Ripe for the Picking
By James Dudlicek
It was interesting timing that just as we were putting the finishing touches on PG's 2013 Editors' Picks contest, the Lifetime channel launched what I think can be accurately described as the "American Idol" of food.
Our Editors' Picks winners demonstrate the talent, vision and perseverance of entrepreneurs, foodies, R&D pros and brand managers who've learned what folks want and how to deliver.
Since its July 22 premiere, "Supermarket Superstar" has showcased three home cooks vying against each other to win over A&P's buyer with their recipes, which are fine–tuned into more practical retail products under the guidance of a panel of culinary, R&D and marketing experts. The weekly winners get $10,000 in prize money and $100,000 worth of product development services to create professional samples of their products. For the finale, three winners from the season will be invited back to compete for the grand prize by presenting their product to A&P CEO Sam Martin, with the hope of getting the item rolled out chain–wide.
Of course, all of the necessary elements are in play to stoke audience emotion and fuel the Twittersphere: wide–eyed amazement (e.g., "I can't believe I'm here!" "This has always been my dream!"), stunned indignation toward the experts for daring to tamper with sacred family recipes, catty swipes by contestants against each other's products, anticipatory perspiration, and tears of both joy and defeat.
But amid the sensation, there were moments of realization and understanding of the lengthy, arduous process of bringing new products to market – it takes far longer than these hour–long potboilers would have consumers believe. The expert advisers – chef Michael Chiarello, cookie queen Debbi Fields, branding guru Chris Cornyn and R&D chef Andrew Hunter – have been accurate and earnest in their guidance on tailoring products for a broader audience that's looking for relevant, tasty and affordable products.
So far, in the first two weekly shows aired as of this writing, those eliminated in the first half of the show were booted for too stubbornly adhering to their original concept – not that their ideas absolutely couldn't work, but they weren't well suited to the mainstream grocery channel. The ultimate winners not only took expert advice to heart, but also possessed a brand vision beyond a single product. And as is often the case in the "real" world, runners–up were but a tweak or two away from success themselves.
It's those kinds of things the PG staff looks for when we evaluate products for our annual Editors' Picks contest, the results of which begin on page 22. This year, our task was monumental – well over 400 entries encompassing nearly 500 individual products, when taking into account multiple flavors and variations. (This year, nonfood products were evaluated separately and revealed in our July issue,
After a lot of tasting by staffers, family members and friends, we ended up with 123 winning entries, both single products and lines. These are the entries we felt were the most suitable for mainstream supermarkets in terms of taste, convenience, innovation and value.
From new packaging to make preparation easier to cool new spins on old favorites, our picks represent some of the best food product launches of the past year. They demonstrate the talent, vision and perseverance of scores of entrepreneurs, foodies, R&D pros and brand managers who are tuned in to what folks want and how to deliver.
I'll eagerly await the arrival of the "Supermarket Superstar" winners' products for the 2014 Editors' Picks. In the meantime, I'll loosen my belt a notch or two, sit back in front of the TV and see who wins these coveted facings.
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