Presto! Pasta

Targeting kids in need of convenience, Raguw has unveiled Ragu Expresse, “the answer for moms whose kids enjoy taking control in the kitchen,” according to Ragu.

Ragu Express marks the 60+-year-old company's first foray into the ready-to-heat-and-eat category that promises to offer parents and on-the-go kids the convenience they need. The new item comes in shelf-stable, single-serve portions. The product seeks to meet two needs—convenience and the desire of kids to have control in making their snacks. The quick 3-1/2 minute cooking time results in instant satisfaction for children and a minimum of cleanup for parents.

Ragu Express is in step with recent trends toward convenience foods for children. A study by Nickelodeon/Yankelovich Youth Monitor found some 75% of children ages six through 17 prepared their own snacks. Ragu Express and other items allow these young chefs to expand their culinary creativity by adding favorite food items to their meals.

Natural Friday's

T.G.I. Friday's is the largest casual restaurant chain to feature all-natural Meyer Natural Anguse beef burgers.

Already on the menus, the all-natural Angus burger provides consumers “the assurance of source-verified, all-natural hamburger,” according to T.G.I. Friday's. The Meyer Natural Angus cattle are reportedly raised on a strict diet of wholesome forages and grains. The cattle are never administered hormones, antibiotics or animal byproducts. A single source of origin ensures the burger quality from supplier to restaurant.

“When you think of innovation,” says John Gilbert, senior vice president of marketing for Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, parent company of T.G.I. Friday's, “words like high-tech and futuristic often come to mind. But sometimes, innovation means looking back instead of ahead—back to a time when ranchers raised their animals without antibiotics or artificial growth hormones.”

The Color Purple

Children now have a new color with which to decorate their hamburgers and hot dogs. Heinz Ketchup has added Heinz EZ Squirt Funky Purplew to its EZ Squirt line, which includes Tomato Red and Blastin' Green.

According to Casey Keller, managing director for ketchup, condiments and sauces at Heinz North America, “Literally thousands of people called, wrote or e-mailed us demanding a new Heinz EZ Squirt color, and the vast majority of kids asked for purple.”

Don't be surprised, however, if other colors are added to Heinz' “growing complement of colored condiments.” The company earlier announced several options for the new hue, including orange, hot pink or yellow.

Souping Up

Campbell Soup Company will invest in a series of initiatives aimed at strengthening the company's position in soups, sauces, beverages and indulgent snacking. Targeting both the U.S. and international markets, Campbell's new endeavors will focus primarily on the company's U.S. soup business, improving its quality, increasing marketing (including advertising) and accelerating innovation.

In describing the single-most comprehensive commitment to revitalization ever undertaken in the 132-year history of Campbell Soup Company, Douglas R. Conant, Campbell's president and chief executive officer, did not mince words about the shortcomings at the company. Conant says Campbell's has stumbled in the marketplace, weakened its connection with consumers and disappointed investors.

To correct these problems, Conant says, “This transformation plan will require significant investment and realistic expectations. We need to fund important quality initiatives, restore competitive levels of advertising and consumer support of our brands and rebuild our infrastructure.”