Soup Classics

General Mill's Progresso (Minneapolis) brand of ready-to-serve soups introduced its Rich & Hearty line at this year's FMI Show. Offering the “thickest, richest soups ever from Progresso,” says the company, Rich & Hearty will debut in eight flavor combinations—beef pot roast with country vegetables, steak and roasted russet potatoes, sirloin steak and vegetables, slow-cooked vegetable beef, chicken and homestyle noodles, creamy chicken wild rice, chicken pot pie and savory beef barley vegetable. Hitting shelves in July, the line promises an abundance of high-quality ingredients, including lean beef, all white meat chicken, Italian flat beans and baby pearl onions.

Also in the soup aisles, Progresso's chief rival, Campbell Soup Co. (Camden, N.J.), announced several soup initiatives and updates for fiscal 2004. “Kitchen Classics” is a line of ready-to-serve soups priced between condensed and premium ready-to-serve soups. Featuring 10 varieties, including Lentil and New England Clam Chowder, Kitchen Classics will replace Campbell's Classics line and takes advantage of Campbell's proprietary cold-blend process, which is said to enhance flavor and improve texture. A total of 14 condensed chicken varieties will be improved with the cold-blend processes in fiscal 2004.

Campbell's also will add seven new varieties to its M'm! M'm! Good! To Go line of single-serve microwaveable soups. Three of these new flavors will target the Tween market, and six varieties of Chunky and four versions of Select soups will appear in new single-serve, microwaveable bowls.

Elsewhere in the supermarket, Campbell's announced the upcoming launch of its first certified organic product. Campbell's Organic Tomato Juice will carry the USDA Organic Seal and be available in 46-oz., multi-serve bottles beginning in November.

Breaking New Ground

New categories, untapped potential and bold moves were on display from beverage makers at this year's Food Marketing Institute (FMI) (Chicago) Show. Creating “an entirely new category,” Allied Domecq Spirits & Wine North America (Westport, Conn.) plans to launch Kuya nationally in September. Targeting 21- to 29-year-olds, this fusion rum combines imported rums, natural spices and citrus flavor and, according to a spokesperson, will capture share not only in rum but also in the bourbon, vodka and beer categories.

Venturing into somewhat uncharted waters, PepsiCo (Purchase, N.Y.) has decided to sell an alcoholic beverage in Russia. The drink, “IQ long,” is a carbonated beverage containing natural juice and 7% alcohol by volume. The packaging, however, will not mention Pepsi, referring instead to the company's Ost-Aqua plant in the Moscow region.

In other Pepsi news, rumors are swirling about new products on the horizon that incorporate the low-calorie, full-bulk sweetener Tagatose. In fact, several European press articles suggest products could be released as early as this summer. Pepsi, however, had no comment on the reports, although Tagatose licensee Spherix (Beltsville, Md.) claims the beverage giant is “exploring the use of tagatose in several products.”

Meanwhile, Pepsi rival Coca-Cola (Atlanta) has dumped two trial dairy products—Choglit and another drink known within the company as Slap. However, Coke's new dairy drink will hit shelves this summer. Available in chocolate, vanilla-banana and blueberry flavors, Swerve will contain more than 50% dairy products, and launches in July and August.

Free at Last!

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports Americans consumed 158 pounds of sweeteners per person in 1999. That includes sugar labeled as high fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses and maple syrup. It also is a 30% jump over the 123 pounds consumed in 1980. WHO recommends people across the globe limit sugar added to foods to less than 10% of calories. Several introductions at this year's Candy Expo in Chicago were more than happy to show consumers the light.

Debuting just before the show, Hershey Foods' (Hershey, Pa.) line of sugar-free candies includes Reese's Sugar Free Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures, Hershey's Sugar Free Chocolate candy, Hershey's Sugar Free Chocolate candy with Almonds and Hershey's Sugar Free Dark Chocolate candy. In the products, the sugar substitute is lactitol, which is slowly metabolized and “generally causes only a small rise in blood sugar levels,” says the company.

The Hershey products were far from alone in abandoning sugar. Blitz Sugar-Free Power Gum from Schuster Marketing Corp. (Milwaukee) is produced with a no-heat process to intensify flavor. Dentyne Fire Gum from Cadbury Adams USA (Parsippany, N.J.) is another sugar-free offering in a hot cinnamon flavor

Another sugar-free entry launched at the show was Slim Mints, though LifeMax's (Twinsburg, Ohio) product also promises weight-loss benefits. According to the company, each mint boasts two all-natural, FDA-listed ingredients—chromium polynicolinate to reduce appetite and L-carnitine to increase metabolism.

Sugar has not been consumers' only concern, however. This is reflected in Mars Inc.'s (Hackettstown, N.J.) announcement of a change in the recipe on their popular Mars and Snickers bars in the U.K. Hydrogenated vegetable fat (aka trans fat), has been removed due to “a level of public concern on the issue,” said a spokesperson. The company also is looking to change the recipes on other of its products.

Whey More Ice Cream

Ice cream manufacturers continue to explore new flavors, as well as new means of production. Whey is the secret to the latter, as ice cream companies have asked the FDA to permit them to make their products with more whey. Their argument is that approval will give them more flexibility to make a variety of products and meet consumer demand, though opponents of the proposal fear whey's reputation for imparting a rancid flavor.

In more mouth-watering news, Haagen-Dazs (San Ramon, Calif.) has launched its seven-item Desserts Extraordinaire line. Made with “super-premium” quality ingredients, flavors in the line include:

Bananas Foster—banana ice cream enhanced with a hint of brown sugar and rum

Creme Brulee—custard ice cream with a swirl of caramelized sugar

Chocolate Mousse—rich chocolate ice cream, fluffy and smooth

French Vanilla Mousse—silky French vanilla ice cream

Strawberry Cheesecake—cheesecake ice cream with a blend of strawberries and crunchy graham crust

Chocolate Raspberry Torte—rich chocolate ice cream with a tart raspberry swirl and moist pieces of chocolate cake

Cafe Mocha Frappe—creamy chocolate ice cream swirled with coffee

These join Haagen-Dazs' new Tres Leches ice cream. Based on the Latin American Tres Leches cake, Haagen-Dazs' version features bits of sponge cake with a hint of rum flavor combined into rich milk and cream ice cream, then swirled with a delicate ribbon of caramel and coconut.

Mayfield Dairy Farms (Athens, Tenn.) is celebrating a tradition from less-farther south with its new ice cream flavor. In its first partnership with Chattanooga Bakery (Chattanooga, Tenn.), Mayfield's Moon Pie added Mayfield vanilla ice cream with a French Silk ribbon, plus chocolate-covered graham cracker marshmallow pieces. Outside the ice cream case, Mayfield also has introduced Sour Pops. These frozen treats are in traditional flavors of cherry, lemon and lime fruit, but add a sour twist.