Consumers craving a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs - but not the price that comes with a restaurant meal or the time or effort it takes to make it themselves - have a new solution. New this summer from Smithfield RMH Foods are Milano’s Italian Grille Refrigerated Entrees ...

Product Spotlight

Milano’s Italian Grille Refrigerated Entrees

Consumers craving a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs - but not the price that comes with a restaurant meal or the time and effort it takes to make it themselves - have a new solution. New this summer from Smithfield RMH Foods are Milano’s Italian Grille Refrigerated Entrees - a line of six fully-cooked, “restaurant-inspired” entrees from the Morton, Ill.-based food company.

Smithfield RMH spokesperson Jay Farmer says that the entrees are “high-quality meal solutions that are very reminiscent of what you might find in an Italian bistro.” In fact, Smithfield’s own culinary chefs helped develop the line, which includes Chicken Milano (grilled chicken breast, bowties pasta, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms and a garlic cream sauce), Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Marsala, Lasagna with Meat Sauce, Fettuccine Alfredo and Spaghetti with Meatballs.

“They are fresh, not frozen, and ready in minutes,” Farmer says. She adds that the entrees are great for both busy families looking for “high quality and delicious meals” and empty-nesters who want restaurant-quality food that they can prepare at home.The entrees come packaged in 18-ounce or 20-ounce microwaveable trays and can be found in grocery store’s refrigerated meat or entrée sections.

“Smithfield RMH recognized an opportunity to be one of the first providers of fresh, refrigerated Italian meal solutions,” Farmer notes. “Prepared entrees are a growing category for retailers, up 5.3 percent in the last year. Sales of Italian entrees are also up.”And, the company added, “43 percent of people are visiting less often today versus six months ago - customers are looking for Italian foods to emulate the restaurant experience.”

Supplier Spotlight

Bradman Lake’s AX Case Packer

When it comes to equipment design, you could say that Bradman Lake engineers took an AX to yesterday’s space cloggers.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based company says it will introduce the AX Case Packer during the Pack Expo convention this November in Chicago. Culminating 12 months of design work, officials say the new robotic machine can automatically form, top load fill and close RSC and HSC style corrugated cases within one frame. It possesses a very compact footprint and eliminates the requirement for three separate machines and the floor space they typically occupy.

“Our previous case packing system involved three separate machines - a case erector, case loader and case sealer - with the connecting conveyors and it took up too much space,” admits Nick Bishop, vice president of sales and marketing. “For that reason, we decided on a modular, mono-bloc design.”

Engineers likewise used the opportunity to add more flexibility and versatility.“ It’s obvious that our clients want case packing systems that are more modular and that give them flexibility of loading products with different layer patterns or orientation,” Bishop says. “For instance, they might need to pack cartons into corrugated shipping cases with both a flat layer pattern, as well as a pattern with the cartons packed standing on edge - all in the same machine. This case packer’s new design offers this feature.”The AX Case Packer features an advanced design electronic motion control technology with a combination of robotics and servo motor drives. To Bishop’s point, meanwhile, the unit’s modular in-feed design allows users to specify a preferred carton-in-case format.

The compact unit will form the case, load the cartons/products into the case and bottom/top seal it at speeds of up to 120 cartons per minute and up to 12 cases per minute, depending on the shape and size of products involved. Those processors with greater capacity needs can ask about Bradman Lake’s new MX Case Packer, which will debut later with the capability of handling up to 240 cartons and up to 20 cases per minute (depending on carton and case configuration).

Trend tracker: Here are the "big three" from IFT

The top food tastes and trends during this year’s Institute of Food Technologists exhibition in New Orleans involve sustainable ingredients, ingredients with inherent goodness and healthy foods for kids, according to Mintel International Group Ltd., Chicago. Two of the company’s new product experts - Lynn Dornblaser and David Jago - presented new product seminars during the convention and said their findings were supported by Mintel Global New Products Database, as well as IFT taste tests.

“Our taste tests allowed attendees to experience products firsthand and vote on favorites,” said Dornblaser. “Not surprisingly, most of the winning products took a familiar concept and tweaked it to align with consumers’ changing taste and lifestyle preferences. Briefly, the leading food trends involve…

Ingredient sustainability: Several food and beverage companies are touting organic, locally sourced and or fair trade ingredients to boost their “green” credentials.

Inherent goodness of ingredients: Health and wellness concerns have sparked a return to natural, inherently “good” ingredients (real fruits, vegetables and whole grains) over scientifically enhanced foods.

Healthy food for kids:In response to rising childhood obesity, companies are actively looking for healthier products to market to kids.

Refrigerated, frozen foods earn specialty new product awards

The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), New York, announced winners for its 36th annual “sofi” (Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation) awards for outstanding products of 2008. Refrigerated and frozen food honorees include:

Outstanding new product: Aux Delices des Bois Black Truffle Butter, Transatlantic Foods

Outstanding cheese or dairy product: Triple Cream Goat Cheese, Coach Farm

Outstanding diet or lifestyle product: Raw Agave Gelato Pistachio, Organic Nectars

Outstanding frozen savory: Mushroom Profiteroles, Good Wives, division of Innovative Foods

Outstanding pasta, rice or grain: Port Clyde Lobster Mac & Cheese, Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co.

Outstanding perishable foodservice product: Beef Wellington, Good Wives, division of Innovative Foods

Outstanding soup, stew, bean or chili: Spruce Head Smoked Scallop Lobster Bisque, Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co.

Outstanding USDA-approved organic product: Raspberry Sorbetto, Blackwell’s Organic Gelato

Developing new foodservice hand-held entrees, snacks? Think c-store

With gross margins on fuel hovering around 5 percent, many convenience store operators are taking a fresh look at their foodservice programs, where margins are easily more than 40 percent and may exceed 60 percent. As a percent of total c-store sales, foodservice remains small but high gas prices may actually help operators grow their foodservice sales.

That assessment came from Chicago’s Technomic Inc., which says it surveyed consumers and found that when they’re hungry for a meal, consumers usually bypass convenience stores in favor of restaurants and grocery stores. However, when asked about snacks, most consumers think of c-stores ahead of all other venues.

“These [c-store] chains are easier for [food product] suppliers to target and penetrate, particularly since there are fewer management levels and fewer competitors,” says Tim Powell, Technomic’s Convenience Store Program director. “Any food or beverage supplier that can help implement a branded solution - even if it’s just for one product category - is likely to find success.”

Take it from us: foodservice chefs, operators share new product ideas

Refrigerated and frozen fruit and vegetable processors can mine new product ideas from the third annual “Produce First! American Menus Initiative” report, published by the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH). PBH and The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) held a collaborative event at CIA’s Napa Valley, Calif., campus. This year’s meeting stressed culinary strategies from the Eastern Mediterranean, Latin America and Southeast Asia, and featured sessions involving chefs, foodservice operators and fruit and vegetable processor suppliers.

Just the Facts

It’s long been noted that Omega-3 fatty acids -which naturally are present in many fish - aid in heart health. Now Japan’s fish-heavy diet is being credited with the country’s low rate of heart disease. According to a recent study, Japanese men hadthe lowest levelof artherosclerosis (or hardening of the arteries) when compared with White American and Japanese American men - and nearly double the amount of Omega-3 - even when other factors such as cigarette smoking were the same.
Source: Journal of the American College of Cardiology

The number of people “brown bagging it” increased to 38 per capita last year from 35 per capita the year before, according to a recent study. This means that more than8.5 billionbrown bag (translation: packed at home) lunched were consumed by adults last year. The most commonly mentioned reason? “Saving money” said 93 percent of those surveyed.
Source: The NPD Group

Little people equal big spending! According to a recent study, consumers spent$123 billionin 2007 on products for 36 million 3- to-11-year-olds. Of that amount, $65 billion was spent on food, $16 billion on clothing and $42 billion on personal care, entertainment and reading materials. The study predicts that by 2012 this number will rise by $15 billion to $138 billion.
Source: Packaged Facts - "The Kids and Tweens Market in the U.S."