MolliCoolz Shakers, made with tiny ice cream beads, hit thousands of stores this year, but overall, new food and beverage product launches are down along with the economy.

That could change in the next six to 12 months as food companies return to investing in research and development, said David Houser, an investment banker with Lincoln International, Chicago.

Houser was among the speakers at aNew Products Conferenceheld by Prepared Foodsmagazine at (Palm Beach, Fla.) The Ritz-Carlton.

"I am starting to see food companies get out of that 'let's hoard cash' mentality," Houser said.

Total food and drink product launches for the first half of this year, at 7,176, are down 42 percent from the 12,507 new items that showed up on supermarket shelves in the first six months of 2008, according to Mintel Global New Products Database.

About three-quarters of new products fail to meet the $7.5 million annual sales "success threshold," said Laurie Klein, vice president of Just Kid Inc., a Norwalk, Conn.-based research firm. Flops have included Capri Sun drinks with antioxidants, and Teddy Graham snack packs called "Kid Sense," a label that children found unappealing.

Moms and kids are looking for nutritious products that are "real food with a dash of fun," Klein said.
"At the end of the day, it's all about taste," Klein said.

Shamika Lewis of West Palm Beach, on a panel of 10 local mothers who spoke before the 150 or so food industry executives and technologists, said she looks for enriched foods and beverages such as juice made from fruits and vegetables. She would like to see a portable kid-friendly breakfast meat.

Evelyn Rodriguez, a Lake Worth mother of two, said children today are eating many processed foods, and she wants to know exactly what they contain.

"Be honest on the packaging," Rodriguez said.

Source: Palm Beach (Fla.) Post