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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