Food Processing Picks Favorite New Food and Beverage Products from 2013

Nov. 11, 2013
We put the heavy technical articles aside for a moment and savor the delightful new products we actually buy for ourselves.
The 2013 List

It’s not scientific or comprehensive, but it is fun. The only rules are that the items are nationally available and "new," meaning introduced since July of 2012. Our list this year:

  • Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita
  • Budweiser Black Crown
  • Crystal Farms Cheese Nibblers
  • Green Mountain Farms Cream Cheese & Greek Yogurt
  • Johnsonville Grillers Cheddar Bratwurst Patties
  • Mondelez/Nabisco Whole-Grain Brown Rice Triscuits
  • Noosa Yogurt
  • Orville Redenbacher’s Signature BBQ Popcorn
  • Safeway/Lucerne Cinnamon Cream Horchata Ice Cream
  • Sheila G's Brownie Brittle

We've been writing this cover story every November for a couple years now, and it's probably our favorite story of each year. We editors write plenty of stories on emerging non-nutritive sweeteners, energy-efficient motors and ethnic food trends. But every day when we clock out, we're consumers and shoppers. So it's nice to be able to write at least once a year about the joy of food.

We do write about product introductions in every issue of Food Processing. Rollout and Food Biz Kids are devoted to them, and new products pepper our features on product development and sometimes even plant operations. But this is the only issue in which we make them personal and put them on the cover.

Every year we survey our full-time editors, our sales and support staff, our regular contributing writers and others who help us out and ask them for the new products that have delighted them during the year, the ones they actually buy, repeatedly, for themselves and their families.

We also try to hard to find a common thread so we can package list as something thematic. But we don't see any nice labels, such as "healthful" or "convenient" or "groundbreaking" – themes we've stretched to fit in the past. "Yummy" seems to be the only one that applies to all. And there's nothing wrong with that.

The selections also involve the individual tastes of our contributors. Even we didn't agree with each other on many of these. But each writer was passionate enough about his or her choice that If you think otherwise – if you want to criticize a choice or write about your favorite new product of the year – do so in the comments below. Johnsonville Grillers-Cheddar Bratwurst PattiesBratwurst in a burger — great idea!
What a great idea! Bratwurst – one of my favorite processed meats -- flattened into a burger – one of my favorite shapes.

Johnsonville has been on an innovation kick lately, and this general concept is interesting enough. But the first variety in this line that I bought added little chunks of cheddar cheese to the patty. The result is the irresistibly juicy and full flavor of bratwurst with the added zing of the cheese.

A few weeks later I bought Cheddar Cheese & Bacon. As they say, everything's better with bacon! Both of those varieties are winners. Sadly, I haven't (yet) tried the other three varieties: Italian sausage, Swiss cheese & mushroom and the regular bratwurst patties. But I will.

One confounding thing about these becomes apparent after you're done cooking and eating. The frying pan (if that's how you cook these) has almost no grease in it. That's far different than the mess you get with most preformed burgers, leading me to believe these are low in fat. But they're not. I'm looking at the back of the Cheddar Cheese & Bacon box now and it says 39g of fat (60 percent of your daily value)! Although I'll also note these are a hefty one-third pound each. I think a quarter-pound brat-burger would sufficiently fill me and keep my arteries a little clearer. But that won't stop me from eating these.

- Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Budweiser Black Crown
A crowning achievement for big-batch beers.

The whole IPA thing is so over. It's time for America to get back to its lager roots, and the brau meisters at Anheuser-Busch introduced in January a handy genealogy guide: Budweiser Black Crown.

Millennial dilettantes will roll their eyes and tighten their grips on their ale glasses, but the A-B chemists have delivered a flavorful lager in a higher gravity (6 percent alcohol by volume) beer than they normally brew. The caramel malt is front and center, and the sweet notes are more sublime than standard-issue Bud. Best of all, you know the next bottle will deliver the same taste and effervescence as the last. Quality is a synonym for consistency in food manufacturing, and the boys and girls in St. Louis solved the quality equation decades ago. Their products are the liquid equivalent of the Big Mac.

All this, and a twist top, too.

- Kevin Higgins, Managing Editor

Whole-Grain Brown Rice Triscuits
My life-long love gets a new twist.

I've been a life-long Triscuit fan. For as long as I can remember, I've enjoyed snacking on those little woven wheats with bites of cheese or hummus. When I saw that Mondelez introduced a reformulation of the snack cracker, I was intrigued and bought several boxes to see how they stacked up against their counterparts.

The taste certainly did not disappoint. Using new flavor combinations, such as Red Bean seasoned with Roasted Red Pepper and Sweet Potato seasoned with Roasted Sweet Onion, the flavors infusions went along fabulously with my cheese and hummus pairings.

That the new varieties still delivered on whole grains while also leaving out high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, cholesterol and artificial flavors made for a happier experience all around. A 9-oz. box has a suggested retail price of $3.69.

- Erin Hallstrom Erickson, Digital Development Manager

Orville Redenbacher’s Signature BBQ Popcorn
Throw some popcorn on the barbie!

I love the taste of barbecue-flavored snack foods. But because I try to limit carbohydrate (as well as gluten) intake, and make better-for-you choices, I am limited in my salty snacking options. I’ve had some acceptable barbecue-seasoned rice crackers, but they were not game breakers. So, when I first tasted Orville Redenbacher’s Signature BBQ Ready-to-Eat Popcorn from ConAgra Inc., I was in shock … and hooked. It has a tangy, slightly sweet barbecue flavor, one that I have not really experienced in a salty snack. I think it is this unique barbecue flavor profile that makes me an aficionado.

Yes, it’s a source of carbs, but, popcorn is a whole grain. A 1-oz. serving (about 2.5 cups) of this particular product actually provides 2g of both fiber and protein. At only 160 calories, I am one this salty snack’s biggest fans.

Other flavors in the line include Classic Kettle Corn, Farmhouse Cheddar and Sharp White Cheddar. I just wish they would bring over the flavors recently introduced to the Canadian market: Dill Pickle and White Cheddar Chipotle. They sound super yummy.

- Donna Berry, Dairy & Food Communications and a past Food Processing contributor

Sheila G's Brownie Brittle
If you like the crispy edge of home-made brownies.

Sheila G's Brownie Brittle is exactly what the name implies --- a crisp, thin, light, chocolatey brownie wafer. Just think "that crispy edge" on the brownie baking pan when you make brownies at home, only lighter and crispier. You've heard the saying "Betcha can't eat just one..." Well, Sheila G's Brownie Brittle exemplifies that statement. In fact, buy two bags, one for at home and the other for the car ride home from the store. They are easy to eat, aren't messy, are convenient snacks, easy to pack in a school lunch and go well with ice cream or any other chocolate dessert fixin's. they're a favorite of everyone in our household. These can be found in both local grocery stores and the club stores (Costco is where we buy ours).

- Jim Maddox, East Coast Sales Manager

Green Mountain Farms Cream Cheese & Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt meets bagels with double the protein, live cultures.

While shopping at a Fresh Market store in Normal, Ill., I recently encountered Greek Cream Cheese, a line of cream cheese products formulated with Greek-style yogurt.

With the popularity of Greek yogurt my skeptic alarm went off initially, but right on the front panel of the container I found that the plain spread contains twice the protein and half the fat of standard soft cream cheese, with live and active cultures thrown in. At the end of the day, the nutrition profile is what draws consumers to Greek yogurt, so I think I can call this authentic.

Made by Franklin Foods Inc., Delray Beach, Fla., the line is marketed under the company's Green Mountain Farms brand. The spread follows the initial introduction in September 2012 of a brick form. The latest extension offers flavors including Cucumber Garlic, Roasted Red Pepper, and Sundried Tomato. Fruit flavors are also in the pipeline. The plain spread tasted just like other low-fat cream cheeses but with those nutritional bonuses associated with Greek yogurt. It's available at major retailers in 6.5- 8 oz. containers for $3.99-4.59.

-David Phillips, Technical Editor

Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita
It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it.

As the chief geek in charge of watching web traffic for FoodProcessing.com, I'm always intrigued when I see which products receive the most visitors on our site each year. In 2013, the coveted prize for "Most Visited Product" probably will be going to none other than the Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita.

As a margarita fan, my arm didn't need to be twisted to try the adult beverage. I took on the challenge with gusto, picking up both a Lime-A-Rita and a Straw-Ber-Rita for comparison.

Both the Lime-A-Rita and Straw-Ber-Rita tasted as I would have expected: A margarita infused with hints of beer. The Straw-Ber-Rita, an 8 percent alcohol-by-volume flavored-malt beverage, has the added benefit of a tangy strawberry taste that makes it that much smoother to swallow.

The beverage comes in three party-friendly pack sizes: a 12-pack of 8-oz. cans and a four-pack of either 16- or 24-oz. cans.

- Erin Hallstrom Erickson, Digital Development Manager

Safeway/Lucerne Cinnamon Cream Horchata Ice Cream
These gringos nailed the horchata taste.

It seems every year I pick an ice cream product, and this year is no different. I think I only tasted horchata for the first time 10 or so years ago, but I immediately became a fan. If you're unfamiliar with it, it's a blend of rice milk, sugar and cinnamon, a beverage staple at Mexican restaurants, most of which add some unique spice to their blend.

I'm also a fan of unusual and unique flavors in at least some of my foods (especially beer), so I was excited to see this product at my local Dominick's grocery store. Just opening the lid you get a good whiff of the cinnamon, and that flavor is attractively swirled into the ice cream. Maybe rice milk does not lend itself to ice cream, because there's none on the ingredient statement (but rice flour is part of the "horchata flavor base"). And that base nails the horchata taste.

There are more pleasant surprises. The consistency is not as dense as other ice creams; now, maybe that's overrun (the addition of cheap air) but in this product the lighter texture works. And at 140 calories and 6g of at per serving, this is not gonna kill me. Safeway is Dominick's parent firm, and Lucerne is the brand for its private label dairy products. So I don't know who exactly concocted this ice cream treat, but they did a great job. It stands up to any of the nationally branded ice creams.

- Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Crystal Farms Cheese Nibblers
Cheese snacks that satisfy my flavors cravings.

When the low-carb craze faded, there remained plenty of us who recognized that limiting carbs, and subsequently increasing protein and fat intake, assisted with our weight management regime. I’m one of those people. The problem is that many of the flavors one craves for a snack only come on a chip or a cracker. That’s no longer the case with new Nibblers from Crystal Farms, a subsidiary of Michael Foods Inc.

I first sampled this product at the International Dairy Deli Bakery show this past June in Orlando. I was anxious for the product to appear in my local supermarket and finally made a request for it after the Independence Day holiday. Within a week, there were my Nibblers, merchandised near natural chunk and process sliced cheeses.

Nibblers are real cheese curds with bold seasonings. There are four varieties: Chipotle Pepper Cheddar Cheese, Habanero Monterey Jack Cheese with Jalapeno Peppers, Smoky BBQ Cheddar Cheese and Sour Cream & Onion Monterey Jack Cheese. A pack of the Jacks contains 9g of protein, while a pack of the Cheddars contains 10g. Calories range from 150 to 170, depending on variety.

The 1.5-oz. single-serve units come in stock-friendly trays, with eight units per tray and four trays per case. They also come in five-pack multipacks. I typically purchase a multi-pack every seven to 10 days and enjoy a pack while chauffeuring my sons to their afterschool activities. Not only do Nibblers tide me over until dinner, they also satisfy my flavor cravings. Smoky BBQ is my favorite!

- Donna Berry, Dairy & Food Communications and a past Food Processing contributor

Noosa Yogurt
Is there room for an Aussie yogurt?

Just when you thought yogurt companies had done everything new under the sun, a little Bellvue, Colo., company decides to emulate Australian-style yogurt and puts out Noosa brand full-fat yogurts. We stress the "full fat," because this yogurt is no lightweight — the 8-oz. lemon flavored weighs in at 340 calories and the tart cherry at 290. But don’t panic. After a flood of thick and creamy yogurts bragging some sort of Greek heritage most rarely deliver on, Noosa is content to boast a vague connection to the Land Down Under (and the town of Noosa) while delivering an intense thick and really creamy texture, without chalkiness, and an incomprehensible thick and smooth mouthfeel.

What’s more remarkable is its use of tapioca starch or locust bean gum, agar, gelatin and pectin. Usually, yogurts loaded with such thickeners and additives taste fake and have a chalky mouthfeel. Noosa, though, surprises with an authentic texture that makes the tongue think in terms of sour cream or a super-premium, zero-overrun ice cream. The tart cherry is good, but the fruit tastes like canned pie filling. It’s the lemon or the rhubarb you’ll want, both amazingly "just-exactly-tart-enough" flavors that evoke pie in a good, decadently indulgent way the cherry misses.

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