Latino Food Industry Association Launches, Top Apple Chef and More Gluten-Free

The top five on today’s plate include the launch of a new food industry association, the growing appetite for gluten-free products and MOOYAH celebrating its tenth birthday by donating 10 percent of the day’s sales to No Kid Hungry. Send news items of interest to Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine’s Barbara Castiglia at

Latino Food Industry Association Launches

With Hispanics now spending at a higher rate on groceries and shopping perishables more frequently than other consumer groups, the Latino Food Industry Association (LFIA) officially launched, top photo, to serve its members and educate the public and policymakers on the contributions and significant impact being made by Latino-owned food businesses and purveyors on the national economy. 

“Given the Hispanic market’s $1.5 trillion in annual buying power and the rapid growth of Hispanic-owned businesses in the food and beverage segment, many of our members felt it was time to launch the Latino Food Industry Association to maximize our position in the industry,” said Ruben Smith, LFIA Board Chair. “Our members include grocery chains, independent grocers, restaurateurs, food and beverage manufacturers and distributors, growers and several national brands who see a unique opportunity to boost market share as Hispanic food grows in popularity.”

The LFIA was established to promote, support, educate and advocate for the thousands of Latino owners, employees and entrepreneurs who are involved in every aspect of the country’s  food industry.

The U.S. Hispanic population is growing exponentially compared to non-Hispanics, with an estimated 54 million Latino men and women representing 17 percent of the U.S. population with buying power well over $1 trillion.

Recently, U.S. Hispanics grew restaurant visits while non-Hispanic visits declined. At home, the Hispanic population combined with their adherence to dining traditions is beginning to influence national consumption patterns. 

“To stay competitive in the burgeoning marketplace, we believe our members need be equipped with the necessary tools to compete and flourish in the food industry,” said LFIA Board member David Lizarraga.  “The Latino Food Industry Association aims to provide member services including advocacy training, compliance workshops, legislative updates, operational trainings, technology and marketing and branding improvements, among others.”

LFIA partnered with the Neighborhood Market Association, which has a network of members ranging from more than a hundred grocery stores and 1,200 convenience stores, as well as an extensive list of suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, growers, corporations and individuals.  Other key founding members include two of California’s most successful grocery chains, Northgate González and Vallarta Supermarkets. Initial corporate sponsors include Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

Top Apple Chef

Steph Walker, a chef from the West Hazleton Applebee’s and finalist in the 2016 Top Apple Chef competition won the top award this year and the title of Top Apple Chef.  Chosen from contestants from 56 Applebee’s locations throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware during this year’s head-to-head competition, Walker’s dish, the “Nacho Typical Salad”, is made of ingredients commonly found in the Applebee’s kitchen and received top grades in creativity and culinary expertise throughout each stage of the competition held by Applebee’s franchisee The Rose Group

The winner of The Rose Group’s Top Apple Chef competition, Steph Walker, is pictured center alongside the judges, including the CEO of The Rose Group, Jeff Warden, pictured second from the left.

The Applebee’s Top Apple Chef competition is open to all Rose Group employees and provides contestants free reign of the Applebee’s kitchen to build and enter a dish born of their own creativity and culinary craftsmanship.  Winners are first chosen from each restaurant.  Next they advance to the district finals.  Winners of the district finals then travel to Newtown, Pennsylvania, to compete for the coveted title of Top Apple Chef and of course, yearlong bragging rights. 

Steph Walker’s “Nacho Typical Salad”

“The competition showcases and celebrates the skill, creativity and passion our teammates have for their culinary career path,” explained John Kulak, Director of Food and Beverage at The Rose Group.  “I’m always surprised by what is brought to the table.”

The competition also brings employees from throughout the multi-state organization together through their common culinary passion.

“While culinary expertise and creativity wins this contest, the camaraderie built from competition among co-workers from different regions is even more of a win for us as a team,” says Harry Rose, CEO of The Rose Group.  “The contestants push themselves to get better every day, and this shows in the dishes that are created in our restaurants and for this competition each year.”

The employees who competed in this year’s competition and their dishes were:

  • Olivia Yadira from the Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania, location created a Pepper Jack Sirloin Skillet
  • Kyle Senick of the Easton Commons, Maryland, location created an Old Bay Citrus Salmon
  • Steph Walter of the West Hazleton, Pennsylvania, location created a Nacho Typical Salad
  • Jamie Brown of the Towson, Maryland, location created a Steak Fajita Chimichanga
  • Jay Cheatham of the Aberdeen, Maryland location created the Texas Kickin’ Chicken
  • Matt Madara of the Reading, Pennsylvania, location created an Orange Glazed Pork Chop
  • Rene De La Merced of the Castor Ave location in Philadelphia created a Garlic Steak Tip Sandwich
  • Joe Church of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, location created a Shrimp Scampi Cavatappi

In addition to Walter winning a TV for her first place finish, each finalist took home a knife set, Amazon gift card and an engraved plaque to be displayed in his or her store.  Rene De La Merced also took home a new set of pans for her runner-up finish.

The Rose Group, headquartered in Newtown, PA, is the 57th largest restaurant franchise company in the U.S. They currently own and operate 56 Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar restaurants in Eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware. The company is the first franchisee for Corner Bakery Cafe, operating seven cafes in Eastern Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey. The Rose Group also co-owns and operates two Shannon Rose restaurants, an independent Irish pub and restaurant in North Jersey. 

MOOYAH Turns 10 with Special Donation

On July 10, MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes held a system-wide event to celebrate its 10th birthday with 10 percent of the day’s sales benefiting No Kid Hungry, a non-profit organization dedicated to battling childhood hunger. The Dallas-based  franchise easily exceeded its $12,000 fundraising goal and donated $15,000 to No Kid Hungry, which will give access to 150,000 meals for children in need across America.

“The 10th birthday party was a big event for us,” said Natalie Anderson-Liu, vice president of marketing for MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes. “We love how our franchisees and Guests embraced this milestone event for our brand and came together to celebrate in true MOOYAH style — with a Seriously Fun party that benefited a charity that is close to our hearts.”

In addition to the outstanding philanthropic outcome, MOOYAH’s net sales on July 10 were 24.5 percent higher than the six previous Mondays. Receipts scanned on the MOOYAH loyalty app saw an increase of 105 percent over the previous six weeks’ average. In addition to donating ten percent of the day’s sales, MOOYAH also kicked in an additional ten cents for every post on social media that featured the hashtag #MOOYAH10.

“This event was a success for us all around,” said Michael Mabry, president and COO of MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes. “We were able to rally our system together to create a day of fun events and promotions to thank our loyal Guests that have helped our brand grow over the last ten years. Though we’re ten years old, we are just getting started and look forward to continued growth (and fun!) over the next ten years and beyond.”

In 2016, MOOYAH surpassed the 100-unit milestone and will open an additional 14 locations in 2017.

PreGel Adds New Flavors Packs

PreGel America, the North American manufacturer and developer of specialty dessert ingredients for artisanal frozen and baked delicacies, introduced new Flavor Packs—offerings of specially selected PreGel Super Sprint powdered flavor mixes that create a patriotic, chic, whimsical, exotic, or relaxing culinary environment.

New PreGel Super Sprint Flavor Packs contain twelve bags of PreGel Super Sprint, currently available in five varieties, including:

American Classics Flavor Pack – 316007 
Consistently voted onto the coveted list of top-selling frozen dessert flavors in the country, the bliss-inducing tastes of chocolate, vanilla, butter pecan, and strawberry are a fitting composition that makes up PreGel’s American Classics Kit. 

Italian Classics Flavor Pack – 316006 
Italy is known for its culinary mastery utilizing only the best flavors and ingredients toward the creation of unforgettable dining experiences. Taking an appropriate seat at the table of flavor excellence are gianduiotto (dark chocolate-hazelnut), tiramisu, mascarpone, and hazelnut. 

Kiddie Flavor Pack – 316008 
Selected specifically for the joy of children (or children-at-heart), this compilation of Birthday Cake Blue, Pink Cotton Candy, Popcorn, and Watermelon are the perfect flavors to add some festivity to birthday celebrations, graduations, or other special occasions. 

Tropical Vacation Flavor Pack – 316009  
This kit of tropically-flavored powdered mixes boasts the sweet, exotic flavors of banana, coconut, mango, and pineapple, everything a tropical excavation provides except the warm breeze.

Tea Time Flavor Pack – 316001 
It’s always time for tea with this refreshing array of extraordinary flavors. Quench any tea craving with this amazing selection of instant flavored powdered bases, which only require the addition of water or milk to create the authentic tastes of matcha green tea, exotic chai tea, and the subtle contentment of Earl Grey tea.

GIG Certifies 625 Products 

The Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), which certifiies gluten-free products and food services, said 625 products were certified in June and July by its Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), the largest gluten-free certification program in North America. Products certified ranged from gourmet peanuts to breads to jam, showing continued strong interest on the part of food manufacturers in meeting the needs of the growing gluten-free community.

The following brands received certification by the GFCO for products in June and July:

Gluten Free Me Bakery— 24 products received certification, including Apple Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Cranberry Orange Muffin, Multigrain Bread, Wild Blueberry Tea Bread, and more

Jimbo’s Jumbos Inc.— 530 products received certification, including Gourmet Peanuts, Cashew Butter, and more

Jimtown— Eight products received certification, including Artichoke Olive Spread, Romesco Sauce, Spicy Pepper Jam, and more

Start Right Foods —Waffle & Pancake Mix received certification

CHEESEBIS —Stand Up Pouch Original received certification

Capriccio —Bubbly Sangria Capriccio received certification

FatBoy —14 products received certification, including Cotton Candy Freeze Pop, Nut Sundae, Root Beer Freeze and more

Jolly Llama — Nine products received certification, including Banana Coconut Sorbet Pop, Pineapple coconut Sorbet Pop, Sea Salt Caramel Coconut Cream Pop, and more

Greenlife —Crunchy Brown Roll and Crunchy Rice Roll received certification

Base Culture —19 products received certification, including Energy Bites, Maple Almond Butter, Sandwich Bread, and more

Germinal Organic —Nine products received certification, including Apple Bars, Crackers, Crackers with Rosemary, and more

Gluck —Seven products received certification, including Veggie Chips, Veggie Sticks Jalapeno, Veggie Sticks Salt & Vinegar, and more

Products certified by GFCO carry the GF logo—an easily identified certification seal that provides consumer assurance that the product meets the strictest gluten-free standards. GFCO certifies both that a company’s processes and facilities meet GFCO’s standards and also that the products produced meet a standard of 10 ppm-or-less gluten.