CHICAGO — While vacationing over the Independence Day holiday, I enjoyed a favorite pastime — A leisurely stroll through an out-of-town supermarket. I was pleasantly surprised to find many new products, in particular, a plethora of limited-edition flavors of mainstream foods. From soup to nuts, marketers are screaming out to shoppers they must buy a product now because only a limited amount has been produced, and once it’s sold out it’s gone.
Historically, limited-edition flavors focused on holidays, and typically centered on sweet treats and desserts. Think candy cane ice cream, pastel-colored candies and pumpkin-shaped cookies. Today consumers may find soup and nuts, as well as pasta and pizza in limited-edition flavors. With the threat that if you don’t try now you will never know what you are missing, many consumers are willing to take the risk and explore the unknown.
Starting with soup, Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods Inc., Fredericksburg, Texas, markets limited-edition heat-and-eat jarred soups priced at a premium: $11.95 per 32 ozs. Sold under its Mom’s brand, the current limited-edition tomato basil soup was named a 2014 sofi Awards Outstanding Products finalist at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City. The classic flavor is created with tomatoes, fresh basil and heavy cream. Previous limited-edition flavors include red pepper bisque and Bolognese.
In the frozen aisle, California Pizza Kitchen, a brand of Nestle USA Inc., Glendale, Calif., has two limited-edition Crispy Thin Crust varieties. Greek Recipe is made with tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onions, spinach and oregano, as well as mozzarella, Parmesan, Asiago and Romano cheeses and a creamy tzatziki sauce. Spicy Chipotle Chicken contains grilled white-meat chicken, roasted corn, black beans, poblano peppers, fire-roasted red and yellow peppers and cilantro, all topped with mozzarella, Parmesan, Asiago and Romano cheeses, and a spicy chipotle lime sauce.
Hamburger Helper from General Mills Inc., Minneapolis, is exploring bold flavors with its recently introduced Ultimate line. Two ethnically inspired flavors are rolling out as limited-edition trial products. They are Cheesy Fiesta Nacho and Southwest Chipotle Chicken.
Ice cream was one of the first mainstream food categories to experiment with limited-edition concepts that go beyond holiday products. For summer 2014, Holland, Mich.-based Hudsonville Ice Cream introduced a few summer limited-edition ice cream flavors, including one inspired by the famous dessert of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Mich., an island without automobiles and where businesses close for the winter. Grand Hotel Pecan Ball Ice Cream combines fudge swirls and pecans into Hudsonville Ice Cream’s original vanilla ice cream.
Just in time for National Ice Cream Month (July), the company also rolled out Summer Celebration, which is an explosion of three flavors — swirls of creamy vanilla ice cream, raspberry sherbet and blueberry sherbet — blended in a patriotic color scheme.
Hudsonville said its limited-edition flavors change with the seasons around the Midwest and highlight the celebrations, harvests and scenery of each changing season. The limited-edition process also functions as a test market to determine if the flavor is worthy of becoming an all-season offering. For example, a previous limited-edition flavor, Sea Side Caramel, was recently made into a permanent flavor in response to consumer requests. The taste of the sweet and salty ice cream was so sought after by Hudsonville consumers they continuously requested it from the company.
Pinnacle Foods Corp., Parsippany, N.J., recognized the urgency-to-purchase concept may work for Duncan Hines cake mixes beyond the brand’s usual holiday-themed offerings. Earlier in the year, the company rolled out Spring Velvets, which bakes into a layered pink and yellow cake. Right now shoppers will find Summer Velvets, which bakes into one red and one blue layer. The cakes become patriotic when covered with white frosting.
“Limited edition items have been great at bringing new and interesting flavors to our consumers at a time of year when they are looking for them,” said Ted Swain, senior brand manager for Bimbo Bakeries USA, Horsham, Pa. “After years of success with Thomas’ Cranberry English Muffins, Bagels and Toasting Breads that we introduce during the fall holiday season, we have gradually introduced seasonally relevant products year-round.
“We introduced Thomas’ Pumpkin Spice English Muffins and Bagels in the Fall 2012 to much consumer fanfare and brought them back again last year. This year we introduced Thomas’ Banana Bread English Muffins and Bagels from February to April, Cinnamon Vanilla English Muffins and Maple French Toast Bagels from April to July and just launched Apple Pie English Muffins and Bagels this week, which will run to September when we will bring back both the Pumpkin Spice and Cranberry English Muffins again. We’re looking forward to bringing great new flavors to our consumers year round in 2015 as well.”
Spangler Candy Co., Bryan, Ohio, splashed into summer with two limited-edition Hawaiian Punch-flavored Dum Dums. Hawaiian Punch’s iconic Fruit Juicy Red flavor and Polar Blast are now two of the 16 Dum Dums flavors available in specially marked bags. The new flavors deliver the same bold and unique taste that Hawaiian Punch is known for and may be easily spotted in bags or the candy dish by their special wrappers, according to the company. More than 30 million Hawaiian Punch Dum Dums are being distributed nationally to retailers. A social media and engagement campaign is driving awareness and trial.
Hawaiian Punch is one of many flavorful brands in the beverage portfolio of Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Plano, Texas. The company recently introduced its own limited-edition concept under the Dr Pepper label. Only available during the summer months, Dr Pepper Vanilla Float combines Dr Pepper and the flavor of vanilla ice cream.
Bakersfield, Calif.-based Bolthouse Farms, a business unit of the Campbell Soup Co., is sparking taste buds with its new summer-only beverage: Watermelon Mint Lemonade. The beverage combines sweet lemons, watermelon and a hint of mint.
For the first time, American consumers get to experience ready-to-drink shincha tea, but only for a short time. According to Ito En (North America) Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y., craft brewers have their young summer ales. France has its Beaujolais Nouveau. For centuries, Japan has had its shincha: the year’s very first harvest of green tea, celebrated for its fresh and lively flavor, naturally sweet finish and smooth umami character. The much anticipated first harvest currently is being introduced to Americans under the Ito En Oi Ocha brand.
In Japanese, “shin” means new and “cha” means tea. Shincha’s singular character derives from its harvest starting in early April, when young green tea leaves contain naturally higher concentrations of nutrients and vibrant flavors, the result of wintertime dormancy. Fresh shincha leaves are distinct from latter-harvested green teas, with a subtle sweetness attributed to a higher content of the amino acid L-theanine and lower caffeine content. The green tea leaves are not only fragrant and fresh in taste, but higher in vitamin C and catechin antioxidants than regular green tea.
Tribe Hummus, Taunton, N.Y., is introducing Limited-Batch Rosemary Focaccia, a spread that captures the essence of the herb-infused Italian bread. The hummus is a blend of chickpeas, rosemary spices, extra virgin olive oil and lemon. This is the third flavor in the company’s successful Limited Batch series, which is a collection of creative flavors that have dramatically expanded the hummus experience for chickpea lovers and first-time tasters alike. The brand’s inventive flavors are created by Tribe’s in-house chefs, ingredient aficionados and seasoned tasting panel. Last year, the company launched a horseradish-infused flavor called Cocktail Time. There was also Everything Hummus, a modern take on the classic everything bagel with roasted sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic and onion.
Unique, limited-edition flavors may be what the fluid milk category needs to get consumers to pour a glass or two of the beverage. In June, Prairie Farms Dairy, Carlinville, Ill., introduced three flavored milks with a summer theme. Sold under the company’s Old Recipe brand, the limited-edition flavors are the inaugural offerings in the Cupcake Classic series. The cupcake theme was chosen because of the current popularity of birthday cake ice cream. The difference being that the cupcake theme does not risk limiting usage occasion as birthday cake might. Cupcake also complements summer activities, such as picnics, holidays, etc., according to the company. The flavors are: chocolate truffle reduced-fat milk, strawberry banana lowfat milk and vanilla lowfat milk. The milks will be replaced with autumn flavors in early September.
Yoplait, a General Mills, Inc. brand, has been embracing the limited-edition flavor business since the fall of 2012 when it launched apple crisp and pumpkin pie yogurts. This summer, the company introduced margarita and peach sweet tea, two unexpected flavors for yogurt.
Limited-edition products may be found from soup to nuts, such as with the Planter’s brand from Kraft Foods Group, Northfield, Ill. Limited Edition Summer Berry Edition contains peanuts, almonds, blueberries, cranberries, peanuts and strawberries. Last year, the company offered Planters Limited Edition Tailgate Chipotle Nut Mix for football season. This savory mix of chipotle almonds and peanuts with crunchy corn kernels and pretzels delivered just the right amount of kick with a crunch.The limited-edition platform allows marketers to experiment and explore innovative flavors. The exclusive nature of the flavor creates an urgency for consumers to buy and try a product … because it may be gone the next time they shop.