Product Spotlight

Maple Leaf Farms’ Mega Mighty Bites
When Maple Leaf Farms, Milford, Ind., set out to create a new product, the company had a very specific consumer in mind.

“Kids influence up to 45 percent of household purchases,” says JT Croy, Maple Leaf Farms’ retail marketing manager. “Today’s kids are very independent and we wanted to provide a great product that not only appealed to their interests and time constraints but their tastes with popular flavors as well.”

Hence, Maple Leaf Farms launched Mega Mighty Bites, frozen, fully-cooked chicken entrees for kids.

“We have strong roots in the chicken entrée business,” says Croy. “[We] took note that there were no entrée lines directly for kids.”

The company conducted consumer focus groups with both kids and parents in Chicago and Dallas as well as online research through BASES, a Covington, Ky.-based consumer insights researcher operated by The Nielsen Co. Through this research, Maple Leaf found that kids not only have influence over their parents’ buying decisions, but that consumers of all ages crave convenience, great taste and healthy alternatives.

The company made sure that Mega Mighty Bites meet these criteria on a number of levels. Each 4-ounce “mini entrée” features all white meat chicken breaded and stuffed with kid-friendly flavors. Cheese Pizza, Pepperoni Pizza, Cheeseburger flavor and Mexican varieties all come fully-cooked and trans-fat free.

“In research, kids told us that snacks have to cook in two minutes - the time of a commercial break. The fact that Mega Mighty Bites are fully-cooked adds to this key necessary convenience,” Croy notes.

Kent Thrasher, R&D director for Maple Leaf Farms adds, “Kids liked the size and zesty flavors of Mega Mighty Bites chicken. During research they said they would eat two or more for a meal.”

Mega Mighty Bites, hitting retail freezer cases this spring, come in resealable 24-oz. bags and 8-oz. boxes.

This is Maple Leaf Farms first foray into the kid’s frozen snack market. Says Croy, “We feel we have a great tasting, convenient and healthy snack alternative. Our consumer testing and research has shown that the time is right to introduce a fun-themed, fully-cooked entrée to the market.”

Supplier Spotlight

ZipnVent’s Microwave Steaming Bag
Just as Asian chefs have perfected the art of steaming rice, dumplings and other foods, an Asian company - Hong Kong’s ZipnVent - says it has perfected the art of steaming food in the microwave. Getting its start as a packaging film business in 1976, ZipnVent turned its attention to self-venting bag technologies for the microwave in 1998. A year later, the company introduced its ZipnVent Microwave Steaming Bag.

Today, ZipnVent is selling and distributing its technology worldwide.

“Our film’s self-venting feature allows gas and steam to escape slowly and steadily,” the company says. “This way, the food’s moisture is well protected inside the packaging. This helps the food retain its taste and moisture - as well as its nutrients and colors.“Meanwhile, this package also is more convenient. Consumers can just put their product in the microwave - straight away - without first having to peel a package open or cut part of the corner.”

Speaking of convenience, ZipnVent offers microwave steaming films for a wide range of food products and package filling applications. In addition to a roll stock format (for automated lines), the company supplies films designed for top seal trays, pre-formed bags, three-sided seal bags, stand-up pouches (with zippers) and vacuum pack applications. An ISO 9000-certified company, ZipnVent uses packaging partners worldwide to continually test and evaluate its films for quality assurance. With that, the company not only stays abreast of new technologies but also customer and consumer concerns. The company notes, for example, that ZipnVent films meet FDA food safety regulations and contain no polyvinyl chlorides.

Kraft: More new products, not extensions

Looking forward, Kraft Foods Inc., Northfield, Ill., says it will emphasize more truly new products and fewer line extensions. Among those attending a new product showing wasBRANDWEEKmagazine, which quoted Bob Becker, senior vice president of new products for Kraft Foods North America.

“A line extension is usually a new flavor or size that may create some news but it doesn’t grow the business,” said Becker. “We’re talking to consumers more than we ever have to bring more products that fit with what consumers want. That will help us grow our [retail] customers’ business and ultimately our business.”

Officials said Kraft would introduce as many as 80 new offerings during the Food Marketing Institute Show this May 4-7 in Las Vegas. Although that includes many line extensions, Kraft was expected to tout such new offerings as Oscar Mayer Deli Creations flatbread sandwiches, DiGiorno Ultimate Focaccia frozen pizza and Kraft Bagel-fuls, a new frozen breakfast line of bagels filled with Philadelphia cream cheese.

Consumer, product development insights on tap at NRA show . . .

The National Restaurant Association’s 2008 Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, May 17-20 in Chicago, will feature more than 65 educational seminars. Among the featured speakers is Nancy Kruse, a menu trends analyst and president of The Kruse Co. In a presentation titled, “Turning Up the Heat on Your Menu,” Kruse will discuss new directions in food and flavor, preparation and presentation, ingredients and more.

Another session - the “Hottest Trends in Healthy Dining - will feature a panel discussion about healthier menu offerings. Panelists include Anita Jones-Mueller, president, Healthy Dining; Paul Lynch, executive chef, Radisson Plaza Hotel Minneapolis; Rick Bayless, chef/owner, Frontera Grill/Topolobampo Restaurants; David Sweet, director of marketing,Chinese Restaurant News; Ed Frechette, senior vice president, marketing, Au Bon Pain, and Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies, The Whole Grains Council.

. . . and at IDDBA's Dairy-Deli-Bake 2008 convention

What do consumers truly understand about health issues and about how food can impact their lives? The International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association commissioned Dr. Elizabeth Sloan, Sloan Trends Inc., to analyze the topic. Having surveyed consumers, Sloan will present her results and talk about fads versus trends, shopper types and more during the Dairy-Deli-Bake 2008 convention, June 1-3, in New Orleans. Attendees also can pick up menu and food trend insights from celebrity Chef Emeril Lagasse and noted author and television show host Paula Deen.

Just the facts

A recent survey says consumers don’t want to hear their stomachs rumbling before noon. The majority,79 percent, say they agree “strongly/somewhat” with the statement “Foods and beverages that help maintain my energy levels throughout the morning are important to me.” And 66 percent say they agree “strongly/somewhat” with the statement The most important benefit I look for in my breakfast choices are foods that will ‘fill me up’ and hold me over until lunch.”
Source: Solae

The world microwaveable foods market is expected to reach$75.4 billionby the end of this decade, according to a recent report. The U.S. and the U.K. are the biggest consumers of microwaveable foods, accounting for a 50 percent share of the market combined. Frozen microwaveable foods represent 80.6 percent of the global market this year, followed by chilled and shelf-stable.
Source: Global Industry Analysts, Inc

How many calories are in that quick-service or fast-casual restaurant menu item? According to a recent survey, most consumers have no idea.Fewer than 10 percentof the 500 Washington-based consumers surveyed could correctly identify, which McDonald’s item has the most calories: A Big Mac, two Sausage McGriddles, a large chocolate shake or four hamburgers. (Correct answer is a large chocolate shake at 1,160).
Source: Center for Science in the Public Interest