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.
A Wicked (Kitchen) take on plant-based ice cream
With their enviable nutritional profile and soil-enriching growth, it’s easy to say that lupini beans are good. Their starring turn in a new line of plant-based ice creams and novelties, however, also makes them Wicked.
After great success in the U.K. market, chef-created plant-based powerhouse Wicked Foods is bringing its lupini bean-based ice cream to the United States. The new spin on plant-based treats comes in four pint flavors — Vanilla, Chocolate, Mint Chocolate Chip and Cookie Dough — and as three novelties — Chocolate & Red Berry Cones, Berry White Sticks and Chocolate & Almond Sticks. These are now available at 2,200 Kroger stores, as well as several of Kroger’s banners.
The ice cream treats were formulated by Chad and Derek Sarno, the plant-based chef brothers behind the Wicked Kitchen phenomenon. The Sarno brothers also founded plant-based seafood brand Good Catch and have worked with retailers including Whole Foods and the U.K.’s Tesco.
At a virtual launch event this week, Derek Sarno described the three most important things he needs to see in plant-based launches: taste, texture and experience.
“As someone who's eating the ice cream, but for me personally as a chef, I need to be able to deliver an experience that I enjoyed when I did eat animals, because there's no compromise on this ice cream,” he said. “Texture is super important, whether I'm creating mushroom steaks or creaminess of the ice cream. And taste with no aftertaste.”
Derek Sarno said that he landed on lupini bean as the base ingredient for the ice cream because its texture was unparalleled, it had no aftertaste as other common plant-based ice cream bases do, and it was innovative.
The sweet and creamy desserts may be made from legumes, but they don’t taste like it. A video from Natural Products Expo West shared at the virtual event shows consumers raving about the mouthfeel and similarity to dairy-based ice cream.
Lupini beans, which are native to the Mediterranean region, are a popular snack and ingredient in cuisine from that area. Even as U.S. consumers have become more interested in plant proteins, the legume hasn’t made a huge breakthrough on this side of the Atlantic Ocean yet. Lupini beans are the star ingredient of protein-packed snack bars from Lupii, and Brami sells snackable whole pickled beans, as well as dips made out of the legumes. But until now, they haven’t made a spotlighted debut in any larger brand’s offerings.
The launch is another big step for Wicked Kitchen, which first came to the U.S. in July. And there’s much more to come from the company this year. CEO Pete Speranza said at the virtual event that Wicked Kitchen is expanding beyond Kroger stores, and will be available at about 6,000 locations nationwide by the end of summer. More frozen products are on their way for U.S. consumers as well. And Wicked Kitchen plans an overseas expansion to Asia in the next few months.
“There's change of the food system overall, and we want to be a big part of that,” Speranza said.
— Megan Poinski
Kodiak sweetens portfolio with cookie launch
Best known for its waffles and flapjacks, Kodiak Cakes is hoping consumers will show a similar appetite for its new cookie offerings.
Kodiak Cakes said similar to its prior offerings, its Thin and Crispy cookies are made with real and nutrient-dense ingredients, including 100% whole grains. Each serving has 140 Calories and 5 grams of protein. They are available in three flavors: chocolate chip, chocolate chip walnut and oatmeal raisin.
“The cookie space, in particular, was missing a good whole grain/added protein option that you could feel better about eating,” Brandon Porras, vice president of marketing at Kodiak Cakes, said in an email. “We are a company that is laser-focused on putting better food options into as many consumers’ hands as we possibly can. In order to chase that goal, we will need to enter more categories beyond breakfast.”
The new cookies will be sold at Kroger, Stop & Shop and online, as well as other channels.
Kodiak is no stranger to the dessert and snack category. It previously launched protein-packed Chocolate Fudge Brownie mix, Birthday Cake Baking mix and Bear Bites Crackers. It also offers Power Flour, the brand’s high-protein replacement for regular white flour.
“We are definitely a lot more well known for our breakfast items but have seen a lot of traction in the snacking space over the last 1-2 years with our launch into graham cracker bites, crunchy bars, and chewy bars,” Porras said. “Thin and Crispy Cookies is just the next extension to our snacking space.”
Kodiak will be going up against several competitors who have entered the category for the first time or rolled out new products to complement existing products.
Mondelēz International acquired Tate's Bake Shop, a brand best known for its premium bagged chocolate chip cookies, for around $500 million four years ago. And Sovos Brands’ Birch Benders, which made a name for itself with the top-selling pancake and waffle mix in the natural channel, announced it was entering the cookie category last month.
— Christopher Doering
Anheuser-Busch hardens its sparkling beverage lineup
Beer giant Anheuser-Busch is getting bold with Neon Burst, its latest hard sparkling beverage that targets a key consumer.
Neon Burst is available in two varieties: Punch Blast, a blend of tropical fruit flavors such as pineapple, passionfruit and orange with raspberry, cherry, and apple, and Grape Blowout, a combination of grape and citrus. The beverages contain 8% alcohol by volume with less than 5 grams of sugar and 170 calories per 12-ounce serving, according to a press release shared with Food Dive.
The new line is being sold exclusively in convenience stores in 16-ounce cans in select states, and 25-ounce cans nationally. And it is tailored for a core c-store consumer: 21- to 25-year-old males. According to Anheuser-Busch, the product is the perfect accompaniment for “a spontaneous Wednesday night hang playing some video games” or “watching the game with your best friends.”
“When you evaluate what’s happening at c-store, you’re seeing a highly engaged customer help grow full-flavored, 6%-8% [ABV] beverages to a $1 [billion] category,” Joanie Kwok, senior brand director for Anheuser-Busch’s FMB portfolio, said in a statement. “We saw an opportunity to shake things up with this new product that’s exactly what this evolving consumer is currently looking for.”
Neon Burst joins other brands in Anheuser-Busch’s swelling Beyond Beer portfolio, which launched in 2018 to take advantage of the growing seltzer, wine, spirits and malt-based beverages segment. It also includes Margaritaville Tropical Punch, Cutwater Spirits, BABE wine and NÜTRL vodka seltzer.
The product launch comes as Anheuser-Busch’s biggest c-store beer brands struggle to gain traction. Domestic premium beer, a segment that includes Bud Light, continues to dominate convenience store alcohol beverage sales, but growth has stagnated in recent years. In 2021, c-store sales of domestic premium beer fell nearly 5%, and the Bud brand family, with nearly 70% of category dollar sales, saw its share slip, Meanwhile, sales of flavored malt beverages jumped 9%, according to IRI data shared by CSP Magazine. With Neon Burst, Anheuser-Busch is going where the growth is.
— Samantha Oller
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the age range of Neon Burst's core consumer and an Anheuser-Busch brand. Neon Burst is tailored for the 21- to 25-year-old core c-store consumer. Anheuser-Busch's Margaritaville Tropical Punch was also misspelled.