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Hit or Miss? Crackers, gravy mix and more

Every week, "Today" show 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.

HITNature’s Path Organic Signature Series Crackers (Garden Veggie) Crackers are one of those snack foods that consumers should beware of when it comes to trans fats, since so many of them found in the supermarket contain them.  So if you are in search of a great-tasting cracker with no “junk,” we say give these a try.  Not only are they trans fat-free, but these crackers are also USDA-certified organic.  We also think they taste better for it!  You’ll have to pay about a dollar more for than your usual supermarket brand, but they’re worth it.  $3.99 for a 9-ounce box.www.naturespath.com

CONSUMER-NOMINATED HIT
Le*Nature’s Ice Water
Here’s what Marsha G. from San Francisco, Calif., had to say about this product:  “Like many folks I have been trying to drink more water.  But I prefer to have some flavor.  Most flavored waters taste too sweet or are carbonated, but recently I found one that’s different: Le*Nature’s.  I like the “Squeeze of Lemon” flavor best — it tastes like a glass of water with a slice of lemon in it.  What I really like about it is that it tastes just as good at room temperature, so I will drink it in winter when I don’t like cold drinks, as well as in warm weather.  I drink it almost every day now.  My kids even like Le*Nature’s water, especially the melon and berry flavors.”  Thanks Marsha! Your SupermarketGuru tote bag is on the way. Retails for $0.49 to $0.75.www.le-natures.com

MISSESDove Beyond Chocolate Chunk Cookies Most of us know Dove through their ice cream bars, which are not only in the supermarket but often times found at movie theatre concession stands.  The company, which has been around since the mid-Fifties, has now introduced a line of cookies, which are just as delicious as you would expect them to be.  As they say, that’s the good news. The bad?  Partially hydrogenated oils (a big source of trans fats) are used to make these cookies, therefore making them not so good for us no matter how good they taste!  Suggested retail price is $2.99 for 15 cookies.  Other varieties are Chocolate Walnut Rendezvous, Chocolate Walnut Oasis, Milk Chocolate Moment, Mint Chocolate Serenade, Toffee Chocolate Tango.www.dovechocolate.com

Road’s End Organics Shitake Mushroom Gravy MixPart of the attraction of this easy-to-prepare gravy mix is that it is cholesterol-free, gluten-free, and USDA certified organic.  It also tastes pretty good. But are shoppers willing to pay $2.50 per pack for gravy mix?  According to the 2004 SPINS/Mintel survey of Natural Products Consumer Drivers, Natural Products consumers are willing to pay a 20 percent premium for natural products.  But in the case of this gravy mix, we’re looking at close to a 150 percent premium!www.roadsendorganics.com

CONSUMER-NOMINATED MISSWalden Farms Honey Dijon DressingHere’s what Cecile S. from Welch, W.V., had to say about this product:  “The dressing had no carbohydrates, no calories, no sugar, no fat, no cholesterol and would have been perfect for dieters, except for one thing ... it had NO TASTE! It was definitely a waste of the higher price I paid. In fact, I had to throw my salad out because the taste was so strange. Needless to say, I will never buy the product again.”  Retails for $3.99 for a 12-ounce bottle.  Thanks Cecile! Your SupermarketGuru tote bag is on the way.www.waldenfarms.com

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
. If he selects your nomination for publication, he’ll send you a SupermarketGuru.com Tote Bag! You can also visit his Web site at
.