Product Spotlight

Banquet Select Recipes

You could say ConAgra’s new ad campaign for Banquet Select Recipes is a new take on an old theme. It’s a simple concept - “So Good For So Little” - but with consumers facing a tenuous economy and rising food costs, it suddenly seems like a refreshing idea.

“With Banquet Select Recipes, families can enjoy flavorful, complete meals at an incredible value,” said Tom McGough, vice president of Banquet brand. Launched in September, Banquet Select Recipes are a line of individual frozen meals priced around $1.50.

The meals come in “favorite family recipes” and are made with ingredients such as all-white-meat chicken, vegetables, rich sauces and shredded cheese. Varieties include: Chicken Parmesan, Home-Style Pot Roast, Classic Fried Chicken, Enchilada Combo Meal, Herb Grilled Chicken Breast, Slow Cooked Beef and Smothered Burrito.

“Now, during tough economic times, consumers are looking for more ways to stay on budget without compromising quality,” McGough adds.

Adds Christine Funes, director, marketing, "As a result, consumers are 'trading in' and cutting down on eating out in favor of eating more meals at home. In fact, 40 percent of people say that they eat out less often. Banquet Select Recipes offer families quality and convenience, while also bringing them an incredible value when times are tough and every penny counts."

And ConAgra, Omaha, Neb., has found a spokesperson for the new line that understands this well. Country singer and mother of two Lee Ann Womack is the Banquet Select Recipe spokesperson and is helping to spread the word about the new product. In addition, the company sponsored a “sneak peek” radio broadcast of a single from Womack’s new album set for a mid-October release.

Said Womack of the partnership, “As a mom, my No. 1 priority is taking care of my family. That’s why I’ve partnered with Banquet to ensure that moms everywhere know that they don’t have to sacrifice taste and quality when living on a budget.”

Equipment Spotlight

Crown Equipment Corp.’s RC5500 Series Stand-Up Counterbalanced Lift Truck

Consider it a stand-out idea in stand-up lift trucks. The Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) recognized Crown Equipment Corp., New Bremen, Ohio, during the group’s ninth Gold International Design Excellence Award (IDEA) competition. Crown’s RC 5500 Series Stand-Up Counterbalanced Lift Truck won one of 37 Gold IDEA awards out of more than 1,500 entries.

Crown says “exceptional versatility” distinguishes the RC 5500 Series. The stand-up truck may be used throughout a facility for loading and unloading trailers, transporting and staging products and storing product in racks. Additionally, RC 5500 Series models have numerous features that enhance operator safety, visibility and comfort.

“Fresh thinking and new technology was applied to the development of the RC 5500,” said Mike Gallagher, Crown’s vice president-Design Center. “The quality design combines intelligent technology and practical innovation - offering a larger, more flexible operator compartment for outstanding ergonomics and comfort.”

These and other design factors were not lost on IDSA contest jurors.

“The RC 5500 shows Crown’s dedicated commitment to building lift trucks with the user in the center of the development process,” said Sudhir Bhatia, a partner with Mosaic, a leading global supplier of concentrated phosphate and potash crop nutrients.

Said another juror, “There isn’t a detail overlooked. From operator comfort to environmental considerations, Crown’s commitment to excellent design continues to define industry standards.”

In addition to judging for innovation, design and business applications, the IDEA Award recognizes organizations for efforts related to environmental sustainability. Crown noted its RC 5500 Series has several components that easily separate for reuse or recycling - including the steel, plastics, hydraulic fluids and lead-acid batteries.

McDonald's breakfast biz a target for competitors' new products

With breakfast driving as much as 30 percent of domestic sales for McDonald’s Corp., several foodservice rivals are taking aim. Just consider that …

… Starbucks Corp., Seattle, is rolling out Piadini breakfast sandwiches, made with artisan breads and combinations of sausage, egg and cheese or Portobello mushroom, spinach and ricotta cheese.

“This is an opportunity for Starbucks to re-engineer its breakfast and the sandwiches are more upscale than its previous sandwiches,” noted Darren Tristano, an executive vice president with Chicago’s Technomic Inc., a foodservice industry market tracker.

Starbucks reportedly has warming ovens in about 3,000 locations and plans to add them in as many as 800 more stores (eventually reaching 90 percent availability). One well-publicized issue involving the chain’s previous breakfast offerings involved the sandwich aroma, which sometimes overpowered the smell of coffee. A Starbucks spokesperson said that that issue - involving a few ingredient changes - has since been addressed.Starbucks recently introduced several other better-for-you breakfast items including oatmeal, muffins and multi-grain rolls. The company reportedly plans to introduce new lunchtime foods as well, during the next six to eight months.

… as part of its strategic makeover of the Wendy’s chain, officials for theWendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc.(formed after Triarc Companies’ recent purchase of Wendy’s), said they will focus on breakfast as one key area for improvement. Roland Smith, president and CEO for the Atlanta-based business, said Wendy’s needs to expand beyond its very limited breakfast sales. Smith said, in part, that Wendy’s needs to reformulate some items and improve its coffee drink offerings.

Starbucks inks deal with Unilever for new ice cream

Looking to extend its popular brand, Starbucks said it signed an exclusive licensing agreement that allows Unilever, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., to process, market and distribute Starbucks super premium ice cream products in the U.S. and Canada.

In addition to Ben & Jerry’s, Unilever’s North American ice cream business includes the Breyers, Good Humor, Klondike and Popsicle brands. For Starbucks, Unilever said it will “employ its world-class research and development and creative resources to develop super-premium ice cream innovations inspired by Starbucks coffee and classic coffeehouse flavors.”

Starbucks partnered with Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream to introduce the first Starbucks ice cream in 1996.

“Unilever’s industry-leading innovation and commitment to social responsibility with brands like Ben & Jerry’s are well aligned with our values and vision for the business,” said Gerry Lopez, president of Starbucks Global Consumer Products, Starbucks Foodservice and Seattle’s Best Coffee. “This relationship will enable us to introduce exciting new products and extend the Starbucks experience to a larger base of consumers.”

Officials said the ice cream licensing agreement builds upon an existing relationship for the processing, marketing and distribution of Starbucks’ Tazo ready-to-drink beverages, which was announced in August by Starbucks and the Pepsi/Lipton Tea Partnership, a joint venture between Unilever and PepsiCo.

Powell: "General Mills to introduce as many as 300 new products in fiscal 2009"

Addressing company shareholders on September 22, General Mills CEO Ken Powell identified new products as a key driving force - along with international growth, marketing and productivity improvements - during fiscal 2009. According to the Associated Press, Powell said General Mills will introduce as many as 300 new products in the United States and abroad.

Foodservice groups to honor new products, packaging

QSRmagazine and the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) will honor new products and packaging at the QSR/FPI Foodservice Packaging Awards Ceremony on Oct. 15 in New Orleans. Presented during FPI’s annual fall meeting, the awards will showcase first, second, third and honorable mention winners in six categories. These include: brand delivery-family of packaging, children’s meal packaging, consumer convenience, graphic design distinction-single package, product manufacturing innovation and “the wow factor!” First-place winners then will be considered for a “Foodservice Package of the Year” award. Visitwww.fpi.orgfor details.

IRI: ConAgra's Healthy Choice Café Steamers a best seller

ConAgra Foods’ Healthy Choice Café Steamers, a line of microwave steam-cook entrees, earned top honors from retail market tracker Information Resources Inc. (IRI) as the “best selling new food or beverage product through mid-year 2008.” IRI, Chicago, said the award reflects dollar sales of all new U.S. food and beverage items during the first half of this calendar year. To be considered, the new products had to be introduced last year (2007) between February and July. They also had to achieve and maintain at least 30 percent all commodity volume (ACV) distribution and earn a minimum of $7.5 million in net sales by the end of their first year in market.

ConAgra, Omaha, Neb., introduced 12 Café Steamers products last July, each with a suggested retail of $3.49. The product utilizes a trademarked “steam cooker” that circulates steam throughout the product during microwaving. It consists of a bowl, which contains the sauce, and a steamer basket, which nests above the sauce and contains the meat, vegetables and pasta or rice.

“In today’s rapidly transforming economy, CPG manufacturers are working vigorously to understand consumers’ evolving shopping behavior - most notably, shoppers’ renewed focus on filtering purchase decisions through the lens of value,” said Thom Blischok, IRI president of consulting and innovation. “ConAgra Foods is really hitting the mark and uniquely meeting consumer demand for innovation and value as evidenced by the successful launch of its Healthy Choice Café Steamers product. We applaud their continued focus on innovation and consumers’ changing needs.”  

Just the facts

The fair trade movement is gaining traction. More than 70 percent of Americans said they were familiar with the term in a recent survey and65.3 percent said they had purchased fair trade items before. More than half of respondents (52.9 percent) said that they expect to see fair trade items in mainstream grocery stores.
Source: Alter Eco Fair Trade Study

Consumers may say that they want healthy choices, but actually choose “bad” foods when presented with options. In a recent study at Wageningen University in The Netherlands, participants were asked which snack they would choose if offered a banana, apple, candy bar or molasses waffle. About half of participants said they would choose the “healthy” banana or apple, but when actually presented with the choice a week later -27 percentswitched to the candy bar or waffle.
Source: Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

Affluent American households - those with incomes of more than $100,000 per year - account for 19 percent of all American adults, a recent survey reports. There are approximately23 million“affluent” households in the U.S., which take in more than one half of all American household income. Interestingly, the average number of magazines and hours spent on the Internet per household rose with increased affluence. Those households making more than $250,000 a year read 25.5 magazines and spend 27.4 hours on the Internet per week per household.
Source: 2008 Ipsos Mendelsohn Affluent Survey