Rollout: March 2007's best new products

March's best new products include: chocolate cereal from Quaker Oats; a Mediterranean blend of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter; a smoother 100 percent wheat bread from Sara Lee; dark chocolate Altoids mints; gourmet Pringles crisps; and zero trans fat shortening from Crisco.

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Start the day with chocolate … and oat fiber

Life is better when you start the day with a little chocolate. This consumer insight helped drive Chicago-based Quaker Oats, a unit of PepsiCo Inc., to its latest innovation: Life Chocolate Oat Crunch cereal for adults.

Made with a touch of real chocolate, each serving provides 3g of fiber, two servings of whole grains and 10 essential vitamins and minerals. It's also a low-fat/low-saturated fat food that provides 1g of oat soluble fiber. Remember that 3g of soluble fiber from oats daily, as part of a low-saturated fat, low-cholesterol diet, can help remove cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. It also qualifies as a Smart Spot food choice, a designation created by PepsiCo to identify a food or beverage that contributes to healthier lifestyles, based on criteria from the FDA and the National Academy of Sciences.

"The chocolate trend is on the rise and it's showing up in the most unexpected places -- from fashion runways to indulgent spa products," says Jordan LeBel, associate professor at Cornell University and one of the leading experts on emerging chocolate trends. "The good news for chocolate lovers is that Quaker is advancing the current chocolate movement and bringing real chocolate satisfaction to breakfast in a guilt-free way."

Suggested retail price is $3.49.


 

Spread of the Mediterranean

Unilever, Englewood Cliffs, N.J, introduces I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Mediterranean Blend to its line of spreads. Made with olive oil, a key component in the Mediterranean diet, the new spread is an excellent source of omega-3 (400mg), is naturally cholesterol free, and contains only 8g fat per serving and no trans fat. It's also available in a light version with 50 percent less fat (5g) and fewer calories than butter.

"I have always believed in the importance of living the Mediterranean lifestyle, so I am thrilled that my friends at I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! have created a new Mediterranean blend made with olive oil," says Fabio, the romantic icon and long-standing spokes-hunk for the brand. "It is a great way to enjoy a delicious spread and the essence of the Mediterranean."

Suggested retail price for a 15-oz. tub is $1.99.


 

Soft and Smooth 100% whole wheat bread debuts

Enriched wheat breads -- often made from enriched wheat flour and a small proportion of whole-wheat flour -- are by far the most popular type of wheat bread sold in grocery stores. Of the 650 million traditional loaves of wheat bread baked in the U.S. in the past year, 477 million (73 percent) lack 100 percent whole-grain nutrition, according to IRI.

Sara Lee, Downers Grove, Ill., introduces Soft & Smooth 100% Whole Wheat Bread, the first 100 percent wheat bread that provides families the taste and texture they prefer with the nutrition they need. It's notable this new bread has the potential to increase U.S consumption of whole grain by billions of grams per year if just a small fraction of wheat bread buyers switch to the new bread.

Research shows that consumers don't like the typical grainy texture and bitter taste of whole wheat bread. Sara Lee Soft & Smooth 100% Whole Wheat Bread is the first "no compromise" bread made to please the whole family with a mild taste and smooth texture and whole grain nutrition. It has 14g of whole grain per slice, no artificial colors or flavors and no trans fats. Light in color, it offers no toppings, flakes or particulates common in whole grain breads.

"Once consumers discover they don't have to compromise on taste, texture, appearance or nutrition, they will move to Soft & Smooth 100% Whole Wheat, just as they did with Soft & Smooth Made with Whole Grain White bread," says Bill Nictakis, president, Sara Lee Food & Beverage's U.S. Fresh Bakery unit. "Our goal is to educate consumers about 100 percent whole wheat breads and give them a tasty way for families to increase their whole grain consumption."

Suggested retail price is $2.49 per loaf.


 

Curiously freshening and indulgent

Capitalizing on two major trends -- the antioxidant health benefits of dark chocolate and indulgence -- Chicago's Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., which lost its 2002 bid to purchase Hershey Co., creeps into the chocolate category with Curiously Chocolate Altoids Dark Chocolate Dipped Mints.

Available in three intense flavors -- Cinnamon, Ginger and Peppermint -- the rollout of Curiously Chocolate should bolster sales of Altoids, the iconic brand acquired from Kraft in 2005 for some $1.4 billion.

Altoids, a combination of the Latin "alt" (to change) and the Greek "oids" (taking the form of), were developed in 1783 by Smith Kendon, proprietor of the London firm Smith & Co., and the lozenge was originally marketed to relieve intestinal discomfort. In the 1920s, the brand's advertising suggested these mints could act as antidote to the poisons in the stomach, and led to the ''curiously strong" branding campaign that still defines the brand.

Wrigley created a curiously strong launch by notifying influential candy blogs before announcing the rollout to traditional media and auctioning three tins on eBay, raising $182.49 (or $6.83 a tin) for the American Red Cross.

Suggested retail price (higher than regular Altoids because of the premium chocolate but considerably lower than the auction price) is $2.49 for a 1.76-oz. tin.


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Pringles, gourmet and in a bag

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co. takes Pringles upscale and puts them in a bag, not the familiar canister, with Pringles Select. Still formed crisps, not potato slices, these thicker but smaller-sized gourmet crisps feature air bubbles that make them less smooth than regular Pringles. Made of rice, potatoes or sweet potatoes (depending on the variety), they are available in four sophisticated but hearty flavors: Cinnamon Sweet Potato, Parmesan Garlic, Sundried Tomato and Szechuan Barbecue.

Maybe the biggest surprise is that Pringles Select has kicked the can for this adult line. They are packaged in stand up 5.5-oz. and 8-oz. laminated bags that tempt not only your taste buds but your eye as well.

With zero trans fat and only around 150 calories per serving (about 28 crisps), this is a treat you might not want to share with your teens.

Suggested retail price for an 8-oz. bag is $2.99 to $3.99.


 

Crisco sheds trans fat

There's great, healthy news for home cooks and bakers from Orrville, Ohio-based J. M. Smucker Co. Crisco oils and sprays always have contained zero grams trans fat, but now the company has reformulated the entire line of Crisco shortening products to contain 0g trans fat per serving.

Crisco uses fewer less partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils and more fully hydrogenated cottonseed oil in the reformulated products, which also contain 50 percent less saturated fat than butter while still delivering the same performance and taste requirements consumers expect. Company officials claim Crisco is the first national shortening brand with zero trans fats.

"The reformulation of Crisco shortening reflects years of research to develop a zero grams trans fat per serving product that does not increase the level of saturated fats, while also ensuring it continues to deliver the performance excellence our consumers expect," says spokesperson Maribeth Badertscher. "Our extensive consumer testing demonstrates that reformulated Crisco shortening delivers the same exceptional taste and performance that has helped perfect family recipes for generations."


 

Rice Krispies extends franchise

It took nearly 80 years, but Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co., adds Rice Krispies with Real Strawberries to its Rice Krispies franchise. Real strawberry pieces join in conversation with the only cereal that talks to you via Snap (the eldest, who wears a baker's hat and solves problems his two brothers create), Crackle (the good-hearted, fun, middle child, who wears a red-and-white-striped stocking cap) and Pop (the mischievous, clumsy younger child, who plays jokes, doesn't take things seriously and wears a military hat).

Incidentally, if you are traveling, never fear; you won't miss out on your Snap!, Crackle! and Pop! if you can say: Piff! Paff! Puff! (Sweden); Knisper! Knasper! Knusper! (Germany); Pim! Pum! Pam! (Mexico); Poks! Riks! Raks! (Finland); Cric! Crac! Croc! (French-speaking Canada); Pif! Paf! Pof! (Holland); and Knap! Knaetter! Knak! (South Africa).

"Moms have an affinity for Rice Krispies from when they were little girls -- something they now want to share with their children," says brand manager Tamara Howe. "Our research shows those same girls -- today's moms -- are demanding more real fruit in their children's foods, while today's kids want more taste. So adding real, delicious fruit to a cereal mom has loved since she was a child was a natural fit."
Suggested retail price is $3.69.


 

Bumble Bee kicks up the flavor

Bumble Bee, San Diego, Calif., kicks up the flavor of tuna with the launch of Sensations Easy Peel Tuna: low-calorie, 5-oz. medleys of lightly marinated tuna packed in convenient easy-to-open foil-top cans. They're available in three seasoned varieties: Spicy Thai Chili, Sundried Tomato & Basil and Lemon & Pepper.

According to CEO Christopher Lischewski, the tuna medleys are flavorful and nutritious, ideal for on-the-go consumers as well as instant hors d'oeuvres, for spiced up recipes or simply for stocking up the office drawer for a low-calorie snack or lunch ingredient. Travelers can find 3-oz. Sensations kits in select domestic airline in-flight meal boxes on United Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Suggested retail price is $2.49 per 5-oz. can.

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