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Tub of Cool Whip too Challenging? Try the Can

Kraft Wants to Prove It Can Innovate by Unveiling Slew of Even-Easier-to-Use Products

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Kraft Foods, which has made a business out of making meals easy, has heard from consumers that its products still weren't easy enough. And so Kraft is preparing to unveil to grocers some 80 new products at the Food Marketing Institute show in Las Vegas next week designed to appeal to even the laziest Americans.
Don't want to run to the freezer every time you want a dollop? Try Kraft's new Cool Whip aerosol.
Don't want to run to the freezer every time you want a dollop? Try Kraft's new Cool Whip aerosol.

The launches come as the company negotiates a complicated turnaround. It is beset with an unwieldy portfolio, old-but-storied brands and sky-high commodity costs. In order to hold prices and still drive demand, Kraft has boosted marketing spending, reformulated products such as Maxwell House and Oscar Mayer franks, and attempted to make its products more convenient and portable.

Cool Whip
Take, for example, Cool Whip, which comes in a large tub that must be kept in the freezer. Consumers didn't want to have to take that trying trip to the freezer every time they wanted a dollop, so they'd either skip the topping or went with a canned brand. Kraft's solution: a Cool Whip aerosol, so consumers can reach into the fridge and easily squeeze out a topper for their cookie, brownie or piece of fruit. The product will also be available in the dairy case, so it won't require a separate visit to the freezer aisle.

Or, for more instant gratification, try Kraft's Jell-O Singles, a pudding mix in powder packets that can sit in a cabinet or desk drawer without going bad, unlike its pre-made counterpart. Just mix with cold milk and watch it thicken.

Janet Myers, senior director-Kraft Kitchens, said the product is aimed at moms who want to make after-school snacks for their kids without having to wait for the Jell-O to congeal in the fridge. There is, however, some work involved in the preparation -- but, luckily, the kids can do it. "They like the interactivity of the stirring," she said, noting that the individual packs aid in portion control.
Mix Kraft's new Jell-O Singles with cold milk and watch it thicken.
Mix Kraft's new Jell-O Singles with cold milk and watch it thicken.

No time to slice a bagel, toast it and slather on Philadelphia cream cheese? No problem. Kraft's got Bagelfuls, a frozen, microwaveable bagel and cream cheese combo that can be eaten on the go. While convenient, there is a chance of spilling a gooey, white hot glob of cheese on your black pants. But Bob Becker, Kraft's senior VP-new products, said that Bagelfuls could easily become a new product platform for Kraft. The initial flavors are plain, strawberry, blueberry, cinnamon and whole grain.

Packaging gets simpler
Kraft is trying to simplify its packaging, too. It's revamping its Deli Select cheeses (thick-sliced sandwich cheeses in plastic envelopes) to make them faster and simpler to use.

"This is a product I buy a lot," Mr. Becker said, picking up an old package and beginning to tear at the edge of the envelope. "And every time I opened one, I wanted to call our 800-number."

Although the bag was conveniently re-sealable, consumers had to inconveniently reach in and pull out the whole stack of cheese to remove one slice. The new hard, rectangular container has a fitted lid, so now consumers can just pop the top and easily remove a slice of cheese.

And while the general population isn't burning calories by spreading cream cheese or making stovetop pudding, they're trying to consume fewer calories (at least on some occasions). But then there's the tiresome task of trying to count all those calories. Kraft is making that easier too, by adding to its 100-calorie portfolio of reworked versions of cookies, candies and crackers. Some of the new packs include candy bites, chewy granola, chocolate-covered pretzels and Honey Maid snack bars.

Another successful new platform for Kraft has been its beverage sticks, powder packets that flavor water. The packets can be poured directly into water bottles and shaken to make lemonade or tea. One of the new flavors in the Crystal Light line is red tea, and there's a vitamin-enhanced soft drink mix.

Goldfish Mac N' Cheese
Kraft is also introducing new flavors to the Mac N' Cheese microwaveable bowls, including "cheesy taco" and "easy Italia." And look out Goldfish Mac N' Cheese crackers, shaped like macaroni noodles but in cracker form. The initial flavor slate is cheddar, mild cheddar and white cheddar.

Mr. Becker maintains that Kraft's innovation pipeline is in better shape than it's ever been. "I don't think I said 'line extension' all day," he said after the session. "That wouldn't have been the case in previous years."
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