Hometown Food Co., which owns several baking brands, has acquired another one. The Chicago-based company is adding Birch Benders to its portfolio after a deal with Sovos Brands, Inc.
The acquisition boosts Hometown Food's presence in the better-for-you baking category. Birch Benders produces keto, paleo and organic products including pancake and waffle mixes, toaster waffles, pancake and baking cups, baking mixes and frostings, cookies and syrups. Those items are being added to Hometown Foods’s roster of well-known baking brands such as Pillsbury Baking, Funfetti, Hungry Jack, Arrowhead Milles and more.
"The Birch Benders acquisition is a wonderful addition to Hometown Food Co.'s portfolio of brands and it increases our footprint in the better-for-you, breakfast and baking categories," said Tom Polke, president and CEO of Hometown Food Co.
Added Henk Hartong, chairman and CEO of Brynwood Partners, the private equity firm that backs Hometown Food Co.: “Birch Benders was a pioneer in the health and wellness space and natural baking channel and we are excited to further our commitment to the pancake and baking mix categories. This acquisition is complementary to our existing brand in the space, Arrowhead Mills, and reinforces our commitment to and industry position in the better-for-you category." The Greenwich, Conn.-based Brynwood formed Hometown Food Co. in 2018 as it acquired a series of brands from The J.M. Smucker Co.
La Brea Bakery Closes Flagship Locations to Focus on Grocery Business
La Brea Bakery closed its La Brea Bakery Café locations in Los Angeles and the Downtown Disney District in Anaheim, Calif., on Jan. 9, having made the strategic decision to exit the restaurant business and continue to focus on expanding the La Brea Bakery business through the retail grocery and foodservice channels. The Aspire Bakeries human resources team began working directly with affected employees at the two locations.
The franchised La Brea Bakery kiosks in the Reno International Airport in Nevada and New York’s JFK Airport will remain open.
“We are so thankful and hold a tremendous amount of appreciation for our employees, and for our customers who have frequented La Brea Bakery Café over the years,” noted Tyson Yu, CEO of Los Angeles-based Aspire Bakeries, which owns La Brea Bakery. “Our flagship café location on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles is where the La Brea Bakery magic started 34 years ago. These humble beginnings are an integral part of the brand history, and we will forever be grateful to the local community for their support over the years. While we will no longer be operating the cafés in Los Angeles or at Disneyland Resort, you can still find our delicious La Brea Bakery artisan breads in your local grocery in-store bakery and at other locations that serve artisan breads.”
La Brea Bakery began at a restaurant on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, growing into the No. 1 artisan bread brand nationally. Still made using its original custom sourdough starter, the La Brea Bakery recipe hasn’t changed in 34 years. The company bakes artisan bread daily at its bakeries in California and New Jersey.
Mitsuwa Marketplace to Open New Store in L.A.’s Northridge Neighborhood
Mitsuwa Marketplace, the largest Japanese grocery store chain in the United States, has revealed plans to open a new location on Saturday, Jan. 21 in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley, at 8940 Tampa Avenue in the Northridge community of Los Angeles. Located within the Walnut Grove Shopping Center, the supermarket will be minutes away from the California State University, Northridge campus.
The Northridge store will feature many Japanese goods, including cosmetics, fresh meat and produce, and popular packaged items, to name just a few.
“We are very excited to open our store in the Northridge neighborhood,” said Takeshi Izuma, president and CEO of Mitsuwa Corp. “We are so excited to join this community and offer our new neighbors a taste of Japan.”
In honor of the occasion, Mitsuwa will hold a grand-opening ceremony starting at 10 a.m. on Jan. 21. The event will include authentic Japanese taiko drum performers.
Torrance, Calif.-based Mitsuwa Corp. operates 11 stores across five states: seven in California, one in Illinois, one in New Jersey, one in Texas and one in Hawaii.
Albertsons Cos. and Takeoff Technologies will open a micro-fulfillment center in Laguna Niguel, Calif., on Jan. 11.
Waltham, Mass.-based Takeoff offers an e-grocery solution that enables grocers to succeed online using micro-fulfillment centers – small robotic fulfillment centers that can be leveraged at a hyperlocal scale. Orders are placed online through established retailers like Albertsons, and Takeoff’s automated technology fulfills the order. With a total capital of $200 million raised to date, Takeoff has dozens of operational micro-fulfillment centers in place, with many to follow in the next few years.
Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons operates more than 2,200 retail stores with 1,700-plus pharmacies, 402 associated fuel centers, 22 dedicated distribution centers and 20 manufacturing facilities. It operates stores across 34 states and the District of Columbia under 24 well-known banners, among them Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen, Carrs, Kings Food Markets and Balducci’s Food Lovers Market. Albertsons is No. 9 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Cincinnati-based Kroger, with which Albertsons plans to merge, is No. 4 on the list.
Freshpet Names New EVP of Manufacturing, Tech and Supply Chain
Freshpet, Inc. appointed industry veteran Jay Dahlgren as EVP of manufacturing, technology and supply chain. The position reflects the fresh pet food company’s latest growth plan and its goal of shoring up its manufacturing and supply chain expertise.
Dahlgren’s 30-year industry experience includes roles at J.M. Smucker Co., Del Monte Foods, Meow Mix and Nestle Purina. Following his most recent corporate role as VP of operations at Smucker’s, he worked as a consultant for Freshpet for the last year.
“Our team has made significant progress over the past quarter, improving fill rates into the 90s and lowering logistics and disposal costs to healthier levels, which positions us for further improvement in 2023. The addition of Jay to our management team – with his proven execution and deep expertise in manufacturing, supply chain and operations – will further strengthen Freshpet, improve our operations, and support our plan to drive margin enhancement,” said Billy Cyr, Freshpet’s CEO.
Among other areas of the business, Dahlgren will shepherd progress at Freshpet’s new operation in Ennis, Texas. That facility is set to become the company’s largest and most profitable manufacturing site.
Impossible Foods has created and filled the position of chief demand officer. The California-based producer of meat alternatives has hired Sherene Jagla to integrate sales, marketing, insights and product development into one function to drive growth.
As the market for plant-based proteins continues to evolve and shake out, Impossible Foods posted a 50% increase in dollar sales in 2022. In her new role, Jagla will work to keep that momentum going. “One of the reasons I was drawn to Impossible is the company’s focus on leading the category and commitment to creating delicious, nutritious, and sustainable food,” she said. “Impossible has created a compelling brand with a strong product portfolio that’s primed for growth.”
Jagla – a past winner of Progressive Grocer’s Top Women in Grocery awards – comes to Impossible Foods from Newell Brands, where she served as SVP and general manager and oversaw a $2 billion business across 50 brands. Her 25 years of industry experience also includes sales leadership positions at Kellogg Co., Kimberly-Clark, Crossmark and MillerCoors.
Peter McGuiness, president and CEO of Impossible Foods, said that the new position comes at a crucial time for the company. “Our next phase of growth requires tight integration across teams and disciplines, and Sherene knows how to do that and build organizations that scale,” he remarked. “She’s transformed complex organizations into high-performing businesses, and she has a deep understanding of the food and CPG space. I’ve no doubt her leadership will help transform Impossible into a household name.”
This is the latest high-profile executive hiring at the privately-held Impossible Foods, following the November announcement of Leslie Sims as the organization’s first chief marketing officer. In 2022, the company also onboarded Noel Clarke as its new SVP of international.
Founded in 2011, Impossible Foods produces a variety of plant-based chicken, beef and pork products. New offerings launched in 2022 include Impossible Sausage Links, Impossible Wild Nuggies, Impossible Chicken Patties and Impossible Bowls.