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CHICAGO -- Supplier companies with products at the leading edge of new product trends presented their programs to a standing-room-only audience at the annual convention of the National Association of Convenience Stores Sunday morning. In a session titled "Cool New Products," Marty Frye of Healthworks International discussed the marketing options and sales projections of Go-Juice Energy Drink and All-in-One liquid multi-vitamins.
Masterfoods USA's Steve Capitani presented information on the Snickers Marathon energy bar -- an appropriate product to talk about on the day of the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, happening just outside convention center doors. Lucia Romanello Crater presented MET-Rx/Rexall Sundown's Carb Solutions a line of fruit smoothies and energy bars. Other presentations included Detour, a protein candy bar by Next Proteins and Snapple-a-Day meal replacement beverages, with vitamins, minerals and protein. Jim Farrell of f'Real! Foods presented the company's milkshake program that features real ice cream and milk.
Among the most important trends in new products are:
* Quick, easy, at-home one-dish meals
* "Red," "lemon" and "vanilla" flavors
* Healthy -- low-calorie, low in carbohydrates, and low fat
Anne Berlack of Information Resources Inc. (IRI) said that other trends convenience store operators must act on include the fact that most consumers still eat a lot of meals at home, but they do not do a lot of home cooking. Meals are assembled at home from convenient packages or prepared food. "C-stores and supermarkets are not just America's pantry, they are America's kitchen," she said.
Some key convenience drivers with regard to food are
* Storage: consumers prefer shelf-stable over frozen
* Short preparation time -- less than two minutes
* Ease of preparation: no extras, easy to prepare, and kid-safe
* Easy clean-up -- no dishes to wash
* Portion control: consumers like bite sizes and packages that can be resealed
* Portable: consumers want to eat food at room temperature with no utensils
Other trends c-store operators should take note of: women of all ages are driving the sales of frappuccino beverages, while men drive vegetable juice sales.