Prepared Foods showcases new prepared vegetables and fruit products debuting in May 2020.
New Look, Tropical Taste
The Worthy Company, New York, N.Y., greeted this spring with a new variety and a rebranded look for its entire line of plant-based Worthy Bowls.
Co-Founders Sarah Renahan and Nydia Shipman launched The Worthy Company in 2018 with a line of refrigerated snacks in 5.7oz travel-friendly bowls for on-the-go or at-home eating. Each contains three servings of veggies and fruits, 8g of vegan protein, 8g of dietary fiber and 8g of sugar—totaling about 150 calories.
Worthy Bowls come in five flavors such including new Mango & Greens (pictured) as well as Dark Cocoa Cherry, Pineapple & Greens, Strawberries & Greens and Vanilla Orange.
“The Worthy Company is committed to providing consumers with delicious, nourishing, plant-based snacks that are made from Mother Nature’s resources and can be easily incorporated into everyday life,” says Shipman.
Shipman says new a new Mango & Greens variety combines sweet mango with nutrient-rich cauliflower, broccoli and white beans.
The Worthy Company’s Worthy Bowls retail for $3.49 and are free of dairy, gluten, soy, nuts and artificial flavors. In retail, Worthy Bowls can be found within the refrigerated section next to yogurt.
Tommy’s Superfoods LLC, Corte Madera, Calif., says it combines taste, nutrition and convenience its two latest frozen offerings: Asian Fusion and Cauliflower and Purple Sweet Potatoes.
“There are a lot of choices at the grocery store for consumers looking to eat healthier by following a plant-based diet,” says Doug Carlson, CEO of Tommy’s Superfoods. “But not all plant-based foods are healthy choices and some can even be considered ultra-processed foods. Tommy’s is committed to providing consumers with the pinnacle of health by using whole vegetables, that are flash-frozen to maintain maximum nutrients, freshness and seal in texture and flavor.”
Carlson says new Asian Fusion is a seven-vegetable blend with non-GMO Tamari and seasoned with a proprietary, hand-crafted “Asian 5-spice” blend including black sesame seeds. Cauliflower & Purple Sweet Potatoes combines four unique vegetables including purple sweet potatoes and green chickpeas. It’s also seasoned with an “addictive” BBQ seasoning blend, the company says.
All Tommy’s products are certified vegan, non-GMO and low sodium (by FDA standards). Carlson adds that all products (now a total of nine) have no artificial colors or flavors. Meanwhile, they are all-natural and plant-based and incorporate low-sodium seasonings and ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, non-GMO Tamari, as well as non-GMO vegetables.
All Tommy’s products have a shelf-life of more than two years and Tommy’s is the first frozen veggie company with recyclable bags, Carlson says.
Heat and Eat
Last fall saw Harvest Food Group Inc., Naperville, Ill., introduce three new heat-and-eat rice blends under the Path of Life brand. They include Ancient Grains & Seed Blend, Cilantro Lime Rice Blend and Saffron Rice Blend.
“We are truly celebrating sides and we wanted to provide a greater variety of grain side dishes to complement our current line up,” said Audrea Fulton, vice president of sales for Path of Life. “All of the rice blends deliver on flavor. No need to add anything—just heat and eat!”
Made with minimal ingredients and maximum taste appeal, Harvest Food Group says each of the new rice blends is certified gluten-free by Beyond Celiac and are Non-GMO Project Verified.
Fulton says the Ancient Grains & Seed Blend features pumpkin seeds to “add a nice crunch.” She says the Cilantro Lime Rice Blend has a twist with red bell peppers and fire roasted corn to boost flavor. Last but not least, she notes that the Saffron Rice Blend combines saffron and turmeric for flavor, aroma and color.
Path of Life’s Rice Blends will be available in early 2020 for retailers to carry. As with all Path of Life blends, the rice blend lines are ready to serve in under six minutes whether cooked in the microwave or stovetop. Each new offering will be available at an MSRP of $3.99.
Additional Path of Life products include The Original Quinoa & Kale, Southwest Mango Quinoa Blend, Mediterranean Quinoa Blend, Roasted Garlic Cauliflower and (Not So Fried) Riced Cauliflower Blend.
Brothers International Food Corporation, Rochester, N.Y., introduced Brothers All Natural Chocolate-Covered Strawberries and Chocolate-Covered Bananas.
Officials say Brothers All Natural fruit is sourced from prime growing regions and sent directly through a state-of-the-art freeze-dried process to gently remove any water. Fruit then is enrobed in a 60% cacao chocolate to create chocolate-covered fruit rich with antioxidants.
“Our Chocolate-Covered Strawberries and Bananas are great on their own or paired with items like ice cream, trail mix and more,” says Robert Larsen, director of sales. “Our product is the perfect mixture of healthy fruit and delectably rich chocolate with an added crunch. We use dark chocolate as opposed to milk chocolate, so our chocolate-covered bananas and strawberries have a significantly healthier nutritional value than many of our competitors.”
At home or on the go, Freeze-Dried Dark Chocolate-Covered Strawberries and Bananas are ideal for lunchboxes, as an office snack or even as a sweet gift, Larsen says.
Brothers All Natural chocolate-covered fruit is now available in 1.7oz (48g) bags at BrothersAllNatural.com and Amazon.com.
New Pasta, Fruit Jerky
Solely Inc., the La Jolla, Calif., company behind USDA-certified organic, cold-pressed fruit jerky and dried fruit, entered a new category with Spaghetti Squash Pasta. The shelf-stable boxed pasta, which is sliced, roasted and scooped by hand, cooks in just five minutes. It alleviates the cumbersome, lengthy cooking process that often deters seekers of healthy alternatives from vegetable pastas.
“These days, who has time to roast and cook a spaghetti squash for dinner? We make it easier and quicker to enjoy this supper staple without compromising on quality or taste, and without any additives or preservatives,” said Simon Sacal, CEO of Solely. “Vegetable pastas have become a favorite for people looking to incorporate more vegetables into their families’ diets, so this was a natural way for us to provide people with such a convenience. We take the process out of the process!”
The new pasta—with just one, simple ingredient and four servings of pasta per box—debuted on shelves at Whole Foods Market stores nationwide beginning March 16 for $3.99 per box, on promotion, and then $4.99 per box at regular price. The squash joins Solely’s popular fruit jerky line, including the new and notable Mango Chili Flavor, which earned a NEXTY Award (Best Sweet Snack) from New Hope / Informa Markets.
In addition to the new Spaghetti Squash Pasta, Solely unveiled five new flavors of fruit jerky and two new flavors of dried fruit, all launching on-shelf at Whole Foods Market stores nationwide beginning April 1, 2020. New flavors include: Mango Chili Fruit Jerky and Mango Chili Dried Fruit, Pineapple Chili Fruit Jerky and Pineapple Chili Dried Fruit, Mango Drizzle Fruit Jerky, Pineapple Drizzle Fruit Jerky and Pineapple Coconut Drizzle Fruit Jerky.
Solely, Inc. is a subsidiary of Mexico City-based Fruitex, SA.
Fruits of its Labors
Del Monte revitalizes its innovation and R&D programs; earns new product success and enters new categories
How can A company revitalize its innovation program—from consumer insights all the way through R&D and packaging? Prepared Foods put that question and others to Mario DiFalco, senior director of Innovation & New Ventures at Del Monte Foods Inc. In February, the Walnut Creek, Calif., company was recognized across three categories in a program sponsored by Product of the Year USA and its research partner Kantar TNS.
Product of the Year is the world’s largest consumer-voted award for product innovation with this year seeing the largest number of participants to date. Winners are determined by the votes of 40,000 consumers in a nationally representative survey conducted by Kantar, a global leader in consumer research. This year marked the 12th year of the award in the U.S. and more than 30 years around the world.
Del Monte won for its Veggieful Veggie Bowls in the convenience meals category, Fruit Crunch Parfait in the snack cups category, and Contadina Pizzettas in the frozen snack category. Previously, Del Monte has earned additional Product of the Year recognition for its Fruit & Oats in 2019 and Fruit Refreshers in 2017.
A 24-year industry veteran, DiFalco served in food industry posts at PowerBar, Jelly Belly and The National Food Laboratory before joining Del Monte in 2010 as senior director of marketing, Tomato & Broth Business Units. He was promoted to his current post in 2012.
Prepared Foods: Congratulations on these recent awards! Can you share more of the innovation back story? What’s been happening behind the scenes within your group at Del Monte?
Mario DiFalco: Historically, new products undergo lots of concept testing and travel through stage gates in a very linear process that really doesn’t have a lot of consumer feedback in the early stages of development.
Starting about three years ago, the team embarked on a more agile approach to innovation, receiving more consumer and customer feedback to concepts and early prototypes early in the process. At the time we were also expanding our entrance into new categories such as frozen and refrigerated and wanted to find better, faster ways to bring great products to market.
To do this, we implemented iterative learning and quicker consumer testing that allows us to receive earlier feedback so that we can improve, strengthen and pivot as needed. It’s similar to how a lot of start-ups work and we benefitted from using this approach, while also having the resources of a large company given our 130+ year rich heritage.
This new approach has allowed us to strip away three to six months off of our typical development timelines, bringing stronger ideas to market more quickly and cost-effectively.
PF: What else can you say about what triggered this dramatic shift in your approach?
DiFalco: During the past two-plus years, we’ve had great new executive leaders, who have led transformation within the company. Their focus has been on innovation as a growth driver and this unlocked the resources Del Monte’s cross-functional Innovation team needed to deliver unprecedented levels of innovation to the market.
At Del Monte, both R+D and Marketing both sit under our Chief Marketing Officer Bibie Wu, and we work closely together as one team. Since starting this journey, we’ve significantly changed how we bring products to market. In fiscal year 2016, just 13% of our project efforts were around new offerings. That went up to 40% in fiscal year 2018.
During the past three years we’ve tripled the amount of innovation initiatives, with 31 products alone launched in 2019.
We also have revaluated who we bring in as new Innovation team members. For example, we need people who can think critically and make confident decisions on things that we might have never done before. This requires us to more strongly consider a candidate’s soft skills in addition to their past experience.
PF: Looking ahead, how would you characterize the importance of this innovation change for Del Monte as a company?
DiFalco: For the last 130-plus years we have known our customers well and have been able to evolve our offerings to meet their needs. Innovation plays a key role as we also expand our products to a broader consumer base.
As one of the original plant-based companies, we’ve always stood by our mission in making fruits and vegetables attainable and affordable to everyone. Our products are focused on helping our customers get their servings of fruits and vegetables in products that are delicious and convenient.
Earlier this year, we released Del Monte’s “2020 State of Healthy Eating” study, which found that 86% of Americans say that eating fruits and vegetables is crucial to maintaining a healthy diet, but nearly half of Americans are worried about how to do so. That’s why we’re doubling down our efforts and continuing to find new ways to expand healthy snacks and meals with new innovations.
PF: Del Monte’s history, of course, has involved shelf-stable cans. Can you share a few thoughts on the challenges associated with branching out into new categories and new packaging? What was most challenging? What are you most proud of?
DiFalco: Entering new categories with a new product innovation approach was challenging and we anticipated that. We had to establish relationships with many more buyers and category directors, while getting new teams up to speed.
It was a big endeavor that took some time to really come together. We’ve also needed to vastly expand our manufacturing base with new relationships with co-manufacturers that are helping us bring high quality products to market.
DEL MONTE “PRODUCT OF THE YEAR” PROFILES
Receiving top Product of the Year honors in the convenience meals category, Veggieful Veggie Bowls feature a blend of veggies, whole grains, and a savory sauce. Coming in four flavors— Roasted Red Pepper, Asian Style Soy Sesame, Southwest Style Corn and Garlic Herb—each bowl includes one full serving of vegetables.
In the snack cup category, non-dairy, coconut-based, Fruit Crunch Parfait makes for a sweet snack. The line has four flavors: Strawberry, Blueberry, Mango and Pineapple Coconut. Each parfait contains one full serving of fruit and 2 billion probiotics per serving to support digestive health.
Contadina Pizzettas, awarded in the frozen snack category, offer one full serving of vegetables in every five bites and feature a blend of Roma tomato sauce, real cheese, and a crust baked with real cauliflower. These pizza snacks come in three flavors—Four Cheese, Margherita, and Garden Vegetable—and do not contain artificial preservatives or flavors.
Vegetables, Fruit Among Top 10 “Shelter At-Home” Buys
NCSolutions (NCS), New York City, released data showing average household grocery spend has fallen since the COVID-19 “Extreme Buying” peak—but still remains elevated at 23% higher than pre-pandemic levels. This marked shift—coupled with a return to a grocery basket mix reminiscent of pre-COVID-19 shopping patterns—indicates consumers have entered a new purchasing stage: “Home-Confined Buying.”
In a new stage that began on March 22, NCS found consumers adding more food and drinks to their carts but fewer paper products and household cleaning products due to supply issues. Vegetables, salty snacks and cheese were back on top for the week ending March 28. Indulgent comforts also were making their way back into baskets: beer and wine purchases were higher than usual, ranking at number 9 and 11 respectively, compared to number 12 and 14 the year prior. Chocolate, which fell to number 18 during the Extreme Buying stage, climbed to number 12 during the week ending March 28 (likely boosted by the anticipation of Easter), and ice cream and cookies joined the ranks, 14 and 5 spots higher than two weeks prior respectively.
“This pandemic is altering consumer purchasing behavior, although it’s too early to tell if the change will be permanent,” said Linda Dupree, CEO of NCS. “We see grocery shoppers cycling through five discrete buying stages as their lifestyles are upended. This evolution will inevitably raise important questions for advertisers around brand loyalty, especially when we eventually enter a ‘new normal.’”
In April , during the Home-Confined Buying stage, shoppers were filling grocery baskets with higher quantities of frozen meals, cheese and lunchmeat than they did last year. Sales of frozen meals, for example, were uncharacteristically high between March 8 and March 28, compared to the same period last year, as consumers stocked their freezers with reserves.
Cheese reached number 4 in the week ending March 21, up from number 6 during the same period last year, and continued to climb, after many U.S. schools shifted to remote learning programs and parents were left to fend for themselves for lunch sandwiches.
NCS (ncsolutions.com) uses consumer insights and retail sales data to help guide client advertising.