School Breaks

The past couple of years have seen one mainstream press article after another discussing lunch, snack and beverage options available in school cafeterias and vending machines around the country. Parents groups have done much to force more-healthful food options upon young people.

Helping students get a good start to the day will be East Side Entrées' (Woodbury, N.Y.) ready-to-eat Breakfast Breaks, which will be served in cafeterias, classrooms and even on school buses. These boxed meals will include a cereal bowl pack, an additional bread/grain snack serving, and a serving of 100% fruit juice. When served with milk, East Side assures the meal provides a complete, nutritious breakfast meeting the government requirements for key nutrients for children.

As an example, one of the box menus includes General Mills (Minneapolis) Honey Nut Cheerios, animal crackers and Mott's (Rye Brook, N.J.) Apple Juice. As an East Side spokesperson explains, the meal requires no preparation: the foodservice staff need only to hand each student the Breakfast Break box and a carton of milk.

Off the Tea

With the winter months rapidly approaching, companies are taking the opportunity to launch new tea products. Targeting the cold season directly is Teaology (Aliso Viejo, Calif.).

The company is adding four organic hot tea flavors, blends based on pure botanical organic ingredients, says the company. Lemon myrtle, kiwi and green tea combine in Jumpstart, while grapefruit, ginger and yerba mate are in Whip It. Spot the Clock has pomegranate, peach, blueberry leaf and green tea, with Urban Defense sporting goldenseal, zinc, Echinacea and peppermint.

Also joining the organic tea bandwagon is a six-item line from Celestial Seasonings (Boulder, Colo.). These include Decaf Lemon Myrtle Green, Mango Darjeeling Black, Vanilla Apple White, Sweet Clementine Chamomile Herb, black and green teas.

Vodka and Tea?

The health benefits of green tea no longer are a secret. Study after study has touted the antioxidant properties of the beverage, and consumers have followed the advice. Responding, manufacturers are adding green tea into an increasing number of foods and even other beverages.

However, not all of those efforts have focused solely on the healthful aspects of green tea. Charbay (St. Helena, Calif.), for instance, was hoping to “highlight the delicacy, lightness and flavor” of the beverage, “but in a martini or rocks glass,” says Miles Karakasevic, the company's owner and a master distiller.

To combine the two distinctive worlds of tea and vodka required three years. The green tea vodka contains extractions of four tea varieties from China's Anhwei province and has a blend “akin to how perfumes are formulated, with a top-note fragrance, a middle structure and a long, smooth base finish.”

Careful of Young Ears

Watchdog groups are increasing efforts to monitor marketing messages aimed at children. While the food industry may not be the sole focus, it has received its fair share of attention.

The Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI, Boston), for instance, has issued a sharp critique of industry self-regulation of food marketing messages to children. “Industry Controls Over Food Marketing to Young Children: Are They Effective?” deems the system “ineffective when measured against available criteria for gauging the adequacy of self-regulation, and also ineffective in the context of the worsening obesity epidemic and its damaging impact on children.”

The PHAI analysis regards the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU, New York) as “seriously flawed and not salvageable.” Furthermore, the PHAI says current proposals to improve self-regulation “do not address some of the most serious failings of CARU.”