2004 Innovation Awards: A pageant of products
The past 12 months may have been a tough timeframe for new product introductions, but there were some real beauties among those that dared to come to market.
By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief
and Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor
There are a couple of signs that 2004 was a difficult year for product rollouts. That was the conclusion of consulting firm Grant Thornton after its mid-year survey of U.S. food and beverage companies [see Food Processing,
September 2004, p. 12]. “Consumer loyalty is much lower than in previous years. This lack of loyalty is motivating food and beverage companies to introduce products faster and sometimes with shorter life cycles,” the business advisory firm wrote.
In our own 33rd annual R&D Survey last month, we detected a small amount of frustration among product developers who had been working the past year or two mostly on safe hits, especially line extensions and low-carb versions, while waiting out the recession. But the R&D executives said they were expecting slightly larger budgets for next year in order to reach corporate goals of truly novel new products. “They are clearly looking for better products that will have longer life cycles, and they believe enhanced technical content staves off immediate competition,” we wrote in summary.
That may have been the broad brushstroke, but 2004 was not a year devoid of innovation. Despite many companies’ preoccupation with carb-cutting, we found seven products that truly broke new ground in the old paradigm of convenience, indulgence and health. Trends come and go, but that triad of consumer demands doesn’t seem to have changed in at least a decade (health being the last item to join that bandwagon). Interestingly, packaging innovation this year was the key to some of these new products.
So we salute this year’s top new food products. And if the product developers in our R&D survey weren’t fibbing, next year is gonna be one dynamite year.
Drink to your health!
| ||Heart Wise contains plant sterols, which help lower total and LDL cholesterol by inhibiting absorption of cholesterol.|
For some time, the pages of this and our sister magazine, Wellness Foods,
have predicted and chronicled the evolution of food products from potentially harmful (in terms of obesity and cardiovascular diseases) to benign to curative. It’s a slow evolution, but with cardiovascular diseases becoming the largest overall burden on the health of the world’s population, food products have a huge opportunity to become a part of the solution rather than of the problem. Minute Maid Premium Heart Wise, an orange juice proven to lower cholesterol, is a huge step in that direction.
Heart Wise contains plant sterols, naturally sourced plant extracts clinically proven to help lower total and LDL cholesterol by inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol. This product uses the CoroWise plant sterols from Cargill Inc. The Heart Wise package carries the FDA-authorized claim: “Foods containing at least 0.4 g per serving of plant sterols, consumed twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 0.8 g, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A serving of Minute Maid Premium Heart Wise contains 1 gram of plant sterols.”
“We’ve known for sometime plant sterols are proven to help reduce cholesterol levels,” said Kim Galeaz, a registered dietitian cited in Minute Maid promotions. “Adding plant sterols to a naturally fat-free product such as orange juice makes sense because it’s a good-for-you drink that many adults are already consuming daily.” And it helps that, after tasting both, consumers said they liked Heart Wise as much as they did regular Minute Maid orange juice.
In a recent clinical study conducted at a major medical center, participants significantly lowered their LDL cholesterol by drinking two 8-oz. servings of Minute Maid Premium Heart Wise orange juice daily with meals for eight weeks. Benefits of Heart Wise were demonstrated in both men and women with normal to borderline high total cholesterol.
“It’s been very successful. Heart Wise is one our top 10 SKUs in chilled,” says a spokesman for the company. “We feel it will definitely be around for quite a while.”
Minute Maid also devotes one entire panel of the carton to Mayoclinic.com tips to keeping your heart healthy. It’s also worth noting Minute Maid was the first company to launch nationally an orange juice fortified with calcium plus vitamin D and then one with vitamins C, E and zinc.
Return of the Crock-Pot
| ||The slow-cooker (left) is back! This appliance allows consumers to have a home-cooked dinner waiting for them. However, those unable or unwilling to do the prep work can achieve a reasonable facsimile with these products from Banquet (above left) and Betty Crocker (above).|
2004 saw the debut of at least two food products aimed at that 1970s icon of two-income households, the slow-cooker. Last spring, ConAgra’s Banquet unit debuted Crock-Pot Classics, frozen components in a stand-up pouch that cook all day in the slow-cooker and are hot and ready when everyone gets home in the evening. For its response, General Mills turned to a ’70s icon of its own. It tapped the long-running Betty Crocker Hamburger Helper line for Slow Cooker Helper.