Our Favorite Food Products of 2007

After 11 months of shopping, we reveal the 10 new products we buy ourselves and why we love them.

By Diane Toops, David Feder, Dave Fusaro and Jill Russell

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- Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Minute Maid Multi-Vitamin and Minute Maid Active juices: Personalized products to meet specific needs

Some 70 percent of U.S. households start the day with chilled orange juice primarily for their daily dose of vitamin C. But health-conscious shoppers, particularly aging baby boomers, would like to piggy-back other healthy attributes with their OJ.

So Coca-Cola Co.'s Minute Maid unit, Houston, launched Minute Maid Enhanced Juice in two new varieties: Minute Maid Multi-Vitamin and Minute Maid Active. They create a triumvirate with Minute Maid Heart Wise juice, which contains 1g of naturally sourced plant sterols (Cargill Inc.'s Corowise), clinically proven to help reduce cholesterol.

These 100 percent orange juice products are a customized choice for consumers who want to zero in on specific health problems. Multi-Vitamin contains 16 essential vitamins and minerals including antioxidant vitamins A, C and E, zinc, selenium, calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and B6) and chromium. Active contains 750mg of glucosamine HCI, derived from a vegetarian source, per 8-oz. serving to help support healthy joints.

Incidentally, brain health is the next frontier for the company. Minute Maid Enhanced Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored 100% Juice Blend has just been rolled out. It's a blend of five fruit juices and contains 50mg of omega-3 DHA per 8-oz. serving.

"Health and wellness beverages are clearly a trend [and] consumers are looking for personalized products to meet their specific needs," says Ray Crockett, spokesman for parent company Coca-Cola. Heart Wise, released late in 2006, became one of the company's top 10 sellers within a year, notes Crockett.

Targeting specific health concerns is a winning strategy.

- Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

Murray's Chicken Pot Pie: A pot pie even the Brits would love

Anyone who's ever eaten a hot meat pie in the U.K. knows what an authentic one should taste like. Finding such authenticity on this side of the Atlantic is nearly impossible. Which is why Murray's Chicken, South Fallsburg, N.Y., Baked Chicken Pot Pie got our attention.

This is an authentic meat pie, with a perfectly flaky puff-pastry crust, balance of meat to veggies and sauce and overall freshness almost unheard of in a processed pie. Released for national distribution in spring, the product marks the first in the company's new, "no-hassle, meals under 5 minutes line": Chicken Express. Unlike other offerings, the organic, white-meat chicken is in moist and juicy chunks and makes up the predominant flavor note versus the dehydrated onion and garlic that is so common in competing products - and virtually all savory processed foods, for that matter.

The pies contain no trans fats, are all natural with no nitrates, nitrites or preservatives. Combining tradition and flavor with convenience, two minutes in the microwave are enough to evenly heat the filling - amazingly, without affecting the crunch of the pie crust. All Murray's products carry the Certified Humane label.

Suggested retail price is $3.99-4.99 per 10-oz. pie.

- David Feder, Managing Editor & Editor-Wellness Foods

Stouffer's Corner Bistro Flatbreads: Restaurant quality and loaded with toppings

Flatbread, which is made from flattened dough to highlight the flavor of ingredients placed in -- or on -- it, is emerging as the hottest thing since sliced bread. According to Mintel Intl., the number of new flatbread products more than tripled to 66 in 2006, compared with 20 in 2005.

Combining the taste of a restaurant-inspired meal with at-home convenience, Solon, Ohio-based Stouffer's, a Nestle brand, rolled out Corner Bistro Flatbreads, a line of frozen crispy, seasoned flatbreads topped with a variety of gourmet ingredients. They follow the great success of last year's Panini introduction.

Tempting even the most discerning restaurant-lover's palate, they take only a few minutes to prepare in the microwave, or unlike Panini, one has the option to cook them in the oven for a crispier crust.

Bistro Flatbreads are available in four varieties: Chicken, Bacon & Spinach on a Basil and Garlic Seasoned Flatbread (grilled chicken, bacon, spinach and red onions with an Alfredo sauce, topped with a blend of Italian cheeses); Steak Fajita on a Smoked Chipotle Seasoned Flatbread (grilled steak fajita strips with sweet peppers and onions in a smoked Cheddar sauce, covered in mozzarella and Cheddar cheeses); Shrimp and Roasted Garlic on an Herb Seasoned Flatbread (shrimp and roasted garlic topped with mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano cheeses over roasted garlic sauce); and Margherita on a Basil Parmesan Seasoned Flatbread (diced garden tomatoes, basil, garlic, and red onions in a tomato olive oil sauce, topped with mozzarella cheese).

"The increasing popularity of Corner Bistro Entrees and Panini compelled us to offer even more casual-eating options for consumers," says Christine Dahm, director of marketing. "Like the rest of our line, the new Flatbreads are inspired by dishes offered in today's most popular restaurants."

- Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

Mighty Leaf Tea Chocolate Truffle Teas: You read that right - chocolate in a tea

The high antioxidant levels in dark chocolate have raised interest in and sales of dark chocolate. Yet against all the trends for healthier foods, consumers maintain a healthy interest in measured indulgence.

Against these backdrops, Mighty Leaf Tea, San Rafael, Calif., maker of artisan-crafted tea blends, introduced its new Chocolate Truffle Teas in May. The new products are a collection of whole leaf loose teas infused with chocolate chips and cacao nibs. The teas consist of two premium black teas, large-leaf pu-erh (an exotic tea) and three herbal infusions.

Chocolate Chip Truffle is a confection of deep black tea leaves with cacao nibs and chocolate chips offering an indulgent rich body with moderate sweetness.

Chocolate Orange Truffle blends full-bodied black tea leaves with vanilla, citrus peel and cacao nibs. Smooth and savory combine in the Mocha Pu-Erh Truffle, a blend of rare golden buds of earthy Pu-Erh tea leaves with cacao nibs and the notes of citrus designed to stimulate the palate and aid digestion. Chocolate Mint Truffle soothes with mineral-rich rooibos leaves, mint leaves and chocolate. The company's entire line of tea pouches are made from biodegradable materials.

"The rich history of the commodities of tea and chocolate intertwine like a mosaic with the wonderful compatibility of flavors that fuse together," says CEO Gary Shinner. But the question has always been whether or not the flavors can fuse. I've tasted chocolate-infused tea products before. They tasted like chocolate tea. Mighty Leaf, however, hit the target dead center.

The aromatic infusions immediately remind your senses of the intricacy of flavors, floral and earthy, inherent in pure cocoa beans   before they've been separated, blended, conched, processed and turned into candy. These teas are not candy; they are robust yet subtle and each marries its bridging flavor note (citrus, mint, etc.) perfectly to the cocoa and the premium tea.

- David Feder, Managing Editor & Editor-Wellness Foods

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