By Deborah Cassell
Editor
Confection & Snack Retailing
casselld@bnpmedia.com

getting fresh: Macbook & Cheese

“New products” was the topic of this morning’s meeting between chief editors from various food and beverage magazines here at BNP Media’s Deerfield, Ill., office and representatives from a public relations firm that’s conducting research for a forthcoming book on the subject, to be published by our custom publishing group.

As meetings go, this one was pretty interesting … and entertaining. Conversations ranged from innovations in fast food (like the Southern Style Chicken Sandwich at McDonald’s and Burger King’s Apple Fries) and technology (GPS systems and the iPhone, for example) to what manufacturers are doing right (cool packaging, cool advertising, cool marketing) and what PR agencies are doing wrong (excluding necessary info editors need in a release, not sending samples, failing to notify the trade press of new product launches in a timely matter) and everything in between (all-natural and organic offerings, going green, what role consumers play in product innovation, “the Wal-Mart effect,” how social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter influence shoppers, the growth of private label, why or why not celebrities help sell a product … the list goes on).

There was even discussion of Denny’s recent Grand Slam Giveaway, which served more than 2 million diners, according to Advertising Age. Denny’s success is due in large part to its first-ever Super Bowl spot, Ad Age further notes, which led the restaurant chain to spend some $5 million on free breakfasts for the masses. I’m not a big fan of breakfast, but I’ll eat almost anything if it’s free, so I’m really sorry I struck out on this freebie. (Pun intended.)

At the start of the meeting, we were provided with a list of top new product launches from the last few years -- everything from MacBook Air and Wii Fit to Bud Light Lime and Coke Zero to Dannon Activia Yogurt and Lay’s Stax to Glade PlugIns and Tide to Go to Alli and Listerine Whitening Quick Dissolving Strips to Volkswagen Touareg and the BMW Mini Cooper to my favorite: T.M.X. Elmo. (Remember, “Elmo loves you!”)

We then were asked to name our favorite or most memorable product launches as of late. With all the market launches, you’d think answering that one question could eat up a whole hour. It didn’t. Turns out as many new introductions as there are on store shelves, few inspire us. That’s not to say that there aren’t a ton of cool products to be had. There are. Too many, in fact. But these numerous products don’t always have staying power -- sometimes due to lack of marketing, sometimes due to poor packaging and often due to bad taste … literally.

Brand loyalty being what it is, most of my favorite food products are those I’ve enjoyed since childhood: Doritos, Malt-O-Meal, Honeycomb, Pop-Tarts, 3 Musketeers … the list goes on. And I’m not alone. As one participant pointed out, his 21-year-old daughter’s favorite food is Macaroni & Cheese. Another attendee then piped up, saying that her son’s choice is one and the same.

As the editor of a publication whose target audience is retailers or professional candy and snack buyers, new products are a full-time job for me … literally. The number of press releases and samples I receive each week is staggering, and that doesn’t even include those introductions I discover online while surfing the Web for news and trends.

That said, when called upon to name a memorable product launch, I could think of just one, which landed on my desk not one week ago (and I’ve been hooked ever since): Mar’s new Fling chocolate fingers, a delicious 80-calorie treat that’s only available in California right now. Guess I’ll have to stock up on my next trip to San Diego.

So what does this all mean for confectioners? Keep the new products coming! But do your research, and follow-through on the marketing. Grass roots/word of mouth can take a brand far, but for most introductions, ya gotta create some buzz in order to get consumers onboard. And that buzz has to continue at retail, through POP displays and promotions that don’t just come and go like ships in the night. Otherwise, shoppers will just stick to the stuff they know and love, including comfort foods such as Mac & Cheese. Right, Elmo?

Ready, set, launch: For information about the latest confectionery and snack food products, visit www.cs-retailing.com.

Peanut Corporation of America files for bankruptcy

After expanding its recent recall list once again, Peanut Corporation of America faces a new challenge: bankruptcy. According to a New York Times article written by Andrew Martin, PCA has filed for liquidation under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy law in Virginia. As a result, the company’s Blakely, Ga.; Plainview, Texas; and Suffolk, Va., facilities have closed, says Sue Lindsey of The Associated Press.

According to Martin’s article, Salmonella was found in products produced at the Plainview Peanut Co. plant in Plainview, which forced the plant to close and recall all its products. Although the Tidewater Blanching plant in Suffolk was not linked to Salmonella contamination, it has closed as well, Lindsey’s article notes.

For more information, visit www.peanutcorp.com, www.candyusa.org or www.fda.gov.

Food Safety Summit names members to new committee

The 11th Annual Food Safety Summit, produced and managed by BNP Media, Troy, Mich., has named a new Executive Educational Advisory Committee (EEAC) to lead an educational platform at the show.

“The mission of the EEAC is to develop a meaningful educational platform for food industry professionals with an emphasis on solutions, not just statements of situations,” says Scott Wolters, CEM, director of tradeshows and conferences, BNP Media.

The EEAC consists of the following industry professionals:

  • Tim Haley, Sr. Manager of Food Safety and Regulatory Compliance for Bush Brothers & Company; Knoxville, Tenn. (Manufacturer)


  • Alan Plassche, Co-Founder of BP Partners; New Canaan, Conn. (Consultant)


  • Mike Robach, Vice President of Corporate Food Safety and Regulatory Affairs for Cargill, Minneapolis (Manufacturer)


  • Caroline Smith de Waal, Director of Food Safety Program Center for Science in the Public Interest; Wash., D.C. (Non-Governmental Agency)


  • Will Daniels, Vice President of Quality, Food Safety and Organic Integrity Quality for Earthbound Farm; San Juan Bautista, Calif. (Grower)


  • Dr. Marion Aller, DVM, DABT, Director of the Division of Food Safety for Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services; Tallahassee, Fla. (Public Health Official)


  • Donald Zink, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration/CFSAN; College Park, Md. (Government)


  • Gary Ades, Ph.D., President of G&L Consulting Group, L.L.C.; Bentonville, Ark. (Consultant)


  • Thomas A. Packer, Partner at Gordon & Rees, LLP; San Francisco (Legal)


  • Craig Henry, Ph.D., Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer for Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Grocery Manufacturers Association; Wash., D.C. (Trade Association)


  • Sharon Wood, Director of Food Safety H-E-B; San Antonio (Supermarket)


  • David Theno, Ph.D., Sr. Vice President and Chief Product Safety Officer for Jack in the Box; San Diego (Foodservice)


  • John Spink, Director of Packaging for Food and Product Protection Initiative and Instructor at National Food Safety & Toxicology Center at Michigan State University; Okemos, Mich. (Food Defense)


  • Richard Linton, Ph.D., Professor of Food Safety for Department of Food Science Purdue University; West Lafayette, Ind. (Academia)


  • Scott Brooks, DVM, Director of Quality Assurance Yum! Brands, Inc.; Louisville, Ky. (Foodservice)

This year’s Food Safety Summit will feature more than 1,500 industry executives and more than 200 exhibitors, as well as a new product showcase, poster sessions and the vendor track theater. For more information, visit www.foodsafetysummit.com.

Wild Flavors, Sunwin International partner to sell stevia extracts

Wild Flavors, Inc. -- a supplier of natural and health-enhancing ingredients, flavors and colors for the food and beverage industry -- has partnered with Sunwin International Neutraceuticals, Inc. -- a global supplier of all-natural, zero-calorie stevia -- to sell, market and distribute Sunwin International stevia extracts. The companies also plan to formulate natural sweetening blends for food and beverage products.

Wild and Sunwin’s first step will be to receive GRAS status for Sunwin’s stevia extracts from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. By combining both companies’ expertise, the partnership will allow for customized product application, potential for “all-natural” and “low glycemic” claims, and solutions for low-calorie or sugar-reduced products.

For more information, visit www.wildflavors.com or www.sunwininternational.com.

OTA appoints new member development manager

The Organic Trade Association (OTA), whose mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy, has appointed Richard Struthers as member development manager. His main responsibility will be to support and build the OTA’s membership base. Struthers previously worked at organic and natural distribution companies such as Northeast Cooperatives, United Natural Foods (UNFI) and Albert’s Organics.

For more information, visit www.ota.com.









sweet of the week: Go Fast! Energy Gum

Stemming from Go Fast! Energy Drinks, Go Fast! Energy Gum contains the same energizing effect in a chewing gum, with a liquid infused center. Each piece of Go Fast! Energy Gum contains about the same amount of energy as one Go Fast! Energy Drink. The liquid-infused center, or “liquid adrenaline,” gets into the consumer’s system three to four times faster than a typical energy drink, the company says. The ingredients contained in the liquid center include caffeine, B-vitamins, ribose and white tea. For more information, visit www.gofastsports.com.