Friday, February 29, 2008

Shareholder Class Action Filed Against Panera Bread Co. by the Law Firm of Schiffrin Barroway Topaz & Kessler, LLP

The following statement was issued today by the law firm of Schiffrin Barroway Topaz & Kessler, LLP:

Notice is hereby given that a class action lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, St. Louis Division, on behalf of all purchasers of securities of Panera Bread Co. (Nasdaq: PNRA - News; "Panera" or the "Company") between November 1, 2005 and July 26, 2006, inclusive (the "Class Period").

If you wish to discuss this action or have any questions concerning this notice or your rights or interests with respect to these matters, please contact Schiffrin Barroway Topaz & Kessler, LLP (Darren J. Check, Esq. or Richard A. Maniskas, Esq.) toll free at 1-888-299-7706 or 1-610-667-7706, or via e-mail at

The Complaint charges Panera and certain of its officers and directors with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Panera owns and franchises bakery-cafes under the Panera Bread and Saint Louis Bread Co. names.

The Complaint alleges that, throughout the Class Period, defendants failed to disclose material adverse facts about the Company's financial well-being, business relationships, and prospects. Specifically, defendants failed to disclose or indicate the following: (1) that the Company was experiencing fierce competition from similar dining establishments, such that the Company would not be able to maintain growth and earnings trends and projections; (2) that the Company's strategy of rapidly expanding locations was causing a decline in sales per restaurant and a lower return on capital because business was being drawn away from existing stores; (3) that the Company's business was trending negatively because of both slow growth and rising expenses; and (4) that, as a result of the foregoing, the Company's statements about its financial well-being and future business prospects were lacking in any reasonable basis when made.
On July 17, 2006, Barron's published an article which detailed some of the financial difficulties Panera was facing. Specifically, the article discussed increased competition, as well as existing Panera stores losing customers to new Panera locations that were being opened at a rapid pace. Panera's same- store sales gains had declined in recent months, bottoming out in the low single digits from a high of 10.2%. The Company's revenue and earnings per share were rising, but the return on capital was declining, resulting in a decline in shareholder value. In response to this news, the Company's shares declined over the next two days. The shares declined $1.39 per share, or 2.24 percent, to close on July 17, 2006 at $60.71 per share, on unusually heavy trading volume. The following day the Company's shares declined an additional $1.30, or 2.14 percent, to close on July 18, 2006 at $59.41, on unusually heavy trading volume.

Then on July 26, 2006, the Company shocked investors when it announced its second quarter financial results, and stated that its projected results for the period were below trend (approximately three percentage points below second quarter two-year comps). The Company further indicated that sales for the second half of the year were uncertain and would be influenced by a new pizza product the Company recently introduced. Moreover, the Company indicated that it had incurred higher startup expenses than in previous quarters, partly due to the introduction of the new product. Upon the release of this news, the Company's shares declined an additional $7.34 per share, or 12.38 percent, to close on July 26, 2006 at $51.93 per share, on unusually heavy trading volume.

Plaintiff seeks to recover damages on behalf of class members and is represented by the law firm of Schiffrin Barroway Topaz & Kessler which prosecutes class actions in both state and federal courts throughout the country. Schiffrin Barroway Topaz & Kessler is a driving force behind corporate governance reform, and has recovered billions of dollars on behalf of institutional and individual investors from the United States and around the world.
For more information about Schiffrin Barroway Topaz & Kessler or to sign up to participate in this action online, please visit

If you are a member of the class described above, you may, not later than March 25, 2008, move the Court to serve as lead plaintiff of the class, if you so choose. A lead plaintiff is a representative party that acts on behalf of other class members in directing the litigation. In order to be appointed lead plaintiff, the Court must determine that the class member's claim is typical of the claims of other class members, and that the class member will adequately represent the class. Your ability to share in any recovery is not, however, affected by the decision whether or not to serve as a lead plaintiff. Any member of the purported class may move the court to serve as lead plaintiff through counsel of their choice, or may choose to do nothing and remain an absent class member.

CONTACT: Schiffrin Barroway Topaz & Kessler, LLP
Darren J. Check, Esq.
Richard A. Maniskas, Esq.
280 King of Prussia Road
Radnor, PA 19087
1-888-299-7706 (toll free) or 1-610-667-7706
Or by e-mail at

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Specialty Food News

Sea2O, which sells organic energy drinks, might see its sales grow more than sevenfold through new contracts with international distributors and Costco. will begin selling the Sea2O drinks next month, and the company's officials hope Costco's stores will take the product, too, after a limited run sold out last year, reported The Seattle Times. Full Story

In addition to a renewed focus on cost-cutting, Safeway plans to continue launching innovative programs to help drive top-line growth in the face of a weakening economy such as a take out entree program that recently saw success in a 10-store pilot, and an expansion of Safeway wellness initiatives, reported Progressive Grocer. Full Story

Small artisnal dairies are gaining in popularity for more than just cheese, providing customers with foods like creme fraiche, buttermilk, ice cream and puddings. The New York Times On The Web lauds a number of these small businesses, including Pike Place Market Creamery, Seattle, WA; Blue Ridge Dairy, Leesburg, VA; and Evans Farmhouse Creamery, Norwich, NY. Full Story (Free Registration Required)

For Immediate Release: News from the Specialty Food Trade

Simpson & Vail, Inc., introduces Yoga Teas, a complete line of caffeine-free herbal teas designed to meet the desires of yoga students for more holistic methods with which to treat their bodies. Full Release

Surplus grocers that sell closeout products, such as SharpShopper, will likely benefit from more cost conscious consumers, noted The Wall Street Journal. Another such chain, Amelia's, with 11 stores in eastern Pennsylvania, saw its sales jump 17% last year from a year earlier and expects same-store sales to climb 13% this year. Minneapolis-based So Low Grocery Outlet also saw its sales jump 30% last year, while Grocery Outlet Inc., which has 131 surplus stores in the western U.S., said it has seen a steady increase in same-store sales since last fall. Full Story (WSJ Subscription Required)

Culinary Concepts by Jean-Georges will open three new Spice Market restaurants within Starwood Hotels around the world. Full Story

Tea is enjoying a revival as a seasoning, tenderizer, rub and marinade for a variety of dishes, from green beans to cakes. Tea sales last year topped $6.2 billion, more than quadruple their level in the early 1990s, according to the Tea Council of the USA, reported The Arizona Republic. Full Story (Free Registration Required)

Herbal sweet firm Ricola will focus on the UK, as it is the second largest sugar confectionery market in Europe, according to the company's UK and Ireland manager. Although Ricola is the second largest sugar confectionery brand in Europe, with a 3.7% market share, the UK is currently only the twelfth-largest market for the company in terms of sales, according to AC Nielson, reported Food Production Daily. Full Story

D&W Fresh Market introduced new private-label specialty coffees from its wholesaler, Spartan Stores. Marketed under the Spartan brand, the line includes nine flavored and 11 gourmet blends, including Hazelnut, Vanilla Nut, Caramel Créme and Chocolate Raspberry, reported Supermarket News. Full Story

Anheuser-Busch Cos. will boost its total media spending by 10% this year and the company plans to raise its spending on digital media more than 55%, reported Full Story

Dunkin Donuts will open 14 outlets in North Carolina in Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro; the first will open in Durham in March. Six will open in 2008 and the rest will open within five years. Full Story

7-Eleven, Inc. introduced Slurpuccino, a coffee-flavored Slurpee, which is not a milk-based product, but is caffeinated. Full Story

Cutting salty snacks is key to childhood weight loss, according to a study in the American Heart Association journal. Salt is "a hidden factor in the obesity epidemic," stated Graham MacGregor, a co-author of the study by researchers at St. George's University of London. Full Story

NEW STORE NEWS: A Cheesecake Factory restaurant is slated to open in Walnut Creek, CA, reported The Contra Costa Times. Full Story (Free Registration Required) ...

Schnucks Market Inc. will open grocery store in downtown St. Louis in late 2008 or early 2009, reported Full Story

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Specialty Food News

The Hershey Co. aims to increase Kiss sales by rethinking its packaging and marketing strategies. The company is also considering changes to the Hershey Miniatures and Nuggets lines, according to its chief executive David West, reported The Times-Leader. Full Story

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. bought the rights to the Emeril Lagasse franchise of cookbooks, kitchen products and television shows for up to $70 million. The deal should close in the second quarter, according to the company. Full Story

Albertsons LLC is merging two of its divisions to increase efficiencies. Under the merger plan, 35 of the 37 stores in the Rocky Mountain division will join the 81 stores in the Southwest division. Two stores in the former Rocky Mountain division, in Scottsbluff, NE and Rapid City, SD, are being sold to Nash Finch Co., reported Supermarket News. Full Story

For Immediate Release: News from the Specialty Food Trade

vere, a New York City-based chocolate company, launches a new line of 100 percent organic dark chocolate bars handmade at the source in Ecuador Full Release

The Hogue and Mercer families formed Mercer Wine Estates LLC, which will do business as Mercer Estates and release its first batch of wine Feb. 19. Based in Prosser, WA, the winery will use 150 acres of white grapes grown by the Hogues in the Columbia Valley and 120 acres of red grapes grown by the Mercers in the Horse Heaven Hills, between the Yakima and Columbia rivers, reported Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle). Full Story (Free Registration Required

Meal preparation company Entrée Vous plans to double its presence in 2008, which could include several more stores in the North Carolina area. The company has 50 locations in the U.S. and 100 more in development, reported The Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area. Full Story (Free Registration Required)

For Immediate Release: News from the Specialty Food Trade

To keep up with a sharp increase in retail sales, Cackalacky Condiment Company, Chapel Hill, N.C., has joined with Peppers, Inc. to field inbound customer calls. Full Release

Canadian retailer Planet Organic Health Corp. signed a Letter of Intent to acquire 100% of the shares of New Leaf Community Markets, a natural foods retailer in Northern California, for $9.7 million. Full Story

The Washington Post examines the loss of inner-city supermarkets in New York's five boroughs. Today there are one-third fewer supermarkets in New York's five boroughs than there were six years ago, said Lawrence Sarf, president of retail consulting company F&D Reports. Soaring real estate values are prompting property owners throughout the city to shutter grocery stores and sell to developers, according to city officials, supermarket owners and industry analysts. Full Story (Free Registration Required)

SABMiller reiterated its ambitions to expand into the Russian beer market, though it will not stray from its current strategy of driving organic growth. The company has no current plans for acquisitions within the region, a policy that has remained unchanged over the last few years, according to a spokesperson, reported Food Production Daily. Full Story

Several entrepreneurial ventures are planning to open small markets in Pittsburgh, joining other small markets springing up around the country. Chicago-based McCaffery Interests, for example, reached a deal with grocery veteran Robert Stone, who will open a 22,000-sq. ft. organic market called Right by Nature, reported Pittsburgh Business Times. Full Story (Free Registration Required)

Omega-3 and green tea extracts have come out as excellent choices for companies aiming to cash-in on the emerging mood foods section, according to Frost & Sullivan. The mood food sector has risen over the last few years as companies attempt to benefit from food's ability to stimulate neurotransmitters, reported Food Production Daily. Full Story

Haagen-Dazs launched a new flavor, Vanilla Honey Bee, and is also tagging all of its honey bee-dependent flavors with a "HD loves HB" icon. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the new flavor and all HD loves HB tagged flavors will be used to fund a $250,000 donation to UC Davis and Penn State to research honey bees. Full Story

Black pepper could provide a new treatment for the skin disease vitiligo, research in the British Journal of Dermatology suggests. Researchers discovered that piperine, the compound that gives black pepper its spicy, pungent flavor, can stimulate pigmentation in the skin, reported BBC News. Full Story

NEW STORE NEWS: Mikuni Restaurant Group will open a Mikuni Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar in Lone Tree, CO, reported Sacramento Business Journal. Full Story (Free Registration Required) ...

A 50,000-sq. ft. Whole Foods Market will open in Scottsdale, AZ on Feb. 27, reported Full Story

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Starbucks Tests $2.50 Premium Coffee to Boost Sales

Starbucks Corp. is experimenting with a $2.50 cup of coffee that would add a new, premium product to help fight the first drop in U.S. customer visits in its 37- year history.

In its hometown Seattle, Starbucks is testing a 12-ounce (360-milliliter) cup of ``fresh-pressed'' coffee at $2.50 each. The price is $2.25 in a Boston trial. Starbucks charges $1.55 for a regular brew. McDonald's Corp. has been stealing customers with $1.39 coffee and is challenging Starbucks by adding espresso counters.

The new drink, made in a machine that brews each cup individually, may become part of Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz's plan to increase traffic in the 15,000 stores of the world's largest coffee chain. Starbucks is also experimenting with a $1 refillable cup of coffee and slowing its expansion.

"If they can create a better-tasting product and if they can get people to pay more for it, then you'd have the missing ingredient, which is pricing power,'' said Larry Miller, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Atlanta who has a sector perform'' rating on the stock.

At the same time, selling a more expensive drink may be tough as U.S. consumer spending slows, Miller said.

Starbucks has declined 11 percent in Nasdaq Stock Market trading this year after dropping 42 percent in 2007, the worst performance in the company's history. The stock fell 67 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $18.18 at 4:30 p.m. New York time.

Priced Like Lattes

A new brewed coffee would be priced just less than the lattes and cappuccinos that are now among Starbucks' most expensive. A 12-ounce cup of those drinks costs $2.55.

An $11,000 machine known as the Clover generates the new coffee. Inside, a piston rises and creates a vacuum that pulls water through ground coffee, much like a French press. The Clover's maker says it produces a better tasting drink because the grind, water temperature and other parameters can be set for each cup.

"Testing like this is something we do regularly,'' Starbucks spokesman Brandon Borrman said.
Starbucks is also trying out an eight-ounce, $1 cup of regular coffee with free refills in the Seattle area. In addition to McDonald's, Dunkin' Brands Inc. is undercutting Starbucks's $1.55 regular coffee with a 10-ounce cup for $1.39 and a 14-ounce for $1.59.

U.S. customer visits to Starbucks's cafes have declined for two straight quarters. Chairman Schultz, 54, replaced Jim Donald as CEO Jan. 7. He said in a memo last year that the chain had lost sight of the ``romance and theater'' of coffee as it expanded.

Slowing Growth

Since then, Starbucks has said it will open 350 fewer stores than planned through September and stop selling warm breakfast sandwiches, partly because they overwhelmed the aroma of coffee. Schultz also pledged to announce five new initiatives on March 19, declining to give details.

The Clover was designed in 2005 by two Stanford University graduates working from a converted trolley shed in Seattle. Their machine is now used in more than 100 cafes and has gained a cult following among coffee aficionados. The Clover's price compares with $1,000 to $4,000 for standard commercial brewers.

Servers can make cups of Sumatra or Ethiopia Shakisso in 30 to 50 seconds. At one cafe in Seattle, Starbucks offers a choice of six brews, with tasting notes styled after a wine list.

"We have made much progress as we begin to transform and innovate and there is much more to come,'' Schultz said last week in another memo to Starbucks employees. He said he was writing at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday over ``a spectacular cup of Sumatra, brewed my favorite way -- in a French press.''

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Starbucks-dominated category wakes up and smells McD’s espresso rollout

With coffee category growth architect Howard Schultz again chief barista at Starbucks Corp., brand strategists say that company and its espresso-driven challenger McDonald’s both must address evolving taste trends to maintain or capture market share in the lucrative specialty coffee category.

As the burger giant installs bargain-priced espresso bars chainwide and the coffeehouse titan attempts to revive the “Starbucks experience” to forestall defections of recession-wary loyalists, consumers hold the key to brewing consistently strong financial results, marketing pundits observe.
McDonald’s phased rollout of McCafe coffee bars was expected to have surpassed the 1,000-store mark by the start of 2008 on its way to deployment in the chain’s nearly 14,000 U.S. units by next year. Complete with baristas working automated espresso machines, McDonald’s new program will offer caffe lattes, cappuccinos, mochas and an ice-blended drink called Frappe.

McDonald’s, while pricing its espresso-based items at around $1 less than comparable ones at Starbucks, is projecting an additional $1 billion in sales from its new drinks and other beverage additions.

Starbucks, meanwhile, has shaken up management just as the chain has seen a rare same-store downturn in customer traffic, though profits, sales and store counts have continued to soar. Schultz resumed the role of chief executive of the 15,000-unit chain this month, replacing the exiting Jim Donald.

As he did so, Schultz—in language reminiscent of a famously leaked internal memo in which he warned last year that cookie-cutter systems could rob Starbucks of its allure—vowed to restore the “connections our customers have with Starbucks, our coffee, our brand, our people and our stores.”

However, success for both Starbucks and McDonald’s hinges on appealing to a customer who has developed a sophisticated palate for coffee and won’t settle for inferior products, said Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, a New York-based branding consulting firm.
He calls such a patron the “bionic consumer of the 21st century” who possesses a more advanced sense of tastes and higher expectations than did coffee drinkers of previous generations.
“They’re smarter. They’re more sophisticated,” Passikoff said. “They all know what lattes are. TV and Starbucks and everyone else that came after Starbucks have institutionalized these beverages.”

But as Schultz pointed out to analysts and employees, the “Starbucks experience”—the key to the chain’s brand image and sales—has suffered dramatically for a number of reasons. Switching to vacuum-packaged coffee and thus denying customers the store-filling aroma of the beans would be one reason, and growing the chain too quickly would be another.

For the fiscal year ended last Sept. 30, the Starbucks chain added 1,788 new U.S. coffeehouses, up from 1,543 a year earlier and 1,176 the year before that. Meanwhile, domestic Starbucks units saw their same-store sales grow last year only 4 percent, after rising 7 percent in 2006 and 9 percent in 2005.

In Passikoff’s view, slow service and the loss of theatrics are what is eroding brand loyalty for Starbucks.

The chain lost ground in the “service and surroundings” category of the Brand Keys 2007 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, he points out.

“It has nothing to do with the ability to deliver product quality,” Passikoff said. “It’s the consumer mind-set. You’re going to get a great product, but you have to wait, and the theater and entertainment is gone.”

McDonald’s espresso machines are located in the front of the store so that customers can watch the baristas make their drinks, but Passikoff said theatrics will not be a significant factor in driving beverage sales for the chain because “you know what you get at McDonald’s” in terms of ambiance.

However, he expects that some customers who visit McDonald’s for an Egg McMuffin will decide to buy their morning lattes there as well.

Although some industry observers view the situation strictly as a McDonald’s-versus-Starbucks showdown, marketing expert Tim Hackbardt sees McDonald’s espresso initiative as a “genius” strategic move by the chain to gain a larger share of the quick-service breakfast market.

As other chains move to increase their breakfast business, McDonald’s will be a step ahead of them by offering more coffee varieties than they can, said Hackbardt, a former Taco Time and Del Taco marketing executive who founded White Barn Group, a strategic restaurant marketing and ad agency in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

A “large portion” of consumers decides where to eat a quick-service breakfast based on coffee offerings, and if they want variety they’ll have to go to McDonald’s, Hackbardt said.
“At all those other QSRs will you get that coffee experience or variety? The answer is no,” he said.

Hackbardt expects McDonald’s to win over coffee customers from other quick-service chains and even from such chains as Panera Bread, but “passionate” Starbucks customers won’t abandon that chain for McDonald’s, he predicted. The Starbucks customer who’s strapped for time, however, may decide to buy a latte at the Golden Arches.

“They’re laser-focused on speed, and that’s where they win,” he said.

Although such chains as Shoney’s and Denny’s have introduced premium coffee blends, Hackbardt and other marketing experts don’t envision a stampede among restaurants to open coffee bars similar to McDonald’s.

“But it certainly would be worth testing,” Hackbardt said.

McDonald’s McCafe specialty coffees come in small, medium and large sizes, priced from $1.99 to $3.49, said Lisa Frick, the chain’s director of menu development.

In the markets where the specialty coffees have been available, McDonald’s has promoted them with print, radio and TV ads, local-store marketing “and, most importantly, product sampling,” she said.

“The best way we can get people to believe in [the product] is to give them a sample,” she said.
he sampling program has resulted in return visits and purchase intent that are “so high” that McDonald’s is convinced that “this is really what [customers] want,” Frick said.

A TV spot for the coffees opens with shots of various people enjoying the drinks. A voice-over says, “Want to treat yourself to something special?” That’s followed by scenes of more people having fun while holding the new coffees. The final voice-over says, “Now you’re right where you want to be.”

The ads are being revised for the systemwide rollout of the coffee bars, but “our premise will not change,” Frick said.

“We are not comparing ourselves to anybody,” she said. “We are standing on the product we have, which we believe is very high quality.”

McDonald’s did “a lot” of ethnographic research to determine what drives consumer behavior and then developed the coffee products to fit consumer tastes, said Patrick Roney, its director of U.S. consumer and business insights.

“Coffee is such an emotional product,” he said. “We’ve been tracking reaction to taste as we continue to roll this out. Ultimately where it gets us to is optimizing the product.”
Roney said McDonald’s is a “much more approachable brand” for consumers who are not “experts” on coffee varieties.

That positions McDonald’s to target customers new to the gourmet-coffee scene, said branding expert Rob Frankel.

“Will they steal customers from Starbucks? No,” he said. “But who will they get? All the people who want better coffee and are willing to pay for it but don’t yet patronize Starbucks.”
Starbucks’ Schultz told analysts earlier this month that the chain “built the equity of our brand through the Starbucks experience,” but Frankel, who says he has iconoclastic views about branding, disagrees that Starbucks is even a brand.

“Starbucks has never had a brand or a brand strategy,” he said. “Starbucks has an identity. If they had a brand, people, including Howard Schultz, would be able to articulate it. Because they can’t articulate that, they leave themselves vulnerable to other competitors.”

Advertising raises a brand’s awareness, he said, but Starbucks has never made people understand why it is “the only solution” to their coffee needs. That’s what branding does, Frankel said.

“People are not able to explain why they should be loyal to [Starbucks] in a consistent manner,” he said.

During the holidays Starbucks broke its first national TV campaign, which ad critics generally praised. But the chain has to be careful that future campaigns stay true to the Starbucks image, said White Barn Group’s Hackbardt.

New campaigns can harm the brand, “depending on the creative,” he said.
“It’s more critical for this brand than any other,” Hackbardt said. “It’s got to work with the consumer. It’s got to be very unique, very different than you’d normally see.”

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Specialty Food News

U.S. consumers are expected to spend more than $323 million on chocolate candy over Valentine's Day week, according to The Nielsen Company. Valentine's week ranks number one for chocolate candy sales, and places third for all candy sales with consumers expected to purchase more than $414 million. Full Story

Although Harry and David experienced sales volume decreases, the company held its own last quarter despite dealing with rising material costs for fuel, chocolate, corrugated products, paper and postage. The company also reported paying $22.5 million last month for specialty food company Wolferman's, reported the Mail Tribune. Full Story

Fraud in organic farming may become an increasing concern as the segment experiences rapid year-on-year growth, leading scientists to develop ways to test whether synthetic fertilizers were used. Scientists successfully use nitrogen isotopic discrimination to determine if non-organic synthetic fertilizers were used on sweet pepper plants, according to a new report, reported Food Navigator. Full Story

For Immediate Release: News from the Specialty Food Trade

A Good Housekeeping magazine Test Kitchen panel has chosen Lake Champlain Chocolate's Old World Drinking Chocolate as the winner in a hot chocolate taste test. Full ReleaseProduct Image

The chicken sandwich is the fastest growing food offering at American eateries and is now appearing on more menus than ever before, according to The NPD Group, Inc. and Datassential. The reasons behind the chicken sandwich's popularity are consumer demand for healthier food, as well as a major effort by restaurant operators to improve their tried-and-true poultry offerings by adding everything from chipotle sauce to asiago cheese to ciabatta bread. Full Story

P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Inc. rolled out a new Chinese Grill Menu and new Mini Desserts nationally. The Grill Menu features several new dishes including a Grilled Sichuan Chicken Flatbread, Citrus Soy Wild Salmon and an Asian Marinated New York Strip Steak. The eight Mini Desserts include a mini of its signature Great Wall of Chocolate. Full Story

Panera Bread reached an agreement with Flapan, LLC to develop bakery-cafes in Florida's Palm Beach and Broward counties. Flapan will open 10 new bakery-cafes. Separately, Flapan agreed to acquire 16 existing Panera Bread locations in Palm Beach and Broward counties from franchisee West Palm Bread, LLC. Full Story

Kellogg Company's net sales from innovation almost doubled since its W.K. Kellogg Institute for Food and Nutrition Research opened in 1997, while the company's investment in research and development increased significantly from $106.4 million in 2002 to $179.3 million in 2007. Some of the new products that have hit store shelves recently focus on health and convenience, including Special K Cinnamon Pecan cereal, Special K Bliss bars, Pop-Tarts Toaster Pastries with One Serving of Whole Grain, Eggo Mini Muffin Tops, Townhouse Flipsides pretzel crackers, and Morningstar Farms Asian Veggie Patties Full Story

Wal-Mart is now selling alcohol at its general merchandise stores in Missouri. Experts believe the move is designed to drive up foot traffic and draw more customers away from grocery stores as the retail market slumps, reported Full Story

A diet rich in berries may boost levels of good cholesterol and improve blood pressure, signifying its potential benefits for heart health, according to a new study from Finland, reported Full Story USDA raised its price projections for most cereals and grains for 2007/08 this month, including wheat, corn, barley, sorghum and soybeans.

USDA World Supply & Demand Estimates
Castle Brands Inc. and Autentica Tequilera will develop and launch a new brand of super-premium tequila called Tequila Tierras Autenticas de Jalisco, or Tierras. Castle Brands will be the exclusive importer and marketer of Tierras in the U.S. Full Story

Supplements of vitamin A and zinc may protect children from malaria, according to report in the Nutrition Journal, reported Full Story

In an effort to lower prices on private-label products retailers are asking manufacturers to reduce the quality of the ingredients, which could threaten the positive impression consumers have about house brands, according to John Paul, vice president, sales and merchandising, for Nash Finch, reported Supermarket News. Full Story

Diageo PLC is pulling out of the auction for Vin & Sprit A.B., making Fortune Brands Inc.'s push to buy the company easier. Fortune maybe able to get a more reasonable price for Vin & Spirit, the maker of Absolut, noted an analyst, reported Crain's Chicago Business. Full Story (Free Registration Required)

Marks & Spencer will open its first stand-alone sandwich shop, M&S To Go, this spring in West London. The store will feature a range of pre-packed sandwiches, fresh baguettes and a limited range of hot foods, including soups and porridge, reported This Is Money. Full Story

NEW STORE NEWS: Sheetz, Inc. opened a new location in Waynesboro, VA. Full Story ... Genki Sushi Hawaii plans to open its second Maui location later this year, reported Pacific Business News. Full Story (Free Registration Required)

85 Percent of Consumers Eat Desserts at Least Once a Month

New research from foodservice found that virtually everyone enjoys dessert from time to time. In a survey of 1,500 consumers, the vast majority (85 percent) said they eat dessert once a month or more, with zero respondents indicating that they “never” eat dessert. And more than half of consumers (57 percent) report eating dessert “very frequently” or “often” (at least once a week).

“Clearly, consumers love dessert,” says Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic Information Services. “We see the overwhelming appeal of desserts as a great way for restaurants to boost incremental sales.”

Admitting that it can be challenging to persuade consumers to order dessert once they’re full from their meal, Tristano noted that the new research points out numerous ways to appeal to their sweet tooth. Both full- and limited-service restaurant operators, as well as their suppliers, can drive dessert sales by concentrating on these and other key consumer trends:

Even though traditional desserts such as chocolate-chip cookies, a dish of vanilla ice cream or a slice of apple pie are most favored, the definition of dessert is changing. More consumers, for example, now view yogurt parfaits, fruit plates, or cheese samplers as appealing desserts.
Dessert toppings are growing in popularity, and not just for ice cream sundaes. Many consumers indicate that they like toppings on cakes, pies and cookies.

Consumers like to share desserts. In fact, some won’t order dessert unless someone else in their party also plans to. This behavior varies by gender and ethnic group, with women, Asians and Hispanics more likely to pass on dessert unless they can either share it or know that they aren’t the only one ordering a dessert.

When purchasing desserts at limited-service establishments, consumers look for portability and reasonably-priced options. At full-service restaurants, however, high overall quality is the most important attribute.

These and countless other findings are presented and interpreted in the new Dessert Consumer Trend Report, which was developed to give restaurant operators and foodservice suppliers vital market and consumer insights to drive business-building efforts in the dessert category. It includes over 300 pages of detailed reporting on dessert menus, prices and ingredients, in addition to in-depth consumer research aimed at consumption behaviors, attitudes and behaviors that impact the dessert decision, dessert occasions, brand preferences, and improvement areas.

Monday, February 04, 2008


The organic food market has been impacted by the same forces that have driven grocery prices up sharply over the past year, namely a growing demand for food in China and a global biofuels boom. Meanwhile, U.S. farmers have not kept pace with demand for organic food, sales of which shot up 21% in 2006, and that has also sent prices soaring, reported The Associated Press. Full Story

Exclusive store brands could become even more popular among consumers this year as higher food prices and a sluggish economy have shoppers looking for ways to lower grocery bills, reported The Charlotte Observer. Over the past five years, store brands have consistently made up about 16% of supermarket sales, according to the Private Label Manufacturers Association. Full Story (Free Registration Required) •

Press Release Ciao Bella Gelato partnered with Nippon Coffee Trading Co., Ltd. to roll out its products in Japan. The company's pint and mini-cup line can now be found in the Seijo Ishii and National Azabu supermarket chains in the country. Full Story

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is refining plans it submitted to launch smaller grocery markets in four cities southeast of Phoenix, according to planning officials in Arizona, reported The Los Angles Times. It is not known when Wal-Mart will open the stores in the suburban communities of Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa and Tempe. Full Story (Free Registration Required)

For Immediate Release: News from the Specialty Food Trade

Guayaki Sustainable Rainforest Products, Sebastopol, Calif., launches Gaucho's Fuerte Mate Blend, the first espresso yerba mate designed for preparation in a coffee maker. Full Release

Barry Callebaut AG is planning to open a Chocolate Academy in Chicago, where pastry chefs, bakers and other culinary professionals can take classes on working with chocolate. It will be the tenth academy worldwide and the first in the U.S., which is expected to open by June, reported Crain's Chicago Business. Full Story (Free Registration Required)

The grape growers of Suisun Valley, CA, are determined to grow the region's identity, increase the number of wineries located there and produce higher-value wines. Because the area is not as well known as Napa and Sonoma, its grapes get lower prices, reported East Bay Business Times. Full Story (Free Registration Required)

The Penn Traffic Co. is closing five underperforming supermarkets in New York and Pennsylvania as it continues trying to improve its financial position. The New York stores include P&C supermarkets in Plattsburgh and Horseheads and the Pennsylvania stores include three BiLo supermarkets in Erie, Somerset, and Altoona, reported The Associated Press. Full Story

The realignment of Alimentation Couche-Tard's U.S. business units will allow it to expand the number of stores in each region to 400-500 units as well as maintain its decentralized business model, according to Convenience Store News. Full Story

An independent grocery chain known for exclusive items, Hiller's Markets, is adding two stores. The new stores should add about $60 million in annual revenue to the $180 million the chain rings up in sales. Each store carries more than 5,000 items, including many that are gluten-free, free of peanut oil or organic, according to Detroit Free Press. Full Story

Amish Naturals, Inc.'s organic pasta line will be available at Kings Super Markets Inc. by March 2008. Full Story

A class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of purchasers of the common stock of Panera Bread Co. between Nov. 1, 2005 and July 26, 2006, according to Brower Piven, A Professional Corporation. The complaint alleges that during that time, Panera violated federal securities laws by issuing various materially false and misleading statements that had the effect of artificially inflating the market price of the company's securities. Full Story

A growing appreciation for hops' natural antimicrobial benefits led to an expansion of its use in products such as processed sugar, animal feed and tea, according to the Agricultural Research Service. Full Story

Yogurts containing "friendly bacteria" are being used as part of a trial to cut the risk of patients developing superbugs at a UK hospital, reported BBC News. Full Story

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Gluten-Free Gourmet

More consumers are battling food allergies and looking for restaurants to cater to them.

Italian pizzas and pastas, Chinese noodles, American beers, and burgers—going out to eat can be a gluttony of gluten. That means for the more than two million Americans who are intolerant to gluten (the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye), dining out is difficult.

Not anymore.

Thanks to some accommodating and flexible menu making, customers and owners alike are finding it’s easy to be gluten-free.

It’s a good thing, too, because gluten-intolerance and food allergies aren’t going away. In fact, their incidence rates have been on the rise for the last decade. Celiac disease, the most severe form of gluten intolerance, is a genetic autoimmune disorder that affects about 1 percent of Americans, a majority of who are not diagnosed.

But many celiac sufferers and allergic Americans won’t be kept from dining at their favorite restaurant, even if that establishment specializes in the very thing that makes them sick.
“There are some people who are allergic to garlic and want Italian food,” says Jason Parker, chef at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Nashville, Tennessee.

So what’s a restaurant owner to do?

It turns out that catering to this crowd is not a difficult undertaking and could be a mutually beneficial endeavor.

“It’s not a hassle at all,” says Michael Sullivan, proprietor of Outback Steakhouse in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. “It just means a couple extra pieces of equipment, some separate stuff on the line, like tongs for salad.”

Outback features a separate gluten-free menu, which was
developed a few years ago with the help of the Gluten Intolerance Group.
“It was very easy to alter our existing menu,” Sullivan says. “For example, we make the fresh steamed vegetables gluten-free by steaming them without butter.”

At the Nashville Maggiano’s, the staff takes a pro-active approach: while taking orders, servers ask the table if any allergies exist. If any do, a chef comes to the table to talk the party through the menu.

“We can create whatever they want, minus the allergen,” Parker says. “These dishes are not handed to the expo—they are specifically handled by the chef.”

“Several people are regulars because of the way we treat the allergies,” he adds. “They get what they want, and we get a customer who comes back.”

Friday, February 01, 2008

Coffee linked to lower ovarian cancer risk

Drinking three or more cups of coffee per day may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by over 20 per cent, according to a new study.

The benefits of coffee consumption appeared to be related to the caffeine content of the beverages, with no benefits observed from decaffeinated coffee, stated the researchers in the journal Cancer.

Shelley Tworoger and co-workers from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health also state that the benefits were more pronounced for postmenopausal women and their younger counterparts who had never used oral contraceptives.

"The possibility that caffeine may reduce ovarian cancer risk, particularly for women who have not previously used exogenous hormones, is intriguing and warrants further study, including an evaluation of possible biologic mechanisms," wrote Tworoger.

Of all the cancers of the female reproductive system, ovarian cancer has the highest mortality.

In the UK, ovarian cancer causes more than 4,000 deaths per year, according to Cancer Research UK. While in 2003 in the US, a total of 14,657 women died from ovarian cancer, said the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA).

According to OCNA figures, one in 69 women will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime and another one in 95 women will die from the disease.

Tworoger and co-workers used data from the 121,701 US female registered nurses participating in the Nurses' Health Study. The women completed questionnaires at the start of the study (1976) when they were aged between 30 and 35, and completed follow-up questionnaires at bi-annual intervals thereafter.

A 'modest' 20 per cent risk reduction in ovarian cancer was reported among all the women for caffeine intake greater than 500 milligrams per day, compared to women with a daily intake of less than 136 milligrams.When the analysis was limited to women who had never used either oral contraceptives, the highest daily intake of caffeine was associated with a 35 per cent risk reduction, compared to women with the lowest daily intakes.

Moreover, the highest daily intake of caffeine was linked to a 43 per cent reduction in the risk of the cancer among postmenopausal women, stated Tworoger.

No associations were reported for current or past smoking habits, or alcohol consumption and ovarian cancer risk, added the researchers.

"With regard to caffeine and caffeine-containing beverages, we generally observed a lower risk of ovarian cancer with increasing intake. However, these results should be interpreted with caution," stated Tworoger and co-workers.

They go on to note that no benefits were observed with respect to tea consumption were observed when they used early data, while some benefits were observed at a later stage.

"This latter difference may be in part because tea could have different effects early versus late in the carcinogenic process," they added.

Furthermore, Tworoger and co-workers note that previous studies have reported an increase in oestrogen concentrations and shorter menstrual cycles in pre-menopausal women with increased tea consumption.

"Conversely, in postmenopausal women, caffeine intake may be associated with higher sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and lower free oestrogen concentrations; this mechanism may act through an effect on the hepatic production of SHBG.

"This potential interaction should be examined further in studies with larger numbers of pre-menopausal women," they added.