Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey Producers Toast More Strong Sales

Producers of Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey are toasting another year of strong sales and revenue growth. Leading the way is growing demand for high-priced, super-premium brands.

The Distilled Spirits Council said Tuesday that combined U.S. revenues for bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye whiskey shot up 7.8% to $2.9 billion in 2015. Domestic volume rose 5.2%.

The council’s annual report says bourbon and Tennessee whiskey revenues and volumes outpaced the overall distilled spirits sector.

Meanwhile, it says bourbon and Tennessee whiskey exports topped $1 billion for the third straight year, despite challenges caused by a strong dollar. A strong dollar makes U.S. goods less competitive. (AP)

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What’s Your Ice Cream Flavor?

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It could become the new pickup line – what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Last week, NBC Nightly News aired a segment, no less on National Ice Cream Day, about a new unscientific survey Baskin Robbins conducted on ice cream and personality types. A few days later it got picked up by ABC on its ‘The Lookout’ consumer show.

I totally forgot about it until I saw the survey a second time; I wanted to pass this information along, just because it’s fun and lively and a conversation starter.

Baskin Robbins partnered with Dr. Alan Hirsch for its published survey. In case you didn’t know, Hirsch is the founder of Smell &Taste Treatment Research Foundation.

So let’s get to it –

First up – vanilla. If this is your favorite flavor you are more likely to be impulsive, easily suggestible and an idealist. I love vanilla. And I had no idea that this boring flavor could be such a delicious personality trait! Watch out world!

Chocolate – who doesn’t love chocolate?! I had a torrid affair with the flavor when I was younger, and now I’m paying for that affair with migraines…..If you love this flavor you are lively, charming, seductive, gullible and dramatic.

Very Berry Strawberry – you are an introvert, tolerant and devoted. Oh la la!

Mint Chocolate Chip – another fav of mine – is popular among frugal, cautious and argumentative personality types.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – seriously, this is torture for my head! – You are a visionary, competitive and ambitious. Wonder if Steve Jobs ate this?!

Pralines n’ Cream – I’m more surprised this one was even on the list but it’s a good thing since those people are loving and supportive and shun attention.

Coffee – mmmmmm – a moral perfectionist, conscientious and scrupulous. Wonder if that changes for actual coffee drinkers? Starbucks may want to pay attention.

Chocolate chip – we really love our chocolate America! – you’re generous, competent and a go-getter.

Rainbow Sherbet – this one seemed odd to me – you’re more likely to be decisive, pessimistic and analytic. This ice cream just conjures up hippies to me, so I have a hard time understanding the traits. Plus, how can you be decisive with all those flavors just in that *one dessert? Or maybe you just want them all! This flavor just seems more ‘loose’ to me.

Lastly, there’s Rocky Road. If this is your favorite, you are a good listener, engaging and aggressive.

Do you agree with these findings? Does your favorite flavor stack up with the mentioned personality traits? I want to know what you think!

To look at the survey, go to http://news.baskinrobbins.com/Press-Releases/BASKIN-ROBBINS-REVEALS-WHAT-YOUR-FAVORITE-ICE-CREAM-FLAVOR-SAYS-ABOUT-YOU-43a.aspx

Hostess: Twinkies to Return to Shelves July 15

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Hostess is betting on a sweet comeback for Twinkies when they return to shelves next month.

The company that went bankrupt after an acrimonious fight with its unionized workers last year is back up and running under new owners and a leaner structure. It says it plans to have Twinkies and other snack cakes back on shelves starting July 15.

Based on the outpouring of nostalgia sparked by its demise, Hostess is expecting a blockbuster return next month for Twinkies and other sugary treats, such as CupCakes and Donettes. The company says the cakes will taste the same but that the boxes will now bear the tag line “The Sweetest Comeback In The History Of Ever.”

“A lot of impostor products have come to the market while Hostess has been off the shelves,” says Daren Metropoulos, a principal of the investment firm Metropoulos & Co., which teamed up with Apollo Global Management to buy a variety of Hostess snacks.

Hostess Brands Inc. was struggling for years before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in early 2012. Workers blamed the troubles on years of mismanagement, as well as a failure of executives to invest in brands to keep up with changing tastes. The company said it was weighed down by higher pension and medical costs than its competitors, whose employees weren’t unionized.

To steer it through its bankruptcy reorganization, Hostess hired restructuring expert Greg Rayburn as its CEO. But Rayburn ultimately failed to reach a contract agreement with its second largest union. In November, he blamed striking workers for crippling the company’s ability to maintain normal production and announced that Hostess would liquidate.

The shuttering triggered a rush on Hostess snack cakes, with stores selling out of the most popular brands within hours.

About 15,000 unionized workers lost their jobs in the aftermath.

In unwinding its business, Hostess sold off its brands in chunks to different buyers. Its major bread brands including Wonder were sold to Flowers Foods, which makes Tastykakes. McKee Foods, which makes Little Debbie snack cakes, snapped up Drake’s Cake, which includes Devil Dogs and Yodels.

Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo bought Twinkies and other Hostess cakes for $410 million.

Apollo Global Management, founded by Leon Black, is known for buying troubled brands then selling them for a profit; its investments include fast-food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Metropoulos & Co., which has revamped then sold off brands including Chef Boyardee and Bumble Bee, also owns Pabst Brewing Co.

That could mean some cross-promotional marketing is in store.

“There is certainly a natural association with the two,” Metropoulos said. “There could be some opportunities for them to seen together.”

The trimmed-down Hostess Brands LLC has a far less costly operating structure than the predecessor company. Some of the previous workers were hired back, but they’re no longer unionized.

Hostess will also now deliver to warehouses that supply retailers, rather than delivering directly to stores, said Rich Seban, the president of Hostess who previously served as chief operating officer. That will greatly expand its reach, letting it deliver to dollar stores and nearly all convenience stores in the U.S.

Previously, he said Hostess was only able to reach about a third of the country’s 150,000 convenience stores.

Production was also consolidated, from 11 bakery plants to four – one each in Georgia, Kansas, Illinois and Indiana. The headquarters were moved from Texas to Kansas City, Mo., where Hostess was previously based and still had some accounting offices.

In the months since they vanished from shelves, the cakes have been getting a few touchups as well. For the CupCakes, the company is now using dark cocoa instead of milk chocolate to give them a richer, darker appearance.

Seban stressed that the changes were to improve the cakes, not to cut costs. Prices for the cakes will remain the same; a box of 10 Twinkies will cost $3.99.

Looking ahead, Seban sees Hostess expanding its product lineup. He noted that Hostess cakes are known for three basic textures: the spongy cake, the creamy filling and the thicker icing. But he said different textures – such as crunchy – could be introduced, as well as different flavors.

“We can have some fun with that mixture,” he said.

He also said there are many trendy health attributes the company could tap into, such as gluten-free, added fiber, low sugar and low sodium.

During bankruptcy proceedings, Hostess had said that its overall sales had been declining, although the company didn’t give a breakout on the performance of individual brands. But Seban is confident Twinkies will have staying power beyond its re-launch.

As for the literal shelf-life, Seban is quick to refute the snack cake’s fabled indestructibility.

“Forty-five days – that’s it,” he said. “They don’t last forever.”

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Philly Penitentiary Offers Taste of Prison Food

Philadelphia is a city that has become renowned for its hip and innovative restaurant scene. But a local tourist attraction is offering decidedly different fare this weekend: prison food.

Eastern State Penitentiary will serve visitors sample inmate meals from the 1830s, 1940s and today.

The menu includes broiled salted beef with “Indian mush”; hamburger with brown gravy and Harvard beets; and a starchy concoction called Nutraloaf.

Event organizers hope the not-so-haute cuisine stimulates both the taste buds and discussion about the changing nature of prison food service and attitudes toward inmates.

The quirky tasting menu will be available Saturday and Sunday at Eastern State, a defunct prison that once housed gangster Al Capone. The centuries-old facility was abandoned in 1971 but later reopened to visitors. (AP)

Jolie-Pitt Wine Snapped Up in 5 Hours

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Nine little letters on the back of the bottle set this rose wine apart from other fruits of the Provence grape harvest: Jolie-Pitt.
The Miraval Rose 2012 was produced at the southern French estate of Chateau Miraval — property of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
It’s the first Miraval vintage stamped by the Hollywood couple, in a joint venture with established vintner Marc Perrin. The back label reads “bottled by Jolie-Pitt and Perrin.”
The Perrin family spokesman says the first 6,000 bottles put on sale online Thursday were bought within five hours. The wine sold for (euro) 105 ($139) for a 6-bottle case.
There was no immediate comment from publicists for Pitt and Jolie.
The wine, in a bottom-heavy, champagne-like bottle, goes on sale to restaurants and wholesalers later this month. (AP)

McDonald’s Gives Chicken Wings a Fly in Tests

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First there were McNuggets. Then there were Chicken McBites. Now McDonald’s could be adding “Mighty Wings” to its chicken menu.

The world’s biggest hamburger chain is set to expand its test of chicken wings to Chicago this week, after a successful run in Atlanta last year. Fast-food chains typically test items in select markets before taking them national. But for McDonald’s, which has 14,000 U.S. locations, adding chicken wings to the permanent lineup could be tricky.

Prices for chicken wings have been climbing because of increasing demand. So McDonald’s could offer the dish on a limited-time offer in the months ahead. The chain has tried to ramp up such special offers as a way to give customers more variety. (AP)

Smithsonian Explores Food, Wine in New Gallery

Julia Child’s kitchen is returning to public view as the National Museum of American History opens its first major exhibit about food.

Child donated her kitchen to the museum in 2001. Now it serves as the opening story for the gallery opening Tuesday, showing her influence on culinary arts, food television and the way Americans view cooking.

Curator Paula Johnson says the second half of the 20th century brought rapid changes in America’s relationship with food.

One section of the exhibit explores the influence of immigrants from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America who introduced flavors that are now part of everyday life.

The museum also looks at the science of food production and the rise of winemaking. By 2000, wine was being produced in all 50 states. (AP)

For more information, go to http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/aroundthemall/2012/11/food-an-edible-exhibit-examines-our-many-culinary-cultures/