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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Even though the food industry faced tremendous challenges from food safety scares, the feds, watchdog groups blaming the industry for obesity, shareholder demands for instant gratification and consumer attrition to foodservice, this was a very good year for new product introductions.

Health benefits beyond nutrition, innovative new technologies for veggies and salad dressing, bold/creative flavor combinations and calorie reduction through portion control were attributes of Food Processing's favorite new products of the past 12 months. And, of course, good taste.

These eight new products were suggested by the editors, contributing writers, Editorial Advisory Board and readers of Food Processing. We must confess, it was a more difficult decision this year because participants were passionate about their suggestions. Happily, we are all speaking to and taste-testing new products with each other again.

Dannon Activia: Teaching gut instinct

Dannon nails the three most important trends today - convenience, portion control and wellness - in its new yogurt product Activia.

Led by younger consumers, U.S. sales of yogurt have grown 10 percent annually for the past three decades, meaning consumption has doubled every 7.2 years, reports Time. "Give it a few more generations, and this could be the No. 1 food," says Harry Balzer, vice president of the NPD Group. "This is where the country is heading."

Early this year, The Dannon Co., White Plains, N.Y., a subsidiary of France's Group Danone, launched low-fat Dannon Activia, the first yogurt in the U.S. to use probiotics that are clinically proven to help regulate the digestive system "in two weeks when eaten daily as part of a healthy and balanced diet," as the promotions say. Each 4-oz. serving of Activia contains billions of beneficial probiotic cultures, including its trademarked Bifidus regularis.

Danone Canada Inc.'s Danino

DHA for growing children

Danone Canada Inc. launched Danino, a yogurt for children containing DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an essential fatty acid important for children's growth and development. Many studies have shown DHA plays an essential role in optimal brain and eye development and, when available in sufficient quantities, it helps improve learning, memory and concentration.

Flavors include Strawberry, Banana, Raspberry and Peach. "In addition to consuming fish, Danino is an easy and delicious way to help kids contribute to their daily need for DHA," says Tom Pugh, director of marketing with Danone Canada Inc. Danino contains the Meg-3 DHA brand provided by Ocean Nutrition Canada Ltd.
- Diane Toops

Probiotic yogurt and dairy drinks sell to the tune of $10 billion worldwide and the market is growing. Activia has been one of Groupe Danone's best selling yogurt products globally, generating some 650 million Euros in 2004 sales in more than 20 countries, primarily in Europe and Asia. Finns eat 50 lbs. of yogurt, the French consume 49.1 lbs. and the Saudis eat 46.6 lbs. a year on average. Americans, who have been slow to get on the yogurt bandwagon, average 7 lbs.

Although Danone has been in the U.S. marketplace since 1942, this is its first major push to promote the health benefits of its yogurts. The company is cranking up production capacity and targeting niches such as the Hispanic community, reports MarketWatch. In 1980, U.S. sales of yogurt were a measly $300 million, but in 2005, they registered $3.5 billion.

Probiotics, which literally means "for life," are living microorganisms, "friendly" bacteria. Elie Metchnikoff, a Russian physiologist and Nobel-prize winner, suggested in 1907 that consuming friendly bacteria could have a beneficial effect. He named one strain Lactobacillus bulgaricus, based on the long life span and good health of the yogurt-consuming Bulgarian people.

Activia is packaged in 4-oz. cups in four- and eight-packs and is available in six flavors: Strawberry, Vanilla, Blueberry, Peach, Prune and Mixed Berry. It works by helping to reduce long intestinal transit time for food to pass through the digestive system. Studies show this reduction has reached up to 40 percent, depending on levels consumed and demographic profile. For individuals whose digestive system is functioning regularly, Activia has no adverse effects and provides all the benefits expected of a traditional yogurt.

"Irregularity is a source of true discomfort for many people who experience feelings of being heavy and bloated - a person's entire day can be ruined by even a mild digestive problem," says Michael Roizen, MD, professor of medicine and chair of the Division of Anesthesiology, Critical Care Medicine and Comprehensive Pain Management at the Cleveland Clinic. He also authored two bestselling books: "RealAge: Are You As Young As You Can Be?" and "You: The Owner's Manual."

"Those who experience irregularity can take several measures to help get their digestive system back on track, like drinking more water, consuming more high fiber foods, such as fruits and vegetables, exercising more often and eating Activia daily for two weeks," says Dr. Roizen. "Activia, with its probiotic cultures, provides an innovative and good-tasting new way to help address this all too-common problem."

"Americans are increasingly looking to food for benefits beyond basic nutrition, and probiotics, such as Activia, and our other great-tasting wellness products, including DanActive, do just this while accelerating growth in the already expanding yogurt category," says Juan Carlos Dalto, president and CEO. "As a new product, Activia is unique in how it combines great taste and a clinically demonstrated benefit."
- Diane Toops

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