October 2011: Extra Secret Shopper Finds
For the second straight year, at SNA’s Annual National Conference (ANC), School Nutrition magazine assembled a discerning group of “Secret Shoppers,” who were charged with seeking out the most exciting items on display in the Exhibit Hall in Nashville. Each year, the magazine’s shoppers are given a simple, straight-forward mission: Tell us what products caught your eye—and why.
By using an independent team of operators to identify the creative innovations they find most intriguing, School Nutrition can ensure that we’re highlighting products with genuine potential to excite school nutrition professionals.
Click on Secret Shopper: Mission Nashville to see the top 30 picks identified by this year’s Secret Shopper team and published in the October issue of School Nutrition magazine. Below, in alphabetical order, are an additional 30 products and solutions that earned notice.
Company: AmeriQual Group, LLC
Website: www.ameriqual.com & www.marketstreetclassics.com
Description: The fully cooked, shelf-stable oatmeal is lightly seasoned and available in individual serving size pouches.
SN Shoppers Said: “The oatmeal tasted great and the concept of fully cooked was, I thought, a great idea. Good for a quick oatmeal bar and requires hardly any time.”
Company: Apple & Eve
Product(s): Fruitables 100
Description: 100% juice blends with fruits and vegetables in a box drink package.
SN Shoppers Said: “This juice tasted great and is packed with vitamins A, C and E. Great for breakfast programs instead of orange or apple juice.”
Product(s): Oven Mitts and Pads
Description: These hand safety products feature a special FLXaPrene™ material that offers superior heat protection with a non-slip grip. Water repellent, stain resistant and dishwasher safe, several sizes and styles of mitts/pads are available.
SN Shoppers Said: “Safe, comfortable and easy to clean. Inside seaming makes it dishwasher safe. Great for protecting staff!”
Product(s): Salad bar; Ultra Camcart® H-Series
Description: Salad bar folds for getting through small doors. The cart is a heated, portable food transporter that can accommodate 720 servings. Can be used for large volume off-premise and satellite feeding. Does not cook food and maintains food moisture.
SN Shoppers Said: “[The cart] is great for catering [needs, where you have] frequent opening and closing. Two employees can lift and use a van to transport.”
Company: Carter Hoffmann
Product(s): DF Series Door-Free Cabinets
Description: Individually heated shelves and removable built-in food covers allow for a variety of holding environments in a single cabinet. Four and five shelf units are stackable. Features digital controls for precise temperature settings.
SN Shoppers Said: “Many kitchens/serving areas are short on space. This product could be used in areas that do not have enough space to open doors.”
Company: Chiquita Brands
Product(s): Chiquita Bites
Description: Bites of apples, carrots or pineapple are washed and sliced and ready to eat from individually packaged stay-fresh pouches. Multiple varieties available, including Apple Bites with Caramel, Carrot Bites with Ranch and Pineapple Bites with Coconut.
SN Shoppers Said: “Good variety and shelf life. Attractive packaging. Versatile for classroom breakfast, afterschool snacks and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. Nice for districts that need packaged items.”
Company: Envy Foods
Product(s): 100% sparkling fruit juice
Description: All-natural juice that includes vitamins A, C and D and calcium and has no artificial flavors, corn syrup, added sugar, preservatives or artificial colors. Flavors: Strawberry Kiwi, Fruit Punch, Fuji Apple, Tropical Mango, Açai Berry.
SN Shoppers Said: “Out of the multiple carbonated juices [on display in the Exhibit Hall], Envy was my choice!”
Company: Evergreen Packaging
Product(s): The Twist-It™ spout carton
Description: An innovative approach to school milk packaging, affirmed by market testing that indicated students found it easier to open the new carton and preferred it to traditional cartons.
SN Shoppers Said: “A great alternative to a plastic bottle that will provide reduced spillage.”
Company: Father’s Table
Product(s): Healthy Bars; Loco2 Squared
Description: Healthy Bars are individually wrapped 2-oz. bars that are 30-10-30 compliant. Each bar is made with 51% whole grain and contains no trans fat or high fructose corn sugar. Could be used for breakfast, lunch, snack or a la carte. Flavors: Cinnamon Honey Crunch, Cocoa “Crunch,” Cherry Apple Crunch. Loco2 Squared: The 3.4-oz., 7-in. square premium style gordita bread is a new addition to the company’s Logo Bread line and can be used for larger entrée sandwiches or individual square pizzas. The company donates 50% of its profits to women’s and children’s charities worldwide.
SN Shoppers Said: “[The Healthy Bar] is ‘delicious.’” Loco2 Squared is a “great change to a very good product—great nutritional whole-grain contribution. A different look to help with different menu applications.”
Company: Fishery Products International/Highliner
Product(s): Oven-ready unbreaded Pollock wedges
Description: Once-frozen Alaska Pollock wedges can be used in a variety of recipes, including tacos. The breading is modeled after popular quick-serve products. The product features a mild flavor with a golden color and crispy breading.
SN Shoppers Said: “A commodity processed item at a very reasonable price [that] tastes great!”
Company: FoodPlay® Productions
Product(s): Nutrition education tools
Description: A fun way for kids (and adults) to use the “Sillybandz” craze to track their fruit and veggie consumption. Users start the day with five bands on the left wrist, transferring one to the right with every fruit or vegetable consumed. Kit includes bands, a process log and fun tips. Can be customized with your own logo or message.
SN Shoppers Said: “This adorable bracelet pack…will help children eat their 5-a-day!”
Company: Gehl Foods
Product(s): Main Street Café Protein Smoothie
Description: Lowfat smoothie that uses real yogurt and real fruit purées. Three flavors: Peach, Strawberry, Mixed Berry. 11-oz. bottles contain 10 g of protein.
SN Shoppers Said: “Great junior/senior high vending option for afterschool. Shelf-stable, good nutrition profile.”
Company: General Mills
Product(s): Mini French Toast
Description: Ovenable pouches of French toast with syrup baked in. Eight mini pieces of toast per pack. Contains 16 g whole grain and is two-bread equivalent. Flavors: Cinnamon Rush and Triple Berry Blast.
SN Shoppers Said: “Another great breakfast item that I think the kids will like.” “A grab ‘n’ go item that can be portable for students without the need for additional condiments.”
Product(s): Heinz® Dip & Squeeze® Ketchup
Description: Condiment portion packets that are fun and kid-friendly, featuring more ketchup and greater versatility.
SN Shoppers Said: “Each is equal to three 0.9-oz. packets—can be opened to squeeze or dip, so they should save on packets and waste.”
Company: Hidden Healthies
Product(s): Entrées, Vegetarian Options, Sides and Tongue Twister Raisins
Description: Deliver stealth nutrition with items fortified with extra vegetables, such as a queso sauce made with white beans, butternut squash and sweet potato or Alfredo sauce made with white beans, zucchini, cauliflower and parsnips. Flavored raisins are available in nine varieties, including Super Sour Lemon, Peach and Orange.
SN Shoppers Said: “The sauces provide a rainbow of vegetables and are very tasty. The Tongue Twister Raisins are infused with flavors that kids love: sour lemon, sour cherry, sour strawberry and sour pineapple.” A new “vegetarian pot pie was a tasty vegetarian choice that would also appeal to [non-vegetarian] students. It was unique; not like anything I’ve seen before.”
Company: Hooray Purée
Product(s): 100% All-Natural Vegetable Purées
Description: An organic vegetable purée that can be used to enhance the nutritional value and taste of any meal. Available in spinach, carrot, broccoli and butternut squash. Add to muffins, brownies, French toast, hamburgers and more.
SN Shoppers Said: “Super! Love the idea of adding veggies to things that kids already like!”
Product(s): Buttery Golden Selects® Mashed Potatoes
Description: Russet and golden mashed potato blend that incorporates golden potatoes, peels and extra butter. Can be served as is or added to recipes made available by Idahoan.
SN Shoppers Said: “A really delicious alternative to ‘plain old’ instant potatoes, with a rich flavor. I plan to consider for my high school menus.”
Product(s): Berry Krispies Chewy Cereal Bar; Stretch Island Fruit Co. stretched fruit
Description: Berry Krispies™ Chewy Cereal Bar: Berry-flavored cereal bar made with Rice Krispies cereal and oats. Can be used as a grab ‘n’ go snack. Has 10 g of whole grain per serving.
SN Shoppers Said: The cereal bar is ideal for “a grab ‘n’ go a la carte option or a pairing with another product for a breakfast option.” Stretch Island Fruit is a “great alternative for a fruit/vegetable component for lunch or breakfast. Finally—a dried fruit snack that tastes great and counts for a 1/2 cup fruit!”
Company: Land O’Lakes, Inc.
Product(s): Cheese Sticks
Description: The company’s line of cheese sticks includes a new flavor: Pepper Jack. Seven varieties are ready to serve in individually wrapped portions. Other flavors include cheddar, mozzarella and “Co-Jack®”.
SN Shoppers Said: “We use cheese sticks in all dayparts—breakfast, lunch , snacks—and there are only two flavors in the market place: Mozzarella and yellow. It’s great to have other flavors now.”
Company: Lakeside Manufacturing
Product(s): Stainless Steel Bowl; Bowl Stand
Description: Bowl stands have reinforced stainless steel tops to withstand rigorous work environments and a lower shelf to accommodate accessories and other supplies. Optional adjustable feet can create a stationary stand.
SN Shoppers Said: “This bowl will be more efficient [than previous models] for my staff when producing Caesar salads, blackberry corn salsas, etc.” “With the increase of salad, pasta and other ‘homemade’ prepared items, this bowl stand would be a handy item. Making work stations as efficient as possible can help improve overall attitudes [toward] the ever-changing menus and requirements.”
Company: Michael’s Bakery Products, LLC/Bonzers
Product(s): Bonzers Breakfast Bars and Reduced Fat Cookies
Description: Bake-and-serve gourmet cookie that is 30/10/30 compliant, 51% whole grain and equals one bread serving. Uses unsweetened applesauce to reduce sugar content and oats and whole-wheat flour to increase fiber content. Cookie flavors: Chocolate Chip, White Chocolate Chip, Vanilla Sugar, Carnival and Oatmeal Raisin.
SN Shoppers Said: “Cost-effective. High-quality taste.”
Company: Midas Foods
Product(s): Yogurt Toppers
Description: Add fruit juice to the yogurt toppings, cook and chill. Then layer with yogurt to provide eye-catching color, flavor and kid appeal. Attracts kids to eat a healthy breakfast or can be offered a la carte. Flavors: Watermelon, Berry Blue, Fruit Punch, Green Apple.
SN Shoppers Said: “Interesting item that might [offer] a new look to marketing yogurt, particularly to younger students.”
Company: MVP Group Corporation
Product(s): GO3 Ozone Purification Systems
Description: Extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables with this unique equipment option. Ozone is used as an oxider, and is considered completely safe, without forming toxic byproducts. It’s considered 51 times as powerful as chlorine and 3,000 times as fast at killing bacteria. The equipment is available in a wall-mounted unit, a dual rack system or a mobile cart option.
SN Shoppers Said: “Clean and environmentally friendly.”
Company: National Watermelon Promotion Board
Product(s): Promotional resources
Description: Everything you need to conduct a “Watermelon Day Celebration” activity. Kit includes a how-to guide, promotional scripts, lesson plans, activities, coloring pages, contest ideas, bulletin board instructions, costume instructions, décor ideas, recipes and fun facts.
SN Shoppers Said: “An awesome way to promote and have fun with watermelon. Can’t wait to plan Watermelon Days for our elementary schools!”
Product(s): Gimme Chocolates Candy
Description: Chocolate candy that offers health benefits. Contains all-natural ingredients. Can choose from the following varieties: Calcium Milk Chocolate Candies, Omega 3 Dark Chocolate Candies, Vitamin D3 Dark Chocolate Candies and Probiotics Dark Chocolate Candies.
SN Shoppers Said: “Good alternative to candy bars in vending.”
Company: Rock N Roll Gourmet, LLC
Product(s): Hippie Chips
Description: Gluten-free, all-natural, lowfat baked potato chips. Flavors include Memphis Blues Barbecue, Woodstock Ranch, Sea of Love Salt and three other varieties.
SN Shoppers Said: “Good flavor profile. Packing should appeal to students.”
Company: Super Bakery
Product(s): Ultra Cup™ Taco Turkey; Snack & Smile™ Combo Danish
Description: Ultra Cup™ Taco Turkey: Oven-baked bread (55% whole wheat) filled with taco-seasoned ground turkey; Snack & Smile™ Combo Danish: Combo-pack case with three flavors of danishes, individually wrapped.
SN Shoppers Said: “I liked the concept and taste of the Ultra Cup™ Taco Turkey.” The Danish combo is “Nice for small schools. Good flavor and nutrition profile.”
Company: Superior Linen & Workwear
Product(s): Banana Cloth
Description: The Banana Cloth is a heavy-duty Microfibre cleaning towel available in four colors.
SN Shoppers Said: “The color and texture of the towel caught my attention. It’s a nice yellow and will not get gray and dirty-looking after a few uses. It is about the same cost as a cotton towel, but will last for over 100 uses and is much more absorbent and quick drying.”
Company: Tasty Brands
Product(s): Breaded Green Beans
Description: Oven-ready vegetables, made with a whole-grain breading; also available with okra.
SN Shoppers Said: “A very good item to encourage students to eat green beans in a fun and tasty way.”
Product(s): Fruit salsas (peach, mango, pineapple); Oatmeal/fruit cups
Description: Salsa in development. Oatmeal/fruit cups: Portioned cup with oatmeal on the bottom and fruit on the top. Comes frozen; thaw and place in a holding cabinet until serving.
SN Shoppers Said: The salsa is “delicious, fresh-tasting, with interesting flavors. Upscale for sophisticated palates. Great addition for my menu.” “Oatmeal is nutritious, but students won’t take it plain. The oatmeal/fruit cups are easy, very appealing and convenient!”