It’s challenging to reduce an expo as large as the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Show – much less the four other shows under that same roof -- to a single theme or two. But it was difficult to miss the emphasis on organic products, which permeated the main supermarket show as well as the Organic Trade Assn.’s “All Things Organic” show.
It seems most of the exhibitors at FMI featured organic or otherwise health-oriented products and launches. Even considering the category has enjoyed double-digit growth for two decades, it’s impressive how pervasive the phenomenon has become.
Nearly 2,000 exhibitors were at the “Power of Five” megashow, which included the National Assn. for the Specialty Food Trade’s Fancy Food Show, United Produce Expo & Conference and U.S. Food Export Showcase, as well as the organic and FMI shows. However, there seemed to be many more smaller companies. Among the missing megas were Sara Lee Corp., Procter & Gamble, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., H.J. Heinz and Hormel Foods. Attendees at all five shows were estimated at 35,000.
If there was a second theme, it could have been reaching out to Hispanic consumers. Kellogg Co. did not spotlight many new products, but the noise of aerobics coming from its booth was in Spanish. The skinny is that it will introduce Hispanic-targeted new products, boost marketing by 60 percent and add bilingual packages. As Tony the Tiger says in Spanish-language ads, “Gr-r-riquisimos!” Translation: “They’re g-r-r-eat!”
Also targeting that demographic with gusto was Unilever, which unveiled a proprietary Hispanic market study. Titled “Winning the Hispanic shopping trip,” the study read more than 3,600 shopping diaries of 799 participants in key Hispanic markets of Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and New York.
Some of the key findings: Hispanic shoppers make more big trips but fewer “quick trips” than the average consumer; Hispanic women are more aware of “specials” before going to the store (48 percent to 36 percent) and 22 percent take public transportation to the grocery store, compared to 3 percent of other shoppers.
Also courting the Hispanic shopper were General Mills (with its nuevo Nestle La Lechera Flakes, flavored with condensed milk) and McCormick & Co. with three dedicated product lines: La Cocina de McCormick, Core Line Spices and Herbs (including Sazon, a staple in Latin American kitchens) and Mojave, featuring a bilingual package to serve Hispanic cooks.
There’s no mystery here: Hispanics are not only the fastest growing segment in the U.S., but they cook and eat at home more often and spent some $136 billion on food and beverages in 2005. According to an FMI study, more Hispanics buy organic products (39 percent) than other consumers (25 percent).
Calorie counting and health
Portion control was in the spotlight at many displays. Kraft, which apparently originated the 100-calorie package idea, introduced more Nabisco 100-Calorie Packs, South Beach Diet 100-calorie Snack Bars and a 100-calorie Balance Bar. Also joining the 100 club were Campbell Soup’s Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay snacks. In one of the sessions, “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert said he expects to see 100-calorie packs of chicken breasts and frozen dinners in the not-too-distant future.
Counting calories? Kraft’s Lunchables Sensible Solutions are at or under 470 calories and contain less than 5g of saturated fat. ACH Food Cos.’ Mazola Pure Olive, Butter and Canola oil help cooks conservatively spray before they sauté. Hunger Control Shakes in Unilever’s Slim-Fast Optima line may keep dieters from cheating by helping control hunger for up to four hours with less than 200 calories.
A number of marketers were playing up fruits and vegetables. Campbell’s V8 VFusion combined both for a full serving of each in one drink. PepsiCo’s Tropicana FruitWise strips, made with real fruit and fruit juice, makes fruit a portable snack anytime. So does General Mills’ Nature Valley Fruit Crisps, baked apples in a to-go pouch that contains a full serving of fruit. Sunsweet Growers’ beverage PlumSmart aids digestive health with extra fiber and especially appeals to the 50-plus market.
The health of vegetables in a hurry was touted by Del Monte in its mixed vegetable trays – ready in just 4 minutes in the microwave – as well as General Mills’ Green Giant’s steamed microwave veggies. Old-fashioned cooking with a touch of convenience comes from Glory Foods’ ready-to-cook, bagged Collard, Kale, Turnip and Mustard Greens, Turnip Root, Sweet Potatoes, Rutabaga, Yellow Squash, and Yellow Squash with Zucchini. They help you prepare your southern style authentic meal without the fuss. World Variety Produce Inc. introduced Good Life Food, a line of organic shelf stable dressings, sauces and salad kits (with dressing, croutons, and sprinkles); just add the greens.
Simply Asia LLC rolled out a line of refrigerated Simply Asia Stir-Fry, containing fresh noodles and vegetables with a sauce. Just add meat. Dole Fresh Vegetables debuts Veggie Pasta Salad Kits. All you have to do is boil the pasta and combine for a warm or chilled salad option. Ready Pack introduces a complete Parisian Kit and Asian Kit for sophisticated salad aficionados. No more crying over onions, thanks to Birds Eye Fresh Diced Vidalia Onions and Diced Red Onions, new to its Table Topper line.
Whole grains, too, had their proponents. ConAgra’s Ultragrain flour for the past year has been a hit with processors. Now the company offers a similar blend of white and whole wheat flour for home cooks under the Healthy Choice brand.
Tyson Foods launched All Natural Marinated Fresh Chicken (no artificial ingredients, no added hormones or steroids), Trimmed and Ready Chicken (less fat and skin) and its Natural brand Certified Angus Beef (no hormones or antibiotics and fed a 100 percent vegetarian diet). General Mills introduced Caribou Coffee Chewy Granola Bars, made with soy, sunflower, almond and peanut ingredients. And for chocoholics on a healthy watch, Hershey debuts Hershey’s Extra Dark in three flavors: Pure Dark Chocolate, Pure Dark Chocolate with Cranberries, Blueberries and Almonds, and Pure Dark Chocolate with Macadamias and Cranberries.
Convenience is always No. 1 for the consumer. Here are two choices for breakfast: Bravo!’s Milk & Fruit Breakfast Blenders and ConAgra’s Egg Beaters Ham & Cheese omelet in a carton.
For dinner, ConAgra moved its Crock-Pot bagged meals to a higher plane with Marie Callender’s Crock-Pot Meals and Soups. General Mills’ Betty Crocker Seasoned Skillets bring spuds to new flavor heights, and Green Giant’s Just for One Vegetables is a great way for a person to incorporate veggies into a healthy individual snack.
When seconds count: Pillsbury rolled out Microwave Buttermilk biscuits, Butter Tastin’ Biscuits and Soft White Dinner Rolls in resealable bags. Just pop one in and it’s ready in seconds. Forty-five seconds is all it takes for McCormick’s microwavable Finishing Sauces and 60 seconds for its Zatarain’s ready-to-serve complete meals with meat. Tyson’s Heat ’N Eat packages of chicken and beef are ready in six minutes.
They may look like boullion cubes, but Unilever’s Knorr brand Mini Cubes of Garlic and Onion are a super new option. ConAgra married savory flavors (real cheddar cheese and buttermilk ranch flavor) with popcorn in its Orville Redenbacher’s Shakeables. Everything you need is in the bag for Bake-at-Home Apple Crisp from Peterson Farms, Shelby, Mich., from one pound of peeled and sliced apples to the topping.
Kraft’s Grate-It-Fresh Parmesan Cheese Grater grates fresh cheese with every twist. Also grating and grinding were Tone Brothers’ Spice Island adjustable gourmet grinders and McCormick’s Gourmet Collection Grinders in exotic flavors such as Smoked Flavor Sea Salt, Tellichery Black Peppercorns, Peppercorn Melange, Roasted Garlic and Sea Salt, Italian Herb Blend and Crushed Red Pepper. The glass bottles will look great in the kitchen or on the dining room table.
Here’s a product that raised a lot of eyebrows. If Hamburger Helper isn’t fast and easy enough, General Mills showed a prototype of Hamburger Helper Microwave Singles. Everything’s in the shelf-stable pouch, including the freeze-dried cooked ground beef. Just add water and microwave for 4-6 minutes. And it tasted pretty good, one of our editors said after cooking it at home.
Drink to energy and health
Coca-Cola’s Dasani Sensations puts a new twist on water, the fastest growing beverage category, combining fruit taste, no calories and some fizz for fun.
Coffee showed up in several forms. Sampling was brisk for new Coca-Cola Blak, a carbonated fusion blend of Coke and coffee. A similar drink was sampled by Jump Innovations. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters claims to have the world’s first organic coffee soda: Double Bean Elixir. Froid, a Frappuccino-like drink made with coffee, milk, sugar and maltodextrin, was an organic option from Froid Coffee Co.
Tea took on a healthy halo as Unilever’s Lipton Premium Teas with real pieces of fruit debuted in pyramid-shaped bags. Cadbury Schweppes’ Snapple brand offers Snapple White Tea in bags.
While green tea and white tea showed themselves to be still-growing categories, the suddenly ubiquitous açai berry was one of the stars of new flavors. Bossa Nova found the right balance in its juice formulations to make the recently unknown tropical actually taste good, especially via its mango-açai blend.
Pomegranate, too, continued its run, showing up in numerous beverage products but even in ice cream. Sheer Bliss “ultra super premium” ice cream mixes the tart fruit with dark chocolate chips and packages it in a 16-oz. tin.
Old Orchard mixed pomegranate with black currant juice. Nectar Island blended it with raspberry and blueberry. Odwalla did it with berries and mango. Frützzo Natural Juice showed a full line of pomegranate blends.
Generally speaking, pomegranate, cranberry, plum, blueberry, raspberry, cappuccino, açai, guava, lime, cinnamon, caramel and savory flavors all found some spotlight.
All things organic
With the widespread interest in organics, the Organic Trade Assn.’s “All Things Organic” show was a happening place. Bigger and better this year than last, it was always crowded.
Nspired Natural Foods Inc. accomplished the hat trick of appeal with its O’Coco’s organic chocolate crisps. About the size and weight of a thick potato chip, the product weighs in at just 90 calories per 0.7-oz. pack; it tastes great, packing a lot of chocolate flavor per bite; and the packaging is eye-catching.
Even the hard stuff can be organic. U.K. company Organic Spirits Ltd. poured Juniper Green London Dry gin. The blended Scotch whiskey, Highland Harvest, could easily vie with the best blends Scotland has.
The fact that most products at All Things Organic also boasted kosher certification, too, verifies the magnitude of this merging of the two biggest growth categories in food and beverages.
More on the web
A full report on the Unilever survey “Winning the Hispanic shopping trip” is available by clicking here.