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Testimonial: Ithaca Hummus

Bay Food Brokerage has served as Ithaca Hummus’s Southeast food broker since 2017. During that time, we’re proud to have played a role in getting their product into Publix, Earth Fare, Harris Teeter and Ingels stores in the Southeast.

And, we’re especially grateful to Ithaca Founder Chris Kirby for sharing his perspective on our partnership in this blog post.

About Ithaca Hummus

Chris Kirby established Ithaca, New York-based Ithaca Hummus in 2013. Its original lemon garlic hummus debuted at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market that year. Today, the company is the fastest-growing hummus brand in the country.

“We’re the leading premium hummus brand in America,” Chris sad. “We differentiate our hummus with fresh-as-possible ingredients – like real lemon juice – to create the intense flavor experience that our fans have come to love.”

Ithaca currently offers seven varieties of hummus that are sold in major retailers throughout the U.S.

The Opportunity: Southeast Expansion

In 2017, Ithaca was selling products in The Fresh Market, Wegmans and Whole Foods. However, the company had yet to get into some of the major retailers in the Southeast, such as Publix.

“We weren’t in the market for a Southeast food broker,” Chris said. “We’re a very entrepreneurial company and have a very do-it-yourself ethos. Our plan was to have our account managers build relationships with the category managers at the Southeast retailers. That approach had worked for us in the past, in other parts of the country.”

However, Chris’s thinking changed after he met the Bay Food Brokerage team at the IDDBA (International Dairy Deli Bakery Association) conference in 2017.

“At the IDDBA show, Cammie and her team were in full force, scouting the showroom floor,” Chris said. “They came by our booth, tasted our product, and we really hit it off.”

Ithaca Hummus stood out to the Bay Food team because of its clean label, fresh ingredients, high-pressure processing and effective packaging. While most other hummus products are sold in round packaging, Ithaca’s is square. The smaller footprint means more items can fit on a shelf, which is attractive to retailers. As a Southeast food broker, Bay Food knew Ithaca was special.

“We just felt very confident that consumers and retailers in the Southeast would love this product for so many reasons,” said Cammie Chatterton, Bay Food’s President and CEO.

Even though Chris wasn’t looking for a Southeast food broker, one found him.

“Thanks to having a great relationship with our broker in the Northeast, we knew what a value-added broker looked like,” Chris said. “Bay Food Brokerage is a regional powerhouse broker.”

Six weeks after IDDBA, Chris and the Bay Food team were presenting Ithaca Hummus to Publix’s category manager.

The Results: Ithaca in Publix, Earth Fare, Harris Teeter and Ingles

Within three months of meeting the Bay Food Brokerage team, Ithaca Hummus was shipping its first order to Publix’s 1,200+ stores.

“Timing was in our favor with the category review process. But, still, it’s very rare for a small, emerging brand to come into Publix and get overnight chainwide distribution like that,” Chris said. “Our team certainly played a role. But I don’t think it would’ve happened without the help and credibility that Bay Food Brokerage brought right away.”

Ithaca Hummus launched with four varieties in Publix and now has seven nationwide.

But Bay Food Brokerage is not just a Publix broker. We’re a Southeast food broker that represents our clients with all major retailers in the region. So, shortly after launching Ithaca in Publix, our team also helped secure distribution in Earth Fare. Earth Fare has approximately 20 stores in eight states.
And, in recent months, our team has also helped Ithaca get into Harris Teeter and Ingles, which totals another 450 stores.

Beyond simply serving as a Southeast food broker to get Ithaca’s products into stores, Bay Food also supports Ithaca with in-store support and special projects. Chris said the team’s expertise, relationships with retailers and “boots on the ground” have brought value to Ithaca many times.

“For example, Bay Food introduced us to Publix’s inner-mail system,” Chris said. “We had signs we wanted up in all of the stores. Inner-mail allowed us to send them all to Publix headquarters. And then they sent them to all their stores. If we hadn’t known about that, we would have sent a sign to every store, which would have wasted time and money.”

To continue that example, the Bay Food retail representatives also made sure that the signs made it to every store and that the retailers had displayed them correctly.

“We relied heavily on the Bay Food team to verify signs were up and to take pictures where they weren’t,” Chris said. “That’s the extra level of service they provide and that we want associated with our brand.”

The Experience: Valuing Relationships

Chris recognized that relationships are a key component of keeping the entire process humming.

“It starts with people, and with leadership,” Chris said. “Cammie and her team understand what the retailer is looking for and then prospects according to the retailers’ needs. They also have the depth and quality of relationships with retailers that foster a productive experience for everyone.”

Chris also expressed admiration for Bay Food’s leader, Cammie Chatterton.

“It’s so inspiring to think about what Cammie has done in a business she started 30 years ago in a male-dominated industry,” he said. “She’s really a source of inspiration for our team and a powerful force for change that we admire and look up to.”

Fifty percent of Ithaca’s staff are female.

“We love our relationship with Bay Food,” Chris offered, in closing. “I think there’s great top-to-top alignment across our two businesses that allows us to trust each other. And that creates an incredible amount of value.”

Looking for a Southeast food broker? Contact us today to learn how we can help your brand grow.

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How Grocery Store Delis Can Compete with Customers’ Return to Restaurants

The COVID-19 pandemic initially diverted consumers away from restaurants and toward grocery stores. As a result, fresh prepared meals offered in grocers’ delis comprised one category that saw significant sales growth. In fact, industry reports show sales of those products increased by nearly 17% percent from September 2020 to September 2021.

But now, restaurants in most states have fully re-opened and consumers are more confident about eating out. The question for delis is: how can they keep customers interested in buying those fresh prepared meals?

Bay Food’s VP of Operations Chris Chatterton and Director of Deli & Emerging Business Erin McCulloch-Crume have a few answers to this question. Here is their advice for how grocery delis can react to consumers’ evolving demands and preferences to compete with customers’ return to restaurants.

Transparent Packaging

“People eat with their eyes,” Chris said. “Presentation is an important part of what makes a deli best-in-class.”

This means customers gravitate toward clear packaging for fresh prepared meals more than to prepackaged items with no visibility to the products inside.

In addition, meals that look like in-store staff prepared them tend to attract customers.

“We see this a lot with delis that have the labor to dedicate to these programs,” Erin said. “They sell prepared meals that look like employees made them in-store but are actually coming in from the manufacturer in a kit form or even fully prepared. To the customer, this implies a level of freshness that they expect when shopping the deli.”

Diverse Offerings

For delis offering fresh prepared meals in only the standard fare – fried chicken, rotisserie chicken, pizza, pastas – consider offering international meals, as well. Meal options that are diverse in flavors and profiles gives deli customers a variety of meals to choose from multiple nights of the week.

“Most people get bored of eating a traditional American meal every night,” Chris said. “Offering Indian, Asian, Latin and other ethnic cuisines will keep customers coming back because they’ll have variety.”

Erin also cautions retail delis not to fear taking a risk on international cuisine.

“The international cuisines will be a higher ring and potentially not as high of velocity as your traditional fare,” she said. “But it can increase overall deli sales because you’re offering that variety that gets the customer in more frequently.”

Erin also highlighted the importance of offering seasonal and limited-time-offer meals to keep the set fresh and seasonally relevant.

Meal Size Varieties and Bundles

Another way delis can compete with customers’ return to restaurants is by offering a variety of meal sizes.

“Delis should offer fresh prepared meals in both family and individual sizes to give customers options,” Erin said.

In addition, Chris emphasized the popularity of bundled products sold as “meal deals.”

“Restaurants offer meal deals, like buying an entrée with an appetizer, dessert and drink for a set price,” Chris said. “Deli customers also respond well to creative bundling of fresh prepared meals and other products. Think, a take-home lasagna with a Caesar salad and a bottle of wine marketed as a date-night meal.”

Delivery Options

Chris and Erin also pointed out that while customers dining out in restaurants poses competition to grocery delis, so do food-delivery services, like UberEats and DoorDash.

“Food-delivery services offer consumers restaurant food at the greatest level of convenience,” Chris said.

So how do grocery delis compete with food-delivery services’ convenience factor?

“Retailers should heavily promote their fresh prepared meals and meal bundles on their websites and apps, and make them available for delivery and pick-up,” Erin said.

We’re dedicated to staying on top of the latest retail food industry trends. Contact us today if you’re interested in how we can help your deli brand or product succeed in retail stores.

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What Manufacturers Need to Know about Getting Holiday Food Products into Stores

The average consumer probably doesn’t know how long it takes for their Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas cookie platter to get from product development to their grocery store. But our director of deli and emerging business, Erin McCulloch-Crume, does: about a year. In fact, many manufacturers don’t even know how far in advance they need to start working on getting holiday food products into retailers.

“Manufacturers who haven’t done seasonal food products before often don’t know how early buyers are actually making decisions,” Erin said. “You need to get things started a year in advance to get these products on shelves for the following holiday season.”

For manufacturers considering adding holiday food products to their offerings, Erin recommends the following timeline:

  1. Q4 of the previous year: Begin planning varieties and assortment, and start marketing initiatives
  2. February and March: Presentation of seasonal food products to retailers
  3. By Mid-April: All presentations have been made
  4. By May (or June at the latest): Buyers have made decisions and given volume commitments
  5. End of October: All holiday food products ship to retailers
  6. First Week of November: Retailers receive products
  7. November and December: Seasonal food products on the shelves in store

Tips for Getting Holiday Food Products into Stores

Erin also offers the following advice for manufacturers interested in getting seasonal food products into stores.

  • Start talking to buyers early and often about food trends. Ask what they would like to sell in stores next holiday season. Also, lean on your retail food brokerage partner for advice. Ask them to call buyers to see what they’re looking for. Then, consider opportunities to offer creative ideas and solutions.
  • When you’re considering pricing of holiday food products, don’t price it for today. Think through what you’d want to sell them for next year. Take into account potential cost increases, inflation and other industry and economic forces that may impact pricing strategies a year from now.
  • For branded products, include holiday food promotions and other marketing initiatives in next year’s marketing budget. This can be tricky, because you may need to make decisions about what you need next year before you have sales for the current holiday season. However, if you have data from the year prior, review that. It may help you make educated guesses on what will work for next year.
  • Try to offer packaged goods instead of foods grocery store employees have to assemble. For example, instead of offering a party platter that requires someone in-store to build it, can you can offer a platter that arrives to the store ready for the deli case? Look for ways to drive appeal to the consumer with a store-made look and feel without the store having to put in the labor.

How a Broker Can Help

There are many ways the right retail food broker partner can help get holiday food products into retailers.

First, because brokers have existing relationships with retailers, they can easily find out what retailers are looking for. Every retailer is different. A broker can learn what holiday food products retailers are interested in for next year. Then, they can work with their manufacturers to deliver unique and creative solutions.

Brokers can also help manufacturers tailor presentations to the retailers. One size does not fit all, especially when pitching seasonal food products. A broker who knows each retailer you’re approaching should know the right angle to take to be effective.

Once orders are placed and products are delivered to stores, brokers can make sure they’re displayed correctly. For example, our Retail Representatives visit retailers to ensure our clients’ products are on shelves and have strong placement. This service is especially important with holiday food products, because they don’t have a usual place on the shelf like year-round items do.

Do you want to get your holiday food products into retailers next year? The time to start is now. Contact us today to see how our expertise, technology and strong retail team can help you succeed.

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Introducing Erin McCulloch-Crume, Our New Director of Deli & Emerging Business

Bay Food Brokerage is excited to introduce our new Director of Deli & Emerging Business, Erin McCulloch-Crume! A highly educated food industry professional, Erin joins our food brokerage company with more than 15 years’ experience in manufacturing, sales, marketing and product management.

In her new role, Erin will focus on continuing to grow the perishable side of the brokerage business by bringing on new food manufacturer clients. She will also collaborate with our food brokerage company’s clients and deli teams at existing retailer partners. This means leading Bay Food Brokerage’s deli sales team in growing sales and gaining new placement in the Southeast.

“It’s rare to find someone with Erin’s combination of extensive education and experience at all levels of the food supply chain,” said Cammie Chatterton, owner, president and CEO of Bay Food Brokerage. “She’s able to offer out-of-the-box thinking and creative solutions to help our clients succeed. We’re thrilled she’s joined the Bay Food family.”

Professional Background & Education


Prior to joining our food brokerage company, Erin served as national account manager at Reser’s Fine Foods. Reser’s is a manufacturer and distributor of fresh and refrigerated prepared foods. There, she worked with retailers such as Publix, Southeastern Grocers, Harris Teeter, The Fresh Market, Ahold Delhaize USA and Aldi to grow sales through strong collaboration. The company recognized her as National Sales Manager of the Year in 2020.

Prior to Reser’s, she worked as senior business development manager at SVZ. SVZ produces and supplies fruit and vegetable ingredients to food manufacturers. In this role, she oversaw inside sales, project management, marketing and business development departments, and worked closely with farmers.

Her career in the food industry began at Dot Foods, the largest food re-distributor in North America. There, she earned direct experience with the food supply chain. When she left the company, she was business development manager – new suppliers retail channel. She was Dot Foods’ Regional Sales Manager of the Year in 2015 and 2016.

Erin holds a bachelor’s degree in finance, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a master’s degree in supply chain, logistics and operations, all from Fontbonne University. She is a member of the Carolinas Food Industry Council (CFIC) and Grocery Manufacturers’ Representatives (GMR).

Why the move to a food brokerage company?


“I’m excited to take this next step in my career, with a leading retail food brokerage company here in the Southeast,” Erin said. “The industry is always evolving, and Bay Food Brokerage is constantly re-investing in both technology and people. This ensures we’re the best advocates for our clients and our retail partners.”

Get to Know Erin


  • What might someone be surprised to learn about you?

I am a small-town girl, growing up in Central Missouri, where my favorite pastime was spending time out at my grandparents’ farm. We had cows, horses, pigs, and quite a few dogs and cats. My cousins and I would love to play in the hay loft and feed the cows salt licks.

  • If you could meet anyone in the world, living or deceased, who would it be, and why?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I admire that she never gave up on her dream to follow her passion and break down barriers that so many before her could not figure out how to do. She changed the way society and the law view women’s rights. And she did it all while keeping family first, not wavering from her true self.

  • What are some small things that make your day better?

My son’s little hand in mine. The look our French Bulldog, Abel, gives me when he wants some attention. Hearing my husband tell me about his day. And a nice glass of red wine!

  • What’s your favorite food?

Italian. If I could eat pasta and bread every day, I would!

  • What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Where this is an issue, there is opportunity. Look at every problem with a solution lens and get creative on solving the problem. This is how you become a true partner versus just another salesperson.

When you work with our food brokerage company, you become part of the Bay Food family! Contact us today to learn how we can help your team grow in the Southeast.

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