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.
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese dips into ice cream
It’s been a year of comfort food, and Kraft Heinz is partnering with Van Leeuwen to mix together two of the more commonly consumed options: The iconic blue box Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and ice cream.
“We know that there is nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than ice cream. That is why we wanted to combine two of the most iconic comfort foods to create an ice cream with the unforgettable flavor of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese we all grew up with,” Emily Violett, senior associate brand manager for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, said in a written statement.
The ice cream went up for sale on Van Leeuwen’s website this week to commemorate National Ice Cream Day and quickly sold out. Next to a picture of the orange scoops of ice cream in a blue pint container that features the brand’s signature orange noodle, Van Leeuwen’s website description for this flavor is succinct: “You know you’ve always wondered what this mash-up would taste like. Or at least you do now.”
This uncommonly flavored ice cream is just the latest in a collection of unconventional varieties. In 2019, Coolhaus and French’s teamed up to sell a bright yellow mustard-flavored ice cream. Last year, Coolhaus collaborated with Mondelez to create a Crackers & Cream variety featuring buttery Ritz crackers. And earlier this year, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream made a savory Everything Bagel variety.
But if the prospects of eating Kraft Macaroni & Cheese-flavored ice cream aren’t enough for the discerning consumer, the press release from Kraft Heinz and Van Leeuwen plays up the flavor’s clean label aspects. Ingredients are minimal, the release says, and there are no artificial flavors, preservatives and dyes. According to Grub Street, this ice cream’s ingredients include “Kraft cheese sauce mix.”
This mashup is Kraft Heinz’s newest way to innovate one of its oldest and most beloved brands. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the iconic boxed dinner debuted in 1937 and became an affordable American mainstay during the end of the Great Depression and World War II.
While the brand has made incremental ingredient changes and added different noodle shapes, the end product has largely been the same. Since the pandemic started, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese debuted a pink candy flavor for Valentine’s Day, and tested a microwaveable product in a recyclable cup. The scoop from Kraft Heinz: These innovations help its blue box Macaroni & Cheese stay cool.
— Megan Poinski
Coors Light makes a game-winning brew
As the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate winning their second straight Stanley Cup Championship, many fans may not be able to be there in person. But Coors Light is giving them another way to revel in the celebration.
Molson Coors has been quietly scraping and collecting the ice from the team’s rink and transporting it to its hometown brewery in Golden, Colorado, to craft its Coors Light Champions Ice beer.
Coors Light, the official beer of the Lightning, filtered the ice during the brewing process to remove any impurities. The water is then blended into the Coors Light with a higher ABV to make what the company claims is the only beer to ever be brewed with championship ice.
"We’re no strangers to the magic of the ice, both in the arena and outside it,” Marcelo Pascoa, vice president of marketing for the Coors Family of Brands, said in a statement. “And now, we’ve taken that ice and have brewed it into a refreshing beer."
Starting this week, Tampa Bay fans can drink the limited-edition Coors Light Champions Ice at participating local bars.
ESPN said this is not the first time an NHL team has repurposed the same championship ice they play on. The publication said the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks have also bottled it and sold it for charity. It was also made into ice pops during the 2014 playoffs.
Beer companies are no stranger to clever concoctions, especially when it comes to the NHL.
AB InBev-owned Bud Light celebrated the St. Louis Blues and their first-ever championship in 2019 by brewing a special batch of beer infused with the sounds and spirit of the Blues' unofficial victory anthem, "Gloria." To create the beer, Bud Light played the Laura Branigan song on repeat, 24/7 for the entire brewing process. The brand also put mammoth headphones on the brewery tank.
— Christopher Doering
Johnsonville fakes bacon — with sausage
Whether links, patties or crumbles, sausage is a pretty versatile meat. And now, it’s widely available in bacon-like strips from Johnsonville.
Sausage Strips, which are made with fully cooked, smoked pork sausage, are packaged in the same way as bacon, and sold in the same section as precooked varieties. Available in four flavors — original, spicy, maple and chorizo — the product comes with a dozen strips to a 12-ounce package for a suggested retail price of $4.99. Sausage Strips had a soft launch in 2020 in the Midwest, but are now available nationwide at retailers including Kroger, Meijer, Albertsons and some Walmart stores.
“When we thought of slicing sausage like bacon we thought we had a pretty darn good idea and needed to share it with the world," Steve Bembenista, a senior brand manager on the innovation team at Johnsonville, said in a statement. "Ultimately, Sausage Strips were made to add something flavorful and exciting not only to breakfast, but also to sandwiches, burgers, or whatever else your mind can dream up."
It might seem curious for Johnsonville to offer up a bacon alternative. The meat product has become a virtual cult classic, making its way far beyond breakfast into dinner foods and even desserts. During the first half of 2021, bacon ranked just behind beef loin and ground beef in terms of dollar gains versus the first-half of 2019, according to IRI data cited by The Food Institute.
But bacon has some health baggage, called out for its high levels of saturated fat, sodium and preservatives. Johnsonville describes Sausage Strips as “a leaner alternative to bacon,” with 40% less fat and 30% less sodium. The strips, which contain premium cuts of pork and no MSG, can be cooked on a stove or grill, in the oven or in an air fryer. Johnsonville also notes that because the strips don’t shrink like bacon when they’re cooked, the consumer actually gets more meat per serving.
For privately owned Johnsville, Sausage Strips offer the promise to differentiate in a competitive segment. While the company ranks third in sales of refrigerated breakfast meats, its growth in 2020 lagged behind competitors such as Tyson Foods' Hillshire Brands, Post Holdings' Bob Evans and Conagra Brands, according to IRI data cited by The National Provisioner. With no similar product on the market, faking bacon could be a key to greater growth.
— Samantha Oller