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Hit or Miss? Pasta sauce, tea 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.

HITS
Fuel Foods Smart SauceWe have had the opportunity to review many great sauces, and here’s one more to add to the list.  Made with California vegetables, this sauce contains no artificial coloring or flavoring.  Compared to your usual brands in the supermarket, this sauce contains more vitamins and antioxidants — the company calls this sauce a “multivitamin” in a meal.  We only wish that this product was organic.  Average retail price is $4.99.  Varieties are Spicy Pepper, Spinach Mushroom and Chunky Tomato Marinara.

Misty Valley Avocado OilHere’s a delicious and nutritious oil to try.  Rich in Omega 3s and vitamin E, avocado oil has one of the highest smoke points of all oils, allowing it to be heated to an efficient frying temperature without burning or breaking down.  It's also great on salads and as a quick marinade for fish.  Retails for $5.95 for 8.5 fluid ounces.

Cocktails By JennAlthough we don’t usually review alcoholic beverages, we couldn’t resist this product because of its hip and innovative packaging. These cocktail mixtures come ready to drink with all-natural flavors and the vodka already mixed in for you. So what’s it like? Well, we tried the Cosmo and have to tell you it was one of the best we've ever tasted. We also liked the apple martini. Average retail price is $14.99 for a 4-pack, cheaper than at a bar and a little more than you would spend at home if you had all the ingredients. We also like the size of each bottle — 4 ounces — which helps to ensure moderation.

CONSUMER-NOMINATED HIT
Numi Monkey King TeaHere's what Mary S. from Vancouver, Wash., had to say about this product.  "I was in a big market and a lady was handing out samples for Monkey King tea.  It is the best green tea with jasmine I have ever tasted.  It is organic and refreshing whether hot or cold.  The price of the box for 20 bags was reasonable, and the taste was just wonderful.  The person who was demonstrating the tea had other flavors that also were great.  I learned from the lady that the teas are mostly organic, the bags are made a certain way to distribute the tea effectively and that the boxes are sealed to keep out light and moisture.  I cannot say enough about the Numi tea line and Monkey King!!” Retails for $4.00 to $5.25.  Thanks, Mary! Your SupermarketGuru tote bag is on the way!

CONSUMER-NOMINATED MISS
Betty Crocker Cake MixHere’s what Jenny G. from Mesquite, Tex., had to say about this product: “Contains hydrogenated oils and trans fats. Modern-day recipes seldom list ingredients for cakes made from scratch instead they list a cake mix and added ingredients to change it into different tastes.  The cake mix should be healthy!”  Retails for $1.79. Thanks, Jenny!  Your SupermarketGuru tote bag is on the way.  

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 .