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Hot off the shelf

The latest food products to hit your supermarket shelf.
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Each year the Food Marketing Institute holds a convention showcasing some of the hottest, and coolest, foods that could wind up at your local grocery stores. “Today” show contributing food editor Phil Lempert perused the aisles and picked the best new products.

ON THE FIRST Sunday of each May, supermarket executives from all over the globe meet in Chicago to discuss the latest consumer trends and how they can best meet our needs. One of the highlights of this event, The Food Marketing Institute’s Annual Convention, is the vast array of new products trying to make it onto the supermarket shelves.

While much of the emphasis of the convention is on the state-of-the-industry reports and symposiums, a lot of the action takes place on the show floor as these 75,000 food retailers become taste testers. Some of these new products will make it big, but the odds are against them. Last year there were over 25,000 new products introduced. Sadly less than 1,500 actually made it to the shelves.

We walked miles and miles, and visited hundreds of exhibits to bring you an advance look at some of the most interesting — and trend-setting — that want to become the next hot brands. And yes, sample and eat we did — but only to make sure we could uncover the best!

Here’s a look at our new product hits from the 2001 FMI Convention:

PowerPuff Girls Belly Washers drinks — “interactive” 100 percent vitamin C fortified drinks in refillable containers that sell for up to $2.99. A must for every Powerpuff Girl fan — but the product is nothing more than the type of beverage we got at camp. Can you imagine just how great these would be if they fortified them with calcium and used real juice?

Purjava liquid coffee concentrate — Using ground beans from Honduras, this product is a smooth blend of coffee and water which has less caffeine, less acidity and no preservatives. Just two tablespoons in a cup of hot water eliminates the mess.

This is a great product! Delicious with no fat, high in fiber (8 gms), low calorie, 100 percent RDA of 10 vitamins and minerals. All natural with no preservatives. Contains soy and oat bran.

Lowrey’s Microwaveable Pork Rinds — What can I say? High in protein, low in carbs, 60 percent less fat than fried pork rinds — see, there is a health benefit. With a Texan in the White House, who knows, this product could make it!

Hey dude! — Steak and potato meals in cups and pouches make meals-on-the-go easy. Just add water and you have a very filling portion in about 60 seconds.

Homestyle Express entrees — no refrigeration, no preservatives and just received the Tasting Award of Excellence from the American Tasting Institute — these 2-minute microwaveable meals truly do taste like homemade.

— Seems this crackling candy is “popping” up everywhere these days, and now one of Ben & Jerry’s new 2001 flavors called KaBerry KaBoom will “spark” your taste buds. It features Strawberry and Blueberry ice creams, white fudge covered cracklin’ candy and a blueberry swirl. This flavor was developed in partnership with KaBoom — a non-profit group whose mission is to build safe playgrounds for children. A portion of every sale of Ben & Jerry’s KaBerry KaBoom will help fund three new playgrounds in America.

Ben & Jerry’s, South Burlington, Vermont 802-846-1500

Enjoy great tasting fudge in just 2 minutes. This premium quality fudge mix comes in a pouch bag. Just add 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of water to make a pound of great-tasting “fudge shop” fudge at home. You can also add nuts, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, and even peanut butter to make your own special flavors.

— Fran’s Healthy Helpings is a line of frozen dinner entrees for kids that are nutritious and free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and synthetic preservatives. Think about this: Lucky Ducky Chicken (four baked chicken nuggets shaped like ducklings, chicken-shaped pasta with butter sauce and broccoli florets), Wacky Whale Pizza (cheese pizza shaped like a whale, pasta shaped like boats, palm trees and birds with butter sauce and petite tip carrots), Soccer-oni & Cheese (soccer ball and shoe-shaped pasta in a cheese sauce, with vegetables and mixed fruit in natural juices). Kids will love the fun shapes and themes of each meal and moms love that they are giving their kids something healthy to eat. Retails for $2.79.

Flavour Creations Coffee Flavoring Tablets — You can flavor your coffee whenever and wherever you want. The tablets contain no fat, sugar, or calories and are available in the following varieties: French Vanilla, Hazelnut, Irish Creme, White Chocolate Raspberry, Almond Amaretto, Cinnamon Pecan, Dutch Chocolate, and English Toffee. Sold in pocket or purse size dispensers making it convenient to flavor your coffee anytime. Just add 1-2 tablets to hot coffee and enjoy.

Allegro Flavor Injector — Flavor your meat from the inside out! Instead of soaking in marinade, you can inject the marinade right into your meat. Three varieties: for poultry, beef and ham are available, each with a unique blend of ingredients to enhance the flavor of your meat and tenderize it as well.

And one of my favorites that gets the “someone is listening to the consumer” award:

Fresh Handles — Let’s face it, no one likes to touch the toilet seat! With this new product, you may never have to again. Fresh Handles attaches to the underside of your toilet seat and provides a disposable “handle” for lowering and lifting the seat. It is also an air freshener that comes in vanilla, honeysuckle, pina colada, cinnamon and tutti frutti and will scent your bathroom for about 6 weeks. The disposable handles come in a variety of shapes (fish, flower, shell & seasonal designs), translucent colors (fuschia, blue, red and lavender) and scents and all have a glow-in-the-dark star to locate the handle for those trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Both the handle and the holder have an antimicrobial additive embedded in the plastic to protect from bacteria, mold and mildew. The starter kit (which includes the handle, holder and tape) sells for $4.95. Replacement handles sell for $2.95.

Getting a new product on the shelf is tough enough. It takes a great idea, product innovation, advertising, great packaging and — oh yes — many millions of dollars. And then you have to keep your fingers crossed you and I will buy it. Let me know which of these products is your favorite — and which ones you think are losers — via email at

Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru®, analyzes the food marketing industry to keep consumers up-to-date about cutting-edge marketing trends. He is a regular “Today” show contributor, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, and host of Shopping Smart of the WOR Radio Network. For more food and health information, you can check out Phil’s Web site at: