has recovered in the way that it has and our customers have continued to get the very best from us.” Billington Group choose to do was focus on its operational footprint and invest substantial capital into its sites so as to enable it to come out of the other side stronger than ever. This involved things like buying more modern and efficient equipment and leaning more into future automation so as to become less reliant on a labor market that has had its own difficulties in recent months. It could not come at a better time as we emerge from the pandemic, with the vast majority of our customers
– especially those in the food service sector – keen for things to recover as quickly as possible, and thus thankful of the efforts that businesses like ours have and continue to make.” At this point, Peter is also extremely keen to bring up the contribution of the people who work across Billington Foods during recent months. “I would be remiss if I didn’t say a massive thank you to all of our staff,” he says. “As everyone knows, there have been some very traumatic and tough times
Product launches As Billington Foods’ continues to build back better from the pandemic, it is working hard to bring new talent into the business and increase production at its two facilities. “In Scunthorpe, we are making a £2 million investment to support the facility’s recovery, which includes recruiting up to 65 new members of the team, with the help of Red Recruitment,” Peter notes. “Meanwhile, in Wellingborough, we have engaged in a plan to grow and retain our workforce during these competitive times.” Continued investment is clearly paying off for Billington Foods, with sales now approaching the £65 million mark and its order books looking very healthy indeed. Peter goes on to tell us that a proportion of its success in what remains an unpredictable environment comes down to a prioritization of products and consolidation of SKUs. “Part of the challenge at present is that without 100 percent security of production volumes, there remains a strong sense of realism and pragmatism within the industry, which will bleed into the early part of 2022. This means that customers are more focused on getting reliable menus and products to the table, than they perhaps are of driving new trends and flavors at present.”
Givaudan UK Ltd Let’s imagine together We are immensely proud to support Billington Group to achieve excellence, expertise and innovation. Our pioneering flavour knowledge enables us to create products with the end consumer in mind. We deliver integrated solutions in stocks and sauces and address dietary concerns, such as sugar and salt reduction, allergens or clean label declarations without the negative effect on the taste profile. Together with our industry renowned chefs we help our customers stay at the forefront of market trends and pioneering ingredients. Together we craft memorable experiences that bring moments of delight to our consumers.
That has not meant that the company has stopped pursuing new flavors and innovations however. For example, it has just recently relaunched its popular Glorious! Soup range, and is excited to be bringing a brand-new pie line into operation at Wellingborough in the first couple of months of 2022. “We have continued to build upon our pre-existing levels of culinary expertise, and our chefs are always on hand to work with our customers to cater to new tastes and preferences,” Peter says. “There will always be trends that sit behind the market, trends such as alternative proteins and differentiated food specifications, and I think they will be even stronger at the back end of 2022. However, the first half of 2022 is more about focusing on the practical side of food production and food supply, which centers on getting core products to our customers.” Regarding 2022, Peter’s optimism for the year ahead is strong, and as such plans for ongoing investment in the business are already well-advanced. “We have every aim of increasing our capacity throughout 2022, with the intention being to enable us to introduce new capabilities in terms of pie production, porridge production, and the creation of various desserts,” he declares. “These different types of products – along with soups, sauces and so forth – will enable us to grow in line with our customers as they too enjoy a resurgence from the pandemic.” D www.billington-foods.com
Growing good-will Community-driven food distributor Native Maine see’s renewed success after supporting local businesses and food banks through the turmoil of Covid-19
pecialty food distributor Native Maine has been in operation across Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire since 1999. The company’s unique model means it can deliver fresh goods to all its customers on a daily basis, whilst keeping its supply chain simple. Aiming to increase the availability of fresh, organic, and ethically sourced produce, Native Maine works closely with local communities to provide the best quality food to those who need it. For Native Maine, community is of absolute importance. As the company President, Vinnie Caliendo, explains: “We are a locally driven business, and Maine is a small place, with a small community. There are 1.3 million people who live here and roughly half of them are either children or senior citizens, so there are only around 600,000 to
700,000 working adults in the area. This keeps production transparent, as everyone is only ever one step removed from the community of consumers or buyers. “Transparency is really important to the people round here; you have to do a good job because people will quickly discover if you have been unfair, and then you are at risk of losing your reputation as well as your business.” Being aligned with the values of its customers means that Native Maine has been able to extend its reach and serve an increasingly diverse customer base. “From independently owned restaurants and small local chains of three or four restaurants, nursing homes, hospitals, jails, universities, nearly 500 public and private schools as well as a myriad of non-conventional food services for bakeries, candy manufacturers, amusement parks, and music venues,”
Native Maine delivered to 20 of the major food banks throughout Maine and New Hampshire. This worked for a few months, and then the government changed the rules, and started handing out combination boxes instead. These new boxes mixed frozen food with refrigerated and dry food, which created a severe logistical challenge. Not only were we moving four truckloads of food per day, but we were assembling it as well. We ended up going to over 120 locations instead of the large outlets, just so the food reached people while it was still good,” he continues. These extraordinary efforts played an important role in keeping the company and its people afloat, as Native Maine was able to provide much-needed resources to countless families, whilst also keeping its infrastructure up-and-running. “This helped us keep some jobs within the company, and whilst we didn’t make any money, we certainly did everything we could to help our neighbors and community,” asserts Vinnie. he adds, illustrating the malleability of Native Maine’s service portfolio. Vinnie summarizes. “Our main goal at Native Maine is to promote seasonal eating, encourage healthy diets, support the local economy, and give kids the best our community has to offer! If you’re a New Englander, especially a Mainer, you know the Native Maine truck and you know we are as local as it gets.”
Highest standards As a community-driven company that employs 120-plus full time local Maine employees, Native Maine invests heavily in customer care and are focused on exceptional customer service, food safety, food security and the environmental impact of their business. “We pretty much bend over backwards to make our customers’ lives as easy as possible,” says Vinnie. “The intent is to make our customers lives easier, as frequently as possible. From a food safety standpoint, we have the highest certification possible, due to the contracts we have with large buying groups. We are also meeting the highest standards of food safety, and constantly get rated well above 97 percent on our audits.”
The smooth operation of these services was, however, threatened by the outbreak of Covid-19 last year. During these uncertain times, Native Maine proudly supported local people any way it could. “Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, we had a long-term relationship with the community because of our school business, we especially feel so lucky we get to service schools across Maine and New Hampshire, the work these folks do is essential to the growth and minds of future generations and they really were the unsung heroes of the pandemic we were involved in any kind of charity support for feeding children, and that helped us get into long term relationships with the state’s largest food banks,” explains Vinnie. “When Covid-19 hit, in terms of the regular business, it was almost a deathblow. For about three months, the company ran at less than half of what it should have been, and we had to cut our workforce in half. “Around this time, we did win the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program, which meant that for the summer of 2020 we were awarded fresh produce food boxes, which we
Good will and loyalty The consequent problems with combined food boxes even had a silver lining, as they exposed trends within the market that called for an increase in locally sourced goods, and transparent industry. “These trends are consistent across the country; the supply chain can become too convoluted, and you need local people, with an understanding of the local communities and networks, to do the distribution in order to avoid food waste,” Vinnie explains. Whilst the communitarian efforts of Native Maine may not have been profitable in the short-term, they did build an incredible amount of trust between the company and its customers. “During the pandemic, there were a lot of customers who ran out of money right away; they couldn’t pay their bills, but we didn’t shut them off. Instead, we acted like neighbors and asked what they could do; a lot of people paid us in smaller weekly installments,” says Vinnie. “There were tens of thousands of dollars that were way past due, but our business values its communities very highly, and so we worked with them, rather than against them. That created
a tremendous amount of good will and loyalty, even as inflation began,” he adds. The company also safeguarded the wellbeing of its staff by increasing wages in alignment with inflation. “To retain our own people, we had to recognize that hyperinflation and wages were not going
up at the same rate,” discusses Vinnie. “In response to this, we made some significant changes, and took a big hit on profitability, so that we could make sure our employees didn’t suffer.” Despite what must have been unimaginably difficult conditions, Native Maine is now being rewarded for its
sacrifices. “Today we are somewhat drowning in our own success,” Vinnie announces. “We want to have our prices reflect the hyperinflation that we have experienced, in order to pay our bills, and the customers understand it because they also directly experienced the effects of the great labor shortage. It’s been well accepted in terms of increased pricing. “Once things opened again, our volume has increased monthly from June through to October, and right now we are experiencing a volume increase of up to ten percent, depending on the month. We were fair with our customers, and they respected that, and therefore we were able to sustain them, and we have kept a good thing going. Normally, we would be slowing down a little bit by this point in the year, as tourist season comes to a close, but this year that decrease is very minor,” he adds. For Native Maine, getting back to business involves an exciting new partnership with the hydroponic farm supplier, Vertical Harvest. “Vertical Harvest are in cooperation with our town, and we have agreed to be their preferred distributor. The structure will be an environmentally controlled growing environment that is perfect for growing leaf lettuce, herbs and microgreens year-round,” reveals Vinnie. “They are trying to get the plans done so that they can complete the building and begin growing produce. We are really excited about this partnership because the quality and shelf life of the product they allowed us to sample from their Jackson, Wyoming, facility was incredibly impressive,” he continues. Looking forward to next year, Vinnie discusses the company’s latest technological investments: “We have been assessing brand new, state-ofthe-art computer systems, and I believe we have found the right one to help us streamline our business processes and improve our customer service. “We expect that it will be live for next summer before things get busy again. It is a big deal for the company, and we expect our customers will see the improvement in our services which will deepen our mutual loyalty further.” D www.nativeme.com
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