Spicing It Up  

As Chick-fil-A continues to expand its number of restaurant locations, the company likewise continues to develop and expand its menu offerings. For its latest innovation, however, the development may be somewhat familiar to competitors'--and even its own--offerings, but its implementation is somewhat unique.

The new Spicy Chicken Biscuit joins the chain's Spicy Chicken Sandwich, added to the menu in June of last year. It features the company's signature, hand-breaded, boneless breast of chicken seasoned with a blend of peppers and spices, pressure-cooked in 100% refined peanut oil and served on a "made-from-scratch" buttermilk biscuit.

In launching the new breakfast offering, Chick-fil-A allowed its fans to take to the Internet to get a free sample. For a week, visitors to the Chick-fil-A website could download a coupon to "reserve" a free Spicy Chicken Biscuit.  

Oh, Bother

Beech-Nut has been rather busy in the co-branding arena of late. In addition to incorporating the Jolly Green Giant into a new line of baby food, the company is adding a bear with a rumbly tummy to a new line of toddler food.

Disney's Winnie the Pooh characters will grace the Beech-Nut toddler line for children age 12 months and older. The products promise no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and, per Beech-Nut, "adhere to Beech-Nut's strict ingredient standards, in order to maintain an authentic taste and provide nutritious and delicious food for this active age group."

Disney's versions of A.A. Milne's classic characters, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Piglet, will adorn the new product line.

Giant of a Brand

Green Giant has long been a popular brand for its parent General Mills. The brand dates from the mid-1920s, and the Jolly Green Giant was a key component of its owner's marketing efforts on television and in radio for decades.

Now, the company is adding the brand to a line of baby foods featuring Beech-Nut purees. The co-branding effort supports a line of baby food made with natural ingredients.

As Evan Eckman, chief marketing officer for Hero North America, parent company of Beech-Nut, notes, "Beech-Nut and Green Giant share a century-long history of American food tradition. Most babies are ready to start solid foods at about four months, and studies show healthy eating habits start in early childhood. We're proud to have selected varieties of Beech-Nut purees to feature the Green Giant brand."

Drinking Up

PepsiCo is introducing its first "drinkable" snack. Tropolis is a new, pureed fruit product with 80 calories and "considered thick enough to be a snack, rather than a beverage, and will be marketed to mothers and children," reports the December 30, 2010, Daily Mail.

The London paper notes the company's Tropicana unit is introducing apple, cherry and grape flavors of the new product in the U.S. Midwest this month (February 2011). PepsiCo's goal seems to be to expand its product line into nutritious convenience foods, as chair Indra Nooyi aims to triple the nutrition arm of PepsiCo (from $10 billion to $30 billion) by 2020. The new product mixes puree and juice, in a formulation developers had to adjust to achieve the desired thickness, "without adding gums or starches, and ingredients include apple puree, filtered water, banana puree concentrate and three other kinds of fruit concentrate."

Prebiotics and Probiotics: Why All the Fuss?

In the December 6, 2010, issue of Prepared Foods' E-dition electronic newsletter, John Michaelides with Guelph Food Technology Centre explored prebiotics and probiotics. As he explained, although some basic understanding of these terms in the food industry exists, their function, health benefits, mode of application in food systems and regulatory issues are very complex. The better they are understood, the more effectively they can be incorporated into food products.

For instance, while prebiotics are mainly known to have an effect on colon microbes, some scientists think they may interact with other systems, such the oral cavity and the uro-genital tract. There is potentially a great number of substances that fulfill this role. Some examples are inulin from chicory and Jerusalem artichoke, short chain fructo-oligosaccharides (short-chain FOS) and trans galacto-oligosaccharides (T-GOS). It is very important that the effect of prebiotics is scientifically proven, prior to making any claims.

"Incorporating prebiotics into food products is a natural way to deliver these healthy ingredients to consumers," Michaelides noted. "Most prebiotics are easy to incorporate and, as an added bonus, are instrumental in providing functionality to the food product. For example, short-chain units of prebiotics will behave like sugar and contribute to the browning effect and crispiness of the finished product. On the other hand, longer-chain unit prebiotics will act like a fat replacer, contributing to texture and mouthfeel. Most prebiotics are not normally damaged or substantially altered by food processing conditions, and, therefore, their gut functionality is retained. On the other hand, harsh processing conditions will kill the majority of probiotics in prepared foods, since food processing parameters are often designed to eliminate microorganisms for food safety reasons."

Both prebiotic and probiotic applications to processed foods need to be approached with caution. Food industry innovators need to make sure the products developed are truly delivering the beneficial effects to the consumer. Prebiotics and probiotics are incorporated into food products to provide health benefits. It is important these benefits are maintained through the manufacture and storage of the product, until they are consumed. pf

For the full E-dition article, visit www.PreparedFoods.com and enter "Michaelides fuss" into the search field.

In Box

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* Univar completed the acquisition of the Quaron business in Belgium and the Netherlands and also completed the acquisition of Basic Chemical Solutions LLC. Concurrent with the close of the acquisition, Mark Byrne, president and chief executive officer of BCS, was appointed as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Univar.
* Omega Protein Corporation acquired Cyvex Nutrition, which will retain Matthew Phillips as Cyvex's president and chief executive officer.
* Centre Partners Management LLC completed the acquisition of all assets and operations of Bumble Bee Foods, in a transaction valued at $980 million.
* The Stratas Foods LLC management committee appointed Tedd Kruse to the position of chief executive officer effective January 3, 2011.
* Ocean Nutrition Canada Limited entered into an exclusive, long-term strategic agreement with Wilmar International Limited, based in Singapore. 
* MGP Ingredients Inc. appointed Cheryl Harrity as corporate director of supply chain, effective immediately.