Hitting the Shelves -- June 2007
Sweet AlternativeHigh-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) emerged as a common sweetener for U.S. beverages during the late 1970s and early 1980s and has increasingly become a replacement for traditional sugar in a variety of processed consumables. The beverage industry has seen a stronger focus on sugar alternatives beyond popular low-calorie sweeteners such as Splenda, and pure cane sugar is one of these options.
Natural and able to retain the original flavor of beverages, pure cane sugar is refined from sugar cane plants grown above ground. It is claimed to contain trace minerals, making it a preferable alternative to traditional sugar and is gaining popularity in the mainstream, as evidenced in the Jones Soda Pure Cane Soda initiative. The brand has eliminated HFCS in all of its canned sodas; an additional revamp of the entire bottled collection is expected by mid-year. Sources say the company spent over $1 million to reformat its production equipment to use pure cane sugar instead of HFCS.
Fiber with FlairFiber plays an important role in good health, aiding in the proper function of the digestive tract and reducing the risk of chronic health problems (among other things). Sufficient fiber intake can be achieved through several means, from dietary supplements to fruits and vegetables. However, a growing number of alternatives are designed to further appeal to the taste buds.
Kellogg’s All-Bran Crackers, for example, are bite-sized baked snacks with a crispy, light texture and the baked-in flavor of roasted garlic and fresh herbs. A spin-off of the company’s popular All-Bran cereal, this snack is packed with 5g fiber per serving, which is one fifth of the recommended daily value. This snack is also kosher-certified and sold in a 10oz pack.
Organic SandwichedBoth Kraft and Kellogg did it with their breakfast cereals, and now Nabisco is giving it a try within the snack realm. What are all three of these mainstream companies doing? They are reformulating a few of their most popular food items with organic ingredients.
A variety of Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookies from Nabisco is now made with organic flour and sugar. The cookies are free of artificial preservatives, flavors, colors, trans fat and hydrogenated oils.
As with most processed organic food, the reformulated Oreos carry a higher price point than the conventional version, due to higher costs associated with organic ingredients and production. Perhaps these manufacturers can go a step further by using all organic ingredients, allowing the products to be formally certified organic? Such an initiative would give them access to an even broader array of consumers.
Frozen FreshnessMany baby foods on supermarket shelves are heavily processed and packaged in jars, cans and pouches. However, natural products are emerging. Nurture has taken its baby food from the shelves to the freezer case with the launch of its HappyBaby Fresh Frozen Organic Baby Meals.
These meals are “gently” cooked and then frozen, in order to retain the “natural goodness”
of the organic ingredients. HappyBaby comes in a tray of 12 cubes filled with food pairings such as pears and sweet potatoes. Suitable for babies aged six months and older, the meals can be prepared in the microwave, on the stove or even naturally thawed while on the go. Each meal is packed with vitamins and nutrients essential to the proper growth and development of babies. Aside from the product’s attributes, its tagline provides insight into the direction of the industry: “Think Outside the Jar.”
The Reinvention of DinnertimeThe traditional family dinnertime is waning, as busy schedules and lessened culinary skills prevail. The result is that fewer meals are made at home, leaving a huge opportunity for dinner to be sought via restaurants and take-outs. However, families are expressing the need for a wholesome meal at home. To combat these out-of-home dining experiences, manufacturers have increased the production of multi-serve frozen meals. These pre-cooked, complete meals usually include a main dish and a side dish that require minimal preparation or cooking time. According to the “April 2006 Mintel Frozen Meals U.S.” report, multi-serve frozen meals account for nearly one fifth of sales and generated significant growth from 2003-2005. This growth is spurred by several market trends, including consumers’ need for convenient meal preparation and the quest for a broader flavor palate. The use of international flavors in these meals can replicate the restaurant experience, all in the comfort of the home.
Driving this trend, General Mills announced plans to launch two frozen pasta dinners developed by celebrity chef Mario Batali. These frozen entrées will be available at warehouse retailers such as Costco and Sam’s Club with a retail price of $10.99. The Mario Batali meals, which feed an average of five people, will initially be offered in gemelli with meatballs and orechiette with sweet Italian sausage and broccoli varieties. This new collection of meals is suitable for consumers looking for value, confidence from a strong brand name and a portion size feasible for the entire family. An increased demand for frozen meals that are healthy and nutritionally balanced remains.
GlobalTrendsWaking in the middle of the night with hunger pangs could be a thing of the past, or at least that is the goal of Sugarless Nighttime Yogurt, launched in Japan by Nipponluna. The product claims to alleviate hunger in the wake of the night, with half the calories of regular yogurt, 500mg of collagen to maintain good skin and 50mg of relaxation-inducing theanine. Products that control hunger feelings to help reduce snacking for consumers have been seen in the past, but one specifically positioned for nighttime is definitely a new take. The beauty-positioned ingredients, such as collagen and the relaxing theanine, are designed to help consumers have true beauty sleep.
After releasing various bath products such as bathtub crayons that allowed children to draw various soapy designs in their bath, Crayola has more recently teamed with Kellogg to entertain children while eating breakfast. In Mexico, Kellogg’s of Mexico released a re-branded cereal under the Kellogg’s Froot Loops Crayola brand. Kellogg’s Froot Loops Crayola Cereal de Maíz, Trigo y Avena con Sabores Naturales a Frutas Oat is a corn and wheat cereal infused with fruit flavors and enriched with vitamins and minerals. The 550g carton also contains four fruit-flavored Crayola topping packets that can be used for drawing on the cereal and entertaining children. Using toppings to draw or paint designs on food has been seen in some bakery sub-categories; however, its rather innovative use in breakfast cereals will likely keep more than just the kids amused.
Fish, a naturally healthy food, becomes less healthy once processed and covered in batter/breadcrumbs. A number of efforts have sought to preserve the healthy qualities of fish in the coated segment. These include the addition of extra vitamins and minerals, the removal of artificial additives/preservatives or the use of cereal instead of breadcrumbs, which is perceived to be a healthier option. A more recent development has seen whole-grain coatings, in line with increasing consumer awareness of the health benefits of whole grains (reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes; improves bowel function; offers better weight management). The latest such line is from Findus in Finland: fish fingers made with 11% whole-grain wheat flour.