INTEREST GELS IN SNACK TREND

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CHICAGO-If a food marketer wanted to wrap up all of this year's trends in a single new product, it would introduce a healthy "homestyle" coffee-flavor gelatin snack packaged in green, using a popular brand name-and with a tie-in to a hot movie or TV show.

Those were the buzzwords and prevailing trends among the new products showcased at last week's Food Marketing Institute convention:

New technologies have led to a boom in ready-to-eat gelatin products, packaged for school lunches or as after-school snacks. General Foods USA's Jell-O, the category kingpin, this spring rolled out shelf-stable Kraft Handi-Snacks Gels alongside 1993's refrigerated Jell-O Gelatin Snacks. But Del Monte Corp. and Hunt-Wesson also have new shelf-stable gelatin cups. And in the grossest, most kid-pleasing example of all, General Mills is marketing in the Midwest Betty Crocker Gelooze, a shelf-stable "gelled snack in a squeezable bottle." TV, couponing and sampling support, from Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York.

"We've seen a real resurgence in interest in Jell-O, particularly from young mothers who probably ate Jell-O when they were young," said a General Foods spokeswoman.

Tie-ins with hot entertainment properties remain a key way to reach kids. American Home Food Products' Chef Boyardee is introducing the first food brand ever endorsed by "Sesame Street." With three canned and three shelf-stable tub products, Sesame Street Pasta targets 1-to-7-year-olds with pastas in the shape of Big Bird and friends. A total of $11 million in TV and print ads, free standing inserts and direct mail will support via Young & Rubicam, New York.

Also on display at FMI were new Mighty Morphin Power Rangers graham cookies from R.W. Frookies Inc.

For today's consumer, "scratch" cooking doesn't actually mean mixing ingredients but simply doing the final preparation of a packaged product. Witness a miniboom in ready-to-bake cookies: Van den Bergh Foods is testing a Mrs. Butterworth's line of frozen cookie doughs in 10 markets, with print ad support from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York. And Nestle USA is rolling its Toll House refrigerated cookie doughs, testing since the winter, national in July. McCann-Erickson, Los Angeles, handles the Nestle line.

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