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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We Food Processing editors receive scores of new products each year. Each of us. Not only that, we are always on the lookout for products that slipped by us on the way to the supermarket shelves. Then there are the food and ingredient shows we attend. Altogether, this means we probably encounter more than 1,000 new food and beverage products each year.

Early in the fall, each editor and advisory board member submits up to 12 items that are deemed subjective "top" candidates. Our in-house editorial staff together winnows that number down, and we keep doing so until we end up with a total of about 10. We judge based on taste, packaging, practicality, availability and trendiness (organic, healthy etc.).

All-in-all, there are quite a few gauntlets for a new food or beverage to run through. In the end, though, if a product's taste doesn't bowl us over, all the other stuff counts for nothing. Following are the 10 new products that most impressed us over the past 12 months, that we are actually and actively buying ourselves.

Frito-Lay Flat Earth fruit and veggie crisps: Chips with half a serving of vegetables

Busy Americans typically snack four times a day. It has been the mantra of Plano, Texas-based Frito-Lay North America, the world's largest producer of snack foods, to develop healthier snacks.

In 2002, the Frito-Lay div. of PepsiCo was one of the first major manufacturers to make healthier snacks by eliminating oils that create trans fats, even though solid fats -- created when hydrogen is added to liquid oil -- are easier to use in the manufacturing process. And, in 2004, PepsiCo jumpstarted its Smart Spot label, identifying healthier options in snacks and beverages.

Challenged to move beyond solving negatives to adding healthier attributes, Frito-Lay early this year rolled out Frito-Lay's Flat Earth fruit crisps and vegetable crisps, a line of baked fruit and vegetable "chips" (made of a base of rice and potatoes) with one-half serving of real vegetables in every ounce.

"More than half of us are struggling to get enough fruits and vegetables into our diets," according to Al Carey, the snack division's president and chief executive. "Fruit and vegetable chips are the next frontier."

They are available in six flavors: Farmland Cheddar (with pumpkin as the vegetable base); Garlic & Herb Field (also pumpkin); Tangy Tomato Ranch (pumpkin and tomato bases); Wild Berry Patch (dried apples, blueberries, cranberries and strawberries); Apple Cinnamon Grove (dried apples, blueberries, cranberries and strawberries); and Peach Mango Paradise (dried apples, peaches and mango).

"Flat Earth is an innovative snack product that builds on and expands Frito-Lay's health and wellness portfolio," says Joe Ennen, vice president of innovation. "Today's consumer demand for healthier options was our call to action to develop Flat Earth baked snacks."

Why the moniker Flat Earth? People once believed the world was flat, until someone set course to prove otherwise. Frito-Lay believed they too could change conventional thinking by creating convenient, great-tasting snack crisps made with real fruits and vegetables. This idea led to the development of the Flat Earth brand and its whimsical icon -- the Flying Pig, a fitting symbol for a snack that was once thought impossible ("when pigs fly").

- Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

Oreo Cakesters: A logical stretch for an icon

Not many food products debut in Walgreen's drug stores (if we can still call them drug stores). So when the cashier pointed out they were promoting a new product at the cash register, I was curious. As she pointed to the boxes of Oreo Cakesters, I uttered a lustful "Hmmmmm ..."

Somewhere amid the spinoff from Philip Morris and acquisition of Danone's biscuit business, what I consider the real Kraft news of the past summer was lost. The iconic Nabisco brand had been stretched into a new but logical category, and the product was deliciously well executed.

Oreo Cakesters are Little Debbie-like snack cakes that debuted this past August. "Experience the classic taste of Oreo in a soft snack cake - smooth, one-of-a-kind Oreo crème sandwiched between two luscious chocolate cakes," a company announcement entices. "So rich, so moist, your whole family will love them. This is BIG!"

At nearly three inches in diameter, these are big … for Oreos. They come in two varieties: Original and Chocolate Crème, each sandwiched between soft, devil's food-like cakes just a shade or two lighter in color than the Oreo cookie. But there's no mistaking them for Oreo cookies. Sure, the taste is chocolatey and the crème filling is white and sugary, but this is decidedly different from the original Oreo. And that's OK.

Oreo Cakesters are packed two to a single-serve pouch, six pouches to a carton. One can only assume the size and shape would also do well in vending machines and convenience stores. At 250 calories (that's for two cakes), 12g of total fat and 3g of saturated fat - no trans fat - they're not too bad for you. This may not have been their intended use, but they are my favorite in-the-car breakfast.

- Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Choctál Inc.Ice Creams: Fair trade, culturally identified and, most importantly, delicious

I am not a chocoholic. Yet when I first tasted Pasadena, Calif.-based Choctál Inc.'s ice creams, made with fair-trade, organic chocolates from developing nations, I thought I would die. You see, I am an ice cream-a-holic, and it's no secret the quality of ice cream has slid markedly over the past half dozen years. Even the premium brands have been inching up on the overrun (the amount of air) and substituted more milk and half-and-half for the real thing - heavy cream.

My first clue that I was in the presence of the pinnacle of ice cream was not the flavor but the heft. Pick up a pint of Choctál and the density and weight impress you instantly. It had been a long time since I needed to do warm-ups before lifting a pint of ice cream. But the Pure Costa Rican Chocolate, Pure Ghana Chocolate, Pure San Dominican Chocolate and the Borneo-sourced Pure Kalimantan Chocolate are exactly what chocolate ice cream should be -- sultry as Angelina Jolie, rich as Donald Trump, dense as (insert your favorite celebrity name) yet smooth and only just sweet.

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