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What's new and what's next.

Since my presentation at FMI last May, Dancer Fitzgerald Sample's New Product News has reported the introduction of 1,830 new, traditional products plus 786 new health foods, diet supplements and gourmet foods. The number of new products reported in 1983 was the highest in the 20 years we have been tracking new item introductions. They were up 20% over 1982's total. However, the percentage increase narrowed in 1984, and new product intros actually declined 3% in the June-September period, versus 1983's totals in the same four months.

Many of the trends mentioned last year are continuing to develop. for example, more aspartame-sweetened foods (such as Jell-O, Alpha Bits, Tang) have appeared. Although there have been some questions raised about this new sweetener, Searle, the marketer of NutraSweet, is aggressively pursuing new uses for it.

Sodium reduction also continues to concern consumers, and although this trend seems to me to have softened, new salt-free or sodium-reduced products appear every week--for example: Wonder Bread, Campbell Soups and Salt Sense. There will never be enough low-calorie foods available and new product entries are appearing in new categories such as soups (Lipton's Trim) and desserts (Weight Watchers).

New snack foods continue to come forth. Here's a selection of some of the newer entries: Quaker Granola Dipps, Keebler Krunch Twists, Golden Grain Pop 'n Flavor, Orville Redenbacher Crunch, FritoLay's O'Grady's Thick Potato Chips. Snacks are becoming more like candy, with such sweet newcomers as Granola Dipps and S'Mores.

Gourmet foods are a busy category, as more and more manufacturers seek out the young, upper-class, upwardly mobile professionals who are looking for more adventure in food. Sara Lee's Croissants are now available in new flavors, and face new competition from Thomas', makers of the English muffin.

Also becoming more goumetlike are dozens of regional ice creams. Noting the success of Haagen-Dazs and others, virtually every ice cream company is out with an upscale ice cream line (Sara Lee, Hood's, Strassel's, Land O'Lakes). A successful frozen snack is Dole's Fruit 'n Juice Bars, or Jell-O Gelatin Pops. Jell-O is also testing Soft Swirl, a soft freezer dessert.

The cookie wars are expanding with Keebler Soft Batch as the lates competitor to Nabisco, Frito-Lay and Duncan Hines. Nabisco also has a Soft Chips Ahoy variety.

Character-endorsed merchandise remains popular with kid-appeal products. Some of the newer entries are Pac-Man Pasts, Smurf Vitamins and Superman Hot Cocoa Mix. This technique is widely used in the cereal business, with new items such as Mr. T. Gremlins, E.T. and C3PO's.

An interesting trend is the use of famous brand names on other products. For example, Nestle's Quik appears on chocolate milk, while Nabisco's Oreros are an ingredient in Popsicle'sCookies 'n Cream Sandwiches.

A significant new product area is pure, natural juice. Campbell's is trying Juice-Works, 100% fruit juice blends, in frozen and canned varieties. Aseptic juices continue to grow in number. Tropicana has one of the newer entries, while Sunkist tries Frozen Juice Cups.

A burgeoning category is the surprising number of new products for scratch bakers. Both Fleischmann's is also testing Baker's Blend Margarine. Pillsbury is expanding its refrigerated Fudge Brownies, while Betty Crocker has added butter to its ready-to-spread frosting.

There are three new home bread mixes on the market: Nibisco's Home Hearth, Betty Crocker's Quick Rise and Pillsbury's Poppin' Fresh Yeast Bread Mix. Sara Lee is offering Creative Cake Layers for bakers who like to add their own fillings and toppings.

Perhaps the hottest new product category in recent years was the under-300-calorie frozen dinners and centrees. Sparked by the success of Stouffer's Lean Cuisine, which is reportedly selling at the rate of $400 million per year, just about every manufacturer rushed out with low-calorie frozen products. A random sample of some of these includes Armour Classic Lite, On-Cor Lite, and ConAgra's Light & Elegant. Even the health food companies jumped on the low-calorie entree bandwagon with Health Valley's Lean Living and Legume's Light & Natural Tofu Entrees.

More chicken entrees continue to appear. Pepperidge Farm markets its upscale Chicken Classics and Chef's Collection; Weaver offers Italian-style Fried Chicken; and Morton's goes in the opposite direction with its economy-priced Chicken Patties. Betty Crocker asks that you add your own chicken to its Chicken Helper line.

The fish packers are also aiming at lighter entrees, such as Mrs. Paul's light and Natural Fish, Wakefield's Under-300-Calorie line, and Gorton's Light Recipe. As promised in the past, Chinese foods have been upgraded, with such new additions as Van de Kamp's Chinese Classics and Green Giant's Stir-Fry Entrees.

More and more new American products have their roots in European items. Hershey has gone national with Skor Candy Bars, originally from Sweden. L'Oreal Styling Mousse, Panadol, Check-up Toothpaste, Ariel Detergent, Bully Bowl Cleaner and Impulse Body Spray are a selection of non-foods items that are derivatives of successful European products.

There have been a number of packaging innovations which, strictly speaking, are not new products. Nevertheless, they are making points with consumers. Heinz reportedly is quite successful wit its Squeeze Bottle Catsup. Colgate is making points with its pump toothpaste tube. Fleischmann's and others are out with squeeze bottle margarine, and Wish-Bone and Heinz Barbecue Sauces are also available in plastic containers.

A major new packaging innovation is St. Regis' Super Fresh package, now available in Kroger's Atlanta stores. Here's how it works: A plastic package is formed, meat is placed inside, and is vacuum-packed. Purified air is then flushed back into the package before it is sealed. A controlled atmosphere is created and bacterial growth is reduced, which lengthens the shelf life of the meat.

Some other miscellaneous categories where we have seen more interesting new products recently are wine coolers (about two dozen have been introduced); Dairylea Cheese Curds; Orval Kent Salad Singles; imported Italian pasta and refrigerated pasta; fresh turkey parts; Today's Catch fish; more surimi or shellfish analogs; S & W's Veri-Green Sweet Peas, which look and taste more like fresh; Lipton's refrigerated dips; Ore-Ida's Crispy Whips; and Stove Top Stuffing for turkey.

What can we expect from the manufacturers in the future? It seems to me that one place to look for future new products is in the news section of your newspapers and magazines. In my view, today's headlines produce tomorrow's new products. Here are some examples:

Remember the March 26th cover story in Time Magazine? Recent research indicates that cholesterol really is the problem that many scientists had believed it to be for the past 20 years. Consumers will become more cholesterol-conscious and manufacturers will respond with reduced-cholesterol or cholesterol-free products.

Quaker is pushing its Mother's Oat Bran as a fiber source that may actually lower cholesterol. Fleischmann's is testing cholesterol-free cream cheese substitute and has added Cheez Egg Beaters. Tofutti is a very good tasting frozen dessert that contains no cholesterol. I'm sure more such products are on the way.

Another recent headline reads, "Americans Drink Less and Makers of Alcohol Feel a Little Woozy." The concerns over drunk driving and general health have produced new products like de-alcoholized wine and low-alcohol beers, such as Schmidt's Break, Budweiser's L.A. Beer, and Fay's Pace, as well as alcohol-free Moussy.

Irradiation is also an area with great promise for new products. This subject is quite controversial. During 1985, consumers will be seeing more and more about the benefits of irradiated foods.

Food irradiation is a preservation process that can be used to extend the shelf life of foods. During the irradiation process, controlled doses of gamma rays pass through foods, much as microwaves travel through food in the oven, causing negligible changes are less than those from canning or freezing. The process does not make the food radioactive. However, the very word "radioactive" is going to make it difficult to sell irradiated foods to consumers.

Nevertheless, the benefits of irradiation are difficult to resist. Not only is shelf life extended but infestation is removed, with important cost savings to consumers. Irradiated foods are sold all over the world. We can expect an active drive to introduce irradiated foods to U.S. consumers. Last February, the FDA proposed a regulation that would permit the use of irradiation to treat fruit and vegetables. Such action would eliminate the need for such controversial chemicals as EDB. I believe that all of us must quickly become much smarter about the pros and cons of this exciting, new--actually 30-year-old--processing technique.
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Title Annotation:new products
Author:Friedman, Martin
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Jan 1, 1985
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