FIRST THE really bad news. Entenmann's, the family-owner bakery on Long Island, is now the Warner Lambert owned bakery of Long Island, Chicago and Miami. (Warner Lambert also makes drugs.)
Haagen Dazs, once made in a rundown, little, old factory in the Bronx is now made in a modern new plant in New Jersey and is available in 45 states.
Weight Watchers, which went from a little club run by formerly fat Jean Nidetch, to a company which franchised its name for dozens of different food products, has also hit the big time . . . Heinz bought it.
Now for the bad news.
Even though an FDA scientificreview panel has said manufacturers ought to show a little restraint in adding monosodium glutamate (MSG) to foods because so many people have allergic reactions to it, and even though another FDA panel has said manufacturers ought to show a little restraint in adding salt to foods because so many people have hypertension, and even though one workshop at the recent Food Marketing Institute in Dallas told food-store operators that "there's a growing skepticism about what's in food, particularly additives including salt, sugar and Msg," the word has not gotten through to most manufacturers. At least not if one judges by the samples on the exhibition floors. If what the 17,000 conventioneers ate there didn't contain MSG, it had salt. If it didn't have MSG or salt, it had sugar. And some things had all three.
And now for the good news.
There were exceptions to the highly processed foods that derive most of their flavor from salt or sugar, artificial flavors and flavor enhancers.
Truly natural products (as opposed to those which use the word "natural" on their labels, but really aren't) were in evidence, even though they looked out of place.
By far the largest category was dried fruits and nuts, in medium-size snack packs, in little snack packs and by the pound. There were only about three exhibitors featuring them. The people who have been selling us raisins for years finally decided it was time to get into the dried fruit and nut business. Mostly because 1979 was a bad year for raisins.
"At first we thought the snacks were a fad," said a salesman at the Sun Maid booth, "but it has stayed." Sales for Sun Maid Native Snack "are five or six times what we expected. Consumers are willing to pay, no matter the cost."
Sun Maid also has gone into the raisin-bread business with a loaf, they say, contains 50 percent more raisins than the government's minimum standards, and with a price way above any minimum -- $1.59 for one pound. The bread is only available in California at the moment.
Unsalted nuts are also gaining. Fisher's said dry roasted unaslted peanuts are their fastest growing line. Now they are looking at unsalted sunflower seeds.
The Fisher people were able to answer a question many people have been wondering about: why some companies add MSG to their nuts. "To sensitize the palate," was the explanation, "but we don't think they need it."
Another "real" food is Yogreat; which is so new it hasn't made its way to this market yet. It has two ingredients -- plain pure yogurt with active cultures and one of four fruit juices: strawberry, raspberry, apple or orange. It's a drinkable, spoonable snack that's not too sweet. A six-ounce cup has 80 calories. (An eight-ounce cup of plain yogurt has 150).
The appearance of Westbrae Natural Foods, which produces all kinds of whole-wheat pastas, fruit butters and nut butters must mean there's a market for such things in the mainstream of supermarket shopping.
For those who want an alternative to the salt shaker but not a salt substitute, Vegit, "new," and doubtless improved, was on exhibit. It contains less than 5 percent sodium, but lots of vegetables in powdered form for flavoring.It's a good "instead seasoning," which supermarkets now will be carrying as well as natural food stores.
Another company making its way out of the natural food stores into the regular supermarket is Pride O' The Farm. They have all kinds of cookies made with 100 percent whole-wheat flour. They even have whole-wheat flour should be here hshortly, too. Covered with sesame seeds, Whole Wheat Mini Stix have got it all over regular bread sticks in the flavor department.
Then there were the good news/bad nes foods, like Comet Quick Brown Long Grain Rice. The company has perfected a method for cooking brown rice quickly and even though it costs plenty, 79 cents for 14 ounces, it should be a boon to those who want brown rice but don't want to take the time to cook it. Unfortunately the company felt compelled to add some BHT to the rice. BHT is an antioxidant which prevents oil from turning rancid. Brown rice, properly stored, will last for months without Bht.
The only entry in the really-something-new-under-the-sun department is Magic Shell Ice Cream Topping. These are butterscotch-and chocolate-flavored sauces that harden the minuted they hit the ice cream. But do people really prefer chocolate mint sauce without mint and butterscotch without butter, artificially colored to look real? The manufacturer, Foremost-McKesson, which you may recognize as another pharmaceutical house, apparently thinks so.
The rest of the products can be classified under the merchandising term segmentation. Under the merchandising term segmentation. Loosely translated this means, in order to get more shelf space for your item, you manufacture it in a host of colors, shapes, sizes and/or tastes.
Nestle's has a new instant soup, called Lunch Time. It comes in six different flavors, all with MSG.
La Choy has Lunch in a Cup, another of those instant soups to which you add hot water. It contains more MSG than powdered cooked chicken, than onion, sugar, garlic, leek, or just about anything else!
Butterball turkeys (in which there is no butter) are now not only stuffed, but contain a gravy packet which has been treated with caramel coloring to make the finished product nice and brown.
Morton's is selling not only frozen donuts, but frozen dough from the donut holes in three flavors, two of which contain artifical coloring.
Brown'n Serve Sausages, complete with their own MSG, come in several flavors: maple, "kountry kured," bacon 'n' sausage, hickory-smoke flavor, seasoned hot, milano.
Steak Tonight, which is not, and never has been, steak that any self-respecting steer would own up to, now comes in several of its own variations on a theme. The theme being flaked meat -- the same kind they make hamburgers from -- formed so it resembles a steak. Now there are onion flavored,pepper "steaks," strip "steaks," and "steak" sandwiches. They also contain hydrolized vegetable protein, dextrose (sugar) vegetable fat, salt, sugar and yeast and are described as containing "no preservatives, no fillers or additives; only natural beef with a slight touch of natural seasoning."
Because of the sales appeal of "natural," several products have jumped on the butter bandwagon. Taste O' Sea butter-flavored shrimp, scallops, fish sticks and fish-'n'-chips all contain "natural butter flavor," but no butter.
Keeblers has Butter Pretzel Braids, Nibblers and Knots, all of which have been sprayed with butter flavor, but no butter.
And Orville Redenbacher, who prided himself on having the best quality popcorn, or at least the popcorn which popped the most, has now put his name on Buttery Flavor Popping Oil, which is artificially flavored.
Despite the fact there were many more non-food items exhibited at this year's convention, there were enough varieties of pizza (including Mexican) so that you could be sure of burning the roof of your mouth sooner or later and enough cookies, especially chocolate chip, to OD on sugar. If Mrs. Whitman could see what they've done to her Toll House recipe, she'd demand it back.