Looking back at some of the past year’s new product introductions, it’s easy to see that R&D officials are indeed, responding to widespread demand in the marketplace. The themes across most of the items are consistent, whether the products are designed for foodservice, retail or institutional applications:

• Convenience reigns supreme and is evident in packaging, preparation options and portability;

• The emphasis on quality and ingredients is undeniable and many new product marketers are not shy about accentuating the source of their ingredients and the care with which those ingredients were derived;

• Health and wellness is the driving force behind many of the offerings, especially when the products are targeting school-age consumers or college campuses;

• There is no “one-size-fits-all” category of foods or meal times and most new products address varied preferences for portion size and avoid being pigeonholed into a specific day-part or dining venue. The same holds true for flavor profiles, as is evident later on. Most new products are offered in several varieties, each featuring a unique, but related flavor that’s linked
to the new product’s theme.

A shotgun approach to developing products for the masses might be the most efficient R&D approach, but appealing to the diverse and individual demand of changing consumer preferences can be an elusive moving target.

Burritos EVOLve
Marketed as “made-from-scratch” using “natural and organic” ingredients, Boulder, Colo.-based EVOL Burritos debuted its new line of deli-wrapped burritos, designed to be sold fresh or hot by vendors located in coffee shops, university cafeterias and convenience stores. Available in six varieties, some of which include bacon, sausage, chicken or beef, the burritos weigh 7 ozs. and are designed to appeal to the growing demand for grab-and-go food items at various retail outlets. Including the new products, EVOL Burritos are available in 21 varieties, all of which are touted as “hand-rolled” and include only antibiotic-free chicken, pork, beef and sausage and cage-free eggs.

Adding chicken to the mix
Earlier this month, Bar-S Foods introduced its Deli Shaved Oven Roasted Chicken Breast Lunchmeat for its retail customers. The latest product is the first chicken variety added to the company’s growing Deli Shaved line, which includes: smoked ham, honey ham, black forest ham, oven-roasted turkey breast and smoked turkey breast, all available in 9-oz. or 1-lb., recloseable packages. To appeal to retail shoppers, the packaging is pillow packed to ensure optimum shelf-life and freshness.

A chicken addition to the Buffett line
Marketed to bring restaurant-style tastes to retail-shopping sports fans, and introduced just days ahead of this year’s Super Bowl in February, Margaritaville Foods launched a new line of fully cooked, frozen chicken wings. According to data from Nielsen, for the 52 weeks ending Nov. 29, 2010, in the frozen poultry segment, chicken wings alone accounted for more than $418 million in sales, indicating the obvious popularity of this food choice.

Inspired by Jimmy Buffett, the musical icon known for his island-themed melodies, the new wings are packaged in a 28-oz. bag and include a packet of one of the following flavors: Mango Chutney, Island Buffalo, Caribbean BBQ and Orange Peel.

Sara Lee’s healthy appeal
Based on consumer research indicating growing demand among adults for healthier options on restaurant menus and the fact that in-house research concluded 62 percent of foodservice patrons are more likely to choose items lower in sodium content, Sara Lee Foodservice rolled out a new line of lower-sodium deli meats. Both Sara Lee-branded bulk deli meats and its Hillshire Farm brand bulk and pre-sliced deli meats are formulated with 25 percent less sodium than comparable products in the category and are certified by the American Heart Association. Lower sodium bulk deli meats available include Sara Lee’s Oven Roasted turkey breast or chicken breast. Hillshire’s bulk deli meats include its lower-sodium boneless honey ham as well as its roast beef. Lower Sodium Hillshire Farm pre-sliced deli meats include honey- or oven-roasted turkey, and smoked or honey ham.

Talking turkey
This past month, Tamaqua, Pa.-based Koch’s Turkey Farm rolled out a new addition to its line of turkey burgers, which debuted in 2010. The new All Natural Burgers were designed to provide a healthy alternative to beef hamburgers, according to the company. Seasoned with a hint of rosemary, the company’s natural line of burgers are low in fat and can be cooked in a skillet in approximately seven minutes.

“Our turkey burgers are low in sodium, low in calories and low in saturated fat, and they taste great,” said Duane Koch, president of Koch’s Turkey Farm. The burgers are available at specialty supermarkets, including Whole Foods and Koch points out the turkey meat comes from free-range birds raised without hormones or antibiotics and are fed vegetarian diets. The company’s turkeys are raised humanely and Koch’s animal welfare standards are ensured by a third-party auditing firm.

Artisan sandwiches
AdvancePierre Foods’ just-launched line of Mercato Grille Panini Sandwiches, which are available in five varieties, are designed for heat-and-eat applications or heat-and-hold venues. They can be warmed using a microwave, Panini press or traditional oven. The hand-held sandwiches are fully assembled, wrapped in oven-ready parchment paper and flash frozen to ensure freshness. The varieties offer serving flexibility that can satisfy all day-parts, including breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack time. The choices include the following Panini-style sandwiches: Italian; Turkey, Ham and Swiss; Three Cheese Tomato, Asiago Chicken and Chicken Parmesan.

A Frank approach to appetizers
Also capitalizing on the popularity of frozen chicken wings and appetizers as a whole, Frank’s RedHot, based in Parsippany, N.J., recently launched a line of fully cooked Buffalo Wings, Buffalo Shrimp, Chicken Fries and Chicken Poppers. Knowing US grocery store sales of frozen and refrigerated appetizers and snacks, frozen wings and frozen shrimp accounted for about $1.6 billion, according to Nielsen data for 2010, the new products are being offered by the company at club stores as well as supermarkets. The protein products are processed and distributed by Completely Fresh Foods for French’s Foods, a division of Reckitt Benckiser, which makes Frank’s Redhot Cayenne Pepper Sauce. Completely Fresh’s other food lines include Jack Daniel’s ready-to-eat meals and John Wayne Authentic Cowboy Meals.

Going kosher
Late this past year, Old World Kosher Sausage offi cials announced the introduction of a new Chicken Sausage that is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union and carries the OU symbol to identify it as such. The new offerings are made from OU kosher-certifi ed chicken thighs and are available in flavor profiles that have never been offered to this segment, according to the company. The OU diligently monitors every aspect of processing the sausage as well as inspecting the processing facilities to ensure compliance with kosher standards is maintained. The formulation for the kosher line was developed by David Samuels, a manufacturer and distributor of meat products, said Ethan Feinberg, president of Old World Kosher. “We are truly honored that David Samuels has chosen to share his secret recipes with us so we can bring this unique product to the kosher community,” including foodservice and retail customers, he said.

“With flavors like Chicken Apple Sausage, Hot Italian Sausage, and Sweet Italian Sausage, caterers and restaurateurs can’t seem to get enough of these delicacies,” Feinberg added.

Back to school
With the recent public spotlight trained on childhood nutrition and the quality and safety of food offered by the National School Lunch Program, one of the newest products developed by Tyson Foods meets the government’s nutritional guidelines for sodium, fat and protein. Tyson’s Wokin’ Orange All-in-One Entrée, which is made from fully cooked strips of dark chicken meat in an orange sauce, was developed specifi cally for the NSLP and to appeal to school officials in the US who are responsible for feeding thousands of children each day. “Our ethnic-inspired, all-in-one product solution allows foodservice directors to meet the growing demand for authentic flavors, while at the same time delivering a solution that is operationally friendly and nutritionally sound,” said Johnny Hughes, vice president and general manager of the Government Business Unit of Tyson Foods Inc.