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Back to Nature launches new all-natural granola

BY Jason Owen

NAPLES, Fla. — Back to Nature Foods Co. announced today that it has launched a new all-natural sunflower and pumpkin seed variety of Back to Nature Granola.

Made with crunchy clusters of whole grain oats, the new variety packs 25 g of whole grain and 6 g of protein per serving. Like all Back to Nature products, it has no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors. The new product variety complements an existing line of granolas featuring ingredients like blueberries, cherries, almonds, pecans, honey and chocolate.

"We are excited to add another highly nutritious granola to our product offering. Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds provide significant amounts of key vitamins and minerals like vitamin E, magnesium and zinc. They supply diverse antioxidant benefits that are not widely found in food," said Vincent Fantegrossi, president and CEO of Back to Nature Foods C. "Most importantly, they are simple ingredients found in nature, and it’s a great-tasting granola."

Back to Nature sunflower and pumpkin seed granola will be available in a 12-oz. resealable pouch at traditional grocers and all-natural and organic specialty food stores.

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Little Debbie cakes maker bids on Hostess brand

BY Jason Owen

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — McKee Foods, makers of Little Debbie snack cakes, is offering $25 to $30 million for Hostess Brands’ Drake’s brand, according to published reports. Hostess filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2012.

The Tennessee maker of Little Debbie snack cakes is poised to be the lead bidder at an auction for the assets of the bankrupt company, composed mostly of intellectual property and some equipment, according to the reports. Drake’s Wayne, N.J., plant — the only kosher bakery plant in the U.S., a Hostess investment banker has said in court — isn’t included in the deal.

Drake brands is the maker of such treats as Devil Dogs, Ring Dings and Yodels.

Hostess is aiming to file the agreement with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y., on Monday. The deal requires a judge’s approval to be put into action, and the offer will be subject to higher bids at auction.

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Cracker Barrel plans expansion into groceries with branded food products

BY Rebecca Haughey

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is embarking on its third attempt to branch out from its chain of  Southern comfort food restaurants by expanding a lineup of branded food products to be offered at grocers and outside retail outlets.

"Our research shows that our guests would like to be able to purchase Cracker Barrel products in places other than just our restaurants and retail stores, and we believe that there is opportunity here to meet that desire," the company stated.

Cracker Barrel currently sells food products, including pancake and corn muffin mixes, under its name, but the items are available only at Cracker Barrel store and through its website. Under a new multiyear licensing agreement with John Morrell Food Group, a Smithfield Foods subsidiary, such products as ham, lunch meats and summer sausage will be available under the Cracker Barrel name and sold in grocers, mass merchandisers and other retail outlets — a first for the company.

The company has not announced when products will hit store shelves or how much revenue they expect the strategy to generate, although the company has stated that boosting the bottom line is not the initiative’s primary goal. The expansion is part of a plan adopted by the company in 2012 under pressure from its largest shareholder to improve its financial performance.

"The Cracker Barrel brand can reach more consumers through supermarkets, which most American households must frequent, whereas not all of them will enter a Cracker Barrel store in the coming year," Sardar Biglari, who holds a 19.99% stake in Cracker Barrel, wrote in a 2011 letter to the company.

In a 2011 U.S. consumer study by Mintel, more than 3-out-of-4 respondents said they had bought restaurant-branded items. Families with household incomes of $75,000 or more were among the most frequent buyers.

As reported in The Tennesseean, this is Cracker Barrel’s third attempt at expanding its business, following two failed ventures in the 1990s: a takeout business at several Cracker Barrel Corner Market locations throughout Tennessee, and a retail-only store called The Store in a Nashville-area mall.

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