May Staff Picks

The first staff-person I spoke with this month was Kendra Olson, who has been working at the Co-op as a barista for two years. Kendra decided to recommend the Panda Raspberry Licorice, because it is her all-time favorite snack food. Kendra says she often grabs the single serving Panda Licorice ropes from the snack aisle (across from the salad bar) as a quick snack when she is on the go. She admits they are a bit of a guilty pleasure and that she prefers the larger bags that can be found in the candy aisle, as the individual servings rarely make it all the way to the car.

Panda, a Finnish confectionary company founded in 1920, is best known for its soft licorice products. The company began manufacturing sweets and candies in the upstairs of a berry processing plant in Vaajakoski. Their products quickly gained popularity: within a year they added a second manufacturing shift, and they had to move into a new larger manufacturing facility within seven years.

The soft licorice product line was added to their repertoire in 1933, and after over eighty years of producing this product from the original recipe, it now accounts for 40 percent of the Finnish market share of licorice and is sold in over 25 other countries. Panda soft licorice is vegan, kosher, made with natural colors and flavors, and doesn’t contain additives, preservatives, white sugar, or salt.

Panda is founded on the basic principle of bringing pleasure and joy to consumers through the creation of tasty confectionary delights. The company also believes in creating safe products of the highest quality, minimizing the use of raw materials, and treating employees fairly (

The next staff-person I spoke with this month was Sean Knox, who has been working at the Co-op as the Deli Manager for five years. I always get pretty excited when I manage to stumble across a Deli or Bakery person who has wandered out of the confines of the kitchen, so I practically pounced on Sean when I saw him. He was very good-natured about all that, however, and happy to recommend the Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage Vegetarian Sausage Links.

Sean says he never tires of eating these extremely flavorful sausages, and he’s not even a vegetarian. He recommends them on their own on a bun, or as an addition to just about any dish to enhance flavor and texture. The Field Roast website has an excellent selection of recipe ideas using their products.

The Original Field Roast Grain Meat Company was founded in Seattle in 1997, a year after Seattle chef David Lee developed a great tasting alternative meat product by experimenting with a combination of European charcuterie sausage-making and the Asian Mien Ching tradition of crafting meat from grains (

The company started small, distributing their products to the PCC (Puget Consumers Co-op) store located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. By 2006, however, they had not only increased their product line but had managed to gain nationwide distribution. They attribute much of this success to their “Celebration Roast,” which is an alternative to turkey and widely considered to be the best holiday meat alternative. Field Roast also differs from many of the other alternative meat companies in that they do not aim to replicate the texture of animal meat, but rather to embrace the unique qualities of the grains and vegetable that make up their products.