Picking up the Pace

May 2004 Issue--Pace, Campbell Soup's (Edison, N.J.) brand of Mexican salsas and dips, is aggressively expanding its product offerings into other food segments. Given the rise in popularity of Mexican-influenced food and the growing Hispanic population in the U.S., this should come as no surprise. What is surprising, however, is how few major manufacturers have jumped on this trend.

Entering the market in recent months have been a Pace-branded bloody Mary mix and a line of “family entrée” meals, including Beef Tamale Pie and Beef Enchilada Casserole. Each meal provides four servings. The bloody Mary mix contains no alcohol. Other additions into the mass market/Mexican food market include new additions from Don Miguel (Anaheim, Calif.), which has focused on Mexican foods for many years.

A new sub-brand merges another trend, low-carb, for some unusual fare. Don Miguel Carb Friendly meals include Chicken Colorado, Southwestern Chicken and Steak Chili.

Sensible Kids' Snacks

Perfetti Van Melle (Erlanger, Ky.), manufacturers of the Air Heads and Mentos brands in the U.S., are spinning a new take on the Air Heads brand—making available a fruit snack called Air Heads Fruit Spinners. Packaged similarly to Fruit by the Foot, the product is fortified with Vitamin C flavor crystals. The crystals give the fruit snack a shimmering appearance and provide 25% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C in one 21g roll. The product is available in a Crazy Combos variety pack that includes fruit blend flavors Strawberry-Kiwi and Watermelon Strawberry. Fruit Punch and Watermelon also are available in a Wacky Fruits pack.

Given the nation's current preoccupation with childhood obesity and health, this product may find an appeal with kids and parents, as well as school systems concerned about the health properties of the foods they provide to students in the cafeteria, vending machines, etc.

Private Among the Public

Private label products in the U.S. are beginning to catch up to their European counterparts in terms of quality and innovation. H-E-B (San Antonio), a supermarket chain found primarily in Texas, is advancing its offerings with products that provide consumers with choice and variation.

The H-E-B line includes nearly all sections of the packaged goods market, from OTC medicines to snacks and beverages, and also includes a line of kid-themed products, called H-E-Buddy. Located in the Southwest, the company's private label provides lines of refrigerated meat products that offer consumers convenience at wallet-friendly prices.

The fully cooked sub-brand includes Appeteasers, 1lb. of microwaveable meatballs with BBQ sauce for $3.99; and Lean Beef Brisket with BBQ Sauce, which is said to be “authentic pit smoked.” It retails for $2.99 and can also be prepared as packaged in the microwave.

Orville Steps Out

The Orville Redenbacher brand is busting out of its shell. Until recently, the ConAgra-owned (Omaha, Neb.) brand sold only popcorn in its unpopped state. However, the company now is retailing the brand as a prepared snack product. Launched into convenience stores late last year was the Drizzlers sub-brand, butter toffee popcorn drizzled with chocolate and mixed with nuts.

Also in the confectionery/snack category is a Clusters line of sweet popcorn. Butter Toffee and Caramel Nut flavors are available. The product is a mixture of nuts and popcorn with a sweet glaze. The company has added a savory gourmet, cheese-flavored popcorn. It is available in Zesty Cheddar, Butter and White Cheddar flavors. Distribution is still limited on this item and the Clusters product line.

Quick and Hot Breakfasts

The breakfast area of the freezer case may be feeling a bit crowded these days. Consumers are finding less time for breakfast and are searching for quick, convenient goods that will help them in the morning. Aurora Foods' (recently merged with Pinnacle Foods, Cherry Hill, N.J.) Aunt Jemima brand added three breakfast products that can be zapped in the microwave in about a minute. Each comes with individual pots of syrup, so there is no need to search for that sticky bottle. The line is called Aunt Jemima Syrup Dunk'ers and is available as Cinnamon French Toast Sticks, Mini Pancakes and Homestyle Waffle Sticks.

Also new, from Schwan's Consumer Brands (Marshall, Minn.), is a Red Baron Breakfast Pizza in a Western Scramble variety. The product is made with a biscuit-style crust and features cheese, meat, vegetables and egg. It can be prepared in the microwave in three minutes.

Sidebar: GlobalTrends

Wasabi, the green-colored, Japanese version of horseradish with a hot flavor, is widely used in Asia but also has gained popularity in other regions, following the demand for all things ethnic. The GNPD has reported its use as an ingredient in numerous categories, ranging from snacks to sauces, crackers and desserts. Now, however, it has appeared in another interesting sector—cider. The new product, Xider Wasabi/Lemon has been introduced in Sweden by Carlsberg.

The low-fat and -calorie impulse ice cream segment (especially for non-sorbet lines) is somewhat small, as ice cream is not regarded as a healthy product. Companies in this healthier segment are mainly diet brands, such as Weight Watchers, and retailers that use their own healthy brands. Unilever's Magnum brand of impulse ice cream has appeared in a reduced-fat and -calorie Light version in Germany. Available through Unilever subsidiary Langnese-Iglo, it claims to contain 33% less fat and 30% fewer calories than regular ice cream.

Also of interest within the impulse segment, again in Germany, is the use of ricotta cheese as an ingredient. The Italian cheese already is found in various take-home ice-cream-based products, so it is interesting to see its use in impulse ice creams—adding value through increased choice and imparting a premium touch. The new product has been introduced under the mainstream Mövenpick brand from Nestlé Schöller, within its “ice cream of the year” concept. Made with a blend of ricotta cheese with peach ice cream and peach pieces, it is available in impulse cone and stick formats, and also as a take-home variety.

Kellogg again is focusing on freshness with its latest packaging revamp for the Kellogg's Corn Flakes line in the U.K. It recently launched inner foil bags to improve freshness, and now a new-shaped carton is said to “lock in the foil freshness.” The new K-Lock Pack comprises a simple design whereby the rectangular-shaped carton can be re-shaped so it ends up having a pointed top instead of the usual oblong shape. This is achieved by folding various flaps into the carton and over the foil bag.