I have been chastised (and apparently rightly so) by one of the major players from Procter & Gamble working with the company's new Fit Produce Wash. In my column of Oct. 31 I expressed concern that the possibility of making the problem behind the introduction of this category a "cause celebre." I accused them of setting up a "straw horse" and then creating something to "knock it down." That could potentially result in some serious damage to some produce categories, such as what happened with the Alar scare on apples. I was politely reminded that the company had virtually "created" the consumer market for fabric softeners by initially seeking to offer something to make baby diapers softer. I missed that one! In any case, P&G has research showing that plenty of people already express serious concern about fruit wax and other residue on fruits and vegetables -- and apparently the response from those who have tried Fit appears to be very encouraging! I apologize to P&G for thinking bad thoughts. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how big this category can become to sustain P&G's continued interest.
Meanwhile, I was recently asked to do a TV critique on a new pizza brand being introduced by a West Coast manufacturer (who will remain nameless). The show was recorded by Seattle's station KING TV on an entrepreneurial program run each night at 7:00 p.m. As a result I learned that frozen pizzas are once again growing in overall sales, and the search is on for new ways to approach an old category. Let me say I liked what I saw of the new pizza and I said so on TV. I later picked up a couple of relatively new entrees from another national manufacturer. One offered an "Authentic Pizzeria Taste" with a thick pie crust, the other a "Pizzeria Style" crust which could be produced oven-baked or microwaved. And following the exact preparation directions for both, my wife and I sat down to eat them. Neither looked nor tasted like anything I had ever eaten in a pizzeria, nor like anything I have had delivered or brought home from a pizzeria. And I don't understand that. Have eating habits and expectations dropped so low that these are acceptable to the average pizza lover? Can the frozen segment be growing if such poor "authentic" products are offered -- and purchased -- for pretty good retails, too? Many supermarket-made pizzas are better than either of these. And the refrigerated pizza kit from Contadina, which I helped introduce several years ago, makes vastly better pizzas than either of these, with much more of the ingredients to make a generous topping.
Perhaps parents are buying these frozen versions and leaving the kids, who don't know anything better, to eat them alone. If so, parents should apparently try some of the foods they offer their kids.
Robert McMath is a new-product consultant and director of the New Products Showcase & Learning Center in Ithaca, N.Y.