Gary's Blog

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

The Story Behind the Product; Chapter 6. Olives with No Ferrous Gluconate

by Gary Cohen

We got into the olive business in the late 1990s, right after we started our company.

Jody and I were calling on the buyer at a Cooperative Distributor in Columbus, Ohio. She told us that the Coop brand was folding, and “carpe diem” – seize the moment – produce the same products they had supplied. So, we did.

One of the product lines they distributed was canned olives. I was never much of an olive fan while growing up in New York (pickles were more my thing). But kids sure like olives – they like to stick them on their fingers and eat them. Sounded like a good market to be in!


So, we approached the same people who were supplying olives to the Coop brand, and they took us on as a customer. We have been with the same producer now for over 20 years.


At first, we duplicated their existing product line – and came out with olives that had ferrous gluconate.




“What’s ferrous gluconate?” I asked.

“Iron sulfate,” was the answer.

“Why do you put that in olives?” I asked.

“Because it makes black olives black,” was the reply.


Turns out they could make olives without ferrous gluconate that are still black. But they aren’t uniformly black. They are kind of greyish, blackish, somewhat spotted olives. This is how olives normally look after they are cured. Which is why ferrous gluconate is added – to make them all look the same.

We offer both kinds in our product line.

I actually like the taste of the No Ferrous Gluconate ones better. Maybe you will as well.

And they still fit on kids’ fingers!

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

The Story Behind the Product; Chapter 7; Organic Maple Syrup

by Gary Cohen

We started selling Natural Value Organic maple syrup in the late 90s. One of the first products I represented in my natural food brokerage days was maple syrup when I started brokering back in 1989.

Back then, there were three grades of maple syrup.


Grade A Light Amber

Grade B Dark Amber

Grade C Manufacturer’s Grade


It takes 30 gallons of maple sap to make a gallon of maple syrup. And as with any sugar product, the longer you cook it, the darker it gets. The most potent sap that took the shortest amount of time to cook down was Grade A. The less potent sap that took longer to cook down had a deeper, richer taste…and that was Manufacturer’s grade or Grade C. It was also cheaper due to its abundance…and so became a staple of natural food stores selling it in bulk. Originally it was sold in metal tins, but it was later packed in a “bag in a box.”

I could relate to Grade C. That seemed to be the average grade I got in school. In the interest of full disclosure…it was either C- or C+. Not a B-.


Then the industry discovered that Grade C wasn’t a good idea to stimulate sales. All Eggs were seemingly Grade A. Chicken was Grade A. Syrup was Grade C?

So, the maple Industry eliminated Grade C. (Too bad the High School Industry didn’t eliminate Grade C in the 60s)

Grade A remained Grade A, Grade B remained Grade B, but Grade C was now called Grade B Dark Amber.

It was still cheaper, and in bulk, it still sold the best. A lot of consumers liked it too because it had that “dark, heavy, molasses-y type flavor.”

Then (Our old ‘Grade B’ Label 32oz jug)

Our Current ‘Grade A, Dark Color, Robust Taste’ Label, 32oz jug

Then a few years ago, grade creep struck again.


Led by the State of Vermont, the industry decided that all maple syrup should be grade

A. No more “Grade A Light, Medium and Dark.” Now the terms were “Grade A Dark Color, Robust Taste,” etc.

Wow. Too bad the high school/education industry didn’t adopt THIS grading plan. Then I would have been an “A” student!!

And that is how the maple syrup industry has “upgraded” their labeling and grading over the past 25 years.


Updated: Nov 29, 2020

The Story Behind Jute Sponges

by Gary Cohen


We have been producing various household sponges for many years.

As with so many manufacturing companies in the US, suppliers come and go…they get bought out, or close, or merge, and they often morph into supplying different products.

NV Jute Scrub Sponge - THEN (Old Label)

One of our suppliers offered us a jute sponge. I didn’t know for sure what Jute was, so I looked it up in the dictionary.

(To my younger readers, before Google, you looked things up in a dictionary. Google “what is a dictionary” to see what that is ).

Or look here: https://images.wisegeek.com/dictionary-and-thesaurus-hard-copy-books.jpg (Photo credit: wiseGEEK)

Anyway, according to Wikipedia…Jute is a long, soft, shiny Bast fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. Jute is the name of the plant or fiber used to make burlap, hessian or gunny cloth. Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers, and second only to cotton in the amount produced and variety of uses.” – Wikipedia.org/wiki/Jute

The supplier told me it was plant-based, and we decided to produce it.


We called it a Jute Eco Nat sponge. How did we come up with that? That’s what the supplier called it. Naming products can be easy sometimes.

Interestingly, around the office, we referred to it as our “Juke A Not” sponge.

I thought it would sell well because of the Jute. I was wrong. It was also made with soybean oil. I never did get an answer as to why it was made with soybean oil.

Sadly, it’s been discontinued, as the supplier no longer produces it, and we haven’t found a new source.

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