Among the several miles of displays intended to entice supermarket operators during the Food Marketing Institute convention here this month were a multitude of food products.
Some were old and simple. In this category were fresh strawberries from California and fresh orange juice compliments of a juice extractor manufacturer. Less simple, but equally familiar and very popular, were five or six different beers and Howard Johnson's ice cream. Elsie the Cow was on hand for Borden's looking bored and somewhat embarrassed, while comedian Soupy Sales, appearing neither bored nor embarrassed, was pushing Morton's frozen steel.
The fascination that fast foods hold for the supermarket business was illustrated in nearly every corner of the exhibition hall. Chicken was "pressure-fried" by several manufacturers, as were Idaho potato triangles. These and barbecued chickens and ribs were on display in several new cases designed to keep food warm for long periods of time. Nothing passed "mediocre" on the taste-sensation meter.
Hot dogs were popular items, too. The best were manufactured and served by the Best company, which was introducing a low-fat knockwurst. Another low-fat display offered turkey products made to look like ham or sausage and included fresh turkey cutlets. They cost about $2.25 a pound and would substitute nicely in veal recipes. But even the hot dogs had to take a back seat to frozen pizza.
Eight or 10 companies were offering samples of their products. The pizza that won my heart is called Tony's. It has cornmeal in the crust and superior seasoning. Tony's also makes frozen burritos and tamales that surpass their competition and should do well in Washington, a market sadly lacking in good, fresh Mexican or Tex-Mex food.
Among the new, or nearly new, products, several will receive considerable attention. Ten Plus, an orange-flavored popsicle, is said to provide 10 per cent of the daily protein requirement and 50 per cent of necessary vitamin C. "Cholfree" (low cholesterol) cheese and "Viteamite," a vitamin-charged milk and chocolate drink are also aimed at the nutrition-conscious consumer. Promoters are hopeful that batter-wrapped frozen fish sticks will bring back shoppers bored with breaded fish sticks.
California's newest cash crop, pistachios, was on display and will be widely distributed in coming years. Presliced, frozen beef liver - a nutritional plus at any economy price - is being aggressively marketed.
By and large, though, the fabricated foods - particularly fabricated snack foods - should have been approached only by those who left their taste buds behind.
For those who knew or cared what hand-crafted meat and sausage products taste like there was a useful and welcome frame of reference: a booth serving cold cuts and sandwich meats from Usinger's Famous Sausage, the Milwaukee firm that does a large mail order business. Unfortunately, man (or woman) cannot survive the FMI by cold cuts alone.