2006 FMI Show Full of Innovative Products

The annual FMI show provides a look at the many innovative products hoping to find space on the shelf.

By Diane Toops, David Feder and Dave Fusaro

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It’s challenging to reduce an expo as large as the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Show – much less the four other shows under that same roof -- to a single theme or two. But it was difficult to miss the emphasis on organic products, which permeated the main supermarket show as well as the Organic Trade Assn.’s “All Things Organic” show.

It seems most of the exhibitors at FMI featured organic or otherwise health-oriented products and launches. Even considering the category has enjoyed double-digit growth for two decades, it’s impressive how pervasive the phenomenon has become.

McCormick's Finishing Sauces
McCormick’s Finishing Sauces microwave right in the pouch for just 45 seconds.

Nearly 2,000 exhibitors were at the “Power of Five” megashow, which included the National Assn. for the Specialty Food Trade’s Fancy Food Show, United Produce Expo & Conference and U.S. Food Export Showcase, as well as the organic and FMI shows. However, there seemed to be many more smaller companies. Among the missing megas were Sara Lee Corp., Procter & Gamble, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., H.J. Heinz and Hormel Foods. Attendees at all five shows were estimated at 35,000.

If there was a second theme, it could have been reaching out to Hispanic consumers. Kellogg Co. did not spotlight many new products, but the noise of aerobics coming from its booth was in Spanish. The skinny is that it will introduce Hispanic-targeted new products, boost marketing by 60 percent and add bilingual packages. As Tony the Tiger says in Spanish-language ads, “Gr-r-riquisimos!” Translation: “They’re g-r-r-eat!”

Also targeting that demographic with gusto was Unilever, which unveiled a proprietary Hispanic market study. Titled “Winning the Hispanic shopping trip,” the study read more than 3,600 shopping diaries of 799 participants in key Hispanic markets of Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and New York.

Some of the key findings: Hispanic shoppers make more big trips but fewer “quick trips” than the average consumer; Hispanic women are more aware of “specials” before going to the store (48 percent to 36 percent) and 22 percent take public transportation to the grocery store, compared to 3 percent of other shoppers.

Also courting the Hispanic shopper were General Mills (with its nuevo Nestle La Lechera Flakes, flavored with condensed milk) and McCormick & Co. with three dedicated product lines: La Cocina de McCormick, Core Line Spices and Herbs (including Sazon, a staple in Latin American kitchens) and Mojave, featuring a bilingual package to serve Hispanic cooks.

There’s no mystery here: Hispanics are not only the fastest growing segment in the U.S., but they cook and eat at home more often and spent some $136 billion on food and beverages in 2005. According to an FMI study, more Hispanics buy organic products (39 percent) than other consumers (25 percent).

Calorie counting and health

Portion control was in the spotlight at many displays. Kraft, which apparently originated the 100-calorie package idea, introduced more Nabisco 100-Calorie Packs, South Beach Diet 100-calorie Snack Bars and a 100-calorie Balance Bar. Also joining the 100 club were Campbell Soup’s Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay snacks. In one of the sessions, “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert said he expects to see 100-calorie packs of chicken breasts and frozen dinners in the not-too-distant future.

product from Kraft's South Beach Diet line
Kraft propagated more 100-calorie packages, this one in the South Beach Diet line.

Counting calories? Kraft’s Lunchables Sensible Solutions are at or under 470 calories and contain less than 5g of saturated fat. ACH Food Cos.’ Mazola Pure Olive, Butter and Canola oil help cooks conservatively spray before they sauté. Hunger Control Shakes in Unilever’s Slim-Fast Optima line may keep dieters from cheating by helping control hunger for up to four hours with less than 200 calories.

A number of marketers were playing up fruits and vegetables. Campbell’s V8 VFusion combined both for a full serving of each in one drink. PepsiCo’s Tropicana FruitWise strips, made with real fruit and fruit juice, makes fruit a portable snack anytime. So does General Mills’ Nature Valley Fruit Crisps, baked apples in a to-go pouch that contains a full serving of fruit. Sunsweet Growers’ beverage PlumSmart aids digestive health with extra fiber and especially appeals to the 50-plus market.

The health of vegetables in a hurry was touted by Del Monte in its mixed vegetable trays – ready in just 4 minutes in the microwave – as well as General Mills’ Green Giant’s steamed microwave veggies. Old-fashioned cooking with a touch of convenience comes from Glory Foods’ ready-to-cook, bagged Collard, Kale, Turnip and Mustard Greens, Turnip Root, Sweet Potatoes, Rutabaga, Yellow Squash, and Yellow Squash with Zucchini. They help you prepare your southern style authentic meal without the fuss. World Variety Produce Inc. introduced Good Life Food, a line of organic shelf stable dressings, sauces and salad kits (with dressing, croutons, and sprinkles); just add the greens.

Simply Asia LLC rolled out a line of refrigerated Simply Asia Stir-Fry, containing fresh noodles and vegetables with a sauce. Just add meat. Dole Fresh Vegetables debuts Veggie Pasta Salad Kits. All you have to do is boil the pasta and combine for a warm or chilled salad option. Ready Pack introduces a complete Parisian Kit and Asian Kit for sophisticated salad aficionados. No more crying over onions, thanks to Birds Eye Fresh Diced Vidalia Onions and Diced Red Onions, new to its Table Topper line.

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