Food Industry Experts Rate New Products of 2008

Our annual unscientific picks for the best new products of the past year.

By Diane Toops, Dave Fusaro and David Feder

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- David Feder

Bertolli Premium Pasta Sauce

Out to dinner in your dining room
In this tough economy, people are opting to eat more meals prepared at home. But penny-conscious consumers, who don’t know how or don’t have the time to cook from scratch increasingly demand the same taste and quality of ingredients in prepared foods that they get from a restaurant experience. So a great solution is Bertolli Premium Pasta Sauce from Unilever, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. These three restaurant-inspired sauces, portioned for two in a standup pouch, cook in only 90 seconds.

Each sauce, which debuted in June, features “hero” ingredients (like succulent olives, earthy mushrooms, and plump plum tomatoes) in a thick base of crushed tomatoes. They are finished off with sautéed onions and garlic, Bertolli olive oil and crushed tomatoes, rather than the tomato paste typically found in jarred sauce.

And they use the natural sweetness of carrot juice, so they contain no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. They also meet the FDA requirements for being low in saturated fat, with 1g or less of saturated fat per serving, and so also qualify for the Unilever Eat Smart designation.

Sensational-tasting varieties sure to appeal to discerning and sophisticated palates include: Champignon and Portobello Mushroom – a complimentary combination of earthy champignons and tender portobellos; Sun Ripened Tomato and Olive; and Summer Crushed Tomato and Basil. And they are a bargain at the suggested retail price of $2.15-2.89.

Chef Rocco DiSpirito, most recently of Dancing With the Stars fame, has developed recipes for Bertolli using the sauces as a base. “My passion for empowering the home chef has allowed me to appreciate and rely on shortcut foods such as Bertolli's new sauce pouch, to help encourage people to enjoy cooking at home with creative and fresh ingredients to add quality to any dish you prepare,” he says.

Passionate but busy foodies -- or consumers who wish to create a romantic dinner for two -- have an advocate in the kitchens of Bertolli. These Bertolli Premium Pasta Sauces look appetizing on the plate and taste as good (or better) as most homemade sauces. And it’s a great convenience that there’s no pan to wash.
- Diane Toops

Campbell’s V8 soups

I could have had a … full serving of vegetables

When you have a 75-year-old successful franchise with a trusted name like V8, it’s dangerous to mess with it and adding a bad extension could be suicidal. Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., didn’t make that mistake; it has over the years carefully nurtured its brand. In May, it extended its V8 brand in an unexpected way, with Campbell’s V8 soups, a category Campbell knows very well.

V8 soups provide a delicious new way for consumers to enjoy the benefits of vegetable nutrition and to bridge the vegetable consumption gap (seven out of 10 adults don’t consume the recommended daily servings of vegetables). The pureed soups, made from farm-fresh ingredients, offer a full serving of vegetables in every bowl, are low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol and contain no artificial flavors or preservatives. Some varieties also offer vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber.

Packaged in convenient green (a message in itself) 18.3-oz. aseptic boxes that retail at $2.99, varieties include: Golden Butternut Squash Soup, a blend of mellow-sweet butternut squash and savory herbs (140 calories); Garden Broccoli Soup, a blend of broccoli and seasonings (80 calories); Tomato Herb Soup, a combination of tomatoes, basil and a hint of garlic (90 calories); Southwestern Corn Soup, a balance of yellow corn and the spicy kick of roasted peppers (150 calories); and Sweet Red Pepper Soup, a blend of red pepper and tomatoes (150 calories).

Known for delivering vegetable nutrition, V8 was perfectly positioned to create excitement with consumers both wishing to eat more healthfully and those on a mission to lose weight. V8 juices have always been an easy way to help people get more vegetables into their diet; I think of them as the first nutraceutical product.
In 1997, Campbell cleverly extended the brand with V8 Splash, a fruit juice line that hit $100 million in sales in the first year. Delivering a serving of both fruit and vegetables plus antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E, V8 Fusion juice debuted in 2006 for consumers who don’t like the taste of vegetables. Kudos to Campbell’s for judiciously extending its V8 franchise. We’ll slurp to that!
- Diane Toops

Hormel Compleats

Sesame Chicken, Vegetables & Pasta – in your desk drawer

This isn’t so much a new product as a relaunch of an old one. That previous one may have been ahead of its time.

Hormel Foods Corp. was a pioneer with shelf-stable entrees in 1987 when it launched the Top Shelf line. That may have been the first shelf stable/retorted product outside of a can. As the idea struggled for consumer acceptance, its name changed to Dinty Moore American Classics, then Hormel Microwavable meals and later simply Hormel Microwave Trays.

With a little reformulating and some new packaging, notably the replacement of the box with a simple cardboard sleeve, Compleats was launched in mid-2007. It was an immediate hit. Sales in 2007 grew by 40 percent over its predecessor products, making it the fastest growing product in the company’s grocery products segment.

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