Quick Stats

Quick Stats

    You are here

    Moveable Feast

    This year?s best new products keep pace with multiple consumer trends.

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ

    More than 600 individual products. Dozens of testers. Hundreds of opinions. Millions of taste buds. And we?re finally done.

    The response to Progressive Grocer?s annual Editors? Picks contest has always been overwhelming, and this year was no exception. With our stomachs churning and our minds whirring, we wound up with 136 winning entries encompassing both food and nonfood products. Many of those entries include multiple individual products, grouped together as lines or into flavor families for more efficient evaluation.

    After a year of separately judging food and nonfood products, we brought them back together this year into a single contest. Judged by PG?s editorial team, support staff and other personnel at Stagnito Business Information in our Deerfield, Ill., and Jersey City, N.J., headquarters, as well as in home offices, products were evaluated in three key areas:

    • ? Innovation: Originality, ingredient enhancement, new packaging application, ability to grow or develop a new or existing category, new flavor/variety/portion size, etc.
    • ? Taste/Functionality: How did the product live up to taste/quality expectations, or functional attributes?
    • ? Value: How did the product?s overall value proposition deliver on price, time and convenience?

    We saw standouts in a number of key categories, among them:

    • ? Produce Made Simple: Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is easier with products like Bolthouse Farms? Stone Fruit Smoothie, Buddy Fruits? FruitBreak, Crunch Pak Marvel Apple Snackers, Del Monte?s single-serve watermelon spears, Green Giant?s microwaveable corn on the cob and NatureSweet?s Cherriots.
    • ? Sensible Snacking: Salty snacks are moving well beyond the pretzels and potato chips of yore with new entries like The Better Chip?s beet chips, Calbee?s pea and lentil snacks, Simply 7?s quinoa chips, and Party-Tizers Dippin? Chips.
    • ? The Power of Protein: Maximizing food value are products like PowerBar Protein Plus, Oscar Mayer?s P3 snack packs, Quaker?s IQO oatmeal and SunRidge Farms? Power Chews.
    • ? Still Shootin? Gluten: Wheat avoiders continue to have new tasty options like pizzas from Better4U, Freschetta and Smart Flour; granola from Bob?s Red Mill; Mediterranean Snacks? Tapaz2Go; and Salem Baking?s chocolate chip cookies.
    • ? Savory Solutions: Whether snack or meal or a little of each, new products are making daypart eating smarter, simpler and more interesting, including Farmer John?s heat-and-eat tri tip, Ferrero?s Nutella & Go, InnovAsian?s Lemon Grass Kitchen entrées, Luvo?s nutritionally balanced offerings, Ready Pac?s Bistro Bowls, Tres Latin?s pupusas and Three Bridges entrées from Valley Fine Foods.

    And there?s more! But you?ll have to read on to learn about them all.
    Bon appétit!

    Al Fresco All Natural Gourmet Chicken Grillers


    These flavorful chicken patties are a nice alternative to burgers for summer grilling or year-round eating. With half the fat of a traditional beef burger, they?re made with lean meat; have no artificial ingredients, nitrates, nitrites or MSG; and are gluten-free. They go directly from freezer to grill, making preparation simple. Caramelized Onion was a clear favorite variety, with Sweet Italian a close second; the grillers also come in Buffalo & Blue Cheese.

    Aldi Moiselle Moscato


    Even Two-Buck Chuck isn?t $2 anymore, but hard discounter Aldi is making wine more accessible with its own line of California moscatos. Its take on the popular variety is crisp, fruity and easy to drink, pairing well with salads, fruits, cheeses and desserts. Moiselle Moscato comes in three varieties: White (with flavors of peach and apricot, and hints of citrus and orange blossom); Pink (nectarine and raspberry, with a sweet citrus finish); and Red (peach and dark cherries, with a bright-red berry finish).

    Alouette Spreadable Cheeses


    Alouette has added four bold flavors to its line of spreadable cheeses, which are conveniently ready for dipping and spreading right from the fridge. Each is made with 12-month-aged cheddar. The Wasabi Cheddar, with its nice horseradish bite, was PG?s favorite; the runner-up was Flame Roasted Red Peppers, which offered notes of garlic and smoke. Rounding out the new varieties are Buffalo Cheddar and Smoky Jalapeño.

    Among Friends Gerry?s Any Kind of Jam Jam Bar Mix


    Among Friends wowed us last year with its line of clean-label baking mixes. Our favorite of their follow-ups this year is this oatmeal cookie bar mix, to which home users add the jam of their choice (we found strawberry and apricot worked well). A few minutes of prep for the mix and streusel topping, followed by a half-hour in the oven, produce a treat with 13 grams of whole grains per serving. The product is certified by the Whole Grains Council and the Non-GMO Project.

    Annie?s Microwavable Macaroni & Cheese Cups


    Annie?s makes one of the better instant mac-?n?-cheese products we?ve tried. This one?s made with organic pasta, real cheese, whole grains and no artificial flavors, synthetic colors or preservatives. It?s designed for portability to school or office ? just add water and microwave for two minutes. The item comes in White Cheddar, Real Aged Cheddar, and Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar varieties, in both single and twin-packs.

    B&G Foods Pirate?s Booty Shells & Cheese


    Here?s a good example of cleaning the label of a kids? favorite. Known for eschewing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, Pirate?s Booty scores with its take on macaroni and cheese. The shell-shaped organic wheat pasta cooks up tender, enhanced by real aged white cheddar cheese. Designed to be kid-friendly, the item is a good source of calcium and protein, and contains no trans fat.

    Backerhaus Veit Bagetzel

    85 cents

    Pretzel breads are trendy yet seem to have some staying power, so we think Canadian bakery Backerhaus Veit, which markets its products through in-store bakeries, made the right move with this hybrid. Made from a modified soft-pretzel recipe for a less dense product, the Bagetzel is shaped into a bagel, making it easy to toast or slice; It also makes a fine base for a cold-cut sandwich. The item is available unsliced or pre-sliced for added convenience and easy recipe building.

    The Better Chip Beet Chips


    A chip made of what? Yes, that?s right. Following the growth in demand for vegan-friendly products as well as better-for-you snacks, the folks at The Better Chip combined fresh beets with corn flour and came up with a unique, flavorful and colorful snack chip. Just fine on its own, it can also be paired with herbed goat cheese, hummus or Greek yogurt dip, as its makers suggest. Certified non-GMO and gluten-free, the product is the latest offering in a growing line that also includes chips made from spinach, kale and jalapeño peppers, as well as corn all by its lonesome.

    Better 4 U Gluten Free Personal Pizza


    Following its sprouted-grain pizzas that earned our thumbs-up last year, Better4U has launched a line of gluten-free personal-size pizzas. The frozen pizzas purport to be rich in omega -3 and -6 fatty acids, as well as being lower in fat, calories and sodium than comparable products. The Mediterranean variety cooked up crisp and flavorful, replete with colorful veggies; the product also comes in Four Cheese, Roasted Vegetable (regular and dairy-free vegan), and Pepperoni varieties.

    Bob?s Red Mill Gluten Free Honey Oat Granola


    With a long history of producing healthful, hearty flours and baking behind it, Bob?s Red Mill has a current hit with this ready-to-eat gluten-free honey oat granola. It?s a traditional combination featuring whole grain gluten-free rolled oats, honey and pure vanilla. The item is also dairy-free and a good source of fiber. Made with natural sweeteners, the granola is great right out of the bag, served as a hot or cold cereal, or as a yogurt topping.

    Bolthouse Farms Cilantro Avocado Yogurt Dressing


    Marketing materials for this buttermilk-based dressing promote its healthy profile: 40 calories per 2-tablespoon serving; ingredients including yogurt, cotija cheese, avocado and cilantro; and no artificial flavors, preservatives or MSG. But PG editors think Bolthouse should play up applications beyond the salad bowl, including as an accompanying sauce for Mediterranean foods or wraps.

    Bolthouse Farms Stone Fruit Smoothie


    Anyone who enjoys summer seasonal stone fruits like peaches and nectarines should enjoy this hearty yet refreshing smoothie from Bolthouse Farms. It?s made with apricots, plums, peaches and nectarines, plus ground chia seeds. Created from various fruit juices and purées, the item is one of three new additions to Bolthouse?s line of fruit smoothies. It?s free of high-fructose corn syrup, dairy and gluten, and is high in vitamins A, C and E.

    Buddy Fruits FruitBreak SuperFruit


    Buddy Fruits has kept busy making fun, squeezable treats to get kids to eat more fruit, but its latest offering is designed to appeal to a more mature audience. FruitBreak SuperFruit high-antioxidant fruit blends were designed to deliver an energy boost or post-workout recovery. The varieties, Blueberry & Blackcurrant and Raspberry & Cranberry, contain only fruit ? no water, preservatives or sugar ? to provide one full serving of fruits and 3 grams of fiber, at 80 to 90 calories. They?re gluten-free, kosher and vegetarian, and the squeeze packaging is BPA-free and recyclable.

    Cabot Creamery Legacy Collection


    The 1,200 farm families who own Vermont-based Cabot Creamery present The Cabot Farmers? Legacy Collection of three new cheddar flavors evocative of classic European sharp cheddars. Varieties include Farmhouse Reserve, rich-tasting and slightly crumbly; Alpine Cheddar, with a nutty flavor and ?grana,? or tyrosine crunch; and PG?s personal favorite, White Oak Cheddar, inspired by award-winning Cabot Clothbound and featuring a slight sweetness that balances the sharpness for a beautifully balanced cheese.

    Calbee Pea and Lentil Snacks


    There seems to be no stopping the innovation in the snack food world. Calbee is taking things in a cool new direction with its Harvest Snaps brand, which encompasses two lines: Snapea Crisps, made from 60 percent whole peas, and Lentil Snaps, likewise made predominantly from its namesake ingredient. The legumes are blended with rice flour to create a gluten-free salty snack that is high in dietary fiber and contains 5 grams of plant protein. Low in salt, fat, carbs and cholesterol, the baked snacks come in Caesar, Lightly Salted, Wasabi Ranch, Black Pepper, Onion Thyme and Tomato Basil flavors; a Holiday Snaps offering comes in Salted Caramel.

    Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon


    Carnivor 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is a product of E&J Gallo Winery. Its catchy name pays homage to Cabernet Sauvignon as the ?king of reds,? and to carnivores, which reside at the top of the food chain. It?s a great, full-bodied red-wine blend still allowed to be considered Cabernet Sauvignon because of the dominance of the grape variety (cabernet sauvignon 75 percent, syrah 15 percent and merlot 10 percent). The wine features lots of dark-cherry and berry notes, but they?re mellowed out with some earthy and woody notes. The result is a fantastic food and drinking wine at an approachable price.

    Charles & Alice Fruit Friends ? Apple/Mango


    Charles & Alice brings some additional variety and competition to the growing squeezable-pouch fruit segment. The Apple/Mango variety of its Fruit Friends line is unique among the products out there. The Fruit Friends offerings are 100 percent fruit with no sugar added; they contain no artificial flavors or preservatives, have no GMOs, and are free of gluten, dairy and BPA. The apples used are cold-crushed, not puréed, which allows the fruit to retain its natural texture. Also offered are Apple, Apple/Strawberry, Apple/Berry-Banana, and Apple/Grape.

    Christmas Milk Ice Cream


    Known for its holiday eggnog, Christmas Milk has launched a year-round product, French vanilla eggnog ice cream in pints, which purports to be the only such item on the market. It offers a rich, creamy and unique taste; Original is best, but it?s also yummy in Chocolate Swirl and Sea Salt Caramel Swirl (more flavors are promised for 2015). The company donates a percentage of all sales to help children in foster care.

    Clif Bar Mojo Fruit & Nut and Dark Chocolate


    Count on Clif to come up with new tasty ways to delivery healthy, energy-packed, on-the-go snacks. Its new Mojo bars are made with roasted nuts, organic dark chocolate and fruits like organic wild blueberries. Featuring 70 percent organic ingredients, Clif?s Mojo Fruit & Nut and Dark Chocolate bars are gluten-free and contain no more than 200 calories each; additionally, they?re low-glycemic and a good source of fiber. The bars come in Cranberry Almond, Wild Blueberry Almond, Coconut Almond Peanut, Dark Chocolate Almond Sea Salt and Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond varieties.

    Coca-Cola Dasani Sparkling

    Price varies

    Coca-Cola came up with a great way to broaden its bottled water brand, as well as the whole category, by launching a sparkling version of its Dasani line. The crisp, refreshing zero-calorie, caffeine-free sparkling water is available 12-ounce cans and comes in lime, lemon, apple and berry flavors. This latest addition to Coke?s Dasani brand family was part of the My Coke Rewards program that launched this summer.

    Crunch Pak Marvel Apple Snackers


    Making kids? snacks healthier and convenient ? that?s the goal of Crunch Pak?s Marvel Apple Snackers, and the product succeeds in fine style. Marvel superhero characters are featured on peel-top plastic trays containing fresh sliced apples accompanied by other wholesome items, including grapes, cheese and pretzels. Through its partnership with Marvel (the first in the produce department), Crunch Pak is targeting boys age 6 to 10 with better snacking options and superheroes representing an active lifestyle and embodying aspirational attributes like responsibility and discipline.

    CSM Bakery Products Fabulously Filled Cake Truffles


    Cake truffles are still special, but CSM?s Fabulously Filled products are another level of indulgence altogether. While gourmet in nature, the varieties of Lemon Drop, S?mores, and Salty Caramel Pecan are familiar enough to attract supermarket shoppers. These little gems, at 140 calories each in packs of four, are perfect as a small dessert or for entertaining. PG recommends mixing and matching when serving them to guests.

    Dave?s Killer Bread Seeded Honey Wheat


    Does the world need another loaf of bread? Yes, since the bread is Dave?s Killer Bread Seeded Honey Wheat, the first USDA-certified organic and Non-GMO Project Verified honey wheat bread on the market. Consumers who read labels will grasp the difference: ?With nearly 4 tablespoons of pure organic honey packed into each loaf, the sweet taste and crunchy texture make Seeded Honey Wheat an instant favorite.? Little kids might take exception to the oats that coat the loaf, but this sandwich-friendly bread will appeal to the slightly older masses. Dave?s Killer Breads are currently available in 14 western states, but the company is expanding faster than yeast in an oven.

    Dawn Red Devil Vortex Cake


    Dawn Food Products brings excitement and color to the in-store bakery with its line of Vortex dessert cakes, and the Red Devil variety is a stunner both to the eye and the palate. This exceedingly rich and decadent confection offers moist red velvet cake atop a fudgy chocolate brownie, separated and encased by red buttercreme icing, and studded with chocolate shavings. Topping it all off is a waterfall of chocolate truffle down the sides and a ?vortex? swirl of chocolate truffle on the top. Dawn?s line of Vortex Dessert Cakes addresses current trends for hybrid foods and gourmet indulgence.

    Del Monte Fresh Produce Watermelon Spear Multipack


    The 5-pack price makes these single-serve slices unapproachable for many, but the convenience is undeniable. This 100 percent fruit snack is perfect for brown-bag lunches or any on-the-go consumption occasion. Careful peeling means that consumers can eat right from the package. We?ve seen ? and enjoyed ? pre-cut watermelon, but this is an example where packaging innovation can make a good idea a great one.

    Diamond of California Shelled Pistachios


    Why didn?t anyone think of this before? That was our reaction to these shelled pistachios from Diamond ? so simple, yet so perfectly logical. These 100 percent California-grown pistachios are the first raw, unsalted and pre-shelled nuts to be offered in the baking aisle. They make cooking and baking a snap, since other pistachios must be shelled by hand. And for all of you pistachio nut snackers out there, say goodbye to chipped teeth and red lips.

    Dietz & Watson Grilled Honey Chicken Breast


    This whole-muscle chicken breast is delicious and certainly a unique addition to the in-store service deli. With grilled flavor and sweet honey notes, the product is great sliced in sandwiches and diced in salads. Part of Dietz & Watson?s Healthier Lifestyle line, the Grilled Honey Chicken Breast is 97 percent fat-free, provides an excellent source of protein, and has no artificial colors, flavors, fillers, extenders or MSG.

    Duda Farm Dandy Celery Sticks


    This is another one of those ?Duh!? products ? so simple, yet just coming to market amid incessant demand for convenience products. Dandy brand celery is presented in the form of washed and ready-to-eat 8-inch sticks packaged in a 1-pound bag with a resealable zipper closure. It?s great to have on hand for snacking or meal prep, home cooks can remove what they need and then reseal the bag, and the celery retains its freshness until opened again. This product just makes sense.

    Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Morsels


    As the ?free-from? category continues to expand its reach, one of the latest breakthroughs comes from Enjoy Life Foods, which has launched these dark chocolate morsels as part of its top-selling allergy-friendly line of baking products. Featuring 69 percent cacao and clean ingredients of unsweetened chocolate and natural cane sugar, the item is the only gluten-free dark chocolate morsel on the market that?s also dairy-, nut- and soy-free. These morsels are also free from the top eight commonest food allergens, certified kosher, made in a dedicated nut-free facility, Non-GMO Project Verified, and made with no artificial ingredients.

    Farmer John Lucille?s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que Beef Tri Tip


    Low-and-slow taste from heat-and-eat meat? Crazy but true, and this succulent beef tri-tip from Farmer John, co-branded with the California-based Lucille?s Smokehouse restaurant chain, delivers on barbecue taste with the bonus of convenient prep. The fully cooked USDA Choice beef tri-tip is seasoned and reputedly smoked for hours, for a tender, moist and flavorful pre-sliced product.

    Ferrero USA Nutella & Go!


    Ferrero USA has taken its popular chocolate-hazelnut spread a step further with on-the-go packaging. The format opens up new lunch and snacking options for adults and kids alike, and creates an additional product for front end merchandising. Answering consumers? call for portability, this portion-controlled serving of Nutella comes with mini breadsticks for dipping, in a pack that?s perfect for lunchbox, backpack or briefcase.

    FGF Brands Stonefire Naan Crisps


    These tasty chips help further boost the ethnic diversity of the grocery store snack aisle. Stonefire Naan Crisps are a light, versatile treat that?s ?flame baked? for a delicious crunch. At 120 calories per serving, the crisps are made without artificial preservatives, additives, artificial colors, trans fat or hydrogenated oils. Of the four varieties available, we particularly enjoyed Everything (like the bagel of the same name) and Tandoori Spice; the crisps also come in Original and Garlic Parmesan.

    GimMe Health Teriyaki Roasted Seaweed


    We?re not all enamored of the wonders of roasted seaweed, but this latest entry from GimMe Health earned fans on PG?s staff, and the product is sure to meet growing demand for vegan and non-GMO foods. The Teriyaki variety joins Sea Salt and Sesame in the lineup of snacks and crumbles delivering just 25 calories per serving. We found the snacks work particularly well as a layer on a turkey sandwich, while the crumbles add crunch to salads. The price point also makes it a winner among comparable products.

    Good2Grow V-Blend


    Healthy, convenient and cute: that pretty much sums up V-Blend juice drinks from Good2Grow. They come in flavors that appeal to kids ? Tropical Fruit Medley and Strawberry Kiwi ? but sneak the nutrition of vegetables into these 71 percent fruit juices. Made with carrot, beet and apple juice, each variety contains one cup of fruit and veggies, and offers more than 20 percent less sugar than 100 percent juice. The BPA-free, spill-proof collectable bottle toppers, including Hello Kitty, Marvel and Disney characters, are reusable, interchangeable and dishwasher-safe.

    Growers Express Green Giant Fresh Herbs


    Growers Express is taking fresh herbs mainstream with its line of Green Giant Fresh herbs in clamshell and pouch packaging. Packaging graphics include a mobile-friendly QR code that leads consumers to a quick link to additional product information, recipes and usage tips. Better still, the suggestions allow home cooks to use most, if not all, of their purchase in one go. The resealable top helps extend freshness, and modified-atmosphere packaging helps reduce shrink and labor while boosting dollar ring for grocers.

    Growers Marketing Green Giant Fresh Super Sweet Grab n? Go Microwaveable Corn


    We really enjoyed the convenience and fresh sweet flavor of this steam-in-bag microwaveable corn on the cob from Green Giant Fresh. The first of its kind in the marketplace, this product offers a resealable stand-up pouch with three individual bags each containing four cobs of corn that can be easily steamed in a microwave oven for 3.5 to 4.5 minutes. An on-pack QR code leads consumers to a quick link to additional product information, recipes and usage tips.

    Heineken USA Amstel Radler


    Amstel Radler is one of the most refreshing alcohol beverages we?ve had in a long time. A 2 percent ABV blend of beer and lemon juice, it goes down lighter and easier than shandy or hard lemonade. On a hot summer day, it truly hits the spot. Available from early spring through summer, Amstel Radler comes in 6-packs of 12-ounce bottles and 12-packs of 12-ounce cans.

    Heineken USA Dos Equis Dos-A-Rita


    The World?s Most Interesting Man doesn?t often drink ready-to-serve lager margaritas, but when he does, he chooses Dos Equis Dos-A-Rita. A natural extension of a quintessentially Mexican beer brand, the beverage is a blend of Dos Equis lager, classic margarita flavors and 100 percent agave nectar. Billed as the first imported, authentic product of its type on the market, it contains 7.2 percent ABV and comes in 24-ounce single-serve cans and 12-packs of 8-ounce cans.

    Herr Foods Old Bay Cheese Curls


    Old Bay seasoning is showing up in a variety of food products, and one of our favorites is these cheese curls from the snack doctors at Herr Foods. The savory herbs in Old Bay marry well with the real cheese flavor, and the gluten-free curls offer a satisfying crunch. The snacks also have zero trans fat.

    Hershey Lancaster Soft Cremes


    Reviving the brand that Milton Hershey sold to finance his legendary chocolate empire, Lancaster Soft Cremes are lusciously soft, rich and creamy. Also, it?s great to eat a caramel that you don?t have to pick out of your teeth. This upscale yet accessible treat comes in three flavors: Caramel, Vanilla and Caramel, and Vanilla and Raspberry.

    Hershey?s Spreads


    The chocolate spread segment has started to attract competition, and Hershey?s entry is a natural winner, since it delivers the sweet, rich taste for which the brand is famous. Great when teamed with fruit, bread, crackers or pretzels, Hershey?s Spreads come in chocolate, chocolate and almond, and chocolate with hazelnut varieties. (Hershey has at least one other spread in the offing, which we can?t wait to hit store shelves later this year.)

    Hidden Villa Ranch NestFresh Non-GMO Free Range Eggs


    The demand for non-GMO food products has been steadily increasing, so these new free-range eggs from Hidden Villa Ranch should be welcome in the kitchens of like-minded consumers. NestFresh?s line of eggs is produced on family farms that use sustainable farming methods and humane animal welfare practices. Available in white and brown, the eggs are verified by the Non-GMO Project.

    Hope Foods Sriracha Hummus


    Sriracha is all the rage right now, and we loved this bold twist on the trendy snack dip. Hope Foods hits several hot selling points with this product: non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, kosher and, according to the company, the only 100 percent USDA-certified organic sriracha on the market. The kick of the pepper sauce, mellowed by the cool smoothness of hummus, makes for a great taste experience.

    Hormel Skippy Singles


    Putting a consumer favorite in a more convenient format makes this product a winner for us. These Skippy single-serve cups are great for on-the-go snacking, portion control, and easy dipping or spreading. The product comes in clear resealable canisters of six individually sealed 1.5-ounce cups. Skippy Singles are available in two varieties: Creamy Peanut Butter and Natural Creamy Peanut Butter Spread, the latter of which is 100 percent natural and free of preservatives, artificial flavors or colors.

    House-Autry Mills Stone Ground Dinner Grits


    This traditional Southern side dish is easy to prepare, and being stone-ground makes it unique (and arguably healthier) among its peers. We especially liked the Creole flavor, which we had for breakfast with bacon and eggs ? great taste and pleasing aroma. These grits also come in Broccoli and Cheddar and Parmesan and Herb varieties. House-Autry Mills recommends adding chicken, shrimp or scallops for a complete meal in 20 minutes.

    InnovAsian Cuisine Lemon Grass Kitchen Entrées


    We were impressed by the quality and freshness of the ingredients in these microwaveable Asian multiserve entrées in InnovAsian?s Lemon Grass Kitchen line. They were developed in cooperation with Mai Pham, chef/owner of the Lemon Grass and Star Ginger restaurants in Sacramento, Calif., considered one of the United States? leading experts in Southeast Asian cuisine. The Thai-Style Chicken Fried Rice is simple but well executed. Other varieties include Beef & Broccoli Noodles, Chicken Pad Thai, Lemongrass Chicken Stir-Fry, Red Curry Sauce with Chicken, and Shrimp Pad Thai.

    Inventure Foods Boulder Canyon Arise Cereal ? Dark Chocolate


    Adults and kids alike on PG?s tasting panel loved this yummy cereal, both as a snack right out of the box or in a bowl with milk. These whole grain baked squares feature a delicious dark chocolate center filling. At 130 calories per serving, they are minimally processed and deliver 9 grams of fiber. Arise also comes in a Greek Yogurt variety.

    Italian Rose Old El Paso Salsas and Dips


    Fresh ingredients make all the difference in delivering a fresh taste, and freshness is the hallmark of this Old El Paso branded line of salsas and dips from Italian Rose. They?re so simple, yet so delicious. The products are made from fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, onions, cilantro and jalapeños, and never heat-processed. Varieties include Chorizo Chipotle Queso, Bacon Chipotle Queso, Guacamole with Salsa, and Chunky Tomato Cilantro.

    Jack Link?s Small Batch Handcrafted Beef Jerky


    We have jerky connoisseurs on our staff ? make that jerky junkies ? so this latest release from jerky giant Jack Link?s was an absolute treat. Taking the c-store snack upscale, this jerky is made with hand-cut slices of tender beef, slow-cooked in small batches and smoked in a traditional smokehouse. Peppered No. 15 offers a nice black-pepper bite, while Original No. 11 and Teriyaki No. 17 also delivers on quality and flavor.

    Jel Sert Almond Joy and Mounds Pudding Dessert Mixes


    This item reminded us of the instant chocolate pudding that Mom used to make for a quick fridge-based treat on school nights. Co-branding with two popular candy bar brands, Jel Sert faithfully delivers their flavor profiles in pudding form. The Almond Joy contains real coconut and almond bits, while Mounds offers dark chocolate pudding paired with real coconut. They?re quick, simple and convenient to prepare. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don?t ? and we?re nuts about these puddings.

    Just Born Peeps Minis


    Peeps Minis are definitely a break for Just Born?s Peeps marshmallow treats, as they?re the first in the venerable line to be positioned as a year-round treat. Miniature versions of treats are ubiquitous, but this is a brand extension that really makes sense, given the strong holiday focus of traditional Peeps. Minis varieties include Strawberry Crème, Chocolate Crème and Sour Watermelon chicks, all of which weigh in at barely 14 calories each.

    Kellogg?s Eggo Pancake Bites ? Chocolatey Chip


    Eggo is a fun brand, and The Kellogg Co. continues to bring excitement and innovation to the breakfast category. Exhibit A: Eggo Pancake Bites, tasty treats studded with chocolatey chips. These easy-to-eat portable pancakes are designed to be eaten away from the table during the hectic morning rush. The?re heated in a microwaveable pouch for easy prep with minimal cleanup. Watch the cooking time ? our samples were still cold after being heated for the recommended duration, so users may need to experiment with the best time for their own ovens.

    Kelllogg?s Eggo Thick & Fluffy Minis ? Chocolate Delight


    Exhibit B (see page 54) is Eggo Thick & Fluffy Mini waffles. Young and old testers alike enjoyed this playful take on the time-honored Eggo waffle. Made with real chocolate, these tiny waffles can be eaten without syrup. They?re great for breakfast as well as snacking. As with the pancake bites profiled on page 54, watch the cooking time ? they got slightly burned when we let them go the full duration in our toaster.

    Kettle Brand Sriracha Potato Chips


    One of our other favorite sriracha-laced entries this year was this welcome addition to Kettle Brand?s collection of super-spicy flavors. Fans of the trendy blood-red sauce should love these ? Kettle?s uber-crunchy chips enveloped with bold chili-garlic-vinegar flavor. Like all Kettle Brand chips, these are made with natural ingredients, feature no artificial flavors or preservatives, and are verified by the Non-GMO Project.

    LaCroix Cúrate Beverages


    LaCroix has upped its game in the flavor department with the new Cúrate (pronounced ?coo-RAH-tay?) line of sparkling water beverages. Packaged in tall cans, Cúrate has an enhanced flavor profile over its core line while retaining LaCroix?s calorie-, sweetener-, sodium- and sugar-free qualities. The new line offers two flavor combinations: Cerise Limón (Cherry Lemon) and Pomme Bayá (Apple Berry). Cúrate means ?to cure yourself,? and if you?re out to cure your thirst from less-clean-labeled soft drinks, this one?s for you.

    La Pasta Inc. Ravioli


    Colorful, tasty La Pasta Ravioli deliver as promised: delightful, delicious, distinctive pastas, and with a clean label to boot. PG editors were particularly taken with the Roasted Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella & Arugula Ravioli, in part because arugula isn?t commonly featured in prepared ravioli, and the tomatoes, roasted in-house, are flavorful. The way the pastas are presented gives the pastas ?plate appeal? ? the different colors lend elegance and uniqueness.

    Lark Fine Foods Mighty Gingers


    These ?cookies for grownups? are worth squirreling away from the kids. Appreciate them for the small-batch, high-quality treats they are, not as crispy as a gingersnap, but with a heartier bite than gingerbread ? and oh, can you taste the ginger! The price tag puts them in the specialty category, but we see these as a good supermarket fit because of the great taste and attractive paperboard ?bag? overwrap on cellophane packaging.

    Litehouse Foods Instantly Fresh Herbs


    We were thoroughly impressed by the Instantly Fresh line of freeze-dried herbs from Litehouse Foods. The items? simplicity and longevity makes them more convenient, and a great way for home cooks previously intimidated by using fresh herbs to get their feet wet. Just rehydrate them with water, and you?re good to go for any recipe. In Litehouse?s delicate freeze-drying process, the herbs? shape, color, nutrients and flavor are naturally preserved. We loved using these herbs in the kitchen. The latest varieties are Sage and Thyme; there are also Garlic and an Italian blend, among others.

    Live Kombucha Soda


    It?s hard to differentiate in the CSD category, but Live Soda LLC does so with its line of Live Kombucha Soda. It might still be too early for kombucha, a lightly effervescent fermented sweetened black or green tea beverage, to attract mainstream CSD consumers, but the company?s taking the right steps. Culture Cola, Sparkling Ginger, Pure Doctor, Living Limon, Revive Root Beer and Dreamy Orange are varieties that follow mainstream favorites, but the similarity ends there. These sodas are made with raw and organic kombucha with naturally occurring and measured probiotics, flavored by spices, extracts and essential oils. The sodas are tasty, but not in a traditional CSD way, and offer health benefits along with refreshment.

    Luvo Entrées, Flatbread and Frittata


    The Luvo line is the result of a mission to make healthful, nutritionally balanced food available everywhere, and with these microwaveable meals available in grocery stores, on Delta flights and, eventually, in planned Luvo cafes, the brand is well on its way toward that goal. The entrées are cooked using a steam-in-bag process. Our favorite was the Orange Mango Chicken: roasted chicken breast with a tangy orange-mango sauce, green tea-infused whole grains, and steamed kale and broccoli. The Chicken Chili Verde offers Southwest spiciness; the Cherry Tomato and Mozzarella Flatbread features a flaxseed crust; and the Farmer?s Market Frittata includes cage-free low-yolk eggs and poblano chiles. Products tested ranged from 210 to 420 calories.

    Made In Nature Ancient Grain Fusion


    Ancient grains are popular on restaurant menus, but most consumers are too intimidated to cook with them at home. Enter Made in Nature and its Ancient Grain Fusion meals, interesting, flavorful microwaveable (ready in 60 seconds) pouch meals chock-full of organic grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, spices and herbs. The six meal- or side dish-sized varieties are Thai Coconut, Moroccan Bazaar, Cuban Mojo, Tuscan Garlic & Tomato, Mediterranean Feta, and Southwestern. Stunningly, the meals don?t rely on sodium for amazing flavor; most are Non-GMO Project Verified, and contain no added sugars, preservatives or artificial colors.

    Mann Packing Co. Veggies & Hummus Tray


    We like anything that makes it easier for folks to consume more fresh vegetables, and this Veggie & Hummus tray from Mann Packing certainly delivers. The all-in-one serving solution features a mix of fresh-cut vegetables and Sabra classic hummus. Mann says that its lidless tray reduces landfill waste by 2 million pounds annually ? another bonus.

    Mars M&M?s Mega Chocolate Candies


    Even amid a push for portion control, sometimes bigger can still be better, and for a fun brand like M&M?s, it?s pretty cool as well. With larger pieces, M&M?s Mega Candies boast three times more chocolate than regular M&Ms, in both milk chocolate and peanut varieties (the nut is bigger in the Mega size, too). Mars says its focus groups have been asking for larger M&M?s, and the Mega line is expected to bring 50 percent incremental growth to the brand. Just remember: A little indulgence is OK when enjoyed in moderation.

    Mars Snickers Rockin? Nut Road


    What happens when one of America?s favorite candy bars collides with a time-honored ice cream flavor? You get Snickers Rockin? Nut Road, which melds the flavor profile of rocky road with Snickers in this new permanent addition to the Mars candy lineup. The item is packed with marshmallow-flavored nougat covered with crunchy almonds and smothered in dark chocolate. Hard to go wrong here, really.

    Mars Starburst Sorbet Bars


    Starburst Sorbet Bars are a fruity and refreshing addition to the frozen novelty segment, as well as a fun way to strategically extend the popular chewy candy brand, which enjoys a devoted fan base. Available in a 4-count multipack, these sorbet bars deliver a burst of strawberry flavor in a light, delicious sorbet bar.

    McCormick Lawry?s Marinades


    Bold flavors abound in these marinades that offer home cooks a great seasoning option while allowing McCormick to leverage its Lawry?s and Zatarain?s brands. Sweet Southern BBQ delivers sweet, smoky flavors with a blend of tomato, molasses, garlic and Lawry?s Original Seasoned Salt. The Cajun variety is a New Orleans-inspired marinade that includes chili pepper, cumin and oregano. Just watch out if you?re flame-grilling your marinated proteins, as sugars in the sauce have a tendency to burn, making these sauces a better option for indoor-oven cooking, or for applying toward the end of grilling.

    McCormick Slow Cookers


    We at PG love meal solutions, and these Slow Cookers seasoning blends from McCormick offer consumers plenty of options for easy-to-prepare, richly flavored meals. These seasoning mixes infuse slow-cooked meals with flavor while you?re away, making it easier than ever to come home to delicious meals any night of the week. Fiesta Chicken adds a Mexican twist with chili pepper and cumin; French Dip offers garlic, thyme and black pepper; a blend of red wine, thyme, black pepper and garlic makes up Red Wine Braised Roast; and Sweet & Smoky Pulled Chicken delivers paprika, chipotle chile pepper, garlic and molasses.

    McCormick Perfect Pinch


    McCormick has a knack for developing herbs and spices for every level of cooking skill. The latest additions to its Perfect Pinch line are sure to inspire the imagination and creativity of home chefs, and for those needing a little inspiration, there are recipes on every peel-back label. The Asian blend contains sesame seed, garlic, ginger and chile pepper; Bacon and Chive also contains garlic, onion and paprika. The Mexican blend, meanwhile, has chili pepper, garlic, onion and cumin.

    Mediterranean Snacks Tapaz2Go


    A multipack seems like a logical next step for Tapaz2Go, a healthy mini meal or snack solution. Sea salt-flavored, protein-rich lentil crackers are packaged alongside hummus, which comes in Classic, Roasted Garlic, and Red Pepper varieties. The hummus is a tad sweet, but that?s easily overlooked, given that the solution is gluten-free, 250 calories, a good source of protein and portable.

    MegaMex Foods Herdez Bowls


    MegaMex brings authentic Latin flavor profiles to its Herdez-branded line of meal bowls, a fresh take on frozen microwavable meals. They?re simple and quick to prepare for lunch or dinner. We particularly liked the Carnitas & Charro Beans and the Pork Chile Colorado. Also available are Beef Barbacoa, Chicken Chipotle with Spanish Rice, Chicken Mole with Cilantro Rice, Chicken Tinga with Spanish Rice, Pork Al Pastor, and Pork Chile Verde.

    MOM Brands Better Oats Oat Revolution Steel Cut Oatmeal


    Steel-cut oatmeal is just about the best oatmeal you can eat, and MOM Brands (formerly Malt-O-Meal) has made it easier to prepare and more accessible to consumers as part of its instant Oat Revolution line. We really loved this product, especially the steel-cut oatmeal devotee on our staff. It delivers the taste, flavor and health attributes of steel-cut oats after just 2½ minutes in the microwave. With a built-in measuring-cup pouch, the three varieties (Classic, Maple & Brown Sugar, and Apples & Cinnamon) contain flaxseed, carry the 100% Whole Grain Stamp from the Whole Grains Council, and are a good source of fiber and ALA-omega 3.

    Mr. Dee?s Old Bay Seasoned Fries


    The frozen potato segment is seeing a little excitement with these zesty fries dusted with Old Bay seasoning blend, which is licensed from McCormick. This marriage is common on the East Coast, where Old Bay is the default seasoning for many crab boils, and is now being shared with the rest of the country. The natural-cut fries bake up crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and their flavorful coating makes dipping unnecessary.

    Musco Pearls Olives to Go


    Olives for on-the-go eating are a great innovation, offering an ideal brown-bag lunch garnish without the mess and inconvenience of glass jars and brine. These easy-to-open cups stay fresh and tightly sealed until consumers are ready to use them. The four-packs of plastic cups come in three new flavors: Kalamata, Pimiento-Stuffed Spanish Green and Sliced Black Ripe. Great taste, shelf-stability and convenience make these a winner.

    NatureSweet Cherriots Tomatoes


    Mini tomatoes in portable snack packs? Brilliant! NatureSweet Cherriots Tomatoes are flavorful, specially grown microproduce meeting the growing demand for healthy snacking on the go, and sold in convenient, innovative pull-apart three-packs. Each pack contains about dozen red mini tomatoes, the perfect amount to satisfy most snackers. Cherriots represent a huge innovation in better-for-you snacking.

    Naturipe Farms Bouquet Pack Long-Stem Strawberries


    This one earned points for style and giving fresh fruit a premium boost. These specially grown long-stem strawberries are packed in a unique clamshell designed to mimic a box of roses. The pack?s unique shape, color and clear window impart a sense of ?something special? inside, making them a healthy and tasty alternative for special-occasion gift-giving. These berries will enhance produce displays while offering grocers an effective merchandising tool to promote a higher-margin item.

    Nestlé PowerBar Protein Plus


    Protein is king, and Nestlé?s PowerBar ProteinPlus is chock-full of it ? 20 grams in each 270-calorie bar. It provides densely packed nourishment that will definitely stave off hunger. Meal replacement bars are trending high, and this one is well positioned for success. The bar is available in two flavors: Chocolate Mint Cookie and Peanut Butter Cookie.

    Noosa Coconut Yoghurt


    In a sea of Greek yogurt ? which has its benefits and its fans ? Noosa is a refreshing change of pace. This Australian-style yogurt has a dessert-like richness, but still contains all of the health benefits of protein-packed probiotics. The new coconut variety, not common among other brands, is particularly delicious. Yes, we?re fans of Noosa, and even though we don?t mind eating the whole 8-ounce tub in one sitting, a smaller cup size would be a welcome addition to the line.

    Norseland Jarlsberg Minis


    Jarsberg cheese is a longtime consumer favorite, and this mini version is a welcome addition to the market. Jarlsberg Minis elevate grab-and-go snacking to gourmet level with their premium quality and distinctively mild, mellow and nutty flavor. Five 20-gram minis ? dipped in wax and wrapped in cellophane to replicate the familiar Jarlsberg wheel ? come packed in 100-gram bags for easy deli merchandising. All-natural and 70 calories apiece, Jarlsberg Minis are a good source of calcium and protein.

    Oscar Mayer P3 Portable Protein Pack


    Snacks are the new meals, and protein gives snacks more value. To that end, the P3 Portable Protein Pack has it going on. Made up of four combinations of Oscar Mayer Selects Meat, Kraft Natural Cheeses and Planters Nuts, P3 was designed for active people looking for a protein-packed snack to help keep them going strong all day. Each pack contains at least 13 grams of protein, in four varieties: Applewood Smoked Turkey, Marbled Colby & Monterey Jack Cheese, and Dry Roasted Almonds; Applewood Smoked Ham, Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese and Dry Roasted Almonds; Rotisserie Seasoned Chicken, Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese and Dry Roasted Peanuts; and Slow Roasted Turkey Breast, Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese and Dry Roasted Peanuts.

    Pacific Foods Organic Hummus


    Hummus is fast becoming a snacking staple, and this product from Pacific Foods makes it easier to keep on hand for healthy snacking or last-minute party hosting. Available in Classic, Garlic and Roasted Red Pepper flavors, these handy new dips are shelf-stable in BPA-free cartons, contain a third fewer calories and 40 percent less fat than the leading refrigerated brand, and feature organic ingredients. Grab them straight out of the pantry or chill them in the fridge before stirring and serving.

    PB Crave Cookie Nookie Natural Peanut Butter


    PB Crave puts a cool new twist on traditional peanut butter, and our favorite of the bunch is Cookie Nookie. The natural peanut butter is twisted with natural cookie dough flavor, milk chocolate chips and real honey. Made in small batches, PB Crave peanut butters contain no hydrogenated oil, artificial flavors, syrups or high-fructose corn syrup, and are free of gluten and cholesterol.

    PepsiCo Quaker IQO Protein Oatmeal


    Boosting the protein profile of an already healthful product makes this one a winner. Quaker?s new IQO Protein Oatmeal contains 10 grams of protein per 240-calorie serving, along with 40 grams of whole grains. Instant prep makes it easier to eat a better-for-you breakfast.

    PepsiCo Quaker Real Medleys Cereal


    We appreciated the bits of real fruit, along with the crunchy nuts, in this new cereal from Quaker, which was apparently busy innovating around the morning daypart this past year. Available in Cherry Almond Pecan and Peach Apple Walnut varieties, Real Medleys is a hearty multigrain cereal line in which the clusters and inclusions enjoyably outnumber the flakes by more than two to one. This is a great addition to the RTE cereal aisle.

    PepsiCo Quaker Warm and Crunchy Granola


    Granola usually gets soft when you heat it, but Quaker has overcome that hurdle for lovers of crunch with its new Warm and Crunchy Granola, great for breakfast or an anytime snack. Containing the same amount of fiber and whole grains as oatmeal, the item is made with a new technology that allows the oat clusters to stay crunchy in milk, even when heated. PepsiCo reports that the product is already driving strong incremental growth to the category, and we think consumers will continue to enjoy this new taste and texture experience.

    PepsiCo Starbucks Refreshers ? Blueberry Açai


    Starbucks ?revitalized and relaunched? its sparkling Refreshers line with the introduction of Blueberry Açaí. Made with 25 percent real fruit juice, B vitamins, ginseng, and caffeine from green coffee extract ? but featuring no coffee flavor ? Blueberry Açaí is a light, more-tangy-than-sweet refreshing carbonated beverage. The Refreshers line marks a welcome departure for the beverage category, featuring a clean label, subtle energy and a healthy halo.

    Perdue Pretzel and Waffle Chicken Styx


    Jumping on multiple trends relating to waffles, pretzels and the pairing of sweet with savory, Perdue has a foodservice deli winner with its Pretzel and Waffle Chicken Styx. Also available in a Bites format, these breaded morsels come par-fried, quick-frozen and ready to cook by your service deli team. Made from premium breast meat that?s marinated and lightly breaded in either a waffle or pretzel coating, the product makes for a delicious, high-protein, on-the-go snack. We found both options delectable, especially when dipped in a little real maple syrup.

    Phillips Seafood Skillets


    Phillips has extended the brand equity of its Baltimore-based restaurants to the grocers? freezers with this line of restaurant-quality Seafood Skillet entrées. They were developed by restaurant chefs aiming to provide home users with a near-effortless meal in minutes. We enjoyed the New Orleans Style Shrimp for its Cajun kick, and the fresh, crisp veggies of the Mediterranean Style Shrimp. Also available are Parmesan Crab & Shrimp Ravioli, Creamy Parmesan Shrimp Alfredo, Garlic & White Wine Shrimp, and Asian Style Crispy Orange Shrimp.

    Rana Tortellini and Tortelloni


    ?Solutions? is the key naming element of Rana Meals Solutions Chicken Mozzarella Tortelloni. The 12-ounce package is the right size for a family of three or four. The stand-up pouch is unique, employing paper as an overwrap to plastic, but leaving a window to see the product. It does a nice job of conveying simply made quality. The callouts on the package also sum up the product: ?made with white meat chicken only? and ?thin pasta.? We also enjoyed the Pesto Cheese Tortellini offering. This one earned all forks up as a firm family favorite.

    Ready Pac Bistro Bowl Wrap Kits


    The fresh produce in Ready Pac Bistro Bowls delivers a level of health to brown-bag lunches. One editor lamented that they weren?t available when she was in school, dwelling on all of those missed lunch opportunities. Each kit contains enough fixings for two wraps or a hearty salad: greens, shredded carrots, red cabbage, protein, a packet of sauce/dressing, and tortillas. Varieties include Turkey Avocado Ranch, Chicken Caesar, Thai Peanut Crunch, Chicken Bacon Ranch, Buffalo Style Chicken, and Garlic & Herb Caesar with Roasted Chicken. A fork is included, but an added napkin or wipe would complete the package.

    Reser?s Stonemill Kitchens Spinach Artichoke Bread Bowl


    Reser?s has made it easier to enjoy a favorite restaurant appetizer at home with the Spinach Artichoke Bread Bowl from its Stonemill Kitchens line. You heat the rich, creamy spinach-and-artichoke dip in the microwave while warming the hollowed-out sourdough bread bowl in the oven. Pour the hot, savory dip into the toasty loaf, and start ripping and dipping. We think folks will find this, as we did, to be a fast party favorite.

    Rudi?s White English Muffins


    What?s so special about white English muffins? Rudi?s are the only nationally available products of their type on the market carrying the USDA organic seal. Additionally, they?re made with non-GMO ingredients, so they fill multiple voids in a market facing increasing demand for both product qualifiers. With no artificial preservatives, these muffins deliver 120 calories and 4 grams of protein apiece.

    Salem Baking Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies


    We admit to an affinity for most of the goodies coming out of the ovens at Salem Baking Co., so we were confident that when its bakers ventured into gluten-free territory, they?d have a winner ? and we were right. These ?delightfully thin and crispy cookies? are made with all-natural ingredients, including milk and semisweet chocolate chips. Their price tag is a bit higher than most store-bought cookies, but they stand a tier above most as well. The cookies also come in Caramel Chocolate Chip and White Chocolate Macadamia with Toasted Coconut, both of which we hope to try soon.

    Sandridge Layered Selections


    These entrées and salads from Sandridge Food Corp. help bridge the gap between scratch cooking and deli prepared foods or restaurant takeout. Handmade-quality Layered Selections are fresh, minimally processed and designed for time-starved consumers who still want to take part in meal prep. Produced in small batches with superior ingredients, they are as easy as opening the BPA-free pouch, pouring into a bowl, and serving either cold or after a few minutes in the microwave. Our hands-down favorite was the Southern Style Three Bean Salad; Black Eyed Pea Salad and Mediterranean Style Pasta Salad are the other cold varieties. The hot entrées are Grilled White Chicken Pasta Alfredo, Cheesy Mac & Cheese, and Spaghetti & Meatballs.

    Schwan?s Freschetta Gluten Free Pizza


    Some of the best frozen pizzas available today are made by Schwan?s under its Freschetta brand, so we were hopeful they?d do a good job with their gluten-free version, and we were amply rewarded. The 4 Cheese Medley and Signature Pepperoni varieties sit atop a light, airy and crispy gluten-free crust comparable in taste and texture to ones that those of us without such dietary restrictions usually enjoy. The product is certified by the Celiac Sprue Association. We recommend baking it on a pizza stone for extra crunch.

    Simply 7 Snacks Quinoa Chips


    Simply 7 Snacks addresses a lot of hot-button food trends with its Quinoa Chips, which are extruded snacks similar in appearance to multigrain snack chips such as SunChips. Aside from the familiar shape, though, these chips are singularly their own, boasting the highest protein count in the chip aisle, at 8 to 9 grams per serving. Varieties include Sea Salt, Cheddar, Barbecue, and Sour Cream & Onion. The first ingredient listed on all varieties is quinoa flour, and the chips are additionally gluten-free, Non-GMO Project Verified and vegetarian.

    Smart Flour Uncured Pepperoni Pizza


    We were impressed by this gluten-free pizza from Smart Flour, whose namesake innovation is a blend of the ancient grains amaranth, sorghum and teff. The maker claims this flour makes a better crust than the rice or potato blends of rival products, and we?d be hard-pressed to dispute that. This pizza?s clean label includes cheese made with milk from rGBH-free cows and pork from vegetarian, antibiotic-free hogs. The box says two servings, but unless you?re a really light eater, you?re going to eat the whole thing. Smart Flour makes doing that a little less guilt-inducing.

    SunRidge Farms Peanut Butter Power Chews


    SunRidge Farms makes lots of tasty treats, and our favorite this year was its Peanut Butter Power Chews. Made from all-natural, wholesome, energy-packed ingredients such as crunchy peanut butter, real honey and brown rice crisps, these convenient bite-size cubes are great for a boost of energy while on the go. We enjoyed their peanutty taste and chewy texture. They?re non-GMO, KSA kosher dairy, cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat, as well as offering 5 grams of protein and nearly 12 grams of whole grains per serving.

    How We Roll Party-Tizers Dippin? Chips


    At first glance, we didn?t think these Party-Tizers Dippin? Chips were innovative or unique, but we were soon proved wrong. For one, Potato Sea Salt Dippin? Chips are the first potato crisp designed for dipping, as demonstrated by their deep scoop shape. And while there have long been scoop-shaped tortilla chips, we haven?t seen many made from ingredients like kale, carrots, spinach, quinoa, amaranth or adzuki beans. All varieties ? Potato Sea Salt, Veggie, Super Grain and Fiesta Bean ? are certified non-GMO, gluten-free and vegan, with ?no artificial anything.? We really enjoyed the flavor and rustic texture of the bean and grain chips, which are actually good enough not to dip.

    Toufayan Pita Chips


    Not another pita chip, you say? Well, not so fast ? while most pita chips are shards of full-size pita bread, Toufayan?s chips are individual mini pitas, each perfectly scoop-shaped for dipping in your favorite tzatziki or hummus. Standouts were unique flavors like Feta & Olive and Za?atar, along with the healthy Multigrain; Sea Salt and Sugar & Cinnamon round out the line.

    Tres Latin Pupusas


    Authentic ethnic food is trending strong, and El Salvadoran cuisine is gradually making the move from food carts to neighborhood storefronts to restaurants and ? next stop ? grocery stores. A cornerstore of the cuisine is the pupusa, a stuffed corn (or flour) tortilla, brought to the supermarket freezer case by Tres Latin. Its pupusas are produced with organic, non-GMO corn masa and come in four varieties: Spinach and Cheese (our favorite), Pinto Bean and Cheese, Green Chile and Cheese, and Black Bean and Sweet Corn. They?re naturally gluten-free and a tasty change of pace from other Latin cuisines that have already gone mainstream.

    Truly Good Dip & Devour Peanut Butter Melts


    The latest addition to Truly Good?s Dip & Devour line helps make snacking fun while encouraging consumption of fruit and veggies with just a smidgeon of indulgence. Packaged in a resealable and microwaveable container, this dip melts, cools and hardens like chocolate. Thirty seconds in the microwave, and it?s ready for celery sticks, apples, bananas or other snacks to be dipped in it. Leftovers can be refrigerated and reheated later.

    Unilever Breyers Gelato Endulgences


    Ice cream, sauce and toppings all in one container ? that?s Breyers Gelato Endulgences, a rich and decadent frozen dessert. We particularly enjoyed the Vanilla Caramel and Tiramisu; the line also comes in Raspberry Cheesecake and Triple Chocolate. This multifaceted treat is a terrific addition to the grocery store ice cream freezer.

    Valley Fine Foods Three Bridges Entrées


    We had a few favorites from among the new Three Bridges line of microwaveable entrées. The Chicken and Yellow Rice variety is a Latin-inspired dish that delivers on trend and with exceptional quality. Chicken, black beans, roasted red peppers and Cuban-style yellow rice are combined with seasonings ? a nice clean label ? to create a tasty dish. Sausage and Jalapeño Mac & Cheese is a fine balance of spicy and creamy, while the Sausage and Basil Lasagna with Zucchini and Mozzarella is hearty and authentic. At 20 ounces, the entrées are large enough to feed three hearty eaters, making the price palatable as well. Also available are Chicken Enchilada Casserole and Chicken Paella with Chorizo and Roasted Peppers.

    Vintage Italia Pasta Chips


    Tasty, satisfyingly crunchy and well seasoned, these innovative oven-baked chips have 60 percent less fat than regular potato chips and 30 percent less fat than pita chips. Our favorite? Hmmm ? that?s a toughie. We really liked the Alfredo, a flavor you?re not going to find in other chips, but Garlic Olive Oil packs a nice garlic punch; Spicy Tomato Herb offers a pleasant kick, a notch up from the savory Marinara variety; and the Sea Salt, with a simple flavor profile, is great for dipping. Made from durum wheat semolina flour, Pasta Chips are kosher and non-GMO.

    Wynn?s Seasoning Spices


    These spice blends come in large 18.5-ounce bottles for home use, or for grocers to make available to deli customers looking to add punch to their hot-bar orders. The line offers a great variety of flavor profiles that are great for recipes. The BBQ Blend did an admirable job as a dry rub for smoked pork shoulder, while the Garlic & Herb Blend worked well on pasta and garlic bread. Other flavors are Lemon & Pepper, Cajun, Chipotle and Tuscan Herb.

    Yuengling?s Vanilla Fudge Chunk with Pretzels Ice Cream


    Yuengling, the nation?s oldest still-operating brewery, made ice cream during Prohibition. Family descendents have since revived the ice cream line in grand fashion with a host of premium quart flavors. Our favorite is the brand?s newest, Vanilla Fudge Chunk with Pretzels. We love sweet and salty, and this ice cream flavor delivers on that promise: classic vanilla married with rich fudge, enhanced by the crunch of salty pretzel pieces. We look forward to the opportunity to try as many of the other flavors as possible.

    Zilks Artichoke & Parmesan Greek Yogurt Dip


    Greek yogurt is still the rage, and it?s likely because of products like Zilks Artichoke & Parmesan Greek Yogurt dip. Zilks serves up a healthy alternative to mayonnaise-/sour cream-/cream cheese-based artichoke-and-parmesan dips. The $5.99 SRP is fair for this quality product, but the premium message will have to be communicated to consumers. Our only disappointment is that, at press time, the product wasn?t mentioned on the company?s website.

    Zilks Hatch Green Chili Tzatziki


    Zilks Hatch Green Chili Tzatziki is a smooth and creamy Greek yogurt-based dip with generous chunks of cucumber, dill, garlic and Southwestern Hatch green chilies, the last of which deliver a satisfying bite cooled by the yogurt. It?s a great dip for veggies and pita chips; Zilks suggests it as a baked-potato topping.

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    • About Jim Dudlicek As editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer, Jim Dudlicek oversees daily operations of the magazine, spearheads its signature features, produces PG’s monthly Trend Alert newsletter on center store issues, moderates its regular webcast series, and writes and comments about a wide range of grocery issues. A food industry journalist since 2002, Jim came to PG in June 2010 after covering the dairy industry for 7½ years, during which time he served as chief editor of Dairy Field and Dairy Foods magazines. A graduate of Marquette University, Jim is fascinated by how truly progressive grocers inspire consumers to enjoy food, transforming the industry from mere merchants into educators that can take the most basic of all necessities and turn it into something profound and life-enhancing.

    Related Content

    Related Content