Category: Cheese & Dairy Products

Back to School: All Year Long!

Cherney

As a new school year starts in many parts of the country, we’re more than likely overdue for those “Back to School” banners to be taken down in the big box stores and be replaced with an onslaught of Halloween products and advertisements.   It was a good two months of active marketing, but now it’s time to move on, right?   Truthfully, “back to school” is a mindset that doesn’t know a season and doesn’t get pushed aside for fun-size candy bars (as wonderful as they may be).

“Back to school” could be seen as a life-long mantra of continuing education and professional development.   In the food industry, if it weren’t for continuing education and training, we would never be able to keep up with consumer, regulatory, food safety and quality demands.  That’s why Nelson-Jameson is continuing to work with Cherney College, part of Cherney Microbiological Services, to offer an array of courses targeted at food industry professionals.   Cherney College offers courses year-round, addressing topics from basic food safety all the way to advanced food microbiology and FSMA Preventive Controls.

Courses are held in Green Bay, WI; however, some courses and training sessions can actually be held right on site, at your facility, to save time and travel expenses for groups.

Thanks to our partnership, Nelson-Jameson customers get an exclusive 5% discount on all course offerings!   Use promo code “Nelson-Jameson” when signing up for any of the courses featured at “cherneymicro.com.”


Cheese Heists, Wing Rings and Nut Jobs: Global Crime Rings Are Stealing Food

Food Burglar

Credit: holykaw.alltop.com

Large-scale food theft is the plat du jour on criminal menus as of late. In fact, food and beverages have replaced electronics as the most-stolen good in the United States, with an estimated $21 million worth of food and beverages stolen in 2015. Products range from alcohol, meat ($41,000 in chicken wings by a father and son team in New York), and dairy (especially cheese and ice cream) to produce, nuts and seeds.  Thieves find edibles appetizing targets because the value is high and the risk is relatively low—many perishables don’t have serial numbers and can’t be tagged or traced.

Who Moved My Cheese

Cheese is currently the most stolen food item in the world. In the last 3 years, almost $425,000 worth of cheese has been stolen in Wisconsin alone—including $90,000 in Marshfield near Nelson-Jameson’s headquarters and $46,000 worth just a month ago near Milwaukee. Any way you slice it, that’s a whole lot of cheddar. Gouda thing for the dairy industry, it’s not that easy to get away with stealing lotza mozza. Cheese is a highly-regulated food, with documentation implemented at various stages of production and distribution—from paperwork to truck seals. Thus, most of the recent queso the stolen cheeses have been solved.

Going Nuts

Some of the most sophisticated and frequent shell games involve the nut industry in California, with almonds, walnuts and pistachios targeted most often. And the thieves are clearly on a (nut) roll: in the past 9 months, more than $10 million worth of product has been stolen from the California supply chain, which is about $3 million more than the amount stolen in the last 4 years.  It is believed that most of the stolen nuts are being sold for export, as they have a long shelf-life, are relatively untraceable and have increased in global value and popularity. Fortunately, the nut industry is doing their best to crack the case. Since most of the thefts take place during the logistics process, extra safety and security measures have been implemented that include radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and fingerprinting and photographing truck drivers. Police task forces have also been recently increased.

An Issue of Both Economics and Public Health

While we often laugh when we hear that someone’s stolen 600 barrels of maple syrup, don’t let the puns and humor detract from the economic damage the stolen food black market inflicts. It negatively impacts growers, agricultural laborers, processors, logistic companies, distributors, retailers and insurers. Eventually, the loss of income is passed onto the consumer through food shortages and raised prices. Food safety is also an issue. Like the California man that was caught selling unrefrigerated, stolen orange juice out of his garage, most thieves don’t care about proper handling and storage of the product. Clearly, the risk of foodborne illness combined with far-reaching monetary losses make food crime a seriously unpalatable concern that needs to be addressed with some importance. For more information on the FDA’s cargo theft policies and notices, please see http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/CriminalInvestigations/ucm182888.htm .


The Big C(heese)

Nisin-treated biofilm Source: Dr. Yvonne Kapila

Nisin-treated biofilm
Source: Dr. Yvonne Kapila

Is cheese the answer to a longer life? Well, it appears that it just might brie, er, be.  Recent research from the University of Michigan has revealed that nisin, a naturally-occurring food preservative that commonly grows in cheese and other dairy products, kills both cancer cells and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA.

Now, before you start “working on your night cheese” à la Liz Lemon, you should know that this was a small-scale study conducted on mice dosed with large, concentrated amounts of nisin—a “nisin milkshake”, to be exact. If humans were fed the same “milkshake” it would contain nisin amounts 20 times what’s typically found in a serving of cheese. Still, the results are promising—70-80% of the rodents’ cancerous head and neck tumor cells died after nine weeks, considerably extending the animals’ survival.

Although less is understood about Nisin’s lethal relationship with cancer, past research has determined that its role as a superbug assassin is two-fold. First, it quickly binds to bacteria, allowing it to work before the bacteria have an opportunity to develop potentially antibiotic-resistant properties. Next, nisin also kills bacterial “biofilms”, which are colonies of bacteria that join together to thwart antibiotics. As researcher Dr. Yvonne Kapila highlighted in her study findings, no one has yet discovered a bacterium in humans or animals that is resistant to nisin, making it stand the test of time as a treatment.  “Mother Nature has done a lot of the research for us; it’s been tested for thousands of years,” said Kapila.

More research is needed to determine exactly if and how nisin can best be used in human medical applications to fight disease, but the research done so far on the biomedical use of nisin is promising. Regardless, this is the kind of gouda news that makes just about everyone feel a whole lot cheddar.

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Back to Cow-llege

cheesecertificateSix years ago, I had the honor of going back to school. Before you start envisioning a Rodney Dangerfield ‘80’s movie, I can assure you that it wasn’t that kind of school. Yes, it took place at the renowned party academic institution of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but this was cheese school. The Wisconsin Cheese Tech Short Course, to be exact. I had just joined Nelson-Jameson, Inc. after working in the retail and merchandising industry for a decade, and I needed to learn about the core business of my new employer. So, like many of my colleagues before me, I was sent to Madison for a week of immersive classes provided by the UW’s Center for Dairy Research, one of the world’s premier dairy research institutions with which Nelson-Jameson has always held a close relationship.

Taught over the course of a week, the Cheese Tech Short Course covers cheese making production principles and technology and includes an optional cheese making lab that offers hands-on experience in cheese production. When the CDR describes the course as “intensive”, they aren’t kidding. I used every bit of my high school and college knowledge of chemistry, biology and algebra to comprehend the over two dozen lectures that included topics such as “Secondary Microflora”, “Pasteurization” and “Starter Cultures”. Even seemingly easy-sounding subjects (“Shredding and Slicing”, I’m looking at you), proved to be much more complicated than one would think. I took comfort in the fact that I wasn’t the only novice in our class whose previous experience with cheese mostly revolved around consumption. My classmates ranged from Marketing Directors for Fortune 500 food companies to novice Cheesemakers to QA Managers at local dairies to R&D Executives from foreign countries. To someone new to the food processing world, the diversity of our group clearly demonstrated the importance of the cheese and dairy category in the global food industry and solidified my choice to join a company that contributed so greatly to what was clearly a dynamic and important part of the food production world.

It was a fascinating week that I’ve never forgotten, and the information that I learned served me well in my early days in sales. Now, as a marketer, it’s provided an intellectual foundation for my creative process in communication and promotions. And, as I grow with Nelson-Jameson, the knowledge taken from the Wisconsin Cheese Tech Short Course will surely supplement any role that I may undertake. Turns out that not only does the cheese stand alone, it also stands out.

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Happy Planuary

Source: American Institute for Cancer Research

Source: American Institute for Cancer Research

Although January isn’t the beginning of our fiscal year, it’s still a month of forecasts, resolutions, predictions and plans. Lots of plans. Basically, it’s Planuary. The strategic mapping of the future can seem tedious to some, but as trend-watchers, it’s one of our favorite months of the year. Planuary’s the time when industry media, food experts and food processors cast their predictions for what food and beverages will be hot in food service and food retail. So, what will we be eating and drinking in 2016?

Building Blocks
Two of the cornerstone components of balanced nutrition will be in the spotlight this year: fat and protein. The consumer view on fat has come “full-circle”, according to one industry expert. Fat is no longer looked at as necessarily unhealthy, as consumers look towards cleaner labels, more natural ingredients, increased satiety and maintaining balanced diets. Nuts, seeds, avocados and plant-based oils are increasingly popular, as are full-fat dairy products. In fact, butter sales over the last couple of years have been the highest in decades. Rendered chicken fat, beef tallow and pork fat are also gaining traction. Basically, fat is back in all its glory, and our taste buds couldn’t be happier.

Protein, a hot trend over the past decade or so, shows no sign of slowing down. Plant-based protein will be especially big in 2016, with oat-, pea- and soy- proteins all gaining market favor. Nuts, seeds and grains will also be big. The Middle Eastern staple Freekah and the ancient grain Amaranth are vying to be the new quinoa. Mushrooms, an often overlooked source of protein, are set to have a big year as well—domestic production and value are currently at an all-time high. Look for our favorite fungi to be blended into both meat- and plant-based dishes and products with more frequency. Looks like 2016 will be protein-packed and health-focused!

Playing Cooking with Fire
Grillmasters rejoice—this is your year. “Charred”, “burnt”, “grilled” and “fire-roasted” will popping up on menus and in stores across the US. Cocktails, entrees and desserts are all getting their smoke on, as consumers gravitate toward more unique and stronger flavors. Look for this fire-fad to develop into a full-on trend, as it can be applied to almost any food or beverage in various ways.

Take Your Pulse(s)
No, not that pulse. In culinary terms, pulses are lentils, dry beans, beans, and chickpeas. The United Nations is so certain that pulses will soon peak in popularity that it has dubbed 2016 the “International Year of Pulses”. Pulses already make up 75 percent of the average diet in developing countries, but only 25 percent in developed countries. The UN is hoping to change that with increased awareness, as pulses pack almost as much protein as meat per ounce, use less water to produce than meat and are relatively inexpensive. So, it’s a nutritional, sustainability and economic win-win-win.

Pop Pop Fizz Fizz
Bubbly beverages and tangy drinks are predicted to be quite “pop”-ular in 2016. Fermented beverages containing probiotics like kefir and kombucha are carving permanent space on grocery shelves, and hard sodas and ciders are increasing in popularity with the millennial generation. Drinking vinegars are even gaining a strong following. Sounds like sour pusses and puckered pouts will be a frequent expression for many consumers this year.

All of these macro- and micro- trends boil down to three main drivers: flavor, adventure and health. We’ll be watching these and other trends closely over the next year so that we can better anticipate the needs of our customers. Nelson-Jameson’s looking forward to a successful and productive 2016!

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