Feeling the Squeeze

Unilever Bestfoods (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.) has been kidding around with the Skippy peanut butter brand of late. Last year, it made the peanut butter world take notice by putting peanut butter in a flexible plastic tube (like recent yogurts and puddings), calling the product Squeeze Stix.

Now, the brand goes one step further with the introduction of Skippy Squeez' It, peanut butter packed in a free-standing plastic tube. The bright blue-colored packaging reads “Squeeze the Fun!…Lose the Knife!” Also, the cap's opening is a wide-mouth open slit, so kids really can lose the knife. Another line of peanut butter products recently was launched by Peanut Better (Agoura, Calif.). Available are several sweet and several savory varieties such as cinnamon currant, vanilla cranberry, Thai ginger red pepper, and rosemary garlic.

Lap of Luxury

Haagen-Dazs (Minneapolis) has a new line of ice creams. The Desserts Extraordinaire sub-brand includes Bananas Foster (banana ice cream with brown sugar and rum swirls), Tres Leches Three Milks Cake (made with cream, condensed milk, and skim milk mixed with rum-flavored sponge cake) and Chocolate Raspberry Torte. These definitely are adult flavors designed for indulgence.

Edy's Grand Ice Cream (Oakland) Dreamery line recently added Triple Butter Pecan flavor. The company also launched the Amazing Flavors sub-brand, where ingredients are packed in tight. Varieties include Blue Ribbon Chocolate Cake, with chunks of chocolate cake, Ultimate Caramel Cup and French Vanilla Fudge Pie.

Popping Fancy

Microwave popcorn has always come in two flavors—salted and buttered (and mega-buttered, and super-mega buttered…). However, now manufacturers are trying to challenge taste buds with a plethora of new flavors not normally associated with the snack. In recent months, about 10 flavored microwave popcorns have hit U.S. markets.

Honey Butter flavors arrived under the Pop Secret (General Mills, Minneapolis) and Orville Redenbacher (ConAgra, Omaha, Neb.) brands. Pop Secret's also added a Toffee Butter variety, and the packaging displays a Scottish plaid design.

New from Snack Brands (Franklin Park, Ill.) are licensed flavors added to popcorn. Cheez It White Cheddar and Tabasco Hot & Spicy flavors now can be popped at home. For another spicy treat, Buttery Jalapeno flavor is available from Shelia B. (Manson, Iowa). So, what's next? How about candy flavors—blue raspberry, sour apple, cotton candy?

Color Changes

Mott's North America (Stamford, Conn.) is jazzing up the appeal of applesauce with the launch of Mott's Magic Mix-Ins AppleSauce, individual pots with packets of colored crystals that change the sauce's color. Kraft's (Glenview, Ill.) Lunchable's brand launched its Make Your Own Magic sub-brand of color-changing foods last year. It includes all the traditional meats and cheeses expected from the brand, plus one bonus—a magic-themed candy stamper (one of a set of five available). One stamper, for example, applies a blue image of a magic wand and stars. New in Canada from Weston Foods (Etobicoke, Ontario) is Wonder Wacki, a line of hamburger and hot dog “bunz” that are brightly colored in orange and purple. Presumably the idea is for kids to use them in conjunction with their colorful ketchup options—the newest one in the U.S. being Heinz's (Pittsburgh) EZ Squirt brand in Stellar Blue.

Juicy Teas

With the growing awareness of the health benefits of black and green tea consumption, the ingredients are popping up in new products in user-friendly formats designed for non-tea drinkers. One way it is appearing is flavored with fruit juices in prepared bottled teas.

Tazo Tea (Portland), available in select groceries and at retailers like Starbucks (Seattle), has introduced a sub-brand of its tea called Juiced Tea. The flavors in the line are sweetened with real juice ingredients in conjunction with the tea. Varieties include Tea Lemonade, made with black tea, and Plum Delicious, made with plum and pomegranate juice and green tea, and other flavors like Mango, Giant Peach, and Tazoberry.

A competing line, from Honest Tea (Bethesda, Md.), recently added Peach Oo-La-Long and Green Dragon Tea, made with passion fruit. Ciao Bella (Irvington, N.J.), an ice cream manufacturer, recently launched Green Tea with White Chocolate Gelato, while Clif Bar (Berkeley, Calif.) energy bars use green tea extract as an ingredient.

Sidebar: GlobalTrends

Competition in the U.K. biscuit market is heating up for traditional biscuit (cookie) players such as McVitie's and Fox's Biscuits. However, with its recent Bisc & range, Mars is not the only one attempting to make in-roads in the market. Another leading confectionery player, Nestlé, is doing the same with its Milkybar white chocolate brand. The company has stepped tentatively into this segment with the launch of biscuit & chocolate snacks such as Milkybar Munchies, but its recent launch is strictly a biscuit. The new product comprises round sandwich biscuits with a Milkybar-flavored filling, packaged in a roll-pack.

Packaging found in haircare or deodorant markets has inspired two recent U.K. confectionery launches. Crazy Candy Foam from Felföldi Potpourri is a foaming, green apple-flavor candy packaged in a plastic bottle with a pump dispenser to release the foam (similar to that for foam hair-styling mousse). Meanwhile, Brain Licker from Key Enterprises is a liquid sour candy packaged in a plastic bottle resembling a roll-on deodorant pack. The roller ball does not seem to move. Instead, the liquid candy is released around the edges of the ball once the bottle is squeezed.

Also in the U.K., Kellogg has extended its successful Nutri-Grain bar brand with a new mini version, geared more to children. The original Nutri-Grain bar had an adult positioning, further emphasized by recent line extensions including ginger- and cappuccino-flavored varieties. The new mini bars are described as "bite-size golden baked crusts" with a fruit filling and are available in three varieties: apple, strawberry and blueberry. Like Kellogg's other cereal bars, these are fortified with calcium and are said to be ideal in a child's lunchbox, for sharing or nibbling straight from the pack.

Choice in the instant coffee market already is abundant, with indulgent flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut and Irish cream. Now, a fruity flavor (something more commonly found in the herbal/fruit tea sector) is joining the market, with the Germany launch of a melon-flavored instant cappuccino coffee. It is a mainstream introduction from Nestlé using its Nescafé coffee brand.