Low in carbohydrates, yet hight in flavor.

Low in carbohydrates, yet high in flavor, cheese spreads are plentiful these days. For the holidays, Hickory Farms Inc., Maumee, Ohio, began distribution of a retail pack of gourmet cheese spreads in four varieties: Brookshire Blue Cheese, Cheddar with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Triple Crème with Herbs and Vegetable Harvest. Cultured cream cheese-based, the spreads are packaged in 7-oz clear containers and ready for serving. A 2-tbs portion ranges in calories from 90 to 130 with 8-13g fat. Triple Crème with Herbs is the richest, as the formulation includes butter, cream and mascarpone.

Merrill, Wis.-basedrondelé Specialty Foodsadds two flavors-Blue Cheese and Peppercorn Parmesan-to its 8-oz deli cup line of gourmet spreadable cheeses.

And to appeal to increasing consumer interest in authentic Mexican-style foods, Kachwa Food Group, Lake City, Ga., introduces Gordo's™ Cheese Dip. These new heat-and-serve, rich white queso (cheese) dips are described as "The New Taste of Old Mexico™." Consumers simply remove the lid from the 16-oz resealable container and microwave according to package instructions. There are also 20-lb foodservice containers. Gordos Cheese Dip comes in three varieties: Plain white, Mild and Hot. Made through a unique formulation of pasteurized processed American cheese, milk and other ingredients, these refrigerated dips sport the Real® Seal.

Hyper Cow Inc., St. Paul, Minn., usesSchroeder Milk Co., Maplewood, Minn., to co-pack its innovative and extremely creative line of namesake caffeinated milks. Energetically endowed Hyper Cow™ drinks are 2% milk-based and loaded with caffeine, as much as a can of cola. The drinks are positioned as energy drinks and targeted to 15- to 25-year old consumers, basically, upper-class high school through grad school students. Hyper Cow makes pulling an all-nighter easier. Packaged in pint plastic bottles adorned with edgy, full-sleeve shrink labels, Hyper Cow comes in three flavors: Chocolate Shock, Mean Mocha Cappuccino and Straight Up Strawberry. The drinks debuted at the end 2003 in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, with a goal of national distribution, or at least in university towns!

Consumers are now able to easily satisfy their desire for individual servings of their favorite ice cream with new All Mine™ Half Pint fromPerry's Ice Cream Co., Akron, N.Y.

"Our research shows that consumers don't always want to share their Panda Paws™ or Fool's Gold™. Sometimes, they just want to have their own special serving with no fuss or mess. That's why we created our half-pint line," says Kristen Ryan, senior brand mgr.

In total there are five half-pint flavors (Cherry Panda Paws, Chocolate Panda Paws, Fool's Gold, PB Cup Craze and Vanilla). Perry's will introduce more flavors based on consumer demand. The half pints have been available since the fall and are distributed throughout New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and the New England region.

Sun Valley Dairy, Sun Valley, Calif., rolls out authentic Greek-style yogurt. Made from fresh cows milk, cream and yogurt cultures, Shepherds Original Strained Yogurt has a creamy taste and thick, smooth texture, just like you would find in Greece. It is delicious eaten alone or mixed with fruits. It can also be used as a substitute for cream in savory dishes, as it does not separate. Currently Shepherds Original Strained Yogurt is sold in California; however, product is available for national distribution. Sun Valley Dairy (www.sunvalley-dairy.com) manufactures a variety of Mediterranean-style authentic dairy foods.

Noteworthy Introductions

Winter Haven, Fla.-basedVelda Farmsa National Dairy Holdings, L.P., company, introduces Sol Tropical fruit punch-style drinks in five varieties: Bermuda Blast, Grand Cayman Groove, Montego Madness, Nassau Nectar and Saba Sunburst. The drinks come in plastic pints and gallons, and are positioned as "great-tasting refreshments that are not expensive."

Fudge Brownie Swirl is the latest ice cream flavor combination fromTillamook County Creamery Assn., Tillamook, Ore. This new seasonal feature flavor blends rich vanilla ice cream with German chocolate brownie pieces and chocolate fudge swirl. A half-cup serving contains 160 calories and 9g fat. It comes in half-gallon containers and is distributed throughout the Northwest.

INTERNATIONAL

The snack and dip trend continues unabated in a number of categories with the latest developments appearing in the United Kingdom. In 2003,Dairy Crestlaunched the Cathedral City Dip & Go! Snack Packs whileKraft Foodsintroduced the Dairylea Finger Dunkers. The Dip & Go! Snack Packs include a set of "mature yet mellow" Cheddar sticks with a separate container of Crosse & Blackwell Branston Pickle Dip (owned byPremier International Foods). The Dairylea Finger Dunkers include a special cheese spread with a separate compartment of salt and vinegar flavored potato sticks. Interestingly, Kraft designed the potato sticks to fit around the finger, allowing children to attach the snacks before dipping. In the Netherlands,UnieKaasintroduced a sophisticated cheese dip kit with three different sauce selections including honey mustard, yogurt-garlic sauce and a spicy piri-piri sauce.

During the hectic hours of the morning few consumers wish to prepare a complicated meal, explainingKellogg'sdecision to expand its portfolio with two new dairy-based products in Germany. The company introduced the Schoko cereal-based beverage with Frosties Cereal (a.k.a. Frosted Flakes), which is described as a satisfying, creamy beverage with chocolate-flavored Starmilch milk. Soon after, the Kellogg's Smacks Quarkige Creme product appeared featuring honey- and banana-flavored quark cream with a separate serving of Smacks cereal.

For the dessert lover,Iglo-Olaintroduced the Magnum Hot Ice Cream, which is described as classic chocolate-flavored ice cream that doubles as a hot beverage, as it is packaged in a microwave-safe cup, creating an indulgent drink in just two minutes. In the Phillipines,Nestléexplored the all-in-one dessert concept by introducing a product with chocolate ice cream bundled with four separate dessert toppings comprising sprinkles and marshmallows. Quite a few yogurt products serve a similar purpose, offering a nutritious ending to any meal. For example, Nestlé introduced a yogurt product in Belgium with caramelized peaches and lemon-flavored shortbread biscuits, whileDeltaunveiled its b-Cool Banana Yogurt in Greece with a separate packet of cereal and chocolate sprinkles.

Contributed by Gina Kuhn, research consultant, Global New Products Database (GNPD), a division of Mintel International, a global research company. For more information call 312/932-0400, or visit www.gnpd.com.