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Snack packs fall below 100 calories

BY Jim Wright

NEW YORK There’s a new magic number in portion-control land: 90.Also 80. And 70. Or even 60.

Packaged-food giants have discovered that calorie-conscious snackers who turned 100-calorie packs into a $200 million annual gold mine are getting bored with 100. So the bar is falling.

Quaker is making 90 the new 100, as it rolls out a string of 90-calorie treats.

The products are Quaker’s fastest-growing line, says Quaker Foods president Mark Schiller. “What I like most about 90 is that it one-ups 100.”

In 2007, 82 single-serve products touting fewer than 100 calories hit the market vs. seven in 2003, says Tom Vierhile, director of Datamonitor’s Productscan Online. “You sound like you’re a consumer advocate by ratcheting down the number of calories, but all you’re doing is helping your bottom line.”

Quaker, for example has introduced 11 single-serve products at 90 calories since 2007. Last month, it rolled out three Mini Delights and two granola bars.

Kelloggs “bull’s-eye” for snack packs is still 100 calories, but consumers will see “continued growth of portion-control packs” of all sizes, says Michael Allen, senior vice president of snacks.

With new Special K Bliss bars at 90 calories and Grab ‘n Go cereal packs as low as 70, Kellogg sells 150 portioned snacks.

New from ConAgra are Hunt’s Snack Pack Fat Free Pudding at 80 calories and David Seeds Pumpkin Seeds at 90.

Kraft just rolled out LiveActive Natural Mozzarella Cheese Snacks in 80-calorie sticks. Its Jet-Puffed marshmallows are sold in 90-calorie pouches.

General Mills is introducing Fiber One yogurt from Yoplait, with 80 calories.

Hershey’s low-cal offer: 60-calorie Hershey Sticks come in four flavors.

From Del Monte Pet Products, there are Pup-Peroni 50-calorie packs.

They’re a “guilt-free” snack, says Matthew Park, Del Monte’s marketing vice president. Just as 100-calorie packs help people, he says, 50-calorie packs help dogs cut calories and live “healthier.”

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Heinz anticipates strong third quarter results driven by innovation and marketing

BY DSN STAFF

PITTSBURGH H. J. Heinz Co. stated today that it expects to report continued strong sales and profit momentum when it releases third-quarter results Feb. 26. Preliminary results include sales growth of approximately 14 percent and operating income growth of approximately 8 percent. The company is optimistic that it will achieve full-year EPS growth of 9 percent to 10 percent compared with last year.

Heinz expects third-quarter organic sales growth (volume plus price) of between 8 percent and 9 percent, driven by a volume increase of roughly 5 percent, and net pricing of more than 3 percent. The very strong organic results were led by the strength of the Heinz brand, with organic sales up more than 9 percent. The anticipated organic sales figures in the third quarter represent the continuation of the Company’s strong organic sales growth over the past two years. For the quarter, foreign exchange is expected to contribute roughly 5 percent of growth.

Heinz operating income is expected to increase 8 percent for the quarter, driven by continuing momentum in North American Consumer Products, Europe, Asia/Pacific and the rest of the world, partially offset by the U.S. foodservice business. The company said it generates 60 percent of its sales outside the United States.

The company anticipates third-quarter EPS of $0.67 to $0.68, reflecting a higher tax rate in the quarter of 31.5 percent to 32.5 percent, compared with the previous year rate of 26 percent. These results put Heinz on track to achieve its full-year targets including its plans to continue investing in commercial innovation and capability-building initiatives. The company has narrowed its expected full-year EPS forecast to the top end of its previously announced range to $2.60 to $2.62, a 9 percent to 10 percent increase over last year.

The fiscal third quarter for Heinz ended on Jan. 30, 2008.

Heinz is a global family of leading branded products, including Heinz ketchup, sauces, soups, beans, pasta and infant foods (representing over one-third of Heinz’s total sales), Ore-Ida potato products, Weight Watchers Smart Ones entrees, Boston Market meals, T.G.I. Friday’s snacks, and Plasmon infant nutrition. Heinz is famous for its iconic brands on five continents, showcased by Heinz ketchup.

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Healthy foods and accessories feed pet industry

BY Doug Desjardins

SAN DIEGO The annual Global Pet Expo opened in San Diego Feb. 14 with thousands of new products debuting to feed the growing pet industry. Show sponsor the American Pet Product Manufacturer’s Association estimates pet product sales jumped 5 percent in 2007 to $40.8 billion and are expected to increase again in 2008.

On the floor of the San Diego Convention Center, more than 750 exhibitors—along with dozens of dogs, cats and the occasional eagle and owl—are showcasing new products with pet accessories and healthy foods two of the hottest categories.

Cott Beverages is making its first foray into the pet business with its FortiFido water for dogs. The water comes in four flavors with a unique blend of vitamins and supplements for dogs with different needs.

“We’re making our big national launch right now in pet specialty stores, grocers and mass merchants,” said Cott director of innovation Charles Calise.

Sales of healthy foods have thrived since the tainted food scare last fall that forced suppliers to recall hundreds of products made in China.

“We saw our sales rocket after that incident,” said Norman Levitz of Wagatha’s, a Vermont company that makes organic biscuits for dogs.

Pet clothing is another growing category. Jakks Pacific Pets unveiled its new line of Doggie Disguises to dress pets for Halloween. And Gramercy Distributors showcased its new Cool Vest, a light vest with a waterproof lining that keeps dogs cool in hot weather.

The Global Pet Expo—the largest gathering of pet suppliers and retailers in the U.S.—will end Feb. 16. The show is moving from San Diego to Orlando in 2009.

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