Higher Powers

Many small companies, especially those that sell their products in natural food stores, seem to make rather bold claims or statements about the ingredients in their products, claims perhaps not found on products from larger, more-mainstream companies. That is the case with the chocolate bar from Conscious Creations (Eugene, Ore.). Its Food of the Gods bar contains “100% organic live hempseed.”

Interestingly, the ingredient statement does not reflect hempseed, but rather cranberries, almonds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and soy lecithin, in addition to sugar, cocoa butter and cocoa liquor. Hempseed is one of the latest “hot” ingredients, as it contains significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. To help reinforce the hemp characteristics, the bar has a drawing of a classic hempseed plant.

Dog Tired?

Under the category of “human foods for animals,” PetAg (Hampshire, Ill.) has introduced an energy bar for dogs and cats in the U.S. It is somewhat larger than a human-food energy bar, but seems quite similar in other ways. The company says the bar is high-fat and high-protein for “fast energy for your pets.”

Closer reading of the package indicates that only part of the bar should be given at any one time (“It is intended for supplemental feeding only”), and that it should be broken up before being given to a pet. Leftovers have to be re-wrapped. The company also suggests warming it to increase acceptance of the bar by pets.

The whole point of energy bars for humans are their convenient format and complete nutrition. This bar seems to be offering exactly the opposite, but in a form that humans know and understand.

A Bid for Health

The latest snacks from Kraft (Glenview, Ill.) under its Nabisco brand have two major changes going for them. First, they are baked, thin or crispy, similar to some of its products, but not entirely. Second, they are sold in multipacks of 100-calorie packs.

These changes provide two clear benefits to consumers. The crispiness of the snacks (which includes Cheese Nips and Chips Ahoy!, among others) allows them to stand in for higher-calorie chips or other snacks. The 100-calorie packs also allow consumers to better “budget” their calories by having a standardized amount in each pack. The text on the back of the box says: “You don't have to count or measure anything--each pack is portioned out with 100 calories worth of delicious snacks for you to just grab and go.” In addition, the individual packs have “healthy living tips,” a different one on each package. A website offers more tips, also.

Cheesy, Not Fruity

This may be the first time toaster pastries have gone from sweet to savory, and from breakfast to another meal occasion. Kellogg (Battle Creek, Mich.) has taken a turn with its Pop-Tarts brand to introduce Pop-N-Hots toaster “snacks” in savory flavors. The products come in pizza, cheesy garlic bread, or cheesy quesadilla, and are heated in the toaster just like Pop-Tarts. These, however, are not filled with fruit or other sweet fillings, but with cheese and savory fillings. They also appear to have flavored sprinkles (possibly garlic) on top for additional flavor.

The product line is clearly a stab at the ever-growing Hot Pockets brand, which has been expanding into new flavors (from savory into sweet) and new forms (e.g., products that look like mini fruit pies).

This concept may help move Pop-Tarts into a secondary meal occasion; however, it has two potentially significant negatives. These new savory flavors are sold next to the sweet Pop-Tarts, which may hinder sales. Also, if the brand is competing with Hot Pockets, it may suffer some, as it is a shelf-stable product, while Hot Pockets are frozen.

Cookies More Like Cookies

About two years ago, Masterfoods (Hackettstown, N.J.) introduced a line of products called “Bisc &” in Europe. The line of category-blurring products looked a bit like a bar cookie but had candy toppings. The bar shape of the “Bisc &” products remains in Europe but is now changing in the U.S. Masterfoods introduced the same line, under the Cookies & label, also in a bar format. Now, however, the cookies have been reintroduced as squares rather than bars and are sold in a plastic tray with an overwrap, similar to so many other cookies on the market.

The individually wrapped bars, sold in multipacks, are still on the market in the U.S., billed as suitable for individual consumption. The smaller cookie squares are intended for family consumption; the pack says they are “great for after school, watching TV or as a late night snack.” They come in the same varieties as the bar-shaped snacks: Snickers, Twix, M&M's and Milky Way.

Sidebar: GlobalTrends

Newly launched on the Australian market is Lipton Cookies & Cream black tea, a rich and full-bodied tea blended with cookies and cream flavor. This unusually flavored variant is the latest addition to the Lipton range of sweet-tasting tea that includes caramel, honeycomb and vanilla varieties. More sweet versions are expected to be launched, including a Choc Orange black tea.

Private label products are, in many instances, a cheaper alternative to mainstream brands, but many can be more innovative and premium in flavor and design than other products. In the U.K., for example, Waitrose has launched a premium vinegar dressing that adds a gourmet touch to any salad. Made with sunflower oil, extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard and dried herbs, this dressing contains 7% Champagne vinegar. Also interesting is Tesco Finest Orange Marmalade Roasted Wiltshire Cured Ham, British pork meat cooked with orange and sugar and coated with an orange marmalade glaze.

In Australia, the Lay's brand from Smith's Snackfoods is launching Baked Lay's made with a blend of potato and rice and 92% fat-free. Varieties include country style, zesty blend and Texas BBQ. In the U.K., Kettle Chips is presenting Natural Reds, colored crisps in the company's new Specials range; they are made with a unique variety of red potato with a slightly nutty flavor. Also in the U.K. is a premium range from Walkers. Sensations are set to compete with the likes of Kettle Chips and come in flavors such as Thai sweet chili, and cheese & red onion.

High functional activity continues in the yogurt sector. In New Zealand, under the De Winkel brand from New Zealand Dairy Foods, are new yogurt drinks in antioxidant (with blackberry, boysenberry and strawberry) and energizing (with passionfruit, banana, apricot and spirulina) varieties. Also in New Zealand, from Naturalea, are herbal yogurts in varieties such as echinacea, and grapeseed and forest berries. A more sophisticated variety also has been added to a new Ecke des Monats range of dual-compartment yogurts from Müller in Germany. It comprises a coffee-flavored yogurt with a separate serving of Italian amarettini biscuit pieces.