Product Spotlight

Sargento Salad Finishers

Toss those stale croutons aside. And plain cheese? Forget it.

You’d be hard pressed to find something better to top your salad - or potato- than Sargento Foods Inc.’s new Salad and Potato Finishers, the company says.

Marking its first foray into the produce aisle, the Plymouth, Wis.-based cheese company says its new lines combine natural cheeses, marinated chicken, smoked bacon crumbles and sauces to create complementary groups of salad and potato toppings.

 “Produce sales in the U.S. have grown nearly 20 percent over the past two years,” the company noted in a statement, adding that potatoes and lettuce combined make up nearly 40 percent of vegetable sales annually.

Both Potato and Salad Finishers will launch in retail produce aisles this summer and offer consumers the opportunity to customize and add flavor to their salads and potatoes.

 “The consumer desire for customization was a key factor of our Salad and Potato Finishers,” says Chip Schuman, vice president of marketing – Consumer Products Division. “The versatility and customization benefits of salads and potatoes are not only recognized by consumers, but are increasingly highlighted in restaurant menus across the country.”

Both Potato and Salad Finishers come in bags of two to four servings each. Each component is individually wrapped inside.

 “Vegetables, especially lettuce and potatoes, provide the perfect blank slate for culinary enthusiasts to give their dishes a personal touch,” Schuman adds. Consumers can experiment with the following varieties:

Salad Finishers
  • Cheddar Chicken (grilled chicken, cheddar cheese and croutons);
  • Cheddar Bacon (bacon crumbles, cheddar cheese and ranch croutons);
  • Chicken Caesar (grilled chicken, parmesan cheese and croutons);
  • Bistro Chicken (grilled chicken, mozzarella with sun-dried tomato and basil and toasted almonds);
  • Cranberry Pecan (mozzarella and asiago cheese, dried cranberries and toasted pecans).

Potato Finishers
  • All American (white cheddar sauce with chives, cheddar cheese and bacon crumbles);
  • Au Gratin (cheddar sauce, Monterey jack cheese and onion-seasoned bread crumbs);
  • Cheddar Broccoli (cheddar broccoli sauce, Monterey jack cheese and bacon crumbles).

Supplier Spotlight

RedPrairie Corp.’s E2e Supply Chain Execution Suite

You’ve already heard that “time is money.” In supply chain circles, however, both time and inventory are factors that drive up corporate costs. That said, RedPrairie Corp., Milwaukee, says its new E2e Supply Chain Execution Suite improves real-time collaboration between suppliers, distributors, third-party logistics providers and retailers.The comprehensive program provides:

  • Better facilitation for the flow of goods. E2e offers enhanced functionality to manage diverse distribution environments. Notes Tom Kozenski, vice president of product strategy, “Supply chain operations have undergone tremendous changes in today’s consumer-driven marketplace. Storage warehouses are being retooled as flow-through processing centers where inbound and outbound shipments are synchronized to optimize the inventory flow in a multi-channel order fulfillment operation. The agile movement of goods must be visible and evident.”

  • Tighter integration between WMS and TMS. RedPrairie’s Warehouse Management System (WMS) and Transportation Management System (TMS) applications jointly plan and synchronize product movements. The TMS can plan the sequence in which distribution orders are fulfilled by the WMS, based on the most economical shipment plan meeting customer service requirements. E2e’s TMS program uses a store shipment schedule to optimize routes and ensure that customer delivery agreements are met.

  • Improved recall and quality assurance capabilities. E2e offers enhanced, Web-based quality assurance and recall capabilities to enable track-and-trace from point of origin to ultimate destination. Paired with the program’s Business Process Platform, these capabilities make one-button recalls a reality.

  • Integrated parcel manifesting. RedPrairie has embedded its parcel manifesting system within the WMS and TMS to provide certified least-cost shipping by all the major parcel carriers. It handles domestic and international shipments and provides shipment visibility to the customer’s door.

"Open innovation" program sparks Big G growth

General Mills says outside entrepreneurs, inventors, universities and other food companies submitted more than 200 complementary new product and technology ideas during the first year of General Mills’ “Worldwide Innovation Network” (G-WIN) program.

“We are tremendously encouraged by the success and industry interest we’ve seen from our G-WIN open innovation program,” said Peter Erickson, senior vice president of Innovation, Technology & Quality. “Not only have we seen a 300-percent increase in the number of innovation concepts submitted to us since we initiated G-WIN, but we are also seeing a higher percentage of high-quality, potentially game-changing technologies with broad application across our businesses.”

Officials say G-WIN generated a wide spectrum of collaboration opportunities - everything from applying technologies more effectively, to partnering more closely with key suppliers and finding potential new partners in entirely different industries. In turn, officials say their Minneapolis-based company has developed joint ventures, engaged in technology and equity licensing, sourced finished products and solved technical problems to further accelerate the company’s internal innovation program.

General Mills says it evaluates new product or technology submissions by several criteria, including (1) “the fit” for a particular brand or product line, (2) uniqueness and (3) expansion or growth potential.

One open innovation project involved the Weight Watchers organization. Officials say the two businesses co-developed Progresso Light soup, the nation’s first packaged grocery product qualifying for a 0 POINTS value per-serving rating under Weight Watchers diet plan. Each of five Progresso Light soup varieties contains four grams of fiber, a full vegetable serving and just 60 calories.

“Progresso Light soup has been a successful launch for the company and the Progresso Light brand is well on its way to achieving over $100 million in retail sales in its first year,” said Jerry Lynch, Progresso Foods’ vice president of marketing. “This innovation was accomplished through a highly collaborative process with our outside partners.”

Don't sacrifice quality for price in new product concepts

Although bleak economic conditions have people cutting back and making trade-offs, food processors should not presume that consumers will discount food quality attributes. That advice comes from The Hartman Group Inc., a Bellevue, Wash., firm specializing in consumer research and insights. In a recent paper titled, “Understanding Consumer Behavior in Tough Times,” Hartman researchers note, “While consumers have described to us over the years that they will be purchasing less food overall in tight economic times, they have also said they will not sacrifice quality for price; the quality of that food will remain high in order to preserve truly satisfying and enjoyable experiences. In short, consumers will not compromise their values (e.g., health, wellness, sustainability, etc.).”Following are four tips to sort out short-term blips from long-term trends in consumer behavior.

  1. Examine data on consumer buying and shopping trends in order to separate changing behaviors already underway from those supposed to have changed in response to the current economic situation.

  2. Stratify the consumer population into groups that should be differentially affected by the current economic situation and see if, in fact, the expected behavioral change is observed across these groups.

  3. Compare currently hypothesized behavioral changes to known behavioral changes from similar periods in the past.

  4. Separate attitudinal expressions from actual behaviors and separate idiosyncratic, knee-jerk behaviors from more sustained, substantial behavioral changes.

And the survey says . . . consumers interested in more ethnic options

To better understand packaged frozen meal purchases, Chicago’s Mintel, an industry research firm, went straight to the source: 1,500 adults, age 18 and up. The study, commissioned by Kahiki Foods Inc., Gahanna, Ohio, looked at consumer behaviors, attitudes and motivations. Officials say Mintel learned that:

… Although demand is weak in some ethnic categories (Indian, Spanish, Greek, Thai, French), there is strong demand for frozen Chinese, Italian and Mexican foods;

… Of those consumers surveyed, 45 percent said they would like to see more Chinese cuisine;

… Although consumers still prefer to get their Asian meals from restaurants, convenience and value rate high among consumers. In fact, 75 percent of respondents ranked convenience as their top priority, while taste and cost came next. The two areas of least concern for consumers were the product brand and calorie content.

“This demand is being spurred by demographic diversity in the United States, with Hispanic and Asian populations at the top,” noted Mintel. “People are willing to pay more for products with better ingredients, more sophisticated flavors or more authentic ethnic dishes. This is especially true of smaller, more affluent adult-only households.”

Consumer attitudes toward dietary fats, carbs and food additives/colors

Seventy percent of Americans are concerned with the amount of fat they consume and 68 percent say they are consumed with the type of fat they consume. That was just one of many findings from the International Food Information Council Foundation’s (IFIC) 2008 Food & Health Survey, “Consumer Attitudes toward Food, Nutrition & Health.” Cognet Research, Cambridge, Mass., surveyed 1,000 consumers (ages 18 and up) between February 21 and March 11, 2008.

With approximately 129 questions, the survey explored numerous areas, including:

Dietary fats– Consumers continue to show concern about trans fats. Awareness of trans fat grew to 91 percent versus 87 percent in 2007 and 81 percent in 2006. Fifty-nine percent of Americans who read the Nutrition Facts Panel say they use trans fat information and 79 percent of those aware of it say they rated trans fat as either “not at all healthful” or “not very healthful” - up from 64 percent in 2006.

Although Americans know what type of fat is important, knowledge about the types of fats that dietary guidance recommends consuming - including mono- and polyunsaturated fats - is limited. Awareness about both of these healthful fats is low compared to others.

Carbohydrates and sugars  – Americans continue to be concerned about the amount of sugar they consume (68 percent in 2008 versus 70 percent in 2007 and 62 percent in 2006). Among those who read the Nutrition Facts Panel, consumers look for information about sugar more often than in the past (68 percent now compared to 63 percent in 2007 and 67 percent in 2006). Although there was no significant change regarding concern about carbohydrates, consumer awareness of carbohydrate types remains high (52 percent).

Food additives and colors  – A new survey question asked consumers about their beliefs regarding the accuracy of statements about food additives and colors. Findings suggest that 85 percent of Americans believe food additives can provide at least one of the following benefits: extend freshness of certain foods/act as a preservative (68 percent); add color to food products (65 percent); help keep or improve food flavor (61 percent); and reduce the presence of harmful bacteria in food (36 percent).

Just the facts

What links people and locusts? An Australian study indicates that locusts may hold the answer to the obesity epidemic. University of Sydney researchers discovered that locusts - fed a high-carbohydrate, low-protein diet - would overeat until they had reached their protein “target.” Similarly, humans may haveprotein targetsand will not feel satiated until they hit them - no matter how many servings of carbohydrates or fat they eat.
Source: Medical News Today

The U.S. bakery industry is growing by 2 to 3 percent each year, according to a recent report. Last year revenue topped out at nearly$34 billion. Demand for gourmet and specialty bakery items, as well as products fortified with omega-3 and fatty acids and probiotics increasingly are popular.
Source: Frost & Sullivan

Roadside restaurants likely saw fewer visitors during this recent Memorial Day weekend. AAA and the Travel Industry Association estimated that37.9 millionAmericans hit the road this year - marking a 0.9 percent decrease and the first dip in Memorial Day travelers in approximately eight years. The main reason for the dip? Rising gas prices.
Source: Nation’s Restaurant News