Tight is in this fall. Designers are showing clothes to fit the shape and supermarkets are showing food to fit the busy schedule. Shelf space is getting tight, too, as granola bars, fruit rolls, breakfast cereals and frozen dinners continue to squeeze the aisles.
"It's going to be a big fall," predicts Martin Friedman, editor of New Product News, an industry newsletter, who said that 188 new products were introduced to the market this September, a 34 percent increase over September of last year. Friedman predicted that the rest of the year will be "strong," too, with a year-end increase in products from 1984 of 10 to 12 percent.
Mammoth corporate mergers such as Nestle' buying Carnation, R. J. Reynolds purchasing Nabisco and the most recent purchase of General Foods by Phillip Morris should also increase new product rollouts this fall, Friedman said, since consolidated companies have larger resources.
In addition, products owned by the partners in a merger are often mixed and matched. A marriage between Phillip Morris' 7-Up and General Foods' Kool-Aid could result in a Kool-Aid soft drink, suggested Friedman.
But in the meantime, what has recently hit or is about to hit the supermarket shelves? What gimmicks have been cooked up?
In keeping with the big buzzword -- timesavers -- for about 50 cents more per pound than boneless chicken breasts, Holly Farms' new Time-Trimmer Thin 'n Fancy Chicken Breast Fillets do it all for you. Now, not only are the breasts boned and skinned, but they're already pounded. And you don't have to cut chicken breasts anymore either, because of Holly Farms' chicken nuggets -- chicken breast meat cut into neat little squares and inserted into form-fitting Styrofoam trays.
In the meat department, the biggest thing coming is fully cooked meats, predicts Bruce Nuckolls, Safeway's meat merchandising manager. Safeway has started selling fully cooked boneless pork loin, and Hormel has introduced fully cooked, vacuum-packed spareribs under the Old Smokehouse label ("perfect for microwave," of course).
Perhaps most incredible is the "Perdue Done It!" line, presently in its test-market stage in New England. The line includes a roasting chicken, fully cooked at a very high temperature and sealed in a vacuum-packed cooking bag. The refrigerated shelf life, according to a Perdue spokesman, is one month.
Along similar lines, the Campbell Soup Co. is rolling out water-packed, 100 percent white breast meat chicken chunks that come in a can. According to Campbell spokesman Kit Mann, statistics show that consumers like tuna and chicken salads equally, but eat more tuna because its easier to prepare.
In addition, says Nuckolls, we'll be seeing more portion-controlled, semiprepared fresh meats. "Fresh and Ready," two already-marinated fresh chicken breasts, were introduced by Country Pride this summer (you still have to cook them for 40 minutes in a conventional oven, however).
Time-saving food also means microwave instructions for almost every type of food (including a cupcake mix, says Friedman, with the unappealing caveat that the finished product will not brown and will have slightly moist tops) plus products that are especially designed for microwave use, such as popcorn and prebrowned sausages.
And while observers note that introduction of health-oriented products is leveling off somewhat, it may be the lull before the storm of the next two nutrition trends, fiber and calcium. Already fiber has infiltrated the cereal section, where companies are one-upping each other ad nauseum with high fiber claims.
The first calcium-fortified product has just rolled off production lines. It's called DairyCrisp, an oat cereal with tricalcium phosphate and nonfat dried yogurt. A one-ounce serving size of DairyCrisp with a half cup of milk totals 1,000 milligrams of calcium, 100 percent of the daily allowance recommended by the National Institutes of Health.
Look for new flavors and product line extensions in frozen dinners, the single biggest phenomenon of the past two or three years, says Friedman. (Budget Gourmet has just begun test-marketing a slim line, according to Friedman, who predicts that Le Menu will add a "light" line shortly to compete with Classic Lite dinners.)
And in what Friedman calls "the sweetness cycle," during which manufacturers start out eliminating sweet ingredients and then put them all back, granola bars and yogurt still have some shaking out to do. Granola bars covered and filled with peanut butter, chocolate and caramel are getting closer and closer to candy bars, and Friedman predicts yogurt and fruit coatings may be next.
And we still have a lot of possibilities left with yogurt, Friedman added. In Europe, yogurt is appearing flavored with wine or liqueur and topped with hard caramel coatings. According to Friedman, Dannon has just introduced Dannon Supreme in a European-style see-through package with layered yogurt (passion fruit on the bottom, peach on the top, coconut with cherry, blackberry with raspberry) inside.
Following the success this summer of fruit bars, lots of companies associated with fruit are getting into the business, including Chiquita and Ocean Spray, with its test market product, Ocean Spray on a stick. Other variations are in the test-market phase also. Dole is test-marketing Fruit 'n Cream Bars, a frozen dessert that combines peach, blueberry or strawberry with ice cream.
And the tofu ice creams keep on coming. New Product News reports introductions of Tofu Terrific and Tofulicious. Giant Food recently introduced its own tofu dessert, Dreamy Tofu. And Tim Finley, promotional coordinator from Safeway, says the chain is soon introducing a product called Tofulait (not manufactured by Safeway) into its stores.
Decaffeinated coffees and teas, wine coolers and fruit rolls are still going strong nationally, and fresh fish counters and exotic produce are going strong locally.
Safeway is currently test-marketing an extensive line of fresh peppers in a handful of its stores. But these aren't ordinary fresh peppers. According to produce merchandising manager Gary Gionnette, the peppers, which will include 32 varieties at the peak of the test, are grown in Washington state by an apple grower who planted peppers on an experimental basis. Among the unusual varieties: Santa Fe Grande, Petit Sweet, Auconcongua, Goat Horn, Shipka, Las Crusas. (So far, says Gionnette, it appears that people prefer red peppers to green; they add more color and are sweeter and milder.)
Another welcome trend, notes Gionnette: more peaches, plums and nectarines than ever this winter from South America. Gionnette said a bumper crop and aggressive marketing strategies add up to a promising winter of imported summertime fruit.
As for developments in hydroponic produce, Gionnette says the chain will be going headstrong with tomatoes to offer alternatives to the usual wintertime tomato, which "has a negative reputation." Hydroponic watercress and parsley are in the experimental stage.
In a less wholesome vein comes Coca-Cola's Minute Maid orange soda with 10 percent orange juice, following in the footsteps of Pepsi-Cola's Slice with 10 percent fruit juices (a mixture of white grape, pear, lemon and lime).
Presently, the Washington metropolitan area is the country's test market for the product, according to Coke spokesperson Georgia Camp, because this area has a "strong orange category index," which more simply means that consumers in this area drink a lot of orange-flavored soft drinks.
The product contains a token amount of orange juice, designed to "cash in" on the growing interest in eating a healthy diet, according to Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, although Camp said that the product makes no nutritional claims, but that it is more healthful to a consumer than a soda product that doesn't have any juice at all. The company added juice because of the overall interest in juice-containing products, said Camp.
Friedman, who calls 1985 the "year of the beverage," envisions that other soft drinks companies will be entering the soda-juice market, one upping each other with products perhaps containing 20 or 25 percent fruit juice. Chocolate sodas, on the other hand, will settle down pretty quickly, he predicts, because it's not the kind of beverage most people can drink two or three times a day.
As for packaging, fruit juices have pretty well saturated the aseptic category. And steel and aluminum can move over, because the food package of the future is plastic.
We've already seen ketchup (Heinz) and jellies (Welch's) in plastic squeeze bottles, and Hormel is rolling out a revolutionary package called the QPAK. A pressure-cooked, shelf-stable plastic container, the QPAK will be used for Hormel's lasagna, spaghetti and beef and other now-canned products.
And then of course, there are the what-will-they-think-of-next new products such as Love Buds (edible long-stem roses manufactured by Aphrodite Confections), frozen fruit preserves from Smucker's, William Tell Apple Snacks, vanilla-flavored cigars . . .