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Hit or Miss? Iced green tea, protein cereal, more

Every Wednesday, "Today" Food Editor Phil Lempert reviews some of  the new items hitting a supermarket near you. This week: Iced green tea, protein cereal (and more).

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:

HITS

Mojo BarMojo comes from the makers of Clif Bars and Luna Bars, and is the latest edition to their line of nutrition/snack bars. They say the difference is that Mojo Bar is "made for people on the move who want something salty when sweet just won't cut it." This product wins points immediately for the bold words that read "No High Fructose Corn Syrup."  Made with roasted whole nuts and organic pretzel pieces, these bars 190 calories, 6g of fat, and zero transfat, which means no hydrogenated oils.  Low-carb dieters may not be interested because of the 25g of carbs (and just in case you are confused when you see “other carbs, 13g" in the nutritional info, that amount is a measurement of carbs found in ingredients such as flour, oats, and soy and is included in the total carb count)..  The Mojo Bar is about double the amount of sodium (260 mg) in other bars, but still within acceptable range for the average person’s diet.  Overall, it's a pretty good salty snack bar. www.mojobar.com

The Chinese have been using green tea for medicinal purposes since ancient times.  Studies have shown that green tea can be healthy and useful for medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol levels, cardiovascular disease, tooth decay and more.  This new product offers a convenient way to drink your green tea with an ingredient list that is as refreshing as the tea itself. Compare it to many of the “tea” beverages you find on the shelves and you’ll see just organic green tea leaves, natural colors and natural flavors – no high fructose corn syrup and no added sugar.  Flavors (also including black, red and white teas) include Peach Decaf Black Tea, Pink Lemonade Green Tea, Passion Fruit Green Tea, Orange Blossom White Tea, Capetown Tropical Red Tea, Honeydew Melon White Tea, Republic Ceylon Black Tea Comes in a 6 ounce plastic bottle and retails for $1.99.  www.republicoftea.com

MISSES

Heluva Good Classic Ranch DipWhen Americans started going nuts for low-carb diets, the makers of high-protein foods jumped for joy -- they finally had a marketing strategy that could counter the low-fat trend. This company, which has been making some of the best cheeses in the supermarket for over 75 years, has now weighed in with a dip, which, while we love the taste and the fact that they only use real sour cream and never oils or water, also contains monosodium glutamate (MSG) and modified food starch. Remember, just because it's low in carbs (2 grams) doesn't mean that it isn't loaded with fat (5 grams --3 grams of saturated fat -- in just 2 tablespoons). Other flavors:  French Onion Dip, Bacon Horseradish Dip, New England Clam Dip, Fat-Free French Onion Dip, Creamy Salsa Dip, Bodacious Onion Dip, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Dip, and Feature Flavor-Buffalo Wing Dip. About $2 for a 12 ounce container.  www.heluvagood.com/dip.htm 

Here’s a company that is so worried about being left behind in the low carb craze that they forgot we have to eat this stuff! Yes, General Mills has now introduced a low-carb, high-protein version of its popular Total brand.  Cereal, of course, is loaded with carbohydrates, and sales declines since the low-carb phenomenon hit last year are forcing the cereal companies to reformulate or lose customers. The problem is that most of these products are unbearably awful in taste – and Total Protein doesn't do much better, with an annoying bittersweet after taste typical of diet food.  They do cut the carbs to about half of what you’ll find in most cereals (11g), and the amount of protein is higher (13g). As always, read the package carefully, as we see here another example of misleading labeling -- they proclaim 8 grams of Net Carbs on the front, and explain on the back that they are deducting Dietary Fiber Carbs from the Total Carbs. While we still wait for the folks in Washington, D.C., to publish “low carb” guidelines, it’s important to read the entire Nutritional Facts label and not rely on the claims on the package front. Bottom line is that this product will probably increase the number of people making eggs for breakfast.  Retails for $4.99 for an 11 ounce box.www.totalcereal.com


CONSUMER-NOMINATED HIT

Kashi Tasty Little CrackersHere's what Julie Whittington from Huntersville, NC, had to say about this new product.  "These are tasty little crackers, and the only ones I buy, now!  Plus, with 2g fiber, 3g protein and only 130 kcal per serving, they are healthy, too!  Not to mention the fact that they have no saturated or trans fat. Go Kashi!" Retails for $5.99. Thanks, Julie!  Your SupermarketGuru tote bag is on the way. www.kashi.com/tlctaslitcra.html

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 phil.lempert@nbc.com. If he selects your nomination for publication, he’ll send you a SupermarketGuru.com Tote Bag! You can also visit his website at www.supermarketguru.com.