Gumming Up
The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. unveiled its latest line extensions and innovations at this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo. Furthermore, the company explained, consumers are “finding  the benefits of chewing gum extend beyond breath freshening...research has shown that chewing sugar-free gum provides oral health benefits, and emerging science suggests potential wellness benefits in stress relief; focus, alertness and concentration; and weight management.”

Among the company’s newest gums is an extension of its 5 line. 5 React promises a “mixture of flavors in every stick, giving each chewer a different experience.”

Later in the year, consumers will see a number of Wrigley introductions, with Extra Dessert Delights (gum in such flavors as mint chocolate chip, strawberry shortcake and Key lime pie), Starburst GummiBurst Flavor Duos (combinations such as strawberry watermelon and lemon cherry) and three new Orbit gum varieties (Tropical Remix, Perfect Peach and Berry Red), all launching in September. 

Life on Mars
The 2010 Sweets & Snacks Expo also saw Mars North America introduce the latest additions to its confections and snacks lines. Most notable for the group were its line extensions in the M&Ms and Snickers brands. The former will add a pretzel variety, featuring a crunchy, salted pretzel center covered in milk chocolate and coated in a candy shell. Snickers, meanwhile, is augmenting its line with a peanut butter variety; Snickers Peanut Butter Squared will feature peanuts, nougat, caramel and milk chocolate, in addition to the peanut butter, when it launches in December of this year.

Snickers is also adding a limited-edition treatment with Snickers Xtreme Bar. Hitting stores in September 2010, it boasts peanuts and caramel covered in chocolate and promises 5g of protein per bar.

The Snickers brand, however, is being de-emphasized somewhat with a makeover of the company’s Marathon energy bars. The new packaging for the energy and protein bars, instead focuses upon protein, vitamin and mineral content.

The concept of Superfruits has emerged in recent years, as consumers seek healthy foods and beverages with an appealing, perhaps even unexplored, flavor. Noni has proven particularly popular among consumers and manufacturers alike.

Noni boasts vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and iridoids, its key bioactives, explains Tahitian Noni International, in a release announcing its new bioactive beverage line. These iridoids “have been liked to over two dozen real health benefits,” the company notes, such as the elimination of harmful free radicals to maintaining good cholesterol to increasing energy and promoting heart health. Now, the company is turning its eyes toward “bioactive beverages that provide proven health benefits through human clinical trials.”

Candy High
While few, if any, segments of the food industry finished 2009 with robust results, the confection section recovered from an early-year slump and managed a positive, though slight, gain of 3.6% in sales, according to the National Confectioners Association (NCA).

The early part of the year had been particularly hard on dark chocolate offerings, with the first two months seeing a 2.2% drop in dark chocolate sales. However, the segment rebounded strongly in the later parts of the year to register a 9% sales increase.

The nation’s (for that matter, the world’s) economic crises may have played a key role. Analysts note consumers have likely turned to chocolate and other confections as affordable indulgences.

Trends with Whey Protein
Whether used in a smoothie, snack bar, yogurt, baked good, beverage or any number of other products, whey protein continues to play a vital role in the ingredient profile of many of today’s product innovations, explained Kara McDonald in a recent issue of E-dition, Prepared Foods’ e-mail newsletter. Using whey protein in food and beverage products is proving a popular way for manufacturers to provide extra value to the consumer, while also offering flavor and functional properties to help food and beverage manufacturers improve texture, emulsify and stabilize, or extend the shelflife of products.

“Whey protein has been showing up in a variety of mainstream categories,” said Sharon Gerdes, technical consultant for the U.S. Ingredients Program (USIP), part of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), managed by Dairy Management Inc.™ (DMI).

A recent Mintel consumer survey found consumers list “eating a lot of protein” as among the top five elements of healthy eating. Consuming more foods with added whey protein is a way for consumers to increase protein intake, which can help them achieve a higher protein diet and satiety benefits, according to DMI.

Calorie for calorie, protein has been shown to lead to greater satiety than carbohydrates or fats, according to an Institute of Medicine report, “Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids,” (Institute of Medicine, Washington D.C., National Academies Press, 2005).

Furthermore, “emerging research shows that whey proteins, which are high-quality, dairy-derived proteins, can provide an anabolic advantage over other proteins in promoting muscle protein synthesis or the making of new muscle,” Pikosky said. “Whey protein’s advantage in this is attributed to the high level of leucine in whey proteins. Of the nine essential amino acids, leucine is the key amino acid, or nutrient signal, that initiates muscle protein synthesis.”

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* Hormel Foods Specialty Products Division has completely redesigned, adding more detailed ingredient specifications, a news and events blog with RSS integration, interactive menus and a sample request form.
* A recent ruling by Health Canada now allows Cognis’ natural plant sterol and sterol esters to be used in food products. 
* Cargill’s U.S. meat business plans to invest $14.7 million in the “Cargill Innovation Center,” a new, Wichita, Kan., facility with R&D, culinary, laboratory, pilot plant and distribution capabilities. Construction is scheduled to begin July 2010, with completion projected for June 2011.
* Troy Hudgson has been appointed to the position of vice president of category development for Fonterra Ingredients North America. 
* Viterra Inc. signed a definitive agreement to acquire 21st Century Grain Processing for an all-cash purchase price of $90.5 million, subject to adjustments for debt, cash and working capital levels at the time of closing.
* Enzymotec has obtained a Novel Food status in Europe for its Krill Product line, including the Pure Krill oil grade.
* Glanbia Nutritionals has developed a new proprietary heat treatment process, MicroSure Plus, an intense process which the company claims will reduce the total plate count substantially more than any other heat treatment currently available.
* Polifenoles Naturales SL and P.L. Thomas inaugurated their strategic alliance by exhibiting together at the Vitafoods Exhibition held May 17-19.
* Aker BioMarine received confirmation that its krill fisheries will be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an independent, global, non-profit organization that works to promote sustainable