What is in this article?:
- SN Whole Health: Winter 2012 Trends
- Dinnertime Helpers
“People may not be vegan or vegetarian, they’re just looking to eat healthier. Cheese is not the healthiest food.”
— Jamie Schapiro, director of marketing, Galaxy Nutritional Foods
For the growing number of consumers cooking at home, there’s nothing like a fresh, restaurant-quality meal. There’s just one problem: They need a little help making it.
Food manufacturers are all too happy to assist. They’ve come out with meal starters that do much of the heavy lifting by providing complex sauces, soups and other mixtures to which cooks can add their own ingredients and make customized, flavor-rich dishes. The starters provide the foundation for dozens of recipes, and many of them promote the use of healthy ingredients like peppers and grilled chicken.
“The fact that it’s a starter means you’re adding fresh ingredients to it like produce and lean protein,” said Kara Nielsen, trendologist with the Center for Culinary Development, San Francisco.
Offerings cover a wide range of cuisines and culinary styles. The six SKUs in Campbell’s Skillet Sauces line includes toasted sesame with garlic and ginger. General Mills’ Progresso brand recently unveiled a line of sauces called Recipe Starters. Kellogg’s Morningstar Farm brand, meanwhile, boasts a line of vegetarian meal starters for dishes like meatless meatballs and vegan chicken strips.
While there’s no sales data pegged specifically to meal starters, similar offerings like broth and dry dinner mixes are showing promising growth. Swanson Flavor Boost, a concentrated broth marketed as a way to kick up the flavor in home-cooked meals, has shot up to more than $11 million in sales after a year on shelves, according to figures from SymphonyIRI.
Nielsen said ethnic foods, with their layered, spice-heavy recipes, are particularly well suited for starter kits. Annie Chun’s makes Asian starters for dishes like organic soy ginger with soba noodles and pad thai, while Pacific Natural Foods recently expanded its line of ethnic soup starters to include tortilla soup and organic tom yum.
Pacific senior brand manager Sibel Candemir stressed the importance of providing education and inspiration for home cooks. Every box of her company’s soup starters comes with a QR code that links shoppers to recipes, cooking videos and shopping lists. Pacific has also partnered with natural food retailers like Whole Foods and Sprouts on in-store cooking demonstrations.
“They can feel like they still have control and that real sense of accomplishment in the kitchen,” said Candemir.
For sales-thirsty retailers, a plain old water bottle just won’t cut it these days. That’s why reusable bottle companies have introduced a host of innovations that make staying hydrated faster, easier and, yes, even stylish.
The category is overflowing with options. There’s the Intak bottle from Thermos that measures daily water consumption. For the very eco-conscious, there’s the Bamboo Bottle, which features a glass body and an outer shell made of bamboo. The Hydros bottle comes with a colorful filter attachment that promises to block out harmful microbes and particles. Category leaders Nalgene and Camelbak, meanwhile, offer a variety of different bottles, from ultra-light vessels to sleek flasks. Earlier this year, Camelbak released its “eddy” bottle that delivers water at an optimal rate without spilling.
In addition to these innovations, companies have also allayed concerns over harmful chemicals by using plastic that is free of bisphenol-A (BPA) and pthalates.
WH Asks poll results: Wellness Sales Feeling the Pinch
And with good reason, too. After seeing an initial surge in sales a few years ago — when campaigns urging consumers to “take back the tap” hit fever pitch — the reusable industry has watched bottled water companies recapture market share. According to figures from Beverage Marketing Corp., volume sales of bottled water increased by 4.1% to 9.1 billion total gallons last year — the highest total ever.
Staying afloat in the competitive category may require more than just clever takes on the concept of water delivery. Zing Anything features a value-added component. The company makes stainless steel “Zingers” that feature a separate compartment where users can juice citrus fruit, or puree fresh fruits, herbs and other ingredients that combine with the water. It’s a concept that takes aim at aquaphiles as well as fans of healthy functional beverages.
“You can really hone in on your favorite flavors and taste preferences versus buying something that’s prepackaged,” said Josh Lefkovitz, company president.
Another concept that’s showing promise is, of all things, the glass bottle. Vincent Cobb, founder of reusit.com, a site that sells reusable containers, noted that glass now accounts for 20% to 30% of his company’s total water bottle sales.
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