Favorite Products of 2006

The editors, contributing writers, Editorial Advisory Board and readers of Food Processing collectively picked eight top product of the past year: Dannon Activia, PepsiCo's Diet Pepsi Jazz, Kool Freeze's Kulfi bars, Birds Eye Foods Steamfresh, Campbell V8 V-Fusion, Wish-Bone Salad Spritzers, Nspired Natural Foods - O’Cocos cocoa crisps, and Kellogg Co.'s Special K Protein Meal and Snack Bars and Special K20 Protein Waters.

By Diane Toops, David Feder and Dave Fusaro

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- Diane Toops

Campbell V8 V-Fusion: Drink a full serving of veggies and fruits

Most consumers still think it's tough to get the dozen or so servings of all the healthy items in the 2005 My Pyramid food guide. How about getting a full serving of fruit and a serving of vegetables in one glass? Two servings in one glass? How'd they do that?

That small miracle was pulled off early this year by Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., when it launched V8 V-Fusion. The newest offering in the venerable V8 beverages line, it builds on the nutritious equity of V8 100 percent vegetable juice by providing a full serving (a half cup) of vegetables plus a full serving of fruit in each 8-oz. glass.

"V8 V-Fusion is a new juice that gives you the nutrition of vegetables blended with just the right amount of select fruit juices for a light, sweet taste and texture," the loudly colorful packaging states. Although it also touts "no added sugar," there are 28g of naturally occurring sugar in there, and the calories come in at 120 - both fair enough. An "Antioxidant Plus" banner notes the presence of vitamins A (45 percent of the recommended daily allowance), C (100 percent) and E (10 percent).

It's 100 percent juice and is available in three flavors (Strawberry Banana, Peach Mango and Tropical Orange) and two sizes (12 oz. and 46 oz.) "Color swirls are a natural occurrence" is a warning that's actually enticing.

Campbell marketers say the light, sweet taste and texture is aimed at a younger crowd than what normally embraces the V8 line. That's a key reach-out for a brand that has been around for 70 years and may be most identified with senior citizens.

"I am a huge fan of V8 Splash Juice Drink but not a big fan of V8 Vegetable Juice," writes one Internet blogger. "By combining the two, Campbell's, which make V8 juices, managed to get the best of both worlds." And, more importantly, to get it right.
- Dave Fusaro

Wish-Bone Salad Spritzers: Puttin' on the low-calorie spritz

One spritz, one calorie - now that's a portion control formula every salad lover can understand and easily incorporate into her diet.

Wish-Bone Salad Spritzers, from Unilever USA, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., were designed for diet-conscious consumers. Packaged in a 7-oz. non-breakable plastic bottles, they fit perfectly into a woman's hand (and handbag), yet can dress more salads (26) than a 16-oz. bottle of liquid dressing. Suggested serving size is 10 sprays per cup of salad.

"Formulas were developed specifically for the Spritzer; we didn't take our regular dressing and put it in the bottle," says Franck Valas, Wishbone brand manager. "We're the same company with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray, so we started from there."

Bottles are equipped with a nozzle that allows users to spray a one-calorie-per-spritz of the liquid onto their salads, vegetables or even sandwiches for a zesty flavor kick.

"Getting the pump to work the way we wanted was the most challenging," Valas continues. "We didn't want the dressing to shoot out; we wanted it to mist. Then we had to develop a formula that worked with the pump. Our regular Italian salad dressing contains particulates, little pieces of vegetables and other ingredients, which our consumers like. But you can't have particulates in a spray application."

These light-tasting vinaigrette dressings are available in three varieties: Italian Vinaigrette Dressing, a blend of white wine vinegar and flavorings; Balsamic Breeze Vinaigrette Dressing, a blend of balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and garlic flavor; and Red Wine Mist Vinaigrette Dressing, blending cabernet sauvignon with red wine vinegar and oil.

Cooking sprays in general are proliferating, with sales in food, drug and mass merchandise stores (excluding Wal-Mart) topping the quarter-billion-dollar mark for the first time during the 52 weeks ended Sept. 9, according to ACNielsen Strategic Planner. We expect that halo to extend to spray-on salad dressings, and Spritzers are doing extremely well in the marketplace.

"We've positioned Spritzers as perfect portion control; you can have exactly the amount of dressing you want, rather than an accumulation of dressing on your plate," adds Valas. "It's for the control freak in all of us."
- Diane Toops

Nspired Natural Foods - O'Cocos cocoa crisps: Lotsa chocolate, few calories

The most important accomplishment of O'Cocos organic cocoa crisps is the deep chocolate flavor. This was no mean feat for creator Nspired Natural Foods Inc., San Leandro, Calif., as the crisps fall among the popular wave of portion-controlled, 100 calories or fewer snacks.

These sweet snacks the size and weight of a thick potato chip satisfy on a number of levels. O'Cocos fulfill the oft-dichotomous cravings for chocolate and crunch at just 90 calories per 0.7-oz. pack.

That sounds like a small portion - and it is slightly less than the typical 1 oz. bag of potato chips. But the crisps do a great job of satisfying the snacker's need in a single pack. The packaging is eye-catching, too, and three variations on chocolate are offered: original (plain chocolate), cinnamon and mocha.
- David Feder

Kellogg Co.'s Special K Protein Meal and Snack Bars and Special K20 Protein Waters: Shaping up with protein-fortified products

"Kellogg's [which celebrated its 100th birthday this year] was founded with the idea of eating healthier," says Jill Saletta, director of communications. "We've always maintained cereal has a place in a healthy diet, and now we're heading off into some exciting new areas."

One such area is the new Health & Wellness Division, which recently rolled out a line of protein-fortified Special K products. They are positioned as nutritious "shape management" tools, targeting consumers (particularly women) interested in weight loss.

"Our new protein-fortified products are intended to provide new and additional solutions to help them stay on track throughout the day," says Saletta of the Battle Creek, Mich., company. "We know protein can create a feeling of fullness or satiety, so that's why we think these products will be a great complement to our existing portfolio."

Sold in the diet and nutrition sections of grocery and drug stores, the line includes Special K Protein Meal Bars (190 calories), which have 10g of protein, are a good source of 13 vitamins and minerals and an excellent source of calcium. Flavors include: Chocolate Peanut Butter, Double Chocolate and Strawberry. Another option is Special K Protein Snack Bars (110 calories), with 4g of protein and a good source of nine vitamins and minerals. They are available in Chocolate Peanut and Chocolate Delight.

Most surprising is Kellogg's dive into unknown territory with Special K2O Protein Waters, the first broadly available brand of protein water. They deliver 5g of protein per 16-oz. bottle (50 calories) in Strawberry Kiwi, Lemon Twist and Tropical Blend. Consumer research shows that water, like snacks, plays an important role throughout each day as dieters try to stay on track with their weight management goals.

"Diets high in protein can help curb hunger," says Harley Pasternak, fitness and nutrition specialist, fitness and diet-book author and adviser to Hollywood's elite. "These products are great because they easily fit into busy lifestyles without sacrificing on taste or nourishment."

According to an Insights Research Ethnographic Study conducted by the Insight Research Group for Kellogg, millions of women start the week with good intentions for healthy eating to meet their weight-management goals. By Tuesday at 3 p.m., tummies are grumbling, and many are looking for a vending machine in search of a quick "fix." The study also found women's eating habits could swing drastically from good to bad across the day and throughout the week.

Kellogg's entire Special K product line is designed to be part of a wholesome diet, helping women (and men) stay on track with their shape-management goals.
- Diane Toops

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