Ice Creams Take Center Stage at FMI – Food Marketing Institute Supermarket Industry Convention

Ice Creams Take Center Stage at FMI – Food Marketing Institute Supermarket Industry Convention – Brief Article

Dave Fusaro

Few other dairy products, but lots of soy and ‘dot-coms’ populate the supermarket show

Suiza Foods Corp. had its biggest booth yet but two or three key ice cream companies were missing when the Food Marketing Institute held its annual Supermarket Industry Convention in Chicago last month.

The show was heavily populated by internet companies, all with names ending in “.com,” who offered everything from home shopping to product sourcing to job candidates. Nutrition bars, most of which have whey protein as a key ingredient, also were springing up all over. And, as expected, soy was enjoying its newfound health claim for heart disease.

The beany stuff was an ingredient in food products all over the floor, but it took a particularly high profile as a packaged milk replacement in several booths, including that of Dallas-based Suiza, the country’s No.1 milk marketer. Suiza was pouring samples of its new SunSoy drink in regular, chocolate and vanilla.

Those three flavors already are in the Silk soymilk line of White Wave Inc., Boulder, Cob. But at FMI, White Wave introduced Chai and Mocha, and told grocers of the Christmastime success of SilkNog, which company officials would like to replicate at other times of the year.

PepsiCo Inc.’s Tropicana beverage subsidiary is partnering with Bestfoods Inc. to test market a new soymilk. The drink, a frozen blend of soymilk, soy protein, juice and fruit puree, will be test-marketed in Florida theaters, selected restaurants and Kroger supermarkets.

Soymilk also was promoted by VitaSoy USA, San Francisco, and the WestSoy product was in the booths of distributors Kehe and Tree of Life.

Not all the new beverages were soy-based. Nestle USA, Glendale, Calif., introduced a fat-free version of its Nesquik chocolate milk. Chai, essentially a blend of tea, milk, honey and sweet spices (including cardamom, cinnamon and ginger), was the base flavor for a number of drinks. The Lipton div. of Unilever offered two: Chailatta, a foodservice-only (available via a company-supplied dispenser) hot drink, which was drawing rave reviews, and two chai- and fruit-based smoothies (peach and raspberry).

Dean Foods Co., Franklin Park, Ill., officially introduced to the supermarket world its “Dips-For-One” single-serve (2.75 oz) cups of French Onion, Lite French Onion, Ranch and Guacamole dips, meant to provide anytime dipping opportunities for chips and vegetables. But Dean is not alone: Clorox Co.’s Hidden Valley Ranch unit also had single-serve dips.

While not debuting any mainstream cheeses, Kraft Foods, Nortlifield, Ill., did introduce three related products. Philadelphia Snack Bars are cream cheese-based, cheesecake-like treats in Chocolate Chip, Strawberry, Classic Cheesecake and White Chocolate Raspberry. They’re individually wrapped, six to a box. Similarly, Jell-O Dessert Delights are shelf-stable dessert bars in cheesecake, chocolate fudge pudding and lemon. And Cheez Whiz has been reformulated and put in a wide-mouth jar to make it dippable at room temperature.

New ice cream products

Ice cream was the busiest dairy category at FMI. Wells’ Dairy Inc., LeMars, Iowa, debuted its Dessert Classics line, consisting of seven rotating flavors based on baked goods. Homemade Apple Pie was in the booth. The company also introduced its new Rhapsody novelty line, smaller (1.75 oz each) but premium stick confections in black raspberry ice cream covered with dark chocolate; vanilla with dark chocolate coating; vanilla with milk chocolate; vanilla with white chocolate and almonds; vanilla with peach coating and vanilla with wild berries coating. The chocolate-covered ones are four in a box and the fruit flavor-covered ones are eight per box.

Smith Dairy Products, Orrville, Ohio, showed a new peanut butter and chocolate yogurt and also told grocers of its six-flavor limited edition ice creams under its Ruggles brand. Turtle Treasures is current, following late-winter’s Peppermint Patty. Others rotating in and out of the lineup will be Caramel Creme, Brownie Chocolate Fudge, Chocolate Brownie Sundae and Strawberries ‘n Cream.

In a small, shared booth were several unusual ice cream flavors from Dave’s Ice Cream, Pearl City, Hawaii. The offerings included green tea ice cream, coconut macadamia nut ice cream and lychee sherbet, all in pints and all seeking mainland distribution.

In its last show as an independent company, Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, South Burlington, Vt., focused on its new “2 Twisted” line, plus a limited-edition flavor we hadn’t reported on before: “Peanuts! Popcorn!.” The Cracker Jack-like item was the most popular in the booth. Two new stick novelties coming are Berry Wild Whirl and Passionfruit Smoothie, the latter being enrobed in white chocolate.

Dean Foods added four new flavors to its “Really Cool Flavors” line: Dulce de Leche, Dulce de Leche con Chocolate, Strawberry Smash and Kodiak Island Fudge.

Notable by their absence were Haagen-Dazs and Nestle’s ice cream business and/or their new shared entity Ice Cream Partners USA. People at the respective parent companies said the new joint venture apparently wasn’t ready for a coming out party.

While Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream was not at the show, its new line of 48-oz carton ice creams, “Dreyer’s Presents[ldots],” was represented in the booth of partner M&M/Mars, Hackettstown, N.J. Also sampling its new, higher-than-premium/smaller-than-half-gallon “Ice Cream Parlor” line (in 56-oz containers) was Good Humor-Breyers, Green Bay, Wis.

Another Good Year for Supermarkets

“Just a few years ago, the top four companies in this industry accounted for less than 20% of sales. Today, it’s more than 30%,” and that number is growing, said Michael Sansolo, FMI’s sr. v.p., as he delivered the “FMI Speaks” state of the grocery industry report at the convention and show. The top 10 supermarket chains account for more than 50% of overall sales, nearly double their share from 1990. But it was another good year for the business. Overall grocery industry sales grew 5.1% in 1999, the highest annual growth in more than a decade; however, officials suspect the especially strong fourth-quarter may be due to Y2K panic shopping. Average industry profitability, before taxes, interest, etc., inched up to 4.96%, its highest level in five years. But net profit inched downward to its lowest level in that period, to 1.03% from a record high 1.22% in 1998.

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