Leftovers is our look at a few of the product ideas popping up everywhere. Some are intriguing, some sound amazing and some are the kinds of ideas we would never dream of. We can’t write about everything that we get pitched, so here are some leftovers pulled from our inboxes.
Hostess rings the bell on sweet brand mashup
Hostess is bringing together two of its popular snack brands.
The Kansas-based company is entering mashups with Hostess Ding Dongs x Twinkies. The offering includes the moist, spongy cake and creamy filling from Twinkies enrobed in the rich, fudgy chocolate frosting of Ding Dongs.
The Hostess Ding Dongs x Twinkies Mashups come in a 10-count multi-pack and are starting to roll out at Walmart stores nationwide this month. The snack is a permanent addition to Hostess’s portfolio.
“It’s so important for us to be focused on our portfolio transformation,” Andy Callahan, Hostess’ CEO, said in an interview earlier this year.
Hostess Brands has poured big money to promote two of its most recent launches, including spending more than a million dollars each for its new Kazbars, a candy-bar-inspired innovation, and the 2022 debut of Bouncers, tiny versions of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Donettes.
In the case of the Hostess Ding Dongs x Twinkies Mashup, Hostess taps into the popularity and best-known attributes of each offering to create a new innovative item that could attract consumers inundated with snack choices.
Food companies are no stranger to tapping into existing brand equity to create something new.
Last year, Mondelēz International created an extremely limited RitzxOreo mashup sandwich cookie. The cookie is one half Oreo — with the dark chocolate cookie and signature creme filling — and one half Ritz Peanut Butter Sandwich — with the buttery cracker and savory peanut butter. Utz has also launched a line of potato chips flavored with the orange cheesy powder from the plastic-jar favorite Utz Cheese Balls.
— Christopher Doering
Harpoon launches a THC-based beverage: Rec. Weed
Boston-based Harpoon brewery has launched their first THC-based beverage: Rec. Weed.
Made in partnership with Massachusetts' Novel Beverage Company, the brew is described in a press release as “a hop-forward yet approachable beverage made with 5 milligrams of THC, real passion fruit puree, green tea, and hops at only 25 calories and 3 grams of sugar per can.”
Rec. Weed is said to have “a clean, crisp finish that encourages consumers to kick back at the end of a long day and unwind with a new kind of drink in their hand.”
The Rec. Weed ales can be found in Massachusetts and Maine dispensaries, for now.
Rec. Weed is brewed without fermentation so it has no alcohol in it. The company described the process as having “a base of green tea and a bit of added sugar, followed by the cold steeping of Citra and other West Coast hop oils and passionfruit puree.”
THC is then added to the liquid base, and the drink is carbonated like beer, the company said. Harpoon claimed this process imparts minimal THC aroma or flavor, and allows people to feel its effects quicker than common edibles because it is absorbed into the drink.
The launch of Rec. Weed marks the second step into marijuana-inspired products for Harpoon’s parent company, Mass. Bay Brewing Company, with the first being Long Trail’s CBD Seltzer.
"The adult beverage space is constantly evolving. With THC now legalized in states across much of the country – especially here in the Northeast – we saw not only high demand for a THC-based beverage, but an opportunity to experiment in a way that would uniquely leverage our strengths in the beer world," said Dan Kenary, CEO and co-founder of Harpoon in the press release.
The cannabis-infused beverages sector is currently in a bit of a state of limbo after the FDA failed to regulate it nationally early this year. With an abundance of new beverage offerings from brands like Jones Soda in states where THC products are allowed to be sold, the failure to have a national law has halted wider adoption. Still, companies in the space are seeing heightened momentum and plan on expanding to more states once they are able to do so.
According to Colorado-based BDSA, a market research firm that specializes in tracking legal cannabis, “while other edible subcategories such as chocolates and infused foods are losing share across the most mature BDSA-tracked markets, beverages are holding strong, and even gaining across most markets.”
BDSA said that dollar sales of marijuana beverages are up by 65 percent from 2020 to 2021 in the 12 states they track.
— Rose Palazzolo
Carbone spices up premium sauce line
The brand known for its famous New York City Italian restaurant has debuted its latest pasta sauce flavor for consumers, its signature Spicy Vodka.
The product is based off of its popular dish, Spicy Rigatoni Vodka, to allow fans to create it at home.
The sauce includes ingredients like Calabrian chili peppers and slow-cooked onions. Carbone said the tomatoes it uses for its sauces are grown in volcanic ash in Italy, and cooked in small batches, it said. The sauce is designed to be finished with cream at home. It was developed by restaurant’s founders Mario Carone and Rich Torrisi.
Carbone CEO Eric Skae said in the press release launching new varieties has helped the brand quickly gain traction in the crowded pasta sauce category, which he attributed to its commitment to high-quality ingredients.
"The release of Spicy Vodka presents a tremendous opportunity for growth and the highly sought after recipe is now available to fans of the brand nationwide,” Skae said.
Carbone also sells Marinara, Arrabiata, Tomato Basil and Roasted Garlic varieties of its pasta sauce. It first opened its Greenwich Village, Manhattan restaurant in 2013.
Premiumization continues to drive consumer interest even as they deal with inflation at the grocery store. The sector’s growth is often driven by products that feature better-for-you or sustainable attributes — which consumers are often willing to pay more for — according to 2022 IRI data.
The pasta sauce category has seen several premium entrants in recent years as consumer interests evolve. Hot sauce brand Truff, which has seen viral success on social media in recent years, debuted a line of pasta sauces in 2020, including a Black Truffle Arrabiata flavor.
— Chris Casey