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Live from IDDBA: Safe and Sound


With an overarching theme of “Growing the Future,” the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association’s 2015 Seminar and Expo opened Sunday morning with lessons about the importance of food safety and compassionate capitalism.

The IDDBA’s annual Dairy-Deli-Bake runs through Tuesday at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

Opening the general session early Sunday was self-styled “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert, who presented highlights from a new study conducted for the IDDBA, “The High Stakes of Food Safety in Dairy, Deli, Bakery and Prepared Foods.”

More people are now choosing where they shop based on the deli and prepared foods, rather than produce, Lempert asserted, making food safety all the more important in these areas as well as the overall store. According to the study, a third of shoppers have left unclean stores and more than half said they’d switch their loyalties over a dirty store.

“If you screw up on food safety, you’re out of business,” Lempert declared. “It’s critical we pay attention to the little things,” including clean counters and good lighting in deli and prepared food areas.

Other study revelations:

- Worker appearance affects shoppers’ confidence in food safety.
- People most dislike self-service samples and having customers offered tastes during slicing.
- Shoppers have the greatest confidence in deli items sliced or prepared to order.

Further driving home the importance of food safety was attorney Shawn Stevens, founder of the Food Industry Council, in his presentation, “Putting Your Customer First: Why Safe Food Really Matters.”

“What happens when we get food safety wrong?” Steven asked. The United States had 500 food recalls last year, he noted, adding that the USDA and FDA estimate that 10 times that number were unconfirmed.

Food safety risks are real, Stevens said, and when we don’t know where our food is coming from “food can be very scary and food can be dangerous. Risk is everywhere when it comes to food.” For example, 10 percent of apples carry listeria, a bacteria that can be easily spread through cross contamination as it comes into contact with other surfaces and it can be deadly.

It’s enough to scare anyone from ever buying food again, Stevens suggested. But what can retailers do to ensure that the food they are selling to their customers is as safe as it can be?

Stevens advised that retailers get to know their suppliers better, visit the farms or manufacturing facilities, and know what kinds of companies they’re doing business with, insisting that grocers can’t rely entirely on audits to “know” manufacturers.

He further recommended creating robust training programs and being aggressive in training employees. For example, the IDDBA’s Safe Food Matters program focuses on listeria and how to prevent its spread. Retailers should make sure all employees know about training programs that are available to teach them methods that ensure food is safely and properly handled.

“The most important thing retailers can do is develop, implement and maintain a robust food safety culture,” Stevens said.

He recommended that retailers follow the three C’s of food safety: compassion, commitment and communication. Retailers have to want to provide safe food because it is the right thing to do and to have compassion for their customers. But in order to support their compassion, retailers have to commit to putting the resources behind a food safety program. Finally, grocers have to communicate how both compassion and commitment are important to creating a robust program to all in the company.

“We are responsible for the health of a nation,” Stevens concluded. “For each of our customers, we can’t relent; it’s your job to keep customers safe.”

Conscious culture

Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, discussed the concept of “Conscious Capitalism” in his keynote address, presenting examples of how his and other companies are addressing changing demands in changing times.

The list is growing of food companies cleaning up their labels by getting rid of artificial ingredients and increasing transparency in how they do business, Robb noted. Among major retailers, Target recently announced it intends to shift its marketing focus more toward fresh foods and away from packaged foods.

Robb said key factors impacting food include science (e.g. impact of pesticides), environment (e.g. how/where food is grown), technology (how people shop and learn about food), capital (e.g. 59 food tech deals in past year) and generational change (e.g. Millennials).

Consumers are becoming more willing to do business with companies that reflect their values, Robb noted.

Whole Foods, with sales approaching $16 billion from more than 400 stores nationwide, has adopted what Robb outlined as the four core values of conscious capitalism: purpose, conscious leadership, stakeholder integration, and a conscious culture. To be truly effective, companies must take all its stakeholders’ values into account when doing business, Robb asserted.

Among Whole Foods initiatives are its Whole Trade program, focusing on the social, environmental and financial condition of its trading partners; a 5-step meat rating systems based on animal welfare, “giving the consumer full transparency”; the promise of full GMO transparency by 2018; and responsibly grown produce, rated on a 4-tiered system based on growing method and conservation.

The company summed up its philosophies in a $20 million ad campaign last fall, called “Values Matter,” highlighted in a TV spot stressing Whole Foods’ commitment to transparency, responsible sourcing, and animal and employee welfare.

Furthering Whole Foods’ tagline claim as “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store,” it operates the Whole Planet, Whole Kids and Whole Cities Foundations that, among other initiatives, work to boost inner-city neighborhoods by increasing access to fresh foods.

Inwardly, Whole Foods creates a “culture of empowerment” among its employees by including them in decisions about their company and their own benefits. Robb said such an approach “improves team members, moves the company forward and gives the industry a better name.”

Further, Robb observes a “revolution in foodservice” that includes such in-store features as juice bars, wine cellars, fresh pasta and in-house meat smoking.

People want simple, fewer and authentic ingredients in their food, Robb said. To move the industry toward this goal, its leaders need to “cultivate the willingness to change.”

Rounding out the morning, Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post spoke on how social media has revolutionized the communication landscape.

Technology can be distracting to the extent that it inhibits people’s ability to be truly creative and connected to those most important to them, Huffington asserted. Employees’ well-being is important to the bottom line, so many large companies have launched initiatives to help them disconnect, relax and get healthier, she has observed, with a result of greater productivity.

The general session concluded with former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno, who regaled the audience with an hour of topical stand-up comedy.

On the show floor …

My first day roaming the trade show floor included these stops:

CSM showed its new line of clean label Simplicious muffins as well as warm doughnuts featuring its new Superior Glaze, served fresh off of a Thermoglazer, which thaws, heats, and glazes frozen donuts. CSM’s popular “Cake Case” display featured filling and icing ingredients with an array of cakes and parfaits with fruit and cream fillings, decorated cakes with buttercream and fondant, and cupcakes and cakes with flavored icings. The company showcased its Hispanic line, including cakes, pastries, churros and breads. Also displayed was its full product line offered in partnership with Hershey—cakes and cookies made with Hershey’s Chocolate, Reese’s Peanut Butter and Heath Toffee. Helping man the booth was CSM’s new director of global culinary, chef Morgan Larsson, renowned New York-based pastry chef who offered live demonstrations and tastings.

Dawn Foods showed several in-store bakery concepts at its elaborate new booth. A “good morning” concept features doughnuts and other pastries aimed at the breakfast daypart. The “sweet moments” concept includes products for everyday moments such as mini parfaits and bundt cakes, sheet cakes and brownies, and new gluten free cookies; and products for “life moments” like specially frosted cakes for birthdays, weddings and showers. The company is further expanding its Cake Boss branded line with three new fondant-iced occasion cakes (Beach Party, Eye Poppin Petals and Let’s Party). And it has added Salted Caramel Brownie Bites to its Weight Watchers branded line of sensible indulgences. Further, Dawn is relaunching its Vortex cakes (with layers of cake and brownie) and introducing its upscale Waterfall line of ready-to-decorate cakes, including a guidebook to inspire in-store decorators on “simple elegance.”

Dietz & Watson’s annual sandwich bar was crowded throughout the show as the deli meat purveyor displayed such products as its new organic line of antibiotic-free meats and cheeses; meats and cheeses in bento box-style packaging; and new sriracha chicken.

DecoPac displayed its new Sugar Soft edible decoration system and its new Sweet & Stylish cake line for everyday occasions, and celebrated its latest licensing program with Warner Bros. for decorated theme cakes.

Golden West Food Group launched its American BBQ Co. brand with Apple Cider Baby Back Ribs. Golden West also showed its Jack Daniel’s branded ribs, brisket and pork, along with Certified Angus Beef branded tri-tips and sausages, bacon wrapped pork tenderloin and Guy Fieri branded sausages.

McCain showed off its detailed work toward the “grocerant” concept in guiding retailers on how to capitalize on all three dayparts in the deli through unique products, freshness, value and convenience. A “hot and ready to go case” featured grab-and-go snacks, breakfast items, meals and sides, while a case of “fresh gourmet salad solutions” offered accompaniments aimed at upscaling other menu options. The “hot snacks and sides bar” offered samples of unique new products like spicy cheddar and jalapeno corn fritters, chipotle white cheddar nuggets and a chorizo, egg and cheese pocket described as an inside-out hash brown.

Sealed Air showed its new Cryovac Multi-Seal FlexLOK reclosable packaging solution designed for deli meats, sliced cheese, baked goods and snack items; and its Simple Steps microwaveable plated entrees with steam-assisted cooking technology aimed at retail, foodservice and vending.

SugarCreek, with its food truck on display, sampled meats like beef brisket, tenderloin and pork carnitas to demonstrate its sous vide product capabilities aimed at the in-store foodservice and retail product market.

Wisconsin Cheese’s annual pavilion showcased the latest and greatest from Wisconsin’s renowned cheesemakers, among them: Burnett Dairy’s three new snackable cheeses (Mozzarella Whips; String Cheese in Hot Pepper Beef, Pepperoni Pizza and Teriyaki; and flavored Artisan Cuts); Treasure Cave’s new bacon-flavored blue cheese crumbles; Crave Bros. Fresh Cheese Curds; Belgioioso Burrata with Black Truffle; Arthur Schuman’s Whisps parmesan crisps; and some delectable new flavored blue cheeses from Carr Valley’s master cheesemaker, Sid Cook.

Wynn’s Grain & Spice showed its line of spice blends designed for seasoning deli foodservice chicken.


Katie Martin contributed to this report.

Follow our IDDBA show coverage on Twitter at @pgrocer, @jimdudlicek and @KatieIndyGrocer.


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