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Archive for the ‘Food & Beverage’ Category

Pennsylvania Buy Fresh, Buy Local has an excellent website that allows you to tap into a wealth of local retailers, farmers markets and  restaurants that sell Pennsylvania grown products. 

They also feature a great blog that has everyday information on eating healthy, shopping smart and staying abreast of developments in Pennsylvania.

I’ve read a lot of blogs, websites, and magazines and this one deserves strong consideration for the top of the heap. 

It will take you all of 5 minutes to find a retailer within 10 miles selling locally grown food.

Website Link

 

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The pretzel has popularized in Germany in the 12th century and made its way to America with emigration.  The German emigrants largely settled in Pennsylvania, giving birth to an industry that is still thriving today.  Americans consume $500M of pretzels each year, with Pennsylvania being the source of 80% of these goodies.  Pennsylvanians are also credited with consuming 12 times more pretzels than others in the U.S.  If I’m interpreting this right – we make and consume all of the pretzels in the U.S.

There are dozens on pretzel factories in southeastern Pennsylvania, including all of the brands we know and love.  However, the best tasting hard pretzel is the Unique Pretzel Split.  Unique Pretzels is based in Reading and the result of 16 generations of evolution - originating in the late 1800’s, later forming into the Unique Pretzel company in 1921, and finally being a product that can be found on the shelves of Pennsylvania retailers.

I’m going to say this again because it is unequivocally true – Unique Pretzels are the best hard pretzels in the country, which puts them high in the running for best worldwide.  You won’t truly understand that until you purchase a bag.  I highly recommend them and recently picked-up 10 cases at the Reading bakery where they are made of them because I couldn’t find them at my local grocer.

Fortunately, they do ship pretzels and they can be found on store shelves in southeastern PA – but, distribution is spotty across New Jersey, New York and the western part of the state.  However, you should call to inquire, because there are specialty stores around that do carry the Splits.  You’ll want to purchase the “dark splits” – they’re the ones that are simply amazing.

UPDATE:  For people that are sensitive to wheat, Unique Pretzels also makes pretzels made from sprouted wheat.  Once the wheat grain is sprouted, it becomes a vegetable and is easier to digest.

Company Website

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In the spirit of covering alcohol – Pittsburgh’s Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka deserves attention.  Boyd & Blair, like Bluecoat Gin, is one of two craft distillery “start-ups” that have filled a long void  in Pennsylvania’s history.  It has been decades since alcohol has been distilled in Pennsylvania…its conservative roots are still felt throughout the state.   You may recall that the Quakers didn’t believe alcohol should be consumed and were heavy backers of the temperance movement.  Pennsylvania’s LCB hasn’t helped the process – but, times are changing and the state is even encouraging such ventures.

Boyd & Blair is a product of Pennsylvania Pure, a company formed in 2008 by Prentiss Orr and Barry Young.  Mr. Orr was a former VP at the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and Young a CEO at several companies.  They could have coasted until retirement, but they wanted to do something a little more hands-on…perhaps, even agrarian in a way.  One of the cornerstones of Boyd & Blair is that it’s made from locally grown potatoes (which seems logical given Pennsylvania’s agricultural prowess) and they can produce their vodka themselves (which, they do).  The fact that the make their vodka from potatoes doesn’t feel unusual, but apparently – there are only 3 potato-based vodka’s on shelves in Pennsylvania.  Boyd & Blair claims 1 of the 3 spots, the other two are distilled Poland.  I suppose it’s probably coincidence that Pittsburgh was largely built on the backs of immigrant Poles working in steel mills.

Boyd & Blair can be purchased at many locations throughout the state for under $30.  It is largely a Pennsylvania vodka, but you can find it in major cities such as New York, Chicago and others.  It makes an exceptional gift because of its uniqueness, price point – and alcohol is a perfect gift for colleagues, friends and fathers.

You can follow the day-to-day at Pennsylvania pure on Twitter as they distill Boyd & Blair…link

Also visit their website

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If you ever travel to Pottsville – a town tucked in the mountains within the coal region of Pennsylvania, you will become an advocate for Yuengling – America’s most potable Lager (in my opinion).  It’s great that it’s the country’s oldest brewery and that they use high quality water perculating through the mountains, but much more importantly….you will realize that it’s a large region that collectively would really appreciate your business.  You also see that Yuengling is an underdog, they aren’t sleek, hip, or flashy and they’re not endowed with a marketing budget of envy.  Basically, they’re a family-owned business that wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for the seriously blue-collar customers (and employees) who spent days and nights in coal mines and steel mills.  While this sounds like stuff of lore, it isn’t.  Beer making may be a hip pursuit in parts of the country that have fine tasting microbrews – but, it wasn’t and isn’t in Pottsville , not in the slightest.

Yuengling is still considered very small when you compare to industry bohemoths like Anheuser-Busch Inbev, SABMiller, and Molson Coors – who, colleectively, make-up 80% of the market in the U.S.  Yuengling, on the other hand, produces 1-2 million barrells of beer a year to earn a 0.6% market share in the U.S….tiny compared to the several billion produced by Anheuser-Bush (50% market share, 30,000 employees, $16B in revenue).   The interesting sidebar here is that Anhueser-Bush, Miller and Coors were all acquired by foreign conglomerates over the last few years.  What this means is that the real money earned by these companies is going abroad, rather than to St. Louis, Milwaukee and Golden, Co.  This leaves Pabst, Sam Adams and Yuenling vying for the #1 American beer company.  Pabst and Sam Adams were both ahead of Yuenling last year.  Pabst is in fact contract brewed by SABMiller – meaning, it’s more of a label than a beer company.  Sam Adams is nationally and internationally distributed and had a small lead on Yuengling, who will likely pass Sam Adams this year or next in volume.

Yuengling will soon by America’s #1 brewer and it’s a Pennsylvania company.  Although, this may feel insignificant – those guys who work in the coal mines and steel mills might feel a bit differently.

Next time your in the Pennsylvania area – go into your local bar and order a “lager” – you shouldn’t be overly surprised that with no questions ask, you get served a cool pint of Yuengling lager.

 

 

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kutzsodaIn the world of Coke and Pepsi – small, craft soda and drink manufacturers haven’t stood a chance and they went out of business in droves throughout the 1900’s.  That began to change when consumers started looking for healthier and better tasting options in the 1990’s.  Companies like Snapple (now owned by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group), Izzy’s and Nantucket Nectar broke the Pepsi & Coke market and proved that there were consumers who preferred “alternative” options.  Shelf space for alternative brands is still at a premium and the road is as steep as ever for local drink manufacturers, but their is hope.

Kutztown Soda has witnessed this rise, fall and rise again of niche soda manufacturers.  They’ve been in business since 1851 and claim to be one of the Reading areas longest continually operating businesses.  Kutztown Soda offers a variety of traditional soda flavors, such as Birch Beer, Sarsaparilla, Ginger, and Root Beer….all made from pure cane sugar…apparently, a much healthier alternative to corn syrup (see labels of major soda brands).  You can purchase the soda online or find it at a local store via a link on their website.  Don’t go looking for them in your major grocery store chains – Coke and Pepsi still control the vast majority of that shelf-space.

Company Website

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Musselman’s was started by (none other than) the Musselman family in Biglerviller, Pa…the heart of Pennsylvania’s apple growing region.  John Musselman started the company by purchasing the Biglerville Canning Company, but quickly expanded over the next 13 years to meet demand from Worldwar I.  At the time, quality canned goods were in high demand to feed the nation and hungry soldiers abroad.  mm

In 1928, Musselman’s expanded to preserves and started including Apple Butter and Jellies.  Musselman’s would soon evolve into one of the country’s leading producers of apple sauce.

In 1984, Musselman’s was purchased by a cooperative of growers from the Musselman family.  The cooperative is made -up of Pennsylvania apple growers as well as growers down the Appalachians and in the mid-west.  The cooperative’s vision is to provide a better quality product by being involved with the entire process – from production to selling to consumers, while providing for the 600 family’s who own the company.  Knouse Foods also owns the Lucky Leaf brand, Apple Time and Speas Farm – all available in your local grocery store.  Over 80% of Knouse’s production (5 facilities) is based in Pennsylvania.

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Pennsylvania produces more confectionary products that any state in the country – while a large amount of  this comes out of Hershey, Pa – you will be pleasantly surprised that there are other well-known chocolatiers calling Pennsylvania home.  One of these well-known’s is Gertrude Hawk – based in Dunmore, Pa – a suburb on Scranton.  You’ve likely seen their store fronts in one of your local malls or purchased one of their chocolate bars from a local fundraising effort.

Gertrude Hawk has been manufacturing chocolate in Pennsylvania since the Great Depression.  The company was started by Gertrude Hawk, who began producing chocolates out of her kitchen to help support her family.  Gertrude had developed an affinity an gertrudehawkunderstanding of how to make chocolate years before when she had worked at a candy shop at the age of 12.  Gertrude had quit school after her father died to help earn money to support her mother and her who suffered from a heart ailment.  Gertrude married at the age of 19 and raised two sons, Elmer and Richard. 

Elmer later returned from World War II after being kept as a prisioner-of-war for a year and a half.  He took his pay that he earned and invested it into his mother’s business.  At the time, the company was earning less than $3,000 a year in revenues, but it helped the Hawk family make ends meet. 

Gertrude Hawk Chocolates bumped (a lot of bumps) along for many years before some of its partnerships with local churches and organizations to use the chocolate for fundraising purposes began yielding results.  In 1959, Gertrude Hawk Chocolates was grossing $120k/year, which was a substantial milestone in transitioning to the enterprise that it is today.

In 1992, Elmer retired from day-to-day operations and his son David, who had been working at the company since graduating from Penn State.  David later turned the reigns over to Bill Aubrery and the two now run the company.

Today – Gertrude Hawk has over $90 million in revenues – has over 75 stores across the mid-Atlantic and employees over 1,000 hard-working American’s – most of them fellow Pennsylvanians.

Check out their company website to order chocolate or find a store near you.

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