What's new in store
Sound Consumer | January 2001
By Trudy Bialic
Step into PCC and you'll notice some exciting new choices this New Year.
You'll find new products in our stores that no one else has in our area. You'll also see new changes in our stores to help you understand what makes PCC special and to help you choose the foods and healthcare products that are best for you and your lifestyle.
Each and every department — meat, produce, deli, health supplements and bodycare, wine and beer — has something new in store this year. Here's the inside story behind what you'll see, department by department.
PCC has carried "clean" beef and chicken free of hormones and antibiotics for a long time, but now Meat Merchandiser Lee Pate has found natural pork and natural lamb for our shoppers. You'll be able to taste the difference between these meats and what you find elsewhere. What these meats don't contain is a welcome difference, too.
Pate believes PCC will be the first store in the Seattle area to offer "clean" sausage products. "There just isn't any clean sausage on the market that we're aware of," says Pate. "All the common brands use conventionally raised pork. Turkey sausage, too, has been made with conventional turkey — from birds given antibiotics and that aren't free range. Shelton's turkey sausage is an exception and it's very "clean," but it's only available frozen, not fresh. So, PCC is raising the bar and redefining quality sausage. The topper is that PCC brand label sausage will be priced lower than the conventional brands, despite using only natural Beeler's pork and Diestel's free-range turkey."
The Beeler brand of pork is superior to conventional pork for several reasons. The animals are cared for and fed in such a way that the USDA granted the following label approval, "100% pure and natural, pork hogs raised without any antibiotics, growth promotants, vaccines, injections or vermifuges." Vermifuges are chemicals used for the treatment of parasites; they're standard in the conventional industry. The Beelers are also working to use only non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) feed.
The Beelers have produced pork for five generations, ever since great-great-grandfather Fred emigrated from Germany to settle in the rolling hills of Madison County, Iowa. Sure, it costs this family more to raise pork their way, but for a few cents more, you're assured a product that's as natural as it gets — naturally safe and residue-free.
A national study conducted in 1998 confirmed that antibiotic resistance passed from animals to humans does occur. While there's no definitive assessment about the effects, the Beelers aren't willing to take the chance.
It's the taste, however, that will keep you coming back to this pork product. It's the most tender, flavorful pork you'll find. If you notice the color of the bacon is not what you're used to, it's only natural. Beeler's doesn't use nitrite preservatives that makes bacon unnaturally pink.
PCC is also proud to offer natural lamb, another first in the area. Other grocers tout "free-range lamb," for example, from New Zealand. Yes, New Zealand lamb may be free range, but it usually comes across the Pacific Ocean on a boat, which can take three to four weeks! That's why it's typically gas-flushed and "cryo-vac" vacuum-sealed, to extend shelf life for that long boat ride. The lamb is then stored with a distributor until ordered to a store. So when you see "free-range lamb" from New Zealand, it may be two months old or more before it hits a dinner table.
PCC's natural lamb is fresh off the farm, direct from three small family ranches in the Oregon countryside, the Umpqua Valley. Umpqua Valley Lamb arrives in PCC stores within days. It's not only free-range — being allowed to graze all day in clover-grass pastures — but it's also antibiotic- and hormone-free.
The Umpqua Valley ranchers say their unique, year-round mild climate and wonderful clover-grass pasture gives their lamb an edge in quality and flavor. They claim pasture-raised lamb is higher in protein, lower in fat and more mild tasting than lamb from a feedlot. It's especially high in vitamin E and conjugated lineolic acid (CLA), which may be a factor in suppressing certain cancers and heart disease.
Beer and Wine
Beer and Wine Merchandiser Jeff Cox is using a different approach to purchasing wine than that used by large grocery chains. He's not letting the wines come to him, he's going out and finding the wines he wants.
Cox says wine departments are usually vendor-driven, meaning vendors make most of the decisions about what's stocked. Brokerages push certain wines because they have a lot to sell and, in turn, the salespeople push the wines they need to make their numbers. This is how the wine business works in most grocery chains, so you see a huge array of mass-produced wines. "They typically just aren't the greatest wines in the world," says Cox. "There's nothing wrong with them, but they have little character. They're made to fit a demographic or palate profile set by a marketing department." Cox calls them "homogenized wines, the liquid equivalent of elevator music."
Cox, on the other hand, handpicks PCC wines, one by one. He personally tastes everything that goes on the shelf — thousands of wines each year from Washington to France to Italy, from hundreds of small wineries. To these vintners, making wine is a labor of love rather than a result of marketing surveys. "They create wines that literally breathe the ground they come from," says Cox. "It's like the difference between tomatoes grown in a hot house far away and those from a carefully tended backyard garden."
In addition to better flavor, consumers won't even pay more for these better, handpicked wines. These small family wineries don't have expensive marketing departments to pay for and they're not paying for barrel after barrel of new French oak; one barrel easily costs $600 each! So there's less overhead to pass on.
Before January is over, Cox will have his choice new picks in each store. Some of the old labels will remain, but shoppers will see a metamorphosis. There will be something for everyone, from the rank amateur to the connoisseur and plenty more for when you're feeling adventurous.
Look for some great wines from small Washington producers such as Chinook, McCrea and Cascade Cliffs, as well as some great finds from small producers in Italy, France and California. Right now, there's a 1998 Domaine Miguel Merlot on special for only $9 this month, a downright steal. [Editor's note: Even I, a real novice, can tell it's a truly remarkable wine, smooth and delicious!]
Cox pledges not to put anything on PCC shelves that he wouldn't take home himself to drink. That means a better-quality wine for the same money that you'd spend at a regular chain store. Like the small vintners who do it all themselves, Cox has found a labor of love.
At PCC, produce typically comprises the greatest proportion of items in our shoppers' carts. This is thanks largely to Produce Merchandiser Joe Hardiman, who's dedicated to finding and delivering the best. This year, the weather experts have predicted a hard, cold winter. If those predictions play out, it helps to know how that translates to our dinner tables.
Hardiman set a strategy in motion long ago to handle a cold winter. He's been working for months to secure more growers in the desert Southwest to try to ensure that PCC shoppers can get what they want, even if it's a winter to suffer through.
Hardiman says we start seeing trouble when an arctic air mass comes down from the north and there isn't enough high pressure to stop it from hitting California. The leafy greens freeze, yields are lighter and their cost skyrockets. Wholesalers demand and get $2 for each head of Romaine! Broccoli can pull $2 per pound, wholesale, too.
Leafy greens and broccoli are the most sensitive to cold, says Hardiman, and cold doesn't have to mean freezing. Problems start with 50=F days and 35= to 40=F nights. Kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and leeks can stand cold a bit better and can survive even under snow.
When prices are high, quality suffers too, says Hardiman. If farmers have product when a cold snap threatens, they'll pick everything they can because demand is so high. Sometimes the produce isn't as mature as it should be and the quality isn't the best.
The good news in January is that the fields in the desert Southwest open up and that means some relief on prices. Growers want production year-round, too, so over the past few years, they've steadily bought up more land in the Southwest. All the big outfits literally move their operations south, lock-stock-and-barrel, as the seasons progress. A grower in the Salinas Valley, for example, will pack up and move his operation to Yuma right on the southern border.
Hardiman says the benefit for consumers is better continuity of supply. We see fewer shortages, better prices and better quality.
Even south to the Mexican border, however, the desert can get frigid overnight; maybe not a severe frost, but enough cold to stunt development. Think of what a cold summer does to your home garden here. Remember those stunted green tomatoes that wouldn't ripen until October? The same can happen all the way to Mexico. If you see 30°F weather in San Diego, expect citrus quality and prices to suffer. Citrus can't survive below 32°F.
So next time you get sticker shock at the produce tables, check the weather map and know that PCC's Hardiman is as prepared as possible. He follows the sun, securing the pick of the crop from hard-working growers wherever they may be.
Need some catering to help with a party? Need a box lunch to go? PCC's deli department has rolled out catering and box lunch programs to help this year when you have more appetite than time. Merchandiser Chuck Davies says both programs are a great way to cut down on stress and enjoy healthy alternatives after a holiday season of indulgences.
One of the most common New Year's resolutions, after all, is to adopt a more healthful diet and reduce stress. "Think of our delis as a convenience," says Davies. "We read the labels, do the cooking and take care of all the details so you don't have to. We offer low-fat salads and entrées that nobody else does and they taste good! Other delis in the natural field may have beautiful-looking food, but it just doesn't have the flavor."
"We have talented cooks and bakers who really care about what they're doing," says Davies. "It's not just a job. We take time to select quality ingredients. Our coffee bar uses only organic coffee and only organic milk and cream. We use only expeller-pressed oils and free-range and organic chicken in our dishes. We deal with lots of artisan cheeses. We employ a well-paid union staff. We work with many independent local vendors who produce in small batches. The quality of what we put into our kitchens comes out in the dishes we create."
In the coming year, Davies and the deli staff will continue to do what they do best, refining selection and service. In addition to the box lunch and catering programs, Davies plans to expand PCC bakery selections this year. A new pie program is underway already. Who doesn't like pie? PCC pies have organic crusts and all-natural fillings.
So next time you get a yen for something yummy, but just don't have the time to fix it, call PCC. We've been catering to the needs of our community since 1953.
Health supplements and bodycare
"Toothpaste, soap and deodorant are examples of everyday products that virtually everyone buys, but many shoppers may not really understand the ingredients in the products they choose," says Eva Vinson, PCC's Health and Bodycare Merchandiser. "This year, I'll focus on refining the product mix and educating consumers about the natural products that are a better choice than conventional brands."
A typical shopper may think nothing of spending $2 for a daily latté, but may balk at spending $2 on a bar of natural soap that will last a month. "Soap manufacturers aren't required by law to disclose fully on the label the ingredients used," says Vinson. "The bodycare industry, like the cleaning supply industry, isn't held to the same standards as food. This means consumers don't know when they're covering themselves in petroleum-derived or synthetic ingredients. Remember, skin is the largest organ on the human body and readily absorbs anything put on it."
PCC understands that different people are at different levels of commitment to bodycare and their health. "Purists may use only baking soda to brush their teeth. Some health-minded consumers may want toothpaste that doesn't contain fluoride, sodium lauryl sulfate or sweeteners. Other shoppers may want an inexpensive, conventional toothpaste."
Vinson is making sure there's something for everyone at PCC. She aims to provide a spectrum of products to suit the needs of anyone who might walk into a PCC store. Our in-store computer information service called HealthNotesTM is a great resource, especially for people who may not feel comfortable talking about their health concerns. It'll tell you why you might want to take a certain herb and how much to take. It explains side effects, as well as, how an herb may interact with something you're already taking. It's like getting a free health consultation from world-class natural medicine experts!
HealthNotes also makes it easy to understand why natural products are cleaner and better for our bodies. "How many shoppers know what "food-based" vitamins mean?" asks Vinson. "We'll make that information more readily available."
"We're proud of the choices we've made," she says, "and we want consumers to feel comfortable about making the best choice for their needs. I want customers to understand what distinguishes our products from conventional lines. The more you know, the better educated you are and the more likely your choices will fit your lifestyle."
what's new in store — A preview of new products
Spectrum Organic Shortening and Spectrum Organic Margarine — No trans-fatty acids, non-GMO ingredients, organic.
Mori-Nu Tofu — It's organic now.
Barbara's Cereals —New large size "eco-packs" of two best-selling organic cereals, Shredded Oats and Puffins.
Nature's Path — Organic puffed cereals: wheat, rice, millet, corm, kamut.
Reed's Ginger Ice Cream — From the maker of Reed's Ginger Brew, a PCC members' favorite.
Natural Touch Corn Dogs — They're vegetarian and delicious!
Annie's Homegrown Mac & Cheese Meals — Organic pasta in single-servings. May be microwaved.
PCC Brand Italian Pork Sausage, hot and mild — Made with all-natural Beeler's pork. On special.
PCC Brand Italian Turkey Sausage, hot and mild — Made with free-range Diestel turkey. On special.
PCC Brand Potato Sausage — Made with all-natural Beeler's pork.