Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pioneering Pizzas

Pizza is popping up in all kinds of unexpected places and in nontraditional forms.

These days, it seems everyone wants a piece of the pie: Fresh pizza is not only rolling into non-pizzerias coast to coast (think quick-serve sandwich shops and grocery stores), it’s also taking on fresh toppers and sauces as part of a Renaissance in specialty pizza.

“At the end of the day, pizza is a food that everybody understands. It’s part of the American diet. It’s fun. And that’s why there’s interest in inventing and reinventing pizza,” says Scott Cohen, executive chef at two San Antonio, Texas, restaurants, Las Canarias at Omni La Mansion del Rio Hotel and Pesca on the River at the Watermark Hotel.

Quick-serve restaurants like Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, Cosi, and Panera have launched or are testing pizzas—some are traditional while others are fancy or ethnic. Meanwhile, pizza chains are rolling out new dessert and specialty pizzas and installing high-speed ovens to compete more effectively with drive-thrus. “There are so many outlets selling fresh pizza, it’s becoming omnipresent,” says food expert Joyce Weinberg, president of New York Food Tours and Events.

Several trends have intersected to create this perfect little storm for the beloved pizza pie. For one, it’s an ideal artisan-style food, as well as a perfect host for trendy organic and local foods, from corn to eggplant. And for the health-conscious, as with sandwiches, diners can get protein, veggies, dairy, grains, and carbs all in one. And pizza works for a variety of diners—especially the pickiest of eaters, the kids, which is a big part of some chains’ decision to add it to menus. It’s economical, and it can be easily made with existing equipment and ingredients, in many cases. Pizza can dress up very easily with high-end meats, veggies, fruits, cheeses, and herbed crusts. And it can be topped in ways that work for people on special diets, like vegetarians.

“Americans crave carbs and as you know, we crave convenience above all else,” Weinburg says. “Pizza can be eaten sitting or standing up and even while walking (as every New Yorker knows.) Moms like to serve their families pizza because, unlike most sandwiches, it’s hot, so moms feel like they’re serving their family a relatively healthy square meal if they put a specialty pizza on the table. Most men and kids will eat cooked veggies on a pizza—not so if they’re on a plate by themselves.”

Weinburg—who gives restaurant and pizzeria tours in pizza-loving New York City—first noticed the specialty pizza resurgence about three years ago in The Big Apple, and now it’s full steam ahead. There’s even a Connecticut caterer who only does pizza, driving his Big Green Truck to parties and making pizzas on the spot in a wood-fired oven.

Part of what’s driving the specialty-pizza trend is the resurgence of artisan or handmade foods throughout the U.S., something that, applied to pizza, Weinburg calls pizza rustica, an industry in itself. “People are discovering that the old way of doing things—using premium fresh ingredients, hand tossing dough, using a real wood-fired or coal-fired oven—produces a warm, deliciously scented restaurant and the best pizza product,” she says.

New pizzerias, which are easier to open and require less staffing than fuller-menu restaurants, are cropping up everywhere in a town that’s already pizza-saturated, she says. Such New York restaurants as Pinch on Park Avenue sell pizza by the inch. Others sell by the pound (versus the slice or pie), following in the Italian tradition of pizza by the meter, a practice that delivers more rectangular or square (taglio) than triangular slices.

Others, like L’asso, are making thin-crust pizzas the Old World way, to strict Italian standards. Some of the traditional-style specialty pizzerias rely on simple traditions from Naples, Italy, “wonderful extra-virgin olive oil, using great flour specifically for pizza dough, using Santa Marzano tomato sauce, fresh basil, fresh pesto, and, of course, fresh mozzarella cheese,
preferably real buffalo mozzarella, made from the milk of water buffalos from Italy,” Weinburg says. Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan sells traditional Roman-style pizza: handmade dough covered with olive oil and fresh mushrooms, leeks or zucchini—and no cheese.

White pizzas—where pesto, butter, garlic and other sauces replace tomato sauce—are also becoming more prevalent. The use of non-tomato sauces frees up pizza’s taste range immensely. There’s teriyaki with smoked salmon and capers, garlic sauce and shrimp, barbecue sauce and chicken, and on and on.

Most men and kids will eat cooked veggies on a pizza.”

Toppings are becoming more creative, and pizzas are going ethnic and regional. “People want to try to put everything they can consume on a pizza,” Weinburg says. “One of the most important trends is using fresh, locally grown ingredients on pizzas. From local corn and eggplant to locally caught oysters and shrimp, this is what makes a pizza local, makes it belong to a region or town.”

Good bacon is reemerging as a popular topping, and Weinburg’s seeing grilled pizzas (charmarks and all) cropping up, too

Cohen, the Texas chef, makes a popular Pizza La Dier, featured in his upcoming Texas Hill Country Cookbook, that’s emblematic of one aspect of the pizza resurgence. With caramelized onions and Nicoise olives over leftover dough, usually from croissants, it’s rustic, specialized, and high end.

“Pizza’s just one of those things people like experimenting with,” Cohen says. “You can make it with whatever’s left over. Take steak and you’ve got Philly cheese-steak pizza. I’ve put foie gras on pizza, and rhubarb marmalade with a little shaved Mimolette-style cheese and duck confit. I can think of a million different things to make just out of leftovers.”

Cohen recently visited Argentina, and he’s predicting that we’ll soon be seeing pizzas that, for sauce, use that country’s beloved chimichurri sauce (a pesto-like marinade of parsley, garlic, paprika, and oregano) topped with asada (grilled beef), chorizo, or blood sausage.
Quick-serves are rushing into the pizza business because it’s a big, sure-fire market. People of all ages love pizza and most can afford it, even if it’s premium–price, Weinburg says. Plus, pizza doesn’t require fancy techniques or large kitchens.

“It’s obvious why bread and sandwich chains are getting into the specialty pizza biz; they want to use their existing revenue base, i.e. bread, and expand their product offerings to existing customers and attract new customers,” Weinburg says. “Dough is cheap and versatile. Money is made by putting specialty and premium ingredients on the dough.”

The specialty pizza craze really started in the early 1980s and is credited to California Pizza Kitchen, which is now No. 6 among pizza companies, with $25 million in gross sales in 2005. The company’s bestseller—then and now—is barbecued chicken pizza. “They proved that we’ll like anything delicious stuck on top of a freshly baked pizza dough,” Weinburg says. California Pizza Kitchen, however, has an eat-in concept, with takeout comprising only about 15 percent of business and delivery only 3 percent.

“It’s a ripe opportunity for other quick-service chains,” Weinburg says.
Panera launched its Crispani line of pizzas in August 2006, offering seven varieties of fresh-dough pizza cooked in the chains’ stone-deck ovens. The high-end pizzas are made with organic tomato sauce and include such standards as pepperoni and three cheese, along with barbecue chicken, sausage, roasted red and yellow peppers, and crimini and Shiitake mushrooms. The pizzas are large enough to share, and diners can add soup and salad to the side, “which makes for a good dinner meal,” says Andrew Carlson, spokesman for the Richmond Heights, Missouri, company.

Like other sandwich shops that have entered the pizza game, Panera already had ingredients and appropriate ovens on hand, and felt the pizza option went well with its other menu items. “For us, it’s just a natural extension of our lineup,” says Carlson.

New pizza lines are traditional and inventive. Some of them include:

Cosi, a high-end sandwich chain, launched a shareable flatbread pizza in such varieties as Margherita (mozzarella, basil, tomato), spinach and tomato, and four cheese (mozzarella, Asiago, Romano, gorgonzola).

Bear Rock Café, another high-end, fresh-sandwich concept, recently launched its hand-tossed Pizzeta gourmet flatbread pizzas, a $7.99 crispy-crust line that includes barbecue chicken as well as some creative combinations. The roasted vegetable Pizzeta, for instance, is topped with roasted eggplant, three cheeses (mozzarella, provolone, cheddar), roasted red peppers and onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes. The Greek Chicken Pizzeta uses a Kalamata olive spread beneath grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, spinach, three cheeses, and Feta sprinkles.
Einstein Brothers Bagels’ pizza bagel is available in five flavors, including cheesy garlic herb, andouille sausage, and spinach and mushroom, among others

The 70-unit Charlotte, North Carolina–based Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina earlier this year launched made-to-order Mexican pizzas on 10-inch tortilla shells in veggie, barbecue chicken, and white-pizza varieties. More variations are coming in 2008. The $4.99, 10-inch pizzas are cooked in high-speed forced-convection-heating ovens that bakes pizzas in as little as 25 seconds.

Traditional pizza is also, in some cases, becoming faster, a move that companies believe will position them to better compete with drive-thru window offerings, particularly at lunchtime. Little Caesar’s sells an immediately available Hot-N-Ready pepperoni pizza, and Papa John’s last spring rolled out high-speed ovens in a third of its stores, cutting cooking time from six-and-a-half minutes to four-and-a-half minutes. The timesavings allow Papa John’s to promise made-to-order pizzas in less than 10 minutes. Papa John’s also sells specialty pizzas periodically; in the fall, it offered Tuscan pizzas that included six cheeses spiced with Italian herbs on a thin crust or Roma meats like Italian sausage and salami. Coffee and doughnut chain Dunkin’ Donuts has been test-marketing a traditional pizza that’s out in 90 seconds. Subway’s new line of pizzas also joins the fast-feeder trend.

Dough is cheap and versatile. Money is made by putting specialty and premium ingredients on the dough.”

Local pizzerias don’t seem to be hurt by the influx of pizza at other quick-service restaurants. In fact, some are seeing business increase due to national advertising for specialty pizzas, including Papa John’s recurring specials, which are heavily publicized.

“Everyone’s trying to come up with something newer and fancier, and it’s actually good for business,” says Craig Greening, owner of Crusted Creations, a family-owned pizzeria in Traverse City, Michigan. “It’s generated more interest and more repeat sales.” In fact, Greening’s store is located three doors from a Subway shop in a strip mall, and he finds himself selling takeout slices to diners who then join friends for lunch at Subway.

Like pizza sellers everywhere, Gooding’s cooking up specialty varieties regularly. “When people think of pizza they think of pepperoni, but the trend is specialty pizza,” he says. “Everyone’s trying chicken barbecue, ranch, and the pesto pizzas. The higher-end pizzas are getting more popular. Papa John’s was the first to do a Philly steak pizza. Domino’s is doing that Oreo cookie thing. We won’t be doing that one.” Greening’s best-selling specialty pizzas are barbecue chicken and chicken Alfredo. His worst? The chicken Caesar with red onions and grated Parmesan. And the seasonal hit is taco pizza, but in summer only.

Chains that toast subs likely already have the equipment and most ingredients on hand to make pizzas, making it fairly easy to add it to the menu without adding to costs. These pizzas tend to be aimed at different customers, those who want a single serving, another menu option, or people with children who are normally nuts about pizza, but not so much about fancy or healthy sandwiches. Pizzerias, on the other hand, cater more to group dining, family occasions, and delivery.

Subway’s eight-inch pizza, for example, is personal size. It starts with a frozen crust, and then is topped with meatball sub sauce, cheese, veggies, and meats already on hand. The suggested price is $2.99, plus $1 for meat toppings, says spokesman Kevin Kane.

“The whole thing with us is the choice, offering the choice,” Kane says. “We had the ovens there. They have the vegetables in front of them, and the sauce, and it just seemed like, ‘Hey, let’s try pizza.’ It’s about options. If I’m thinking of a sandwich piled with vegetables and I have my kid with me, and they’re not thinking that, well, it’s one more thing that they will eat.”

Monday, December 24, 2007

Cell Advertising Strategies

Quick-serves are putting their ads right into young consumers’ hands by offering coupons through text messages.

With more than 200 million cell phones nestled in pockets across the U.S., it seems natural that marketers would figure out a way to get their messages onto flip screens everywhere.

That strategy has been in practice for at least a year, as marketers try to figure out how to advertise on the cell phones that not only replace landlines, but are becoming more like pint-size computers capable of displaying full-color graphics and connecting to the Internet.

The trend is gaining popularity, and quick-service establishments are part of the reason why.
JupiterResearch reports that from 2002 to 2006, the percentage of young adults and teens that use cell phones for more than calls rose from 50 percent to 90 percent. While mobile coupons are largely untested, that research also suggests that more people, particularly younger people, are open to using their cell phones in new ways.

While traditional coupons printed on paper have been an advertising mainstay for years, the distribution and redemption of them declined in 2006. CMS, a coupon industry marketing company, reported in February that while $331 billion in savings were distributed to 142 million people, distribution was down 12 percent and redemptions were down 13 percent.

Enter a 21st century solution: mobile coupons. Cellfire, a San Jose, California-based company founded in January 2005, offers a cell phone application that serves as a coupon vehicle. Potential quick-serve or fast-casual customers can open the Cellfire application on their phone and search for coupons.

Cellfire, says vice president of marketing Dwight Moore, is the only nationwide cell phone coupon provider. The service is available on all cell phone carriers and most phone models, he says.

Merchants who want to advertise pay Cellfire an initial setup fee that pays for a graphic design and management. The Cellfire application, which can be downloaded or viewed via mobile Web, works like a Web site, Moore says. So customers can see multiple, full-color coupon offers from one restaurant on their phone. A distribution fee applies to coupons, depending on the demographics reached.

The company announced in August that Papa John’s will use the service in 50 of its location in the Dallas-Forth Worth area.

“Partnering with Cellfire is a great way to reach our customers beyond traditional advertising and print couponing methods,” says Jim Ensign, vice president, marketing communications for Papa John’s. “As Dallas is home to many mobile-savvy consumers it was an obvious choice to include in our first mobile coupon promotion.”

One of the main aspects that Cellfire and WHAMtext, a newer cell phone coupon marketing company that was beta testing its service at four colleges in October, stress is that the coupons aren’t sent to phones without the user asking for the message.

WHAMtext offers a call and response type of service, where customers text a search keyword or specific restaurant name to WHAMtext and receive a text message response, explains Jeff Lerner, WHAMtext’s vice president of sales and marketing. Customers include their age and zip code or college code, and WHAMtext responds with which coupons are available in the area and where the restaurants are located.

With both services, customers bring up the coupon on their cell phone screen and present it to the clerk to redeem the coupon.

With cell phone coupons, restaurants can learn a lot more information about who is asking for and redeeming coupons and can follow the coupon process from start to finish, as opposed to only keeping track of how many coupons go out and how many come back.

Cellfire shares demographic information with its merchant clients. Moore says it gives merchants the ability to almost look over a customer’s shoulder.

Lerner says his company’s service is filling a need for restaurant customers who want to have an active conversation with the business. They tell the business what they want and they get a response.

Text coupons are riding a shift in advertising toward a consumer-driven environment, he claims. “Consumers don’t want to be bombarded with ads all the time,” Lerner says. “Companies are getting into the mobile space for a certain demographic and psychographic.”

Text coupons allow a marketer to reach a potential customer mere minutes before they make a purchase because the cell phone is usually in a pocket or purse, with the person wherever he goes. Television and online advertising can’t offer that type of access to a customer, Lerner says.
Although a price scheme has not been established yet, Lerner says WHAMtext is considering a $19.99 a month fee or a pay-per-click model.

Lisa Brooks, director of marketing for Taco Bueno, says her company is testing the Cellfire service because it is a new way to reach customers. While she does not have any official numbers on the 80-store trial, she reports that the initial redemption of Cellfire coupons has been positive.

“Receiving discounts via mobile phones is a growing trend among consumers,” says Scott Terraciano-Spence, vice president of marketing for Taco Bueno. “What makes Cellfire appealing is that it’s simple to navigate and provides our customers with the discounts they want, stored in a place that’s easy to find.”

While traditional methods of reaching customers decline, Moore says that Cellfire aims to tie television and other advertising methods into their service by asking customers, through those ads, to text a keyword to a number. Taco Bueno, for example, has advertisements in its stores telling customers to text “bueno” to a designated number to receive a discount.

Although the future of these coupons is unclear, it is obvious that several companies are willing to bet that they can get cell phone users to look for food deals by using their favorite gadget.

Capico International is presently in the negotiating stages with a company than can offer a better solution to couponing and much more with there program.

Please contact us directly for additional information. info [@]

Friday, December 21, 2007

Polish Babka Recipe for the Holidays

A Great Polish Babka Recipe

This is Robert Strydel’s (Warsaw correspondent for the Polish News) recipe for an easy yeast-raised Babka. We have tried it, and like the solid, yet airy, bread-like texture and lemony taste. It is a simple "single dough" Babka, unlike the ones made in a bakery, which are made up out of 5 (fruit-filled) rolls of dough, combined in one pan. Let’s get started. From start to finish, this may take up to 3-1/2 hours.


All purpose flour 4 cups
Compressed yeast 1 cake
Granulated white sugar 1 cup
Unsalted butter 3/4 cup
Milk (very hot) 1 cup
Raisins 1/2 cup
Grated lemon peel 2 tablespoons
Eggs (whole) 3
Vanilla extract 1 teaspoon

Ingredients for the icing

Lemon juice 2 tablespoons
Confectioner's sugar 2/3 cup
Water (boiling) 1 tablespoon

Preparations/ Baking

In a large bowl, mash the yeast cake with the sugar (note: the compressed yeast cake can be substituted with a package of active dry yeast; to activate, follow the directions on the package). Beat the 3 eggs and add to the yeast mixture. Heat the milk to very warm and dissolve the butter in it. Add to the mixture and add the flour, grated lemon rind, vanilla extract and the raisins. Mix well to blend all ingredients, but do not knead.Grease a 9-1/2 inch Babka pan, brioche mold, Bundt pan, or other tube pan and fill with the dough to about 1/3 full. Cover with cloth and let stand in warm place for about 2 hours (until the Babka dough has doubled in size).Towards the end of the rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) place the Babka inside and bake it for about 45 minutes. Note, if you use bakeware that is dark or colored on the outside, set the oven at 325 deg Fahrenheit (162 deg Calsius). It is fully baked when a wooden pick comes out clean.After baking, remove the Babka from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Carefully remove from pan and dust it with confectioner’s sugar or glaze with icing.For the icing, combine the confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice, and boiling water in a small bowl and mix together.If you glaze to Babka with the icing, sprinkle it with chopped walnuts, slivered almonds, raisins or finely chopped candied orange rind, before the icing sets.Let it cool completely before serving. Wrap leftovers tightly with plastic wrap for storage at room temperature. For longer storage, you can freeze the Babka, tightly sealed in a plastic bag.
Enjoy your homemade Babka!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Chocolatetown meltdown

HERSHEY, Pa. - As globalization and outsourcing raged outside its corporate walls, the Hershey Co. seemed cozy and secure here in the "Sweetest Place on Earth."

The maker of Kisses and Kit Kats dominated the U.S. chocolate industry and manufactured its goodies in local factories.

Continuing a tradition of social good, the company funneled tens of million of dollars in stock dividends to the nearby Milton Hershey School for needy children, an 11,000-acre institution with a huge endowment built on chocolate. It was, says John Dunn, a local resident and former Hershey employee, a "utopic-type existence."

But reality crashed the party this year. A plunging Hershey stock price wiped out about $1 billion of the school's endowment.

No longer the patient investor, the school's financial overseer, referred to locally as The Trust, used its control of Hershey voting stock to shake up the company's corporate board last month.
Hershey chief executive officer Richard Lenny is out, saying he will resign by year's end. A new management team faces consumers who are buying more truffles and premium chocolates and a flattening market for traditional Hershey bars.

About 1,000 Pennsylvania employees are losing their jobs in a restructuring. A plant in Reading that manufactures 5th Avenue and Zagnut bars will close, the Chocolate Workers union says. Hershey plants in Connecticut and California are shutting down, too.

In the company's most controversial move, Hershey is outsourcing a good portion of its candy production to Mexico - which led to street protests at a Hershey plant in Canada.

For workers like Celso Torres, these are harrowing and sad times.

This fall, the union in Hershey negotiated an early-retirement package. About one-third of the workers at the main Hershey plant, or 600 of them, grabbed at it. Many thought the pension was more secure than the $21-an-hour job in the chocolate plant.

"It's not like we're making old-fashioned chocolate anymore," Torres, a 27-year Hershey employee, said in a tone that was more melancholy than angry on a recent morning as he ambled his stocky frame across a darkened parking lot toward one of the world's largest chocolate factories.

"You come to work every day and you don't know what's going to happen. . . . I got a good deal with my pension, and I thought I better take it."

Behind him, another longtime Hershey worker, a man in a baseball cap, said: "Nobody thinks there's a future. We say if they want to make the candy in Mexico, fine. Sell it down there. Don't bring it back."

Identity crisis

One of Pennsylvania's most recognized companies, Hershey still controls about 40 percent of the nation's mass-market sales for chocolate, according to industry estimates. The company also markets Jolly Rancher hard candies.

Its sales and profits have grown substantially this decade, driven partly by brand extensions, or limited editions, of core products, such as Elvis Reese's peanut-butter and banana-creme cups, pink Kisses and mint Kit Kats.

This strategy, critics say, sowed the seeds for the company's current crisis. As it was marketing these limited editions, Hershey slashed advertising in its big brands. Between 2001 and 2006, the company cut its advertising costs 42 percent, according to corporate documents. The company is now trying to latch onto the latest consumer trend - the boom in haute chocolates like truffles.

Over the last two years, according to market researcher Mintel International Group Ltd., the broad $15.8 billion U.S. chocolate market has been flat. But sales of premium chocolates grew 14.5 percent in 2006 to $2 billion and will grow an additional 13.7 percent this year.

Consumers are "trading up" to premium chocolate, said Joan Steuer, president of Chocolate Marketing, a consulting firm. Premium chocolate costs at least $8 a pound and as much as $100 a pound, according to experts.

Lifestyle plays a big role in the purchase of an item like chocolate. Partly driving the market shift has been recent medical research that suggests antioxidants in natural cocoa can improve the function of arteries, Steuer and others say.

In recent years, Hershey acquired organic- and dark-chocolate companies on the West Coast and launched the Cacao Reserve line of premium chocolates. But some question whether a brand like Hershey can command premium prices.

"They are getting into a smaller and smaller box. It's a mature, bordering on declining, industry," said William Madway, a marketing professor at Villanova University.

Hershey has to modernize how it markets its chocolate, taking into account parent concerns about obesity and high-sugar snacks, Madway said. In that vein, Hershey has developed and marketed Snack Barz and Smart Zone bars as alternatives to traditional candy.

"Hershey lives or dies on the U.S. market. They need to focus on their core brands," said the Bear Stearns Cos. Inc. equity analyst Terry Bivens. He said the company was "going to have to pump up marketing, and research and development. I don't see next year as a recovery year."
Mars Inc., Hershey's archrival and the maker of Snickers bars, "stirred to life" and has challenged Hershey in the U.S. market, Bivens said
Brad Reese, whose grandfather invented Reese's peanut butter cup but who does not work for Hershey, comments frequently on the company on a chat board.

"You have had a whole generation of kids who haven't seen a good Reese's ad campaign," he griped.

Hershey officials declined to comment.

Dunn, a former Hershey director of marketing, summed up the issues facing his former employer.

"We're not a highfalutin Godiva-like company," Dunn said. "We're a blue-collar chocolate company."

Seeking solutions

The Hershey Trust, the shareholder with an 80 percent voting control of Hershey, reportedly held merger discussions with European candy giant Cadbury Schweppes P.L.C. this year. Some believe Cadbury would be a good fit because of its overseas candy-distribution network. The Hershey-Cadbury talks, however, did not appear to pan out.

But the trust remains worried. In October, it said in a statement: "The company is underperforming the market and its own stated expectations."

A month later, it installed eight new Hershey board members. They included former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, former Hershey CEO Kenneth L. Wolfe, former Unilever North America CEO Charles Strauss, and Hershey Trust chairman LeRoy S. Zimmerman.
Zimmerman, the state's first elected attorney general, declined to comment for this article, said Hershey Trust spokesman Tim Reeves.

Company founder Milton S. Hershey created the trust to finance his school for needy children. In a statement, the trust, which also owns the Hershey amusement park, said it could use its strong U.S. position to grow both domestically and overseas.

Harvard University law professor Robert Sitkoff said he thought the Hershey Trust should sell the candy company. About half of the trust's $8 billion endowment is invested in Hershey, a "breathtaking lack of diversification" for the institution with a charitable mission, Sitkoff wrote in an article that will be published in 2008 in the Columbia Law Review.

Amendments to the Pennsylvania prudent-investor law in 2002 have made it harder for the Hershey Trust to sell the company, Sitkoff said in the paper. The changes were enacted after the Hershey Trust announced that it would negotiate to sell the candy company to diversify.
Those negotiations were halted after a public outcry and fears that a new corporate owner would close the local chocolate plants and relocate the headquarters.

"You can protect a company from a takeover market, but you can't protect it from the products market," Sitkoff said in a phone interview. "I think the current arrangement is bad for the trust and bad for the company."

At the union hall for Chocolate Workers Local 464 in downtown Hershey, a topic of conversation is which candy lines will relocate to Mexico.

The Hershey chocolate bar and Kisses should stay in Pennsylvania, union officials say. The union negotiated to keep chocolate syrup in the hometown plant, said Dennis Bomberger, the local union's business agent.

Hard candy, the miniature chocolate bars, Mr. Goodbar, Heath, York peppermint patties, the Reese's crunch bar and Zagnut could relocate south of the border, based on the production lines, Bomberger said.

"Of course people are upset that Hershey is moving to Mexico," Bomberger said. "We think it's a mistake going to Mexico. It's still a question: Will the American public buy a Hershey chocolate made in Mexico? This is the gamble they're taking."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gourmet treats you can order online for the holidays

How often does it pay to be lazy? If you've got foodies on your Christmas list, consider some of these edible gifts ordered online. But, please note that these sites, nor the products, are not your typical Harry & David basket of goodies:

Frog Hollow Farms preserves. The tree-ripened fruit from Al Courchesne's 133 acres of peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, pluots and pears is turned into thick, luscious conserves, jellies, marmalades and chutneys. The apricot conserve is made from the Northern California farm's organic Goldensweet apricots. In the cherry conserve are whole pitted sweet cherries. The peach conserve is delicious smeared on a knob of bread, maybe with a little cultured butter, or even without it. Cherry, peach and apricot conserve three-pack, $22 plus shipping at

Chocolates from Xuan. These are the perfect chocolates: refined, not too big, not overly sweet, expertly crafted, with clear flavors and great textures -- the delicate coatings snap and the melt-in-your-mouth ganaches are luscious. Pastry chef Xuan Ngo makes chocolates by hand in flavors such as Earl Grey, Madagascar vanilla, ginger, hazelnut praline, passion fruit and kalamansi lime; the "fleur de sel" caramel chocolates are out of this world. Ngo is just getting his business going; orders are available by e-mail through his Web site, Box of 12 is $22; shipping is free until Christmas with orders of three or more boxes.

Lambda olive oil. For the cook who has everything, consider, if your pockets are deep, this ultra-premium olive oil from Greece. The bottle is gorgeous, and the olive oil, fresh and fruity, pressed from Koroneiki olives grown in the Kritsa region, is brilliant. You might want to have it sent to yourself, though -- there's a two-bottle minimum, and it comes in a wooden box that has to be pried open. (If you didn't know a glass bottle was inside, you might shatter it trying to open the box.) About $100 for two 500-milliliter bottles, plus shipping, from

Madagascar Bourbon vanilla pods. These Euro Vanille brand vanilla pods -- more than half a pound of them -- are harvested by hand; the green pods (the fruit from an orchid) are cured and dried for several months, and what you end up with are beautiful black-brown pods. These are large and plump and moist, heady with the scent of vanilla. There are about 50 in a package, more than enough to get you through the holidays; as for the rest, keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or in the freezer until you need them. The cost is $48.25 for 8.8 ounces at

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Very Prosperous New Year
From the staff at Capico International

Saturday, December 08, 2007

McD's to pick up part of coffee tab

Company shares costs with franchisees

McDonald’s Corp. will help franchisees pay the $1 billion-plus cost of its bid to compete with Starbucks across the country next year.

The company told franchisees this week that it will pay up to 40% of the costs to remodel restaurants to accommodate the machines needed to make lattes, mocha drinks and other specialty beverages. McDonald’s USA President Don Thompson said last month said the remodeling could cost as much as $75,000 for each of the 13,800 U.S. restaurants.

The price McDonald’s pays per restaurant will vary depending on the amount of remodeling needed, but if the company pays $30,000 a restaurant, the total would exceed $400 million. In addition to the cost of remodeling, franchisees would have to pay about $25,000 per restaurant for the new beverage equipment.

“This contribution demonstrates the company’s conviction in its strategy,” says John Owens, an analyst in Chicago with Morningstar Inc.

McDonald’s officials have estimated specialty coffees could boost annual sales by an additional $125,000 per restaurant, or more than $1.7 billion across the chain. The restaurants now average about $2.2 million in annual sales.

McDonald’s executives say the launch of specialty coffees is the biggest expansion of its menu since the company added breakfast three decades ago. McDonald’s move is a direct attack on struggling Starbucks. McDonald’s has had success with the premium coffee it began offering last year. McDonald’s officials said in the coming years they want to begin offering smoothies and bottled soft drinks as well.

A major hurdle for McDonald’s is persuading franchisees, who would bear most of the cost of the cost of the new beverage plan, that it’s worth it. McDonald’s provided a statement late Thursday from franchisee Don Armstrong, chairman of a franchisee leadership group called the National Leadership Council, who said “McDonalds and the NLC continue to work together every step of the way in developing new beverage offerings for our customers.”

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Human Metabolics Creates Chocoholics

Got a hankerin’ for a rich, creamy bite of chocolate? It might be a function of your metabolism, says a new study, “Human Metabolic Phenotypes Link Directly to Specific Dietary Preferences in Healthy Individuals” (Rezzi, et al, Journal of Proteome Research, ASAP Article 10.1021/pr070431h S1535-3893(07)00431-9).

The study, by Swiss and British scientists, has connected the preference for chocolate to a specific, chemical signature that might be programmed into the metabolic system and is detectable by laboratory tests. This discovery adds credence to a rapidly emerging discipline that could classify individuals based on their metabolic type, or metabotype. Metabolic status and food preferences can vary from person to person and even between different cultures. Proteome research, which focuses on characterizing the structure and function of the complete set of proteins produced by our genes, has allowed scientists to identify metabolic changes that occur when foods are digested. This could lead to methods to design healthier diets based on each individual’s needs.

Researchers studied 11 male volunteers who classified themselves as “chocolate desiring” and 11 volunteers who considered themselves “chocolate indifferent” in a controlled clinical study. Each subject ate chocolate or placebo over five days and had their blood and urine samples analyzed via using 1H NMR spectroscopy. The chocolate lovers exhibited a hallmark metabolic profile that involved low levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, “bad”) cholesterol and slightly elevated levels of albumin, a beneficial protein, whether or not they ate the chocolate samples. The researchers also found the behaviors and/or interactions of the gut microbes in the chocolate lovers were different from the other subjects, leading to a difference in the microbes’ functionality.

“Our study shows that food preferences, including chocolate, might be programmed or imprinted into our metabolic system in such a way that the body becomes attuned to a particular diet,” says Kochhar, study researcher and scientist with NestlĂ© Research Center in Switzerland. “We know that some people can eat a diet that is high in steak and carbs and generally remain healthy, while the same food in others is unhealthy. Knowing one’s metabolic profile could open the door to dietary or nutritional interventions that are customized to your type, so that your metabolism can be nudged to a healthier status.”

This approach can be applied to any population or diet, not just chocolate, and might lead to tests for determining a person’s metabolic type that could be performed as part of a blood or urine test during a regular visit to the doctor, Kochhar predicts. But, he notes, a reliable test of this type may be five years away, as more research is needed in this area.