WHAT'S NEW

As the old year draws to a close and the new one beckons, the trade traditionally likes to look at what happened during the past year, and what are likely to be some of the trends and product "winners" in the new year.Gathering steam on what I call a "trend wagon," we will see more "dual branded" items on retail shelves. It is already reasonably prevalent in the baking category. I expect to see it

As the old year draws to a close and the new one beckons, the trade traditionally likes to look at what happened during the past year, and what are likely to be some of the trends and product "winners" in the new year.

Gathering steam on what I call a "trend wagon," we will see more "dual branded" items on retail shelves. It is already reasonably prevalent in the baking category. I expect to see it gather momentum as manufacturers tackle the high costs of promotion and marketing and the advantages (and disadvantages) of piggybacking on each other's recognition factor among established and potential customers/consumers. In some case, where a company is in diverse businesses, it makes some sense to tie-in two products from the same company, boosting the fortunes of both brands -- but only when it makes some common sense! Multi-company dual-branding, however, seems to be more typical.

Pillsbury is working with Creamy Candy Frosting, "With real Heath Toffee pieces." Heath Bars, owned by Leaf, Inc., have been very active participants in a number of branded ingredient combinations, ranging from ice cream to the baking category. When you watch the company behind the brand, (ie: who you work with and the presentation at retail), it can be a win-win situation for all concerned. Pillsbury is also working with Nutter Butter Bars with peanut butter topping, and has been marketing Oreo Bars, using ingredients made from the world's most famous cookie, from Nabisco.

Betty Crocker, from General Mills, has "New" Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars, made with Reese's Peanut Butter Chips. The company also has had M&Ms Brand Cookie Bars, "with mini baking 'M&Ms.' " Raspberry Bars with Kraft Raspberry filling, Caramel Oatmeal Bars with Real Kraft Caramel, Sunkist Lemon Bars, and Chocolate and Toffee Bars with real Heath Toffee Pieces. (Interesting to note both Betty Crocker and Pillsbury are or have been working with Heath Toffee Pieces.)

And by way of "sharing the load," a slightly different approach was noted in a recent coupon insert. We think we could see lots more of this, too. Three entirely different companies combined to take a half-page space, under a "Garlic Mania!" banner. Listed were DaVinci's pasta fusilli tossed with fresh vegetables and smothered in Cardini Zesty Garlic Dressing. These were to be complemented with Fantastic Foods Instant Northern Italian Rice & Beans, "for a hearty, zesty meal in minutes."

And for a "hot" product going into 1995 -- is a prune a prune? Are we going to see prunes come out from behind their joke-filled reputation? Sunsweet offers "Prunes with Pizazz!" "A twist of real orange or lemon essence makes them irresistible!" Lemon or Orange Essence Pitted Prunes are the newest assault on the reputation they so undeservedly get from the likes of David and Jay!

Robert McMath is a new-product consultant and director of the New Products Showcase & Learning Center in Ithaca, N.Y.