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Hit or Miss? Cheese snacks, salsa and more

Every week, "Today" food editor Phil Lempert reviews some of the new items hitting supermarket shelves near you.

It takes a lot for a food product to succeed. In fact, out of more than 30,000 new food items that were introduced in 2003, less than 5 percent were hits. (And less than 10 percent of all new products are still on supermarket shelves three years after they launch.) To help you avoid spending money on the likely failures, here are this week’s Hits and Misses:


Robby’s Pancake MixFor pancakes that taste the way they are supposed to, Robby’s is a good mix. The directions recommend using buttermilk instead of regular milk, which is a good idea. Unlike a lot of other pancake mixes, you’ll need to add oil to this mix, but a light olive or vegetable oil will do the job. The only bad news about these delicious pancakes is that with all that great taste comes a lot of calories -- 230 per serving (two 5-inch pancakes) – and that’s without the syrup and butter! Try topping them off with fresh or frozen fruit like blueberries instead. $15.00 for two 33 oz.

Alicita SalsaThis all-natural salsa has a delicious tangy flavor.  A combination of tomatoes, onions, cider vinegar, green chilies, garlic powder, red chili peppers, cilantro, and garlic salt, it racks up only 10 calories per serving and zero grams of fat.  Something else that will make you feel good about this salsa is knowing that the company donates part of the proceeds to children’s charities. Retails for $3.99-$5.49 for 11


Just the Cheese Crunchy Baked Cheese Here’s what Julie F. of Olmsted Falls, Ohio, had to say about Just the Cheese Crunchy Baked Cheese: “These little yummy crunchy snacks look like little crackers, but they are actually crumbled natural cheese, baked and seasoned. Each bag has 2 servings (about 18 pieces total), and 1 g cabs per serving. They are lovely!”Thanks, Julie! Your SupermarketGuru tote bag is on the way! Retails for about $2.70 for 2 oz. Comes in Cool Ranch, White Cheddar, Lower Salt Cheddar, Herb ‘n Garlic, Sour Cream and Onion, Jalapeno, Nacho, Pizza, Honey Dijon, White Cheddar with Soy, Bacon flavor and Variety Pack.


Balance Bar GoMix Toffee Crunch Energy Snack MixThis little bag of snack mix is a combination of protein clusters, soy nuts, cashews, peanut brittle, yogurt-flavor coated raisins and peanuts. It has a strange flavor -- not bad, but probably not for everyone. It does contain 14g of protein, which makes this product inviting; however, with 15g of sugar, 200 calories, 7g of fat, and 310mg of sodium, it doesn’t fall into the healthy category in our books. Not to mention that this snack is out of the question for low-carb dieters because it contains 21g of carbs. Other flavors are Mixed Berry Crisp and Chocolate Nut Crunch. Retails for $1.29.

Peanuts Cookies and CrackersThese little boxes of cookies and crackers in the shape of the famous Charles Schulz comic strip characters are the latest edition to Log House Foods product line.  The Snoopy characters are honey graham crackers, Woodstock crackers are baked cheddar cheese, and Charlie Browns are fudge coated cookies. They sure are cute; however, with the increasing awareness of America’s obesity problem, we’d like to think that companies would avoid high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils in products, especially those for children. Lose the bad ingredients, keep the cute packaging and shapes, and then we’ll call it a hit.  Retails for $0.99 for 1.75


Zatarain's Ready-To-Serve Red Beans & RiceHere's what Jill F. of Ravenna, Mich., wrote to us: “The product is hard to handle in a stand up microwave pouch. Pouch is unstable for heating and needs to be watched carefully for tipping. Sauce has a terrible aftertaste, and the amount of beans present does not constitute it being first on the label.” Thanks, Jill! Your SupermarketGuru tote bag is on the way. Retails for $2.25 for 8.8 oz. Other ready-to-serve varieties are Chicken & Herb Rice, Jambalaya Rice, Long Grain & Wild Rice, Perfect White Rice and Yellow Rice. 

Phil Lempert is food editor of the “Today” show. He welcomes questions and comments — as well as nominations for “hits” and “misses” in this column — which can be sent to or by using the mail box below. If he selects your nomination for publication, he’ll send you a Tote Bag! You can also visit his website at