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

getting fresh: New products MIA?

Newspapers are closing. The automobile industry is floundering. Employees are being laid off. Salaries are getting cut. And new product introductions are on the downslide, according to Chicago’s Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), which yesterday reported that total food and drink product launches have been cut in half since last year – that’s a 51% decline from the first quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2009.

Mintel adds that although manufacturers typically release fewer new products during the first quarter of a year, 2009's reduction is higher than in recent years.

"Faced with low consumer confidence and reduced spending, many food and beverage manufacturers cut back on product development and new product launches," says Lynn Dornblaser, a leading new product expert at Mintel. "Many companies face internal budget cuts that affect everything from new product ideation to development and marketing."

Compared to the first quarter of 2008, Mintel’s GNPD says it saw higher-than-average declines for non-alcoholic beverages, chocolate, sugar and gum confectionery and dairy product launches (56%, 55%, 64% and 60%, respectively).

Furthermore, confectionery launches could show a greater-than-average decrease due to Easter 2009 falling in the second quarter.

That’s not to say that things aren’t looking up.

Just ask Dornblaser, who gleans from Mintel GNPD’s monthly data that while food and drink introductions had a steady decline from October 2008 to February 2009, they actually increased in March of this year.

"Consumer confidence has leveled off for the time being, which marks an opportunity for manufacturers,” she adds. “Now is the time for ideation and innovation for products that answer shoppers' desires for value, quality, and pleasure."

More good news: Mintel has tracked new product introductions through three major recessions over the years, Dornblaser notes, and has observed time and again that new product launches decline a bit at the start of a recession, but quickly pick up once the economy begins to turn around.

For now, new products may be on the decline, but new items aren’t necessarily missing in action.

According to an upcoming article in Candy Industry (check out the “11th Annual European Suppliers Roundtable” in next month’s issue at www.candyindustry.com), many new product launches are being delayed right now due to cost, but line extensions are still taking their place – a trend I, too, have noticed in my solicitations for new products from chocolatiers, confectioners and snack producers alike.

As the ALL CANDY EXPO(R) approaches and I write up product galleries for May/June Confection & Snack Retailing and The Daily (pick up your copy each day of the EXPO for new products and “live” show news), I’ve noticed a lack of submissions, to be sure. Those entries I do receive are mainly new flavors, varieties, limited-time offers, seasonal additions and package sizes (often single-serve, portion-control introductions).

Another trend I’ve noticed as I go through my physical and virtual inboxes is the relaunching of old products. (What’s old is new again, as they say.) Some self-declared “new” products are actually those that are just now hitting stores or being sold in new channels, perhaps with new packaging, as well. It remains to be seen when manufacturers will start to unveil brand-spanking-new products again.

Do consumers care? Probably not. I often wonder how many pick up new products in these tough economic times. I’ve read and am led to believe that stressed-out, financially strapped shoppers stick to tried-and-true favorites that bring comfort to them and their families. I know I do.

That said, if a new product carries with it the quality, packaging and marketing prowess (not to mention price) to woo shoppers, then it’s got a chance of surviving.

Speaking of survival, if you’re lucky enough to have a job that still pays the bills, count your lucky stars that you can hop in your car (or buy a new one: 0% financing and no money down will get you every auto feature your heart desires in this down economy) and drive to work each day, where you will hopefully find a newspaper still in print and read up on what’s happening in the marketplace.

Editor’s Note: For more information from Mintel, visit www.mintel.com.

Tree of Life Canada to sell Honibe Honey Drop

Island Abbey Foods Ltd. has announced a distribution agreement with Tree of Life, a distributor of natural, organic, specialty, ethnic and gourmet food products. Per the agreement, Tree of Life Canada now will sell Island Abbey Foods Ltd.’s Honibe Honey Drop throughout the country.

The Honibe Honey Drop contains an individual serving of 100% pure dried honey and comes in two flavors: pure honey and pure honey with lemon. A single serving is just 20 calories and does not contain any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

For more information, visit www.honibe.com.







Mars, TerraCycle partner to reduce packaging waste

Mars, Inc., including its five business groups -- chocolate, pet care, Wrigley, food and drinks -- has partnered with eco-friendly company TerraCycle to reduce its waste.

To accomplish this goal, TerraCycle will repurpose used and excess packaging from Mars’ dog and cat food brands, food and drink brands, and confectionery brands, such as M&M’S, Snickers, Milky Way, Twix, Starburst, Skittles, 3 Musketeers, Juicy Fruit, Doublemint, Wrigley’s Spearmint, Orbit, Extra, Freedent, Eclipse, 5, Winterfresh, Big Red, Life Savers and Altoids. TerraCycle will reuse this packaging waste for products ranging from cell phone holders and laptop sleeves to messenger bags, which will reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills significantly.

Mars has committed to reducing its waste by 3% a year. The company’s other sustainability initiatives include reducing its use of energy and water, and ensuring the sustainability of the raw materials it uses, such as cocoa.

Furthermore, Mars will sponsor TerraCycle’s “Brigade programs,” where organizations can raise money by collecting used packaging from participating brands and sending it to TerraCycle.

“We at Mars take very seriously our responsibility to uphold our efficiency principle and cut waste,” says Richard Ware, vice president of supply chain, R&D and sustainability at Mars. “This partnership with TerraCycle demonstrates Mars’ ongoing commitment to making a difference by reducing the impact of our manufacturing plants on the planet each year.”

TerraCycle founder Tom Szaky adds, “The commitment to waste reduction shown by Mars is very exciting. This partnership will enable TerraCycle to increase exponentially the amount of waste we upcycle in a given year. Our experience with companies similar to Mars shows it’s possible to reduce packaging waste through partnerships such as this by upwards of 3,000 tons a year. Partnering with Mars’ iconic brands creates an incredible opportunity to have a positive impact on our environment.”

For more information, visit www.mars.com or www.terracycle.net.

La Maison du Chocolat's premium summer collection makes its debut

Created by the company’s creative director, Gilles Marchal, La Maison Du Chocolat’s Summer 2009 Chocolate Collection uses vibrant colors, arabesque designs and unique flavors to describe the romance of Andalousie, Spain. The flavors in the premium collection are Milk Chocolate Praliné with Nougat, Dark Chocolate Ganache with Orange, Mint Tea and Dark Chocolate Ganache, Almond Paste with Lemon and Lime, and Dark Chocolate Ganache with Saffron and Raspberry. The chocolates, which are packaged in a coffret featuring shades of orange, are available in boutiques and online from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The suggested retail price for the collection is $56 for large gift box (30 chocolates) and $19 for small gift box (10 chocolates). For more information, visit www.lamaisonduchocolat.com/en.


European Commission launches organic logo competition in EU member states

The European Commission’s directorate-general for agriculture and rural development is inviting all design and art students from the 27 EU member states to enter its organic logo competition. The winning logo will become the official logo for organic products throughout the European Union in July 2010 and will be mandatory for all pre-packaged organic products that originate in the 27 EU member states and meet the labeling standards. Pre-packaged organic products that do not originate in the EU can use the new logo on a voluntary basis.

The goal of the competition is to create an eye-catching, original and creative EU organic logo that captures the diverse aspects of organic farming and production. As mentioned, the winner’s logo will be used on all organic products in the EU in July 2010, but the winner also will be awarded a cash prize of €6,000. The first and second runners-up will receive €3,500 and €2,500, respectively.

The logo competition will be judged by a jury of experts from the field of organic farming and production along with internationally renowned design professionals. The jury will assess the designs according to their universal appeal, comprehensibility without the use of words, clarity of presentation and timelessness. Entries can be submitted on the competition’s Web site, www.ec.europa.eu/organic-logo, through June 25, 2009.

Once all the entries have been uploaded to the site, the jury will select the best submissions, which then will be featured on the Web site as the official candidates for the new logo. All European citizens will be invited to help choose the winning logo by voting for their favorite online. In the summer of 2010, the winner and two runners-up will be presented with their prizes at an awards ceremony in Brussels.

sweet of the week: Odwalla Macha-walla Bar

Odwalla combines two bean favorites, cocoa and coffee, in its new Mocha-walla Bar. Available in natural food stores, select supermarkets and specialty outlets throughout the United States in May, the chocolate- and coffee-flavored bars are infused with whole grains, real fruit, natural fiber, and six essential vitamins and minerals for a healthy, indulgent treat.

“This rich, delicious bar combines two of America’s favorite foods: chocolate and coffee,” says Jason Dolenga, brand manager, Odwalla, Inc. “It’s tasty, flavorful nourishment that’s perfect for today’s on-the-go lifestyle.”

The bars have a suggested retail price of $1.39.

For more information, visit www.odwalla.com.