Specialty Food Magazine

SUMMER 2015

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Creamery). In May, the facility gained a new tenant, local micro- brewery Zero Gravity, whose presence is bringing the education center both a new demographic and an opportunity to add compel- ling programs, Coffey says. In the heart of Northern California's wine country, Point Reyes has benefited from the wine tourism. Partnering with local operations such as Cakebread Cellars, Williamson Wines, Medlock Ames, and others, Point Reyes receives their guests and serves their wine with cheese pairings and meals. "We want The Fork to be known as a venue that highlights the bounty of our local foodshed and everything that's coming out of this region," Basch says. The Bigger Picture Beyond supporting one's own business and even the local commu- nity, the effects of building awareness and support for quality food are far-reaching. Basch says Point Reyes aims to build on consumer enthusiasm for the local movement. "People think that their support of local farming [ends] by visiting their weekend farmers market, but we're trying to get them to really know their farmer," she explains. At Vermont Creamery, having a broader impact is a firm goal. "If we do our job on Ayers Brook, there will be the next farm and the next farm because we'll have demonstrated not just the best practices but we're actually providing a rebirth of an industry that wasn't here," Reese says. An even larger goal underlies many of these regional efforts: to educate the industry and the general population about sustainable foods. Blue Hill Farm and the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Westchester County, New York, are seen as leaders in this movement. David Barber, president and co-owner of Blue Hill Farm (with his chef brother, Dan Barber), aspires for the Stone Barns Center, of which he is a founding partner, to play a signifi- cant role in shaping future American food policy. Demonstration farms and sustainably prepared meals are key tenets of Blue Hill's approach. "Anything that demonstrates those connections—that let people touch and feel and want to protect what they have," he says, "all of that counts." more hands-on activities, from chocolate-bar making to sip-and- sculpt nights. "We're finally able to get our customers to roll up their sleeves and to learn how to make chocolate," says Gary Coffey, director of retail at Lake Champlain Chocolates and South End Kitchen. The new facility houses not only an education center but also a cafe and production facility for the company's bean-to-bar brand, Blue Bandana, all showcasing a commitment to local, fresh, high-quality ingredients. "It's a deeper customer experience," Coffey adds. At Point Reyes' The Fork, a consumer experience was a natu- ral progression in the Giacomini family's minds. The public-facing programs, from farm tours to dining events, quickly took off. "Our monthly farm dinners sell out in about 15 minutes," says Basch. Much like for industry buyers, they found experiential programs for consumers could help foster a deeper connection to the company and its philosophy. Adding these events, Basch explains, "helped to create brand loyalty because it's delivering an experience, so it's not just about the product." While professional education was a cornerstone for Counter Culture Coffee, a consumer focus began just two years ago as inter- est bubbled up in the midst of the third-wave coffee movement. The business embraced the idea, seeing it as an extension of its goals to ensure the product is enjoyed at peak quality. "Having a way to help [consumers] get the most out of that coffee is important," Kahn says. Supporting the Community An education center can not only turn a company's home base into an appealing destination, but it can benefit the surrounding com- munity as well. In specialty foods, it is natural for a company to want to showcase the bounty of the area, which means an opportunity to engage and support other businesses. Dining events are a natural vehicle for that connection. Lake Champlain Chocolates regularly features local chefs and farmers at South End Kitchen, touting its own use of local ingredients, such as honey, maple syrup, and dairy products (with butter from Vermont An even larger goal underlies many of these regional eforts: to educate the industry and the general population about sustainable foods. Eva Meszaros is managing editor of Specialty Food Magazine. (continued from p. 76) PHOTO: VERMONT CREAMERY SUMMER 2015 197

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