Rollout: Back to school specials

Candy is dandy, gum is even better, and liquor is...a marinade for sunflower seeds?

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By Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

Stick this
under your desk

  • Americans consume gum at a rate of 10 million pounds per year.
  • Some 57 percent of households chew gum.
  • The gum category currently represents nearly $3 billion in annual retail sales.
  • Chewing gum was first developed in Staten Island, N.Y., during the 19th century from a large chunk of "chicle," the dried sap of the Sapodilla, a Mexican jungle tree.
  • According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest bubble gum bubble blown was 58.4 cm (23 in).
  • Richard Walker won the current "Chomp Title," by chewing 135 sticks of gum for eight hours.

Stick and square gums, beware

Masterfoods USA, Hackensack, N.J., extends its Skittles brand, the No. 1 fruit chew SKU across all channels and recognized as the No. 1 coolest brand among teens, with Skittles Bubble Gum.
Skittles Bubble Gum pieces are shaped like Skittles Bite Size Candies and have a crunchy candy shell and a fruit-flavored, soft bubble gum center. Packaged in a cool flip-top box, the Skittles Bubble Gum package includes five fruit flavors: strawberry, orange, lemon, lime, and grape.

The idea is to mix and match flavors together to create your own. Looking for a Citrus Blast? Combine one piece of Orange, one piece of Lemon and one piece of Lime. For a Strawberry Pucker, you chew two pieces of Strawberry and two pieces of Lemon. If Summer Meadow is what you seek, combine four pieces of Lime. And Yin Yang perfection can be achieved with one piece of Lemon, and one piece of Lime.

Suggested retail price is 55 cents.

Bag o’ donuts for lunch bags

Grabbing a sweet treat just got easier thanks to Interstate Bakeries Corp., Kansas City, Mo. The newest member of the Hostess family, Donuts Bites made their debut in September, just in time for those school lunch bags. Then again, these snack size pouches are perfect for on-the-go adult donut aficionados.

"We are excited to introduce Donut Bites as a fun, bite-size snack for everyone," says Mike Redd, vice president of cake marketing. "Donuts have long been a favorite with many people, and we’re delighted to offer a great tasting, convenient snack to fit the busy lifestyles of our consumers."

Suggested retail price is $3.49 to $3.59.

Stir up some neon fun

It’s time for those mini-chefs in your family to create some edible works of art to take back to school. McCormick & Co. Inc., Hunt Valley, Md., introduces McCormick Neon Food Colors in pink, purple, blue and green, the perfect ingredients to paint the town... neon.

Your youngster can add a few drops to icing and create neon kooky cookies, neon frosting for cupcakes, neon mashed potatoes, neon milkshakes, neon pudding or even make Dr. Seuss’ "Green Eggs and Ham" a reality. Then again, you might like to mix the food colors yourself to make hues you can use to prepare dinners and snacks that transform your food creations into art.

Suggested retail price is $3.69 for a four-pack.

(Jim) Beam me up, Scotty

Thanasi Foods LLC, Boulder, Colo., uncorks Jim Beam Original Kentucky Bourbon Soaked Sunflower Seeds, using Jim Beam bourbon as the primary flavor component Available nationwide, they are made from premium, in-shell U.S.-grown sunflower seeds soaked in Jim Beam prior to roasting in order to impart the flavor of quality bourbon, which gives the seeds a slightly sweet and smoky flavor cue.

"Before you run down to your local convenience or grocery store to buy the current, Atkins-compliant, low-carbohydrate sunflower seed snack, think again," says Thanasi Foods’ President and CEO Justin Havlick. "Our Jim Beam seeds have a one-of-a-kind taste you won't find any place else. Jim Beam's distinct flavor, authentic 209-year Kentucky Bourbon heritage, unwavering quality and brand appeal makes them the ideal ingredient partner for us."

Havlick also points out Jim Beam provides only a flavor element -- much like cooking with wine or beer -- and there is virtually no remaining alcohol content in the sunflower seeds.

Suggested retail price is 89 cents for a 2.25 oz. bag and $1.29 for the 5.5 oz. bag.

Sweet indulgence in coffees and teas

Kraft Foods recently rolled out its reformulated General Foods International (Tarrytown, N.Y.) brand of premium-flavored coffee and tea beverages in sugar-free varieties, each with only 2 grams of carbohydrates and 30 calories per serving. It’s notable that aside from being a relaxing beverage treat, they can be used as an ingredient in puddings, mousses, dips and frozen desserts.

"People who are watching carbohydrates, calories or their diet in general often find themselves restricting sweet items or cutting them out completely, says brand manager Hilary Lane. "However the desire for sweets doesn’t necessarily go away."

Your desires can be fulfilled with flavors that include Sugar Free French Vanilla Café, Sugar Free Suisse Mocha, Sugar Free Café Vienna and the brand’s first non-coffee flavor Chai Latte, a sweet blend of tea, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Suggested retail price is $3.69.

Asian entrees are good to go

It’s projected that over the next five years ready-to-eat meal solutions – already a $12 billion segment of the grocery market – will double. A great example is a new line of shelf-stable, family-sized (18 oz.) entrees by The Wornick Co., Cincinnati.

Introduced to Wal-Mart this month, Homestyle Express Asian Style Selections are packaged in microwaveable standup pouches with a one-year shelf life. Meat and vegetable entrees are available in three varieties: Szechwan Chicken, Sweet & Sour Chicken and Beef Teriyaki, along with a separate package of cooked rice. Just nuke the two packages and dinner for a family of four is ready in two minutes.

"A lot of people are looking for quick and easy meal solutions, but they still want great-tasting food that’s good for them," says Director of Sales and Marketing Paul Dupont. "Saving time is a big plus for people with busy work schedules, family obligations and activities. Half of all households are too busy and too tired to put much time or effort into preparing a meal."

Aside from the convenience factor, these entrees are low in fat (between 1 gram and 2.5 grams per serving) and low in calories (between 60 and 140).

Suggested retail price is $2.99 to $3.49 for the entrees and $1.99 to $2.49 for Cooked Rice.

Traditional Mexican entrees without the fuss

Tejas Quality Foods/Supreme Meat Purveyors, San Antonio, Texas, debuts three fully cooked, frozen and ready to heat Viva Mex Mexican-style frozen meat entrees in 1- and 2-lb. packages.

Varieties include: Viva Mex Barbacoa, beef cheek meat, which is served in a flour or corn tortilla with diced onion, hot sauce and toppings; Viva Mex Carne Guisada, beef tips, served in a tortilla as a taco or as a center of the plate item meal with refried beans and rice; and Viva Mex Menudo, Mexican-style soup made from beef tripe, white hominy and special seasonings, traditionally served with a slice of lemon and/or onions.

Suggested retail price is $3.99 to $4.99.

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