It’s a trick parents have used for years - get kids to eat stuff that’s unfamiliar (but healthy), by serving it with something comforting and recognizable. Want your kids to eat broccoli? Serve it with their favorite melted cheese.

San Francisco-based Del Monte Foods is taking a similar approach to the retail refrigerated produce section.

Product Spotlight

Del Monte SuperFruit

It’s a trick parents have used for years - get kids to eat stuff that’s unfamiliar (but healthy), by serving it with something comforting and recognizable. Want your kids to eat broccoli? Serve it with their favorite melted cheese.

San Francisco-based Del Monte Foods is taking a similar approach to the retail refrigerated produce section. New SuperFruit snacks combine exotic “superfruits” such as acai, pomegranate and passion fruit with more familiar flavors such as pears, oranges and pineapple. The single-serve chilled snacks include fruit chunks packed in a blend of 100 percent fruit juice.

“The line is based on pairing familiar fruit chunks with the more exotic flavors of SuperFruit juices,” says Brand Manager Carrie Schliemann. “Del Monte SuperFruit cups are healthy and convenient snacks,” she adds. “Each 8-ounce cup is antioxidant rich in Vitamin C and filled with chunks of fruit picked at the peak of ripeness and packed in an exotic blend of 100 percent fruit juice (not syrup).”

SuperFruit varieties include: Mixed Fruit Chunks in Mango Passion Fruit Juice, Peach Chunks in Pomegranate Orange Juice and Pear Chunks in Açaí Blackberry Juice.

The line, already shipping, is part of Del Monte’s broader efforts in the produce/refrigerated category.  A $20 million "Fruit Undressed" online and print promotional campaign will support other Del Monte products: Fruit Naturals, Ready-to-Enjoy Citrus Bowls, and SunFresh and Orchard Select brands.

SuperFruit will be supported by an additional marketing campaign breaking in January.

“Through the innovative ‘Fruit Undressed’ campaign, as well as the SuperFruit campaign breaking in January, Del Monte Foods is clearly demonstrating its commitment to lead the produce/refrigerated category for retailers,” Schliemann says. “We are expecting the category to experience explosive growth based on outstanding product quality and consumer trends. And we will continue to aggressively support innovation and marketing in this category.”

Del Monte hopes to use the campaign to capture the attention of its target demographic. “Busy moms and women ages 25-44 motivated by taste, health, quality and convenience,” Schliemann says.

Supplier Spotlight

Hinds-Bock Corporation’s High-Speed Servo Fillers

It’s not as if you can send production equipment to school. Nevertheless, Hinds-Bock Corp., Bothell, Wash., has made its high-speed servo filling machine even smarter.

“We’ve added the latest in controls technology to achieve the highest efficiency with the smallest possible footprint,” says Lance Aasness, vice president of sales and marketing.“Control technology lets our customers collect data through Ethernet communication,” he notes. “This data - including performance data, up-time information, maintenance monitoring and fault alerts - enables a user to achieve the highest filling efficiency and therefore yield.”

As for the unit itself, Aasness says Hinds-Bock’s filler uses servo drive technology to provide high-speed depositing with custom tuning of filling parameters. This allows users to control the appearance of the fill as well as the velocity. In less space than required by an equivalent piston filler, a Hinds-Bock servo filler can handle speeds up to 240 containers per minute. Processors also can boost throughput using Hinds-Bock’s servo-driven traveling spout bridge, which moves the spouts with the continuously moving containers.

Aasness says the servo filler is ideal for depositing macaroni and cheese, pasta meals, mashed potatoes and lasagna entrees. It also handles gravies, icings, fruit fillings and sauces as well as pizza fillings onto dough.

Headquartered near Seattle, Hinds-Bock supplies fillers, depositors, transfer pumps and icers for a wide range of food and bakery applications. The company also markets conveyors, denesters, heat-sealers, lidders and other equipment.

Refrigerated, frozen foods among PLMA new product award winners

New refrigerated and frozen foods were among those recently honored at the Private Label Manufacturers Association’s annual convention in Rosemont, Ill.

Among products earning “Salute to Excellence Awards” were:

Prepared Breakfast Foods –Smart & Final Stores’ Henry’s All-Natural Fully Cooked Pork Andouille Sausages

Ready to Eat Foods –Spartan Stores’ Spartan Mandarin Fruit Bowls

Desserts –Topco Associates’ World Classics Trading Co. Frozen Apple Tarte

Dairy –Topco Associates’ Full Circle Peach Smoothie with DHA Omega 3

Side Dishes –Wakefern Food Corp.’s Steam in Bag! Mixed Vegetables

Pizza –Sobey’s Compliments Sensations Grilled Mediterranean Vegetable Thin Pizza

Entrees –BI-LO Southern Home Lasagna with Meat Sauce (party size)

Ice Cream –Ahold USA Stop & Shop Slow Churn Style Moosetracks Ice Cream

Innovation of Meal Preparation –Wal-Mart Stores’ Sam’s Choice Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Chicken Kit

Bold flavors stand out in chicken cook-off

Regional judges rated bold-tasting foods high in the 48th National Chicken Cooking Contest. Sponsored by the National Chicken Council (NCC), an early December cook-off attracted contestants from the mid-section of the United States with 11 state champion chicken recipes prepared at Tyson Foods’ Discovery Center in Springdale, Ark.

Judges selected two winners to join contestants from seven other states in competition for the $50,000 grand prize at the National Cook-Off next spring in San Antonio. Winning the west north central region was Diane Sparrow of Osage, Iowa, for mojito chicken with plantain fried rice. The west south central region winner was Nancy Walters of New Orleans, for panko crusted chicken salad with arugula, grilled stone fruit, feta cheese and a pomegranate balsamic dressing.

“The chicken recipes in this competition confirm people continue to want more variety and flavor in their foods,” said Mario Valdovinos, director of culinary services for Tyson’s Research and Development department. “For example, some of the recipes use such ingredients as Caribbean jerk seasoning, finely minced jalapeno peppers, lime-coconut sauce, mangos and lemon zest. We’re taking a similar approach in our product development efforts at Tyson Foods, working with our retail and foodservice customers to create a broader offering of unique, flavorful chicken, beef and pork products.”

The National Chicken Council, Washington, D.C., represents integrated chicken producer-processors. NCC members process approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.

‘Tis the season for predictions: McCormick forecasts flavor pairings

In 2009, product developers will respond to consumer interest in international flavors, all-natural foods and traditional ingredients (with a contemporary twist). That’s the assessment from spice, herb and seasoning giant McCormick. The Hunt Valley, Md.-based company recently identified what it believes will be 2009’s top 10 flavor pairings. They include:

1. Toasted Sesame and Root Beer

2. Cayenne and Tart Cherry

3. Tarragon and Beetroot

4. Peppercorn Melange and Sake

5. Chinese Five Spice and Artisan-cured Pork

6. Dill and Avocado Oil

7. Rosemary and Fruit Preserves

8. Garam Masala and Pepitas

9. Mint and Quinoa

10. Smoked Paprika and Agave Nectar

Target commits to more food ...

In a third-quarter conference call, Target Corp. President  and CEO Gregg Steinhafel said the Minneapolis-based retailer plans to “aggressively test” expanded food offerings in its discount stores. Food and health and beauty products continue to be fast-growth areas for Target, registering sales increases around 10 percent during the quarter ended Nov. 1, according to Douglas Scovanner, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

“We are going to continue to push and test aggressively a multitude of food expansions in remodels and other test stores to make sure that we fairly understand where it works and where it doesn’t work,” said Steinhafel.

... while 7-Eleven talks up private label growth

Recognizing private label’s appeal in a tough economy, 7-Eleven Inc., Dallas, said it plans to offer more than 180 private label products by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

A November rollout of 32 new 7-Select items focused on cookies, candy, nuts, potato chips, beef jerky, trail mix and other specialty items. The chain already offers private label paper goods, batteries, stationery supplies and bottled water.

Noted Kevin Elliott, senior vice president of merchandising and logistics, “We have selected only top suppliers to develop and produce 7-Select snacks, and many also manufacture similar products for the recognized national brands and other top private label retailers. New 7-Select items are already in the pipeline and we plan to widen our assortment in early 2009.”

In related news, 7-Eleven shared other store sales plans during the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s Sales and Marketing Conference, earlier this fall. There, Dennis Phelps, the chain’s vice president for fresh foods, said pizzas prepared in-store are the third fastest moving SKU, exceeding sales of cigarettes and certain coffees.

Just the facts

Consumers have high expectations for their supermarkets’ in-store delis – and in several cases those expectations are not quite being met. A recent Counter Intelligence study found thatconsumers value “cleanliness” and “freshness” mostin in-store delis. Asked to rate their deli experiences on a five-point scale, consumers scored their impressions of cleanliness and freshness respectively at averages of 4.33 and 4.3. Consumers also indicated that delis underperformed in providing “reasonable everyday prices” (3.98) and “value” (4.01).
Source: Jennie-O Turkey Store’s Counter Intelligence Deli Consumer Study

Food-at-home prices are approaching the high-end of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s predictions for this year. For the first eight months of 2008, food-at-home inflation stood at6.3 percent, while the USDA forecast a rise of between 5.5 percent and 6.5 percent for the entire year. On the bright side, the USDA predicts a rise of only 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent for food-at-home in 2009. Reasons include reductions in price forecasts for beef, pork, poultry and seafood.
Source: The Food Institute

Consumers who have trouble remembering what they ate for breakfast might not have the trouble if they’d sprinkled some blueberries on their cereal or chosen a blueberry muffin. A recent University of Reading study found alink between blueberries and memoryimprovement. U of R scientists said further research is needed to determine whether flavonoids, which are found in blueberries - can be used to increase memory capacity.
Source: Free Radical Biology and Medicine journal