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09/18/2015

Easy Peasy

It happens every year around this time: The Progressive Grocer staff is overcome by an overwhelming sensation that has built up over the past several months.

We’re full.

After reviewing some 400 individual product entries for our annual Editors’ Picks contest, our staff is truly nourished, not only by the food itself, but also by the creativity and innovation that went into developing these many fine products.

After loosening our belts, we present 97 food and 16 nonfood entries as this year’s winners, some honored as product lines or related items, and others for individual varieties. Products came in from nearly every category, with snack foods most prevalent.

Our favorites among the winners delivered on the idea of providing solutions — making life easier for consumers through simpler preparation, value-added function or other qualities designed to take the hassle out of daily eating occasions or home routines. Naturally, good taste was also a must.

Examples of solution-oriented products included Batter World’s pancake batters, Certified Angus/Old Neighborhood shaved steak, Daisy’s squeezable sour cream, Gallo’s Vin Vault wines, Hormel meat products, House Foods’ stir-fry kits, Truly Good’s salad toppings and Tyson’s seasoned beef strips.

Some combined functional qualities and turnkey nutrition, such as veggie blends from Apio, Fresh Express, Mann Packing and JR Simplot, and ancient grains in Better4U pizzas and Que Pasa tortilla chips. Others addressed specific dietary needs, like Dr. Praeger’s Sunwiches, Enjoy Life’s pizza crust mix, Good2Grow’s Juicy Waters, Pacific Sustainable frozen fish and Paleo Scavenger’s granola.

We invite you to digest our comments about these fine products, which we feel your shoppers will enjoy.

Mangia!

Apio Eat Smart Plant Powered Protein Salad Kits

$4.99
www.eatsmart.net

This product line, from Apio Inc., is a hands-down winner at the corner of taste and health. Shoppers may be startled by the fat content — 46 percent of daily value (DV), at 20 percent saturated fat — but with some communication about the healthier sources of the fat, including seeds, some of the sting might be alleviated. These vegetarian salads pack a lot of protein: 40 percent recommended DV for dietary fiber and 28 percent for protein. The label does a great job of conveying all that the salad kit has going for it: good source of protein and fiber, rich in vitamins A and C, gluten-and preservative-free. Varieties include BBQ Ranch, Super Caesar and Yogurt Curry. The Super Caesar salad includes some nontraditional ingredients, including collard greens, Italian kale, red chard, broccoli stalk, savoy cabbage, dry-roasted edamame, roasted sunflower seeds and chia seeds. Parmesan cheese and classic Caesar dressing provide the traditional Caesar taste, and it’s large enough to share.

B&G Foods Ortega Street Taco Kit

$2.49
www.bgfoods.com

Food trucks are all the rage, and these taco kits from B&G Foods aim to bring that flavor to consumers’ kitchens with this cool new meal solution. The taco kits — in Carne Asada Steak and Pork Carnita varieties — include 10 flour tortillas and packets of seasoning and sauce. Cook your desired protein with the seasoning and assemble, adding your own cheese and veggies as you see fit. It’s a quick, easy and flavorful dinnertime solution.

Batter World Pancake Batters

$5.99 original, multigrain; $6.99 gluten-free
www.batterworld.com

These fresh-frozen pancake batters in Original, Multigrain and Gluten-Free varieties make breakfast a little easier. Just defrost the squeezable and resealable pouch, shake and pour in a hot pan for great-tasting pancakes with a unique flavor (we think it’s the cinnamon). Batter World is preservative-free and made with all-natural ingredients. Our only quibble: We’d like better on-pack guidance on how much to dispense per pancake for a full yield.

Beanitos Real Cheesy Puffs

$3.49
www.beanitos.com

Bean-based snacks are coming into their own and defining a new generation of snacks. While some have textural issues, Beanitos Real Cheesy Puffs are a great format for a better-for-you snack. This Non-GMO Verified vegetarian nosh is made with whole navy beans, long-grain rice, sunflower oil, tapioca and a cheddar cheese blend. It’s similar in taste and texture to other puffed snacks, but delivers more fiber (4 grams) and protein (6 grams) per 1-ounce serving than traditional corn-based puffs.

Better4U Gluten Free Sprouted Ancient Grains Pizza

$7.99
www.better4Ufoods.com

We’ve been enjoying Better4U’s frozen pizzas for a while now, both in wheat-based and gluten-free varieties. The brand has taken things a step further by adding oh-so-trendy sprouted ancient grains — quinoa, millet, brown rice and chia — to the recipe, for a crust that’s finely textured and hearty, with a lower glycemic index than traditional pizzas. The clean label also features non-GMO ingredients, including hormone-free cheese. The Uncured Pepperoni was our favorite, but we also enjoyed the Four Cheese and Mediterranean varieties, the latter with roasted red peppers, artichokes and olives.

Brookside Crunchy Clusters Berry Medley Flavors

$4.19
www.brooksidechocolate.com

Hershey acquired the British Columbia-based confectionery gem a few years ago and is taking advantage of Brookside’s patented chocolate-covered fruit piece expertise. Rice, graham and oats combine to create a crunchy granola, while chewy fruit-flavored centers provide a complementary textural contrast. Dark chocolate enrobes the morsels for a delectable treat that comes with a bit of a health halo for a taste-good, feel-good treat.

Celestial Teahouse Mountain Chai

$3.99
www.celestialseasonings.com

Celestial Seasonings believes its new Teahouse Chai offerings appeal to younger consumers who prefer “coffeehouse-style” beverages, and has picked up the vertical packaging favored by other national tea brands. But Millennials aren’t the only tea lovers who think that these teas — the classic Mountain Chai in particular — successfully deliver a full, authentic taste. Where other chais taste watered down, Celestial Teahouse Mountain Chai is a rich blend of black tea in the masala tradition that unites fragrant spices, including cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper and Chinese star anise. Even non-tea drinkers in the home or office will enjoy the aroma.

Certified Angus Beef/Old Neighborhood Foods Shaved Steak

$5.99/pound bulk; $6.99 (case-ready)
www.certifiedangusbeef.com;
www.oldneighborhoodfoods.com

High-quality Certified Angus Beef is the basis of this shaved steak from Old Neighborhood Foods, which provides the inspiration for numerous recipes that can be ready to eat in about 10 minutes. With no MSG, soy, binders or fillers, the item offers a foundation for sandwiches, stir-fries, quesadillas or salads. We used it for some great Philly cheesesteaks and steak tacos. So many different options will allow retailers to leverage the shaved steak to the hilt for cross-merchandising solutions throughout the store.

Charles & Alice 100% Fruit for All

$3.29
Fruitfriends.com

Many of the alternative-format fruit products out there are designed for kids, but Charles & Alice changes things up for consumers of all ages. Their latest release, 100 percent all-natural fruit in a cup, aims to create a whole new produce category through a new way to experience eating fruit, in or out of season. We particularly like the Cherry variety, with nice chunks of fruit amid the purée. Available in 4-packs of refrigerated single-serve cups, Fruit for All also comes in Mango, Blueberry, Raspberry, Banana Vanilla and Apricot flavors.

Chips Ahoy! Coconut Chunky

$3.79
www.mondelezinternational.com

This is a nice twist on an old favorite from Mondelez International’s Nabisco brand. Our tasters really enjoyed how adding coconut enhanced the flavor and texture of this mainstay chocolate chip cookie. It was nice to relax and savor a simple pleasure — a guilty one for some, but for many, an old friend. We hope strategic promotion will keep it from getting lost on the shelf amid the brand’s many iterations.

Coca-Cola Life

$4.99 (6-pack)
www.coca-cola.com

Traditional carbonated soft drinks are under fire, and their sales have reflected that state of affairs. Newcomers have stepped up with alternatives, but this legacy brand impressed us with its take on a better-for-you beverage. It’s Coke’s first reduced-calorie cola sweetened with a blend of cane sugar and stevia leaf extract, offering 35 percent fewer calories than leading colas: 60 per 8-ounce glass bottle. We admire the clean label, the innovation with natural sweeteners and the crisp taste that’s true to the brand. It comes in 6-packs of 8-ounce glass contour bottles, 20-ounce bottles and 6-packs of 12-ounce cans.

Cosmos Caramel Apple and Spicy Sriracha Snacks

$3.99
www.cosmoscreations.com

Some of our tasters liked one and not the other, and some liked both, indicating that Cosmos Creations has something for everyone in these trendy new snacks. Sriracha is all the rage these days, and these corn snacks deliver with an appealing combination of crunch and sizzle. Meanwhile, the sweet option features real tart apple chunks and sweet yet not too sticky caramel. Cosmos’ puffed-corn snacks are free of gluten, trans fats and GMOs, and with no kernels or hulls, they’re friendly to our younger tasters with braces.

Crunch Pak DipperZ

99 cents-$1.29
www.crunchpak.com

Making fruit and vegetables more fun and easier to eat is a good thing, and Crunch Pak is great at it. The company’s latest grab-and-go DipperZ snacks, each topping out at 150 calories, feature packages of fresh sliced apples or carrots paired with dips such as caramel sauce, Greek yogurt, peanut butter and ranch dressing. One pack features Olaf, a character from the kid-favorite Disney movie “Frozen,” part of Crunch Pak’s partnership with the entertainment conglomerate, the first such alliance in the produce department and fresh-cut fruit snack category. Additionally, innovative packaging design elements provide up to a 30-day shelf life.

Daisy Brand Squeeze Sour Cream

$2.49
www.daisybrand.com

Daisy employs a new patented tube-shaped pouch that’s more flexible than traditional squeeze bottles, resembling an oversized tube of toothpaste, but with a paper outer layer. No additives or preservatives are added to the 14-ounce tubes of sour cream, which are perfect for topping foods like potatoes or tacos. The pouches are not only more functional than a tub, but the inverted package also protects against the watery buildup common with tubs and squeeze bottles, because no air is allowed back into the pouch. The “deformable” pouch also means that users have a good idea of how much sour cream is left in it.

Dietz & Watson Sriracha Chicken Breast

$10.99/pound
Dietzandwatson.com

Dietz & Watson (D&W) continues its prowess with bold flavors in the deli case with its new sriracha chicken breast, seasoned with a proprietary recipe made with real red chilies and garlic. The item is part of the purveyor’s Healthier Lifestyle line, which meets or exceeds the USDA and FDA standards for healthy foods. This deli chicken is 97 percent fat-free, as well as being free of gluten, nitrates, MSG and trans fat. It definitely delivers on flavor; one taster sampling it at the IDDBA show kicked it up further with D&W’s sriracha mustard — zing!

Dr. Praeger’s Sunwiches

$5.99
www.drpraegers.com

Parents in search of nut-free options for their allergic kids will appreciate these Sunwiches, a generational take on the PB&J that uses the brand’s trademarked Sunbutter, made from sunflower seeds. Paired with strawberry or grape jellies, which are made from juice concentrates, in a bread pocket featuring organic wheat flour, these are a tasty option for anyone avoiding peanuts. Plus they passed the kid test among our staffers’ offspring.

E&J Gallo Vin Vault Wines

$19.99
Gallo.com

Boxed wine is shedding its punchline image, thanks to E&J Gallo Winery. Vin Vault offers six flavorful varietals in an innovative bag-in-box package that holds the equivalent of four 750-milliliter bottles. These premium wines will stay fresh for up to four weeks after opening. Good taste is married with convenience in six styles: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Red Blend.

Enjoy Life Foods’ Pizza Crust Baking Mix

$8.49
www.enjoylifefoods.com

The price is steep, but for those who are intolerant of the eight common allergens (wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish and shellfish), Enjoy Life Pizza Crust mix is a positive game changer. Now consumers can have pizza their way, hot from the oven. The 14.5-ounce mix — enough for two good-sized pizzas — is made with ancient grains, including teff, flaxseed meal, and konjac flour that delivers 5 grams of protein, as well as probiotics for gut health. The dough is a little stickier than traditional wheat flour mixes — perhaps because of the rice starch and brown rice protein — but the crusts roll out nicely and have excellent, crispy texture when baked.

Fisher Nut Exactly Snack Bites

$3.49
www.fishernuts.com

Claiming to be the first snack of its kind, Fisher Nut Exactly Snack Bites are a combination of roasted nuts and whole grain popcorn, rolled into a bite-size snack that’s dipped into milk chocolate, dark chocolate, peanut butter or salted caramel. With no artificial preservatives and only 15 to 16 calories per snack bite, they provide a great example of portion-controlled indulgence. The resealable packages come in four varieties: almond dipped in milk or dark chocolate, pecan in salted caramel, and almond in dark chocolate.

FIT Popcorn Chips-White Cheddar

$3.49
www.popcornindiana.com

Popcorn, Indiana, which is actually based in Englewood, N.J. (go figure!), has taken the healthy profile of popcorn and extended it to FIT Popcorn Chips. Naturally gluten-free, the chips are shaped into triangles, but with the puffed corn visible. The result is a satisfyingly crunchy, cheesy snack. One-ounce servings weigh in at 130 calories — about 18 chips; bags are 4.5 ounces. Other varieties include Sea Salt, Spinach Feta and Sweet Potato Cinnamon.

Fresh Express Healthy Plus Salad Kits

$4.29
Freshexpress.com

Fresh Express places the benefits front and center on packages of its new Healthy Plus Salad Kits, including Heart Health, Digestive Health and Antioxidant. The Heart Health Kit, for example, includes spinach, baby kale, beet tops, shredded broccoli, shredded carrots, dried cranberries, sliced almonds and basil balsamic vinaigrette. The package reads: “Good for your heart. While many factors affect heart disease, diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of this disease.” While the strong messaging will appeal to consumers addressing specific issues, these salads will draw consumers who appreciate that someone did the chopping for them.

Fusion Jerky

$6.99
Fusionjerky.com

These meat snacks from Fusion Jerky are among the finest examples of flavor innovation we’ve seen in the category. We enjoyed all five for their tenderness and bold flavors, inspired by Asian, Caribbean and other world cuisines. The packages are resealable, but with their high protein and reasonable calorie counts, eating the whole bag is relatively guilt-free. Made without MSG, nitrites or preservatives (and, except for one flavor, gluten-free), the line consists of Chili Basil Turkey Jerky, Basil Citrus Chicken Jerky, Lemon Pepper Chicken Jerky, Island Teriyaki Pork Jerky and Chipotle Lime Beef Jerky.

G’s Apple Dreams Applesauce Muffins

$3.69–$4.29
www.gsappledreams.com

Portion-controlled, sensible indulgence is in, and these mini muffins deliver. All-natural; egg-free; low in sugar, carbs and sodium; and containing zero trans fat, they are a healthier option for breakfast, a great snack for kids’ lunchboxes and a quick dessert. G’s suggests using them as a base for bread pudding or strawberry shortcake, or as a milkshake mix-in. The line is currently available in original, chocolate chip and double chocolate chip varieties, with a gluten-free version on the way.

Giovanni Rana Italian Sausage Ravioli

$4.50
www.giovannirana.com

Rana keeps on delivering great-tasting, authentic pastas that make at-home meals easier. Our latest favorite is the brand’s Italian sausage ravioli, a fresh filled pasta that allows home cooks to bring a homemade-quality meal to the table in just three minutes. We really enjoyed the blend of mildly seasoned, Midwest-sourced sausage and creamy ricotta cheese, wrapped in thin pasta. The mezzaluna shape — a first in Rana’s product line — allows for a generous amount of filling.

RW Garcia 3-Seed Harvest Crackers

$5.49
www.rwgarcia.com

The folks at RW Garcia continue to excel in better-for-you snacks. Their latest win: this deliciously crunchy combination of sweet pumpkin and stone-ground blue corn. We really enjoyed the flavor and texture of these gluten-free 3-Seed Harvest Crackers, which boast a simple, clean ingredient label and Non-GMO Project verification. The sesame, chia and flaxseed may linger in the teeth for a while, but so does the enjoyment of a great snack.

Golden West/American BBQ Co. Pork Ribs

$8.99
www.gwfg.com

Most folks don’t have time for the “low and slow” that good barbecue demands. Lucky for them that there are these succulent ribs from Golden West, which has done the hard work for them. Released under the American BBQ Co. label, the ribs are spice-rubbed, hardwood-smoked, and sauced with sweet apple cider and brown sugar. A short stay in the oven is all that’s needed to have great ’cue on cue anytime. It was a challenge not to eat the whole rack at one sitting!

Good2Grow Juicy Waters

$2.99
www.good2grow.com

Good2Grow is serious about making hydration healthy and fun for kids. Its latest score is Juicy Waters, a USDA Certified Organic beverage with no artificial colors, sweeteners or flavors, and no added sugar. With 25 percent juice and just 30 calories per bottle, Juicy Waters comes in Fruit Punch and Grape flavors sporting collectable bottle toppers depicting characters kids love (our samples came with Hello Kitty and SpongeBob SquarePants). Parents should appreciate Juicy Waters for helping get their kids to drink their daily recommended six to seven glasses of water.

Grillman’s Franks

$5.99
www.grillmansfranks.com

A little surprised that the folks at Beaver Street Fisheries were behind these new hot dogs, we had to read the side panel a couple of times to convince ourselves that these weren’t actually seafood franks! Seriously, these all-beef wieners under the Grillman’s brand are quite plump and juicy. With all varieties gluten- and soy-free, the Angus variety makes for an upscale frank, while the nitrate-free dog answers the growing call for cleaner labels. Nicely done!

Hail Merry Meyer Lemon Mini Miracle Tart

$5.99
www.hailmerry.com

We first sampled these tarts at Natural Products Expo West and were pleased to see them arrive at our door. These 100-calorie ganache mini tarts satisfy several dietary trends: non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo-friendly and kosher. They’re made using organic virgin coconut oil (instead of heavy cream), organic blue agave and Meyer lemon juice; the crust combines sweet almond flour, lemon zest and a hint of sea salt. These ingredients result in great treats that deliver a pucker worthy of their name.

Heineken Tecate Diablo

$2.69
Heinekenusa.com

Addressing the growing popularity of micheladas — beer, tomato juice, lime and spices — Heineken USA’s Tecate brand has launched Diablo, which leverages the authenticity of this popular Mexican beer label. The bold taste is sure to appeal to aficionados of these tomato-based beverages as part of the growing category of so-called “spirited” beers aimed in part at Millennials who tend to prefer cocktails over 6-packs.

Hormel Bacon Sprinkles

$2.79–$2.99
www.hormel.com

Lovers of bacon should really appreciate Hormel’s help in making it easier to add bacon to other dishes. This 100 percent real bacon comes in easy-to-use shaker packaging, allowing its use as a topping or condiment. We think these sprinkles are great on everything, from deviled eggs and waffle mixes to macaroni and cheese (we tried the latter), as well as in soups and salads.

Hormel Better-for-you Pepperoni Products

$3.49–$3.99
www.hormel.com

Hormel pepperoni has been a longtime consumer favorite, and now it’s cleaning up its image a bit. The company took its top-selling pepperoni brand and created two new varieties — one with 25 percent less fat, and the other with half the sodium of regular pepperoni. In our opinion, the flavor is on the money, with little difference between these “better-for-you” versions and the “real thing.” It’s great on pizza (naturally) and sandwiches, or even for snacking right from the pouch. Hey, don’t judge …

Hormel Black Label Bacon Premium Flavors

$5.99
www.hormel.com

We could write “bacon” 100 times in this space and just leave it at that. Being the responsible journalists that we are, however, we’ll provide a bit more detail: Hormel’s Black Label bacon has been a favorite of ours for years, and the brand has rewarded its fans handsomely with these new flavors that bring excitement not only to breakfast, but also to burgers, salads and other recipes. The robust seasonings truly come forth in this thick-cut format. Pressed to name a favorite, we would choose the Zesty Jalapeño, but they’re all excellent, including the Cherrywood, Brown Sugar, Maple Black Pepper and Pecanwood varieties.

Hormel Chili 100% Natural

$2.49–$2.69
www.hormel.com

Canned chili — really? Listen, canned and processed food has a perception problem as fresh categories dominate the scene. “Taking an old favorite and making it more healthy” is exactly how Hormel describes its new 100% Natural Chili, which ditches the preservatives, artificial ingredients and MSG. One of our tasters, a Millennial and connoisseur of canned chili, pronounced it a hit. The chili comes in Beef and White Chicken varieties.

Hormel Jennie-O Turkey Breast Sticks

$3.99 (6-pack); 69 cents (individual)
www.hormel.com

Take the protein richness of meat and combine it with the convenience of string cheese, and you get a terrific new snacking concept. These turkey breast sticks are portable and individually wrapped, with 5 grams of protein and 25 calories each. They’re all natural and have no artificial preservatives, nitrites or nitrates. We admire the innovation and the expansion of the meat snack category. The sticks come in four varieties: Oven Roasted, Sweet Barbeque, Smoke House and Cracked Pepper.

Hormel Lucille’s Bacon and Cheddar Sausage

$4.99
www.hormel.com

Hormel’s West Coast-based Farmer John brand does some cool things, and our latest favorites are these sausages, co-branded with the Lucille’s Smokehouse restaurant chain in California. Our tasters loved these bacon-and-cheddar links, which were flavorful enough to eat without condiments, after a few minutes on the grill. They come in 12-ounce packs of four links each.

Hormel/Lloyd’s Sauceless Competitive Barbecue Products

$7.99–$17.99
www.hormel.com

These interesting barbecue meats from Hormel’s Lloyd’s brand bridge the gap between doing ’cue yourself totally from scratch and going to Austin, Kansas City or Memphis. Inspired by the idea that people like to make barbecue their own way, these sauceless products give them the starting point: Lloyd’s does the smoking; you do the rest. The ribs, sliced beef brisket and pulled pork come in packaging that conveys a handcrafted appearance. We like products that provoke creativity in home cooks, particularly the pork, followed closely by the brisket.

Hormel Taco Meats

$4.99 (shredded pork, shredded chicken and beef crumbles) and $6.99 (shredded beef)
www.hormel.com

Taco night just got a whole lot easier. Hormel has introduced incredibly tasty seasoned, fully cooked meats perfect for tacos, burritos, salads and more. Varieties include shredded beef, shredded chicken, shredded pork and ground beef; each are packaged in 12-ounce pouches. There are no filler ingredients used with the products, and the seasoning ingredients are familiar to home cooks. Large groups can easily be satisfied by heating up a few varieties.

House Foods Wok Me Up Garlic Stir Fry

$3.49
www.house-foods.com

Cross-merchandising is what retailing is all about — selling the whole meal. WokMe Up from House Foods is a great building block toward that solution. Billed as “a quick savory meal in one convenient package, this stir-fry kit offers cubed tofu and a garlic sauce, ready for the consumer to provide vegetables and five minutes of cooking time. With the line’s other flavors, Sweet Teriyaki and Spicy Orange, Wok Me Up can be easily merchandised with cut veggies in the produce section and positioned as an easy weeknight family meal.

Ice Breakers Cool Blasts Chews

$2.09
www.hersheys.com

We were waiting for this product to finally hit shelves after experiencing a trade show sample more than a year ago. Anyone who enjoys a blast of mint will like these innovative chews from Hershey. Ice Breakers are a cross between gum and mints, delivering a quick-dissolving chew for times when you need a little fast mouth freshness but can’t commit to a longer-lasting confection. The slide-open pack is neat, too. Available in Peppermint and Spearmint flavors, Ice Breakers will add excitement to the candy aisle and front end.

Jack Link’s Original Chicken Jerky

$7.99
www.jacklinks.com

Beef is the standard, turkey has become ubiquitous, and now chicken is making significant inroads into the jerky arena. To our taste, meat snack giant Jack Link’s has set the standard with its Original Chicken Jerky. This white-meat chicken snack is perfectly seasoned with a hint of sweetness, and delivers a dose of lean protein. We look forward to the other flavors that will inevitably follow.

Jel Sert Nature’s Hand Organic Freezer Bars

$3.99
www.jelsert.com

These things are organic now? Really? Props to Jel Sert for cleaning up the label on this childhood summertime favorite. Nature’s Hand freezer bars have banished the artificial colors and flavors, as well as the high-fructose corn syrup, to create a 100 percent USDA-certified organic treat. Also gluten-free and without preservatives, these freezer bars come in four flavors: Mixed Berry, Grape, Strawberry and Punch. You can tell them apart by the wrapper, since the ice is colorless; we’re certain parents will appreciate stain-free kids as well.

JR Simplot UpSides Grain & Vegetable Side Dishes

$3.99
www.simplot.com

Simplot wins points for variety and convenience for its line of UpSides microwaveable grain-and-vegetable side dishes. These better-for-you sides are all natural, made with blends of ancient grains, rice, pastas, and colorful, fresh vegetables. Their microwaveable pouches cook in five to six minutes. While great as sides, they’re actually hearty enough to be meals by themselves. Our favorite is the Orzo, Grains & Vegetable Blend; the line also comes in 9 Grain Orzo & Spinach, Exotic Grains & Fire-Roasted Vegetables, Hearty Grains & Wild Mushrooms, and Pearl Couscous & Red Grains.

Kellogg’s Keebler Fudge Stripes Red Velvet

$3.69
www.kelloggs.com

Here’s another winner among new twists on old favorites. Red velvet as a trend seems to be lingering, and it lends itself well to Keebler’s Fudge Stripe cookies. Our tasters enjoyed the flavor of red velvet in a crunchy format, combined with chocolately fudge. Additionally, it’s a sensible option for those who enjoy red velvet but are looking for something lighter than cake. Kudos to Keebler for keeping this mainstay relevant.

Kellogg’s Pringles Cheeseburger

$1.69
www.kelloggs.com

These chips really do taste like cheeseburgers. Now, not all of our tasters appreciated the flavor; at least one didn’t like what he detected as the taste of mustard and pickles, two condiments he doesn’t use on his burgers. But those who enjoy those toppings thought the flavor was spot-on (one thought they reminded him of the mini burgers from a well-known chain). Part of the brand’s new Food Truck-theme flavor line, Pringles Cheesburger boasts “a blend of cheese, tomato and delicious smoke flavor.” Clearly, taste is in the palate of the beholder, and we behold these a winner.

Kellogg’s Special K Cracker Chips Sea Salt

$3.89
www.specialk.com

These puffed potato chips are reminiscent of Pringles, but without the uniform shape, and featuring rice flour for a slightly different crunchy experience. Special K Sea Salt Cracker Chips are a simple, tasty alternative to traditional potato chips. Further, at 120 calories per 28 chips, they deliver a guilt-free snacking option. Other varieties include Cheddar, Sour Cream and Onion, Barbecue, and Salt and Vinegar.

Lily’s Sweets Extra Dark Blood Orange Chocolate Bar

$3.99–$4.99
Lilyssweets.com

Stevia brings out the richness of 70 percent dark chocolate, while a back note of orange smooths bitterness in Lily’s Blood Orange 70% Dark Chocolate Bar. Copy on the 2.8-ounce long bar package calls attention to “No Sugar Added, Stevia Sweetened, Vegan, Certified Gluten Free and Fairtrade.” Consumers can dig a little deeper to learn about the brand’s inspiration, a teenage cancer survivor committed to raising money for other kids with the disease; a percentage of profits supports services for children with cancer.

Litehouse Foods OPA Jalapeño Ranch Dressing

$3.99–$4.49
www.litehousefoods.com

Litehouse Foods is expanding its wildly popular and yet relatively new (2013 launch) line of OPA Greek Yogurt spoonable dressings, with Jalapeño Ranch, Roasted Pepper and Kalamata Feta joining Blue Cheese, Ranch, Caesar and Feta Dill. The Jalapeño Ranch variety delivers a nice kick — in both taste and health. The predominance of Greek yogurt — compared with canola oil and buttermilk as the lead ingredients of the company’s traditional Jalapeño Ranch — also lends a cleaner aftertaste, not to mention half the fat and calories of the traditional variety. Two tablespoons contain 50 calories. We found it great not only for salads, but also as a dip for vegetables.

LiveGfree Gluten Free Pretzel Twists

$1.89
www.aldi.us/en/grocery-home/aldi-brands/livegfree

Pretzel twists join value retailer Aldi’s LiveGfree line of gluten-free products, which also includes pizza, frozen entrées, baking mixes, breads and pastas, crackers, cookies, and granola. Made with corn starch, potato starch, long-grain rice flour and soluble corn fiber, the pretzel twists have a standard look and distinctive crunch. While the taste and texture don’t completely match traditional flour-based pretzels, consumers are giving LiveGfree pretzels a big thumbs-up for flavor and savings.

Luvo Red Wine Braised Beef & Polenta

$4.99
Luvoinc.com

Luvo’s mission is to “shake things up in the freezer aisle,” with frozen meals that deliver good nutrition and great taste. Of the brand’s latest offerings, we liked this braised beef-and-polenta entrée, weighing in at 250 calories, 17 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. Perfectly prepared with Luvo’s microwaveable steam-in-bag process, the tender beef in wine sauce was complemented well by the creamy polenta, roasted Brussels sprouts, squash and cranberries. We look forward to Luvo’s next round of chef- and nutritionist-inspired frozen entrées.

Mann’s Power Blend

$2.49–$2.79
www.veggiesmadeeasy.com

Functional food is an important component of grocery’s wellness message, and we think Power Blend from Mann Packing Co. can help deliver it. The first superfood offering in the slaw category, it contains six power-packed vegetables — Brussels sprouts, napa cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, carrots and kale — in a blend that’s rich in vitamins A and C. A versatile product, Power Blend may be tossed in a cold salad, blended in a smoothie or sautéed as a nutritious side dish.

Maple Leaf Farms Duck Leg Confit

$11.99
www.mapleleaffarms.com

A gourmet treat has been made easier for home cooks with this entry from Maple Leaf Farms. A pair of duck legs, seasoned and cooked slowly in their own fat, come fully cooked, requiring just a short stay in the oven (plus a few minutes under the broiler to crisp up the skin) before serving. The tender, flavorful meat can be enjoyed as is or shredded for sandwiches, salads, pizzas or pasta. Maple Leafs free-roaming ducks are fed an all-natural diet of corn, soy and wheat.

Mariani Sea Salt Caramel Raisins

$3.29
www.mariani.com

It’s tough to say what we’ve seen more of, sriracha or sea salt caramel. Well, sriracha raisins would just be weird, but Mariani Packing Co. has a winner with these sea salt caramel-coated raisins. They bring a touch of indulgence to a better-for-you snack, add value to the raisin category and bring some excitement to dried fruit with a trendy flavor profile. Additionally, the recloseable standup pouch is convenient and shows off the product’s freshness.

Marie’s Sesame Ginger Coleslaw Dressing

$3.99
www.venturafoods.com

With grocers needing to be solution providers instead of merely merchants, we appreciate products that can “multitask,” so to speak. That’s why we like the direction Ventura Foods is taking with its Marie’s line of coleslaw dressings. Beyond its traditional use, Marie’s dressings can be used as a dip, marinade or ingredient in a host of recipes in need of a little zing. Of the line’s latest flavors, we thought Sesame Ginger was most on trend, with its medley of spices, ginger and garlic.

Mars Goodness Knows Snack Squares

$1.59–$1.99
www.mars.com

Mars Chocolate is redefining snacking with Goodness Knows, which is finally in broad national release after testing in limited markets over the past several years. These snack squares combine nuts, fruit and oats over a bed of dark chocolate, with no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners; no high-fructose corn syrup, and 100 milligrams of naturally occurring cocoa flavanols. Each bar is divided into four squares totaling 150 calories. Goodness Knows straddles the line between candy and snacks, bringing a touch of decadence to wellness, and vice versa. It’s available in three flavors: Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate, Apple Almond & Peanut Dark Chocolate, and Peach & Cherry Almond Dark Chocolate.

Mars Real Fruit Dipped in Dove Dark Chocolate

$3.59–$4.79
www.dovechocolate.com

Three varieties of real fruit — dried whole cranberries, blueberries and cherries — are dipped in Dove dark chocolate, and the name says it all: Real Fruit Dipped in Dove Dark Chocolate. These are delightful, decadent, feel-good confectionery items, available in multiple sizes for sharing — or not; 2.83-ounce bags and 6- and 17-ounce standup pouches of all three varieties will be joined in October 2015 by Cranberry and Cherry standup pouches.

Marzetti Sriracha Ranch Dip

$3.89
www.marzetti.com

It must be the Year of Sriracha, and this new ranch dip from Marzetti is an excellent way to celebrate the occasion. A few of our tasters thought it was too spicy, but most felt that it delivered the heat expected from this flavor profile. According to Marzetti, the dip was “specifically made for veggies,” but we thought it was just as good as a chip dip and even as a sandwich spread. Versatility and on-trend flavor make this one a winner.

Mediterranean BeanStalks

$2.99
www.mediterraneansnackfoods.com

Most of the innovation seems to be going on in the snack category, and it’s all about wellness and cleaner labels. These bite-size gluten-free snacks are made from protein-rich beans, and are free of GMOs and trans fats. Delivering a nice taste and crunch, they come in three flavors: Sea Salt, Cheddar and BBQ.

Morey’s Wild Salmon with Corn and Black Bean Salsa

$7.99
www.moreys.com

Robust, complex flavors are on trend, and among its latest releases, Morey’s has a winner with this wild salmon with corn and black bean salsa. This entrée is easy to cook either thawed or frozen. Our tasters enjoyed the smoky blend of sweet corn, black beans, and poblano peppers with a hint of cocoa. Each package contains two 5-ounce portions that are gluten-free and ready in minutes.

Musco Pearls Specialties Martini with Vermouth Greek Queen Olives

$4.49
www.olives.com

For those seeking the ultimate dry martini, toss in one of these vermouth-cured olives, or pour in some brine for a dirty martini. These large Greek queen olives are stuffed with sweet red peppers. Musco has a great line of olives, encompassing many varieties as well as stuffers like blue cheese, but these vermouth olives are tops — they’re a cocktail solution.

Mustard Girl Sweet n’ Fancy Yellow Mustard

$3.29
www.mustardgirl.com

Simple pleasures can be real winners, and Mustard Girl has one with its Sweet n’ Fancy Yellow Mustard. Described as “a new twist on traditional yellow mustard,” the product combines a blend of spices with a hint of sweetness to create a balanced taste that’s less vinegary than other yellow mustards. We agree — sweet and tangy, and very balanced.

Matlaw’s Southern Country Fried Shrimp

$7.99
www.matlaws.com

These delicious shrimp were launched at this year’s Seafood Expo North America as part of Matlaw’s ongoing brand revamp. The restaurant-quality shellfish are plump and juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside; spices in the breading deliver bold flavor without heat. Easy oven prep yields a versatile meal with great taste and texture. They’re a great option for anyone still wary about preparing seafood at home.

Nature’s Path Love Crunch Bars

$1.99
us.naturespath.com

Nature’s Path is all about better-for-you foods, and we could almost taste the love in the company’s Love Crunch Bars. Each variety delivers a delicious combination of crunchy nuts, hemp, chia and flax, with sweets like peanut butter and Fair Trade dark chocolate. Each bar has up to 6 grams of protein and no more than 7 grams of sugar, along with a good dose of fiber. They’re also gluten-free and certified organic. Flavors include Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt with Hemp, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter with Quinoa, and Mixed Nuts with Flax.

Nature’s Path Qi’a Superfood Snack Bar

$1.79
us.naturespath.com

Nature’s Path strikes gold again with its Qi’a Superfood bars, which harness the power of chia, hemp and coconut. Certified organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, gluten-free and vegan, they provide up to 6 grams each of protein and fiber per bar, and boast lower sugar than most energy bars. They left us picking chia seeds out of our teeth, but we didn’t mind. Flavors include Dark Chocolate Cranberry Almond; Nuts & Seeds & Sea Salt; Blueberry Cashew Pumpkin Seed; Roasted Peanut Dark Chocolate; and Mocha Cocoa Hazelnut.

NatureSweet Jubilees

$2.99
Naturesweet.com

Described as a sandwich tomato “sweet for the slicing,” because each Jubilee can be sliced for one sandwich, these little gems stand out for their unique packaging and, frankly, their uniformity. Five small tomatoes, all sized to fit in the palm of the hand, are nestled in their own pod — a 100 percent recyclable firm plastic container — to protect them from damage and ensure freshness.

Nestlé Boost 100 Calorie and Compact

$6.99
www.nestle.com

The adult nutrition category has grown significantly, and Nestlé continues to bring innovation to market with its Boost brand. To meet the demand from weight-conscious Baby Boomers, Boost developed a 4-ounce snack size that delivers 100 calories, 10 grams of protein, 25 vitamins and minerals, and 2 grams of sugar in Rich Chocolate and Very Vanilla varieties. Additionally, consumers who are ill or still recovering their health, or have poor appetites, often find it challenging to consume a typical 8-ounce supplement. Addressing this is the 4-ounce Compact, which delivers the same nutritional benefit in half the size. A member of PG’s extended family in the latter category enjoyed these products quite a bit.

Noosa Pumpkin Yogurt

$2.49
www.noosayoghurt.com

Noosa Finest Yoghurt has expanded its 2014 seasonal launch of Australian-style pumpkin yogurt, making it available nationwide and year-round. Pumpkin purée, honey and other ingredients evocative of pumpkin pie — cane sugar, cream cheese and spices — are added to Noosa’s plain yogurt for not only a healthy dessert, but also a satisfying breakfast or anytime treat. Does Noosa hold the key that will broaden pumpkin’s appeal beyond the fall season? In addition to the brand’s traditional 8-ounce tub, the new variety will be available in 4-ounce 4-packs for $4.99.

North Prairie Gold Extra Virgin Canola Oil

$8.99
Northprairiefamilyfarms.com

This product could potentially open a whole new category. Approaching territory currently occupied by olive oil, a cooperative of Canadian farmers has entered the market with this extra-virgin canola oil, a non-GMO certified, minimally processed and unrefined artisan product. Cold-press technology yields oil with a light, nutty flavor and natural amber color, along with maximum nutrient retention. It’s rich in vitamin E, contains 1.5 grams of omega-3s per serving and is low in saturated fat. With the right marketing and consumer education, extra-virgin canola could be the next big thing in gourmet oils.

Old Orchard Watermelon Cucumber Lemonade

$1.99
Oldorchard.com

This is one of the most refreshing beverages we’ve had in a long time: A blend of real sugar and stevia sweetens a lemonade enhanced with watermelon and cucumber. It’s light, crisp and truly thirst-quenching, and contains a third less sugar than traditional lemonade. We’re keeping our glasses full of this one.

Pacific Sustainable Seafood Gluten-Free Crispy Battered Cod

$7.99
www.pacificseafood.com

No gluten? We couldn’t tell. This fish cooks up crispy and delicious, tender and flaky. The label is about as clean as you can get: sustainably sourced, traceable, no artificial ingredients. And, of course, gluten-free. Bravo to Pacific Sustainable Seafood for delivering on taste, trends and wellness in a product that should attract more consumers to the category.

Paleo Granola

$7.99
Paleoscavenger.com

Devotees of the Paleo diet — which, in a nutshell, includes anything that cavemen would have eaten (i.e, unprocessed) — should really enjoy this granola from Paleo Scavenger. It’s slightly sweet, with a soft, chewy texture. Sweetened only with honey, the granola is low in sugar and free from grains, dairy and soy. Our testers were mixed on this, but overall, we appreciated the rustic flavors and texture of this granola. It doesn’t take a caveman to declare this a winner.

Perky Jerky Jamaican Style Turkey Jerky

$5.49
Perkyjerky.com

Getting protein got more irie with this Jamaican-style turkey jerky. We enjoyed this authentic flavor profile, which comes from a blend of zesty peppers and flavorful jerk spices. Perky Jerky is all natural and gluten-free, with no added preservatives, nitrites or MSG. And like the brand’s other varieties, it contains guarana, a natural energy booster that should make you want to climb right up Dunn’s River Falls.

Pompeian Avocado and Coconut Oil Cooking Sprays

$4.99
www.pompeian.com

Cooking will be more on trend, flavorful and healthy with these new oil sprays from Pompeian. Coconut oil is currently popular, and one variety of this nonstick cooking spray offers a mild coconut taste and is suitable for high-heat cooking, as is the avocado oil, with its high smoke point. The sprayers are convenient and easy to use, and each spray is essentially calorie- and fat-free.

Popchips Crazy Hot

$1.49/1 ounce; $2.99/3.5 ounces
Popchips.com

Heat is on trend, and Popchips bring some intense heat to its line of better-for-you snack chips made from potatoes that are pressure-cooked, or “popped,” instead of fried in oil. The brand’s spiciest product to date may or may not rival habaneros in intensity, but it does make the lips tingle while balancing the sizzle with a delicious cheesy note.

Que Pasa Ancient Grains Tortilla Chips

$3.49
ca-en.quepasafoods.com

Hand-cut volcanic lava millstones are credited with ensuring Que Pasa Ancient Grains organic chips deliver the full taste of an intriguing blend of grains and seeds, along with a satisfying crunch. The texture is like that of traditional stone-ground corn chips, so there’s no big leap into the unknown for consumers looking for a more interesting tortilla chip experience. Ingredients include stone-ground corn, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat flour, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, amaranth seeds and quinoa. Other Non-GMO Project Verified varieties include Purple Corn (purple corn and chia) and Chipotle Black Bean (black bean, kale, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth and chia).

Reed’s Stronger Ginger Brew

$4.99/4-pack
Reedsinc.com

Anyone who enjoys strong ginger flavor like we do should love this Stronger Ginger Brew from Reed’s, which we first experienced at a trade show, welcoming the quench after a long afternoon of product tasting. This soda has 50 percent more ginger than the brand’s flagship ginger beer. The beverage is made with fresh ginger root, cane sugar and honey, with no preservatives, caffeine or GMOs. Reed’s says it made this specifically for mixing in trending retro cocktails like Moscow Mules, but we like it as is, right from the chilled bottle.

Reese’s Spreads Snacksters Graham Dippers

$1.49
www.hersheys.com

Hershey scores with this on-the-go treat that leverages its popular Reese’s brand for a fun snack that all ages should enjoy. Peel back the dual-chambered package to reveal yummy chocolate-and-peanut-butter dip and graham cracker dipping sticks. Our kid tasters really liked these, and we expect adults will, too, even as a guilty pleasure.

Safe Catch Elite Canned Tuna

$3.50
Safecatch.com

While pricier than traditional tuna, Safe Catch has purity limits 10 times stricter than the FDA mercury limit, is sourced using “free-school” FAD free-catch methods, and is dolphin safe. Five-ounce cans are packed — no pre-cook processing — in BPA-free cans with easy-open lids. The product contains no fillers or preservatives, and the can is chock full of tuna. The lid claims “no need to drain,” because there’s very little liquid in the can.

Saffron Road Chicken Enchiladas Poblano

$5.49
Saffronroadfood.com

Saffron Road earns points for digging a little deeper into product development to provide mesquite-flavored, nicely textured black beans and fluffy, perfectly cooked garlic rice. The product description on the box is thorough: chicken enchiladas poblano with mesquite black beans and garlic rice; Yucatecan nixtamal tortillas — you can smell the corn in the tortillas — roasted dark-meat chicken; spinach; Oaxaca cheese; and a creamy poblano chile sauce. The product is certified halal and features antibiotic-free chicken raised on a vegetarian diet. There’s just enough kick to make your mouth remember the dish — not too spicy, but interesting heat. At just 360 calories per hearty serving, this frozen entrée will appeal to consumers watching their calories.

Schmacon

$5.49–$6.49
Schmacon.com

This is a cool product, not only because it’s tasty, but also because it extends traditional bacon’s halo of popularity into beef, which is good for the whole meat department. Schmaltz Retail Products’ Schmacon looks, smells, cooks and crisps much like traditional pork bacon, but it offers fewer calories (45 versus 70 in a typical slice) and less fat (1 gram versus 5) and sodium (170 versus 250 milligrams); we definitely found it to be less salty. It’s also all natural and nitrate-free. We enjoyed the smoky-sweet taste on its own as well as in a recipe (on a whim, we crumbled cooked Schmacon into pasta sauce — delicious). Meat eaters avoiding pork should enjoy Schmacon, as should everyday bacon lovers looking for a change of pace.

SeaPak Shrimp Potstickers

$9.99
Seapak.com

SeaPak continues to move beyond its traditional breaded or battered world to offer products that align nicely with the growing popularity of healthier, authentic ethnic fare. The company’s Potstickers deliver an easy-to-prepare appetizer, side dish or even a meal in themselves. The wrappers are the perfect texture: tender, but able to contain the traditional filling of shrimp with cabbage, water chestnuts and spring onions. Each 18-ounce package contains 20 potstickers and a packet of soy ginger dipping sauce. Also new is a Light Shrimp Scampi.

Smart Flour Foods Pizza

$6.99–$7.99
www.smartflourfoods.com

We’ve enjoyed Smart Flour’s gluten-free frozen pizzas in the past, and its new varieties are winners for broadening the brand and cleaning up the label in this category. Ancient grains now serve as the base for Chicken Sausage, with roasted red peppers; Tuscan Inspired Two Meat, with salami, pepperoni and pepperoncini; and Sundried Tomato and Escarole. The proprietary flour blend containing sorghum, amaranth and teff gives the pizza crust a great taste and texture while adding to a healthy nutritional profile (the cheese is made with milk from cows not treated with synthetic hormones, and the meats are free of antibiotics, nitrites and nitrates).

Stemilt Fresh Blenders Apples

$3.99–$5.99
www.stemilt.com

Stemilt wins points for its efforts to broaden the reach of fresh produce with Fresh Blenders. These 5-pound value bags of sweet or tart apples speak to the growing trend of juicing. The highgraphic standup pouches are a great grab-and-go option for consumers and offer an opportunity for retailers to create juicing destinations within their stores. The tagline “the natural start to any juice or smoothie” and a large illustrated blender filled with apples and other popular blending items will attract shoppers; each package includes a recipe fit for the flavor of the sweet or tart apple inside. Varieties include sweet flavors like Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji and Golden Delicious, as well as the tart flavors of Granny Smith, Pink Lady and Braeburn.

Stonefire Mini Naan

$2.99
Stonefire.com

Flatbreads are trendy, and Stonefire’s mini-size naan makes it easier to jump on the bandwagon. Available in 5-packs, these flatbreads are made to the same recipe as the brand’s original naan, but are just a little more than one-third the size. This toaster size is perfect for appetizers or portion-controlled personal meals. Additionally, the minis are made without artificial preservatives, additives, artificial colors, trans fat or hydrogenated oil.

Sugar Bowl Bakery Organic Brownie Bites

$5.99–$7.99
Sugarbowlbakery.com

A fast favorite among our testers, these delicious morsels feature a clean label and come in a size that keeps portion control in check. Sugar Bowl Bakery’s Organic Brownie Bites are individually wrapped minidesserts clocking in at 90 calories each. They have no cholesterol, trans fat or preservatives, and carry the Non-GMO Project Verified seal of approval.

SweetLeaf Water Drops-Peach Mango and Raspberry Lemonade

$4.99
Sweetleaf.com

Water enhancers are growing in popularity for their versatility and convenience, and for those who want an all-natural quench, SweetLeaf delivers. These stevia-sweetened Water Drops, which fit easily in pocket or purse, allow users to add a quick shot of flavor to water, with zero calories or carbs, and no artificial ingredients such as aspartame and sucralose. Our favorites were the Peach Mango and Raspberry Lemonade varieties.

Tastykake Salted Caramel Mini Donuts

$2.99
www.tastykake.com

Flowers Foods’ Tastykake brand brings a little excitement to the commercial bakery aisle with on-trend flavor and bite-size indulgence. These Salted Caramel Mini Donuts feature a traditional cake doughnut covered in a caramel-and-salt-flavored crumble, making them great for breakfast time or anytime. The 11.5-ounce bags boast Tastykake’s newly redesigned package style — a great new flavor for a beloved regional brand making new inroads in a broader market.

Thanasi Foods Bigs Jumbo Sunflower Kernels

$1.89
Thanasi.com

What we really liked about these was, at long last, not having to bust sunflower seeds out of their shells. Thanasi’s Bigs brand offers these 100 percent U.S.-grown, non-GMO sunflower kernels roasted to a tasty crunch and delivering 7 grams of protein per serving. We enjoyed the kick of the Savory Wasabi flavor best; the line also comes in Simply Sea Salt.

Three Bridges Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

$7.99
www.valleyfine.com

We’ve seen it with ravioli, but Valley Fine Foods’ Three Bridges is the first we’ve seen to offer a savory-and-sweet blend of sweet potatoes, butternut squash, Parmesan cheese and pasta shells. This artisanal twist on mac and cheese brings together not only premium ingredients, but also the simplicity of butternut squash and sweet potatoes for a delicious, refrigerated family-sized entrée. While “chef-inspired,” the ingredient list is also inspiring, with whole, clean ingredients: pasta shells, milk, butternut squash, sweet potato, Parmesan cheese, sautéed onion, butter, wheat flour, bread crumbs, onion, cream, canola oil and spices.

Traina Sriracha Sun Dried Tomato Ketchup

$3.99
www.trainafoods.com

For those not ready for the fire of full-blown sriracha, this spicy ketchup from Traina Foods might be just the ticket. This sriracha-spiked ketchup, made with sun-dried tomatoes, is packed with intense tomato flavor and a spicy, tangy finish that we really enjoyed. Beyond traditional condiment uses, it would make a great base for sauces or marinades, or perhaps even a Bloody Mary. The ketchup comes in a 16-ounce squeeze bottle as well as an 11.5-ounce glass bottle.

Truly Good My Salad Bar

$4.99
www.trulygoodfoods.com

We thought this was a cool concept for customizing salads at home. Truly Good Foods’ My Salad Bar is a combo pack of four salad toppings in a resealable compartmented tray, offering variety without the need to purchase all of the complementary components separately. The four options include diverse combinations: Original contains walnuts, cranberries, sesame sticks and sunflower seeds; Indian contains spiced rice flour noodles, crispy fried lentils, fried split chickpeas and whole lentils with lentil twigs. Other combos are sesame bits, mini fruit mix, blackened pumpkin seeds and soybeans, and cashews, golden raisins, pumpkin seeds and black bean sticks.

Tyson Crafted Creations Seasoned Beef Strips for Fajitas

$5.56/pound
www.tyson.com

Tyson is proving itself adept at making home cooking easier, exciting and fun. The latest addition to its Crafted Creations line, Seasoned Beef Strips for Fajitas, offers boneless beef strips, marinated in a unique blend of dried onion and garlic, lime, lemon and turmeric. This quick-prep product can help move a meal from skillet to table within 30 minutes. These were delicious on tortillas with fresh salsa. Growing demand for ethnic flavors is sure to make this a meat case winner, while its packaging delivers an impressive 25-day shelf life.

Vintage Cucumber Melon Sparkling Water

$3.99
www.drinkvintage.com

This clean, refreshing, calorie-and sugar-free sparkling water would be at home in a high-end spa. The clean, subtle flavors of cucumber and melon are refreshing and even relaxing. Traditional 12-ounce cans join other Vintage varieties, including Original (plain), Coconut, Lemon, Lime and Pink Grapefruit. The Vintage brand is owned by Canadian company Cott Beverages Inc.

Wolfgang Classic Fountain Soda-Root Beer Pretzels

$4.99
www.wolfgangcandy.com

This sweet treat provides a nice dessert for our banquet of champions. Once again, the idea of simple pleasures ruled the day here: We enjoyed the authentic root beer flavor in the coating on these mini pretzels — sweet, clean and refreshing. Wolfgang Candy also offers these in orange cream, which were good as well, but the root beer gets our thumbs-up, hands down.

Wild Thymes Onion Jalapeño Chutney

$5.99
www.wildthymes.com

Wild Thymes Farm sells a wide variety of gourmet-centric sauces, jams and such. Our favorite from among its latest releases is this onion jalapeño chutney. We appreciated the heat of the peppers that enhanced the sweet, savory caramelized onions. From meat glaze to hors d’oeuvres spread to sandwich topper, this chutney is flavorful and versatile. It’s also 100 percent natural; free of fat, gluten, sulfites and cholesterol; and low in salt.

Wholesome Organic Pancake Syrup

$5.99
Wholesomesweet.com

We appreciated seeing a clean label for regular table syrup (as opposed to pricier “real” maple varieties). New from Wholesome Sweeteners Inc., this pancake syrup uses organic sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup and is free of preservatives. It’s also USDA Certified Organic, non-GMO certified, vegan and kosher. Most importantly, though, it tastes great — we really enjoyed this over pancakes and waffles.

Yulu Yogurt

$1.69
www.whitewave.com

While Greek yogurt continues to demonstrate its staying power, Australian-style yogurt (which at least one of our tasters prefers) is coming on strong. Joining its ranks is this fine example from White-Wave Foods’ Yulu brand. Said to be inspired by an authentic Aussie recipe, Yulu is “double smoothed,” or blended twice, creating what its makers call a creamier alternative to Greek yogurt. It certainly delivers on taste, as well as nutrition, with 9 grams of protein per serving. Varieties are Honey, Vanilla Bean, Blueberry, Strawberry and Raspberry.