Processors to Watch in 2014
With more than 200 prepared items to choose from, Cuisine Solutions’ retail lines range from fish and seafood and side vegetables to center-of-the-plate proteins, all prepared via the sous-vide technology it helped pioneer.
It’s not every day that the average American feasts on duck. Maple Leaf Farms is looking to change that thanks to a host of new retail products and packaging transitions.
Franklin Foods introduced what is said to be the industry’s first Greek Cream Cheese, and opened a new facility that greatly expands manufacturing capacity for its rapidly growing foodservice, industrial, retail private label and international business.
Alexia Foods fills the void of frozen snacks and appetizers with the introduction of different potato varieties that boast healthier oils and unique seasonings.
Eli’s Cheesecake churns out more than 200 SKUs of cheesecake, cakes, tiramisu, brownies, tarts, dessert bars, single-serve desserts and mini pies, and has plans to expand its Chicago facility.
To the average consumer, the term “sous-vide” may not be in their vocabulary. But, to many top chefs around the world, sous-vide is a slow-cooking technique that maintains the natural integrity of food sources by sealing in moisture, enhancing the natural flavors and providing consistent quality. Although vacuum-packed food has been around since the 1940s, Cuisine Solutions pioneered the science of sous-vide.
Cuisine Solutions, Inc., Alexandria, Va., traces its roots back to 1970 when it operated as the culinary division of Vie de France Corp. In 1990, this division spun off to focus on supplying premium sous-vide prepared entrées to hotel banquets, convention centers and restaurants as well as other foodservice providers.
Dr. Bruno Goussault, who pioneered the sous-vide technique, joined Cuisine Solutions in the beginning as chief scientist, and continues to oversee all of the scientific aspects of the company’s sous-vide cooking processes, methods, parameters and quality assurance programs.
Today, Cuisine Solutions continues to provide high-quality prepared sous-vide gourmet entrées, sauces and other menu items to hotels, national restaurant chains, stadiums, airlines, railways, cruise ships and government entities. The company also has private label partnerships and provides fresh and frozen sous-vide dishes under the Cuisine Solutions brand both online and in national grocery retailers.
“Our chefs come from all over the world, so they have been developing dishes around the cuisines of their home countries for our menus and products for quite some time now,” says Felipe Hasselmann, president. “Some of the ethnic dishes already on our menu include a sweet and spicy Chicken Adobo, a subtly-spiced Chicken Korma and a Cuban-inspired beef stew.
With more than 200 prepared items to choose from, Cuisine Solutions’ retail lines range from fish and seafood and side vegetables to center-of-the-plate proteins.
“Cuisine Solutions’ mission is to be the leader in premium, fully cooked sous-vide food. It’s all about the food. We deliver unparalleled innovation, expertise and flexibility in developing high-quality sous-vide food products that celebrate natural flavors, fresh ingredients and consistent quality. We provide our partners and customers with the highest-quality meal solutions to provide consumers memorable dining experiences,” says Hasselmann.
Growth of sous-vide spurs new state-of-the-art facility
To keep up with the growth of sous-vide technology, Cuisine Solutions opened a new $30 million, state-of-the-art plant in Sterling, Va. The 56,500-square-foot facility, located 2.5 miles from Dulles International Airport, will expand the company’s capacity to produce customized, gourmet menu items for fast-casual and restaurant chains, hotels, airlines, retailers and consumers using the “sous-vide” cooking method pioneered by the company.
All dishes are prepared from the highest quality sources of animal proteins, vegetables and spices, including grass-fed, free-range, all-natural beef and lamb, sustainably harvested wild salmon, all-natural, antibiotic-free turkey and organic pimento peppers, among others.
“Cuisine Solutions is very proud of the new plant we opened earlier this year in Sterling, Va.,” Hasselmann adds. “This is our sixth production facility, and much of the equipment in the plant was custom-designed by our company, drawing upon the unique experience and expertise of its team of our world-class chefs and culinary scientists. This expansion increased our ability to produce customized, gourmet menu items for national restaurant chains, on-board services, foodservice, retail brands and the military.”
Cuisine Solutions also introduced a new packaging layout, updating the overall company image.
“Our food is photographed more naturally, and we’ve added nutrition claims such as ‘all-natural’ and ‘Great source of healthy nutrients—Iron, Calcium and Vitamin A,’” says Hasselmann. “We hope to inspire new consumer creations with the tagline ‘You’ll love finishing what our chefs started,’ by adding serving suggestions to the packaging. Recipe applications and suggestions are designed to help the consumer visualize how they can serve our products at home.”
Changing the way the world cooks
Cuisine Solutions is all about changing the way the world cooks. As a result, it opened CREA, the Culinary Research and Education Academy. Based in Paris, France, with a new training kitchen in Washington, D.C., CREA teaches renowned chefs in the foodservice industry how to cook using the sous-vide technique. Goussault, CREA’s chief scientist, has been credited with training 43 three-starred Michelin chefs to date.
Today, CREA continues to educate chefs by offering on-site and off-site seminars around the globe and online training solutions.
Cuisine Solutions is also expanding its online offerings with a new e-commerce program designed to make it easier for consumers and restaurants alike to order the products they most need and desire.
“At Cuisine Solutions, we develop over 300 new products ever year, so yes, there are a lot of new ideas for fresh and frozen products ‘cooking’ in R&D at this moment,” Hasselmann says. “We are a chef-centric company, and are very passionate, creative and engaged in making the world of cuisine memorable.”
Company Name: Cuisine Solutions
HQs: Alexandria, Va.
No. of Employees: 500
No. of SKUs: 200
Products: Sous-vide gourmet entrées, sauces and menu items
Brands: Cuisine Solutions
That’s why this fourth generation, family-owned duck processor remains grounded in its values—contribution to local communities, responsibility for the environment, respect for others and insistence on high quality—to produce the most innovative duck products in the marketplace.
Maple Leaf Farms began in 1958 as a small duck operation near Leesburg, Ind. Company founder Donald Wentzel was a poultry feed salesman looking to help Long Island duck producers cut costs in procuring and transporting feed ingredients to their operations. Today, it offers more than 400 different SKUs of raw and further processed duck for both retail and foodservice markets.
New to its portfolio is ground duck meat, which is made from premium duck breasts and is 90% lean.
“It’s an excellent product for restaurant operators, as well as home cooks because it substitutes easily, is a healthy break from more familiar ground proteins and is easy to work with,” says John Tucker, co-president of Maple Leaf Farms.
Just this year, Maple Leaf Farms introduced duck bacon.
“This product is also made from our boneless duck breast meat, which offers [foodservice] operators and consumers 57% less fat than pork bacon without compromising the flavor or texture,” adds Tucker.
For many years, the largest part of Maple Leaf Farms’ business was in foodservice, distributing to restaurant operators, caterers, the travel industry and most recently, college and university foodservice and healthcare facilities. However, its retail channel continues to grow, with its top selling item being the whole birds.
“We’ll continue to develop innovative consumer products that make serving duck at home easy and rewarding,” says Tucker.
In July, Maple Leaf Farms transitioned to vacuum skin packaging for all retail raw duck breast and duck leg products. The new packaging, a culmination of a year-long research and development effort, offers a myriad of benefits to consumers and retailers, such as providing a clear view of the entire product, offering an “easy peel” corner for convenient package opening, providing cooking instructions under the flip-up label and reducing packaging materials by 17%.
In the retail sector, innovative new packaging and all-natural products are in demand by consumers and retailers alike, says Tucker.
“The packaging gives a complete view of our duck breast and duck legs, so consumers can clearly see the quality of our products. In addition, this new platform also gives retailers new ways of displaying our products—either on a peg hook or upright in trays,” he adds.
Vacuum skin packed duck breast is available in three varieties—Plain, Roasted Garlic and Honey Orange. Marinades are all-natural and gluten-free with no artificial flavors or preservatives. They come fresh or frozen in 7.5-ounce duck breast packages, nine per case. Duck Legs, not leg quarters, are all-natural with no marinade. This updated cut is packed two legs per 16-ounce package, six per case, also available fresh or frozen.
From humble roots to nutritional tomorrow
Maple Leaf Farms may come from humble roots, but they are always looking to the future in terms of technology and advancements.
“An important thing to know about Maple Leaf Farms is that all of our ducks are raised on independent family farms in Northern Indiana on a diet of corn, soy and wheat that we produce in our own mill,” says Tucker. “Our partner farmers pay close attention to animal welfare, and are genuinely committed to raising the best birds possible.”
Overall, duck is a growing trend in foodservice and retail because mainstream consumers are looking for healthier protein options to eliminate protein fatigue.
“We’ll achieve this by offering products in familiar formats like ground meat or bacon, or fully cooked products, like our Roast Half Duck, which re-heats in minutes,” says Tucker. “We want more and more consumers to discover how healthy and delicious dishes can be made with our duck products.”
Company Name: Maple Leaf Farms
HQs: Leesburg, Ind.
No. of Employees: 750
Annual Sales: $100 million
No. of SKUs: 400
Products: Raw and further processed duck
Brands: Maple Leaf Farms
What started as an ambitious cheese-based business in Enosburg Falls, Vt., has weathered a century of changing market conditions and consumer preferences. From its horse-and-buggy delivery system in New York City at the end of the 19th century to its nationwide distribution, Franklin Foods continues to re-invent the cream cheese market.
Today, the Delray Beach, Fla.-based company produces more than 50 SKUs out of two manufacturing facilities in Enosburg Hills, Vt., and Casa Grande, Ariz. Products are sold under the Hahn’s, Green Mountain Farms, Lombardi’sand Casa Grande Farms brands. Its mission— Re-Invent Cream Cheese.hat started as an ambitious cheese-based business in Enosburg Falls, Vt., has weathered a century of changing market conditions and consumer preferences. From its horse-and-buggy delivery system in New York City at the end of the 19th century to its nationwide distribution, Franklin Foods continues to re-invent the cream cheese market.
One trend Franklin Foods continues to tap into is providing products that can be used in multiple dayparts. That’s why it introduced what is said to be the industry’s first Greek Cream Cheese.
Available nationwide in 10,000 stores, Franklin Foods’ Greek cream cheese is made with a combination of farm fresh dairy and Greek yogurt in small batches and delivers two times the protein and 50% less fat than regular cream cheese. Spread on bagels or crackers or use to simply lighten up recipes, the Greek cream cheese comes in 8-ounce bars, 8-ounce whipped and 12-ounce tubs.
Just in time for the holidays is Franklin Foods’ new Greek Spreadable Cheese. It comes in Cucumber Garlic, Garlic & Herb, Roasted Red Pepper and Sundried Tomato in 6.5-ounce containers, and can be found in the dairy and refrigerated deli sections.
“Greek cream cheese is a new choice in the dairy aisle for Greek yogurt and cream cheese lovers alike,” says Rocco Cardinale, vice president of Franklin Foods West, Casa Grande, Ariz.
Growth of Greek cream cheese
To keep up with the growing demand for Greek cream cheese, Franklin Foods opened the Franklin Foods West manufacturing facility. Located in Casa Grande, Ariz., the new facility greatly expands manufacturing capacity for Franklin Foods’ rapidly growing foodservice, industrial, retail private label and international business.
The new Casa Grande facility produces a full line of cultured cream cheese, direct-set cream cheese and cream cheese-based products, including the new Greek cream cheese. Plus, the 90,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility has extensive packaging capabilities and is able to package cream cheese products in 8-ounce bars, 6- to 24-ounce cups, 5-pound tubs, 3-pound loaves and 30-pound bulk sizes.
“Franklin Foods West’s diversified product mix and packaging capabilities will be distributed to industrial, institutional, foodservice, retail private label and supermarket accounts across the Western U.S. and support booming export sales around the world,” Cardinale says.
Additionally, Franklin Foods is said to be one of only 285 dairy processing manufacturers worldwide to achieve SQF 2000 Level 3 certification. In fact, they hold 10 patents for yogurt cream cheese technology.
“Franklin Foods has been making cream cheese for more than 100 years. Our commitment to excellent quality, delicious taste and dairy innovation continue. What was true back in 1899 is true today—if you make a good, wholesome and innovative product, you will find an audience,” says Cardinale.
Company Name: Franklin Foods
HQs: Delray Beach, Fla.
No. of Employees: 150
Sales: $85 million
Products: Cultured cream cheese, Greek cream cheese, cheese, Mascarpone, flavored dips and spreads, Baking Cheeze Blend and Neufchatel cheese.
Brands: Hahn’s, Green Mountain Farms, Lombardi’s, Casa Grande Farms
When Alexia Foods was founded in 2002, it introduced a new genre of frozen foods that consumers were looking for but had trouble finding in the freezer aisles. Now, 11 years later, Alexia can be found in natural, gourmet, club, grocery and mass retail stores nationwide, offering foods that complement consumers’ everyday lives.
Based in Eagle, Idaho, Alexia produces 34 SKUs of premium, all-natural frozen potatoes, breads and side dishes, including the new Smart Classicsfries and potatoes line, artisan breads, chef-inspired fries and potatoes, organic fries and potatoes, sweet potato fries and puffs, onion rings and potato and vegetable sautés.hen Alexia Foods was founded in 2002, it introduced a new genre of frozen foods that consumers were looking for but had trouble finding in the freezer aisles. Now, 11 years later, Alexia can be found in natural, gourmet, club, grocery and mass retail stores nationwide, offering foods that complement consumers’ everyday lives.
But, when it comes to food trends, Alexia continues to take the lead, offering several new product innovations each year.
“We enjoy staying on top of what’s new and exciting in the frozen food arena,” says Jason Allen, retail marketing, branded products. “We want to give our fans side dish choices that we know they’ll enjoy and that will make providing a gourmet meal at home easier. That’s why we continue to use their feedback when coming up with innovative product ideas.”
Case in point: in September 2012, Alexia launched its new Multi-Grain Onion Rings (crunchy, hearty onion rings covered in multigrain breading and made with whole wheat flour, brown rice and corn flour) and House-Cut Julienne Fries (made from farm-fresh potatoes), driving the “small bites” food trend and appealing to at-home cooks everywhere.
The following December, Alexia took this food trend in a new direction with the introduction of its Sweet Potato Rolls, what is said to be the only kind in its category. In the same year, Alexia also unveiled its Yukon Select Seasoned Hashed Browns, which are perfectly seasoned with a blend of sea salt, onion, garlic and white pepper.
Earlier this year, Alexia brought the potato puff to the forefront of the comfort food trend and introduced its new Crispy Seasoned Potato Puffs.
“Food trends show that consumers are increasingly looking for elevated takes on classic comfort food dishes,” says Allen. “Our new Crispy Seasoned Potato Puffs bring adult flavors to a childhood classic for a modern twist that can only be brought to you by Alexia.”
Most recently, Alexia launched Smart Classics, a line of better-for-you frozen fries and potatoes that are 98% fat-free, offer 100 calories per serving and are made with U.S.-grown Yukon select potatoes.
“This new line of fries and potatoes comes in three varieties—straight-cut, crinkle-cut and tri-cut,” Allen adds. “The Smart Classics line is lightly seasoned with a touch of sea salt to bring in the gourmet flavor that Alexia is known for, yet offers a lighter version of the classic fries Americans crave.
Bite-sized or not, Alexia remains in the driver seat when it comes to creating trends that deliver quality products in all different shapes, sizes and flavorings.
Company Name: Alexia Foods
HQs: Eagle, Idaho
No. of SKUs: 34
Products: Frozen potatoes, breads and side dishes
Eli’s Cheesecake was the dream of Chicago restaurateur, Eli M. Schulman. Over an almost 50-year career, Eli developed a reputation for serving up great food, providing outstanding service and making every customer feel important.
It was 1966, when Eli passed on his legacy to his son Marc Schulman, who opened Eli’s the Place for Steak. Known for catering to the who’s who of Chicago, such as soon-to-be famous stars like Woody Allen and Barbra Streisand, it was here that Marc began serving cheesecake as his signature dessert.
To keep up with the ever-increasing demands, in 1996, Eli’s opened Eli’s Cheesecake World, the state-of-the-art bakery, corporate office and dessert café located on Chicago’s northwest side. Eli’s has grown from a local favorite to one of the country’s largest specialty bakeries, turning out 20,000 cheesecakes and desserts daily.
Despite its fame and success though, Eli’s Cheesecake continues to slow bake its cheesecakes in small batches, allowing the finest ingredients to develop to their optimum flavors, says Marc Schulman, president for the Chicago-based company.
“Eli’s goal is simple—to create the best cheesecakes and desserts possible using the finest ingredients available, and to share the company’s success with its talented associates and the community,” he adds.
Setting trends one cheesecake slice at a time
Eli’s Cheesecake churns out more than 200 SKUs of cheesecake, cakes, tiramisu, brownies, tarts, dessert bars, single-serve desserts and mini pies under the Eli’s Cheesecake brand for foodservice, retail in-store bakery, retail frozen and mail order.
However, just in the last couple of years, Eli’s Cheesecake has gripped tightly to today’s trends and delivered a bevy of new products.
For instance, Eli’s Cheesecake launched Honey Mediterranean cheesecake for foodservice. It consists of a wildflower honey cheesecake enhanced with the subtle addition of ricotta, then topped with a crunchy layer of salted honey, toasted pistachios, almonds, a cloud of vanilla mousse and a mosaic of more toasted pistachios and almonds. Eli's honey is harvested by students from The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, and proceeds from honey sales go toward college scholarships for deserving seniors. This cheesecake is 10 inches round and comes pre-sliced for 14 servings.
For restaurant menus, Eli's Cheesecake unveiled Vanilla Bean cheesecake, where rich, creamy cheesecake batter is infused with Nielsen-Massey single-source Madagascar vanilla bean paste, then baked in a fluted vanilla crumb crust and topped with house-made vanilla pastry cream, swirls of vanilla mousse and a sprinkling of vanilla crumb around the edge. It comes in a pre-sliced 9-inch round to serve 14 people.
Other new product introductions include Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie Cheesecake, red, white and blue cheesecake, fruit cheesecake sampler, individual swirled cheesecake (chocolate swirl, lemon swirl, raspberry swirl, strawberry swirl), mini pies (apple, cherry, pumpkin), mini hand-held pies (brown sugar walnut, chocolate hazelnut) and pre-packaged single-serve Eli’s-to-go cheesecakes and desserts (chocolate cake cheesecake, cinnamon roll cheesecake, raspberry shortcake cheesecake, chocolate swirl cheesecake, original plain cheesecake, strawberry swirl cheesecake).
Plans for the future include expanding their 62,000-square-foot Chicago bakery by an additional 60,000 square feet, becoming SQF certified and entering new dessert categories, says Schulman.
“We are a family business, and Eli’s Cheesecake is an iconic Chicago brand. We continue to bake in small batches with natural dairy products and hand-decorate our cheesecakes. Our products are certified kosher dairy. We are very active in supporting the community, including a leadership role in supporting the Chicago High School for Agricultural High School and High Performance Food Education in Chicago,” he adds.
Just goes to show that cheesecake helps make dreams come true.
Company Name: Eli’s Cheesecake Co.
No. of Employees: 200
Sales: $40-80 million
No. of SKUs: 200
Products: Cheesecake, cakes, tiramisu, brownies, tarts, dessert bars, single-serve desserts and mini pies.
Brands: Eli’s Cheesecake