The Campbell’s are ready; waffles with what?



Just add nothing

Campbell’s already had blanketed the market for “just-add-meat” sauce pouches — including in what appliance to prepare them — with seven Skillet Sauces (for example, Beef Stroganoff and Chicken Marsala), eight Slow Cooker Sauces (Beef Stew, Buffalo Chicken) and five Oven Sauces (Classic Roasted Chicken, Sweet Teriyaki Chicken).

What was left? The microwave, of course, and not having to add anything at all. Thus we have 9-ounce microwave pouches of Campbell’s Ready Meals: Homestyle Noodles & Beef in a Creamy Mushroom Sauce and Creamy Dumplings with Chicken & Vegetables.

But that’s not all. Right next to those two Campbell’s Ready Meals, Campbell’s offers nine Ready Meals from two of its other labels.

From the pasta-sauce department come four Prego Ready Meals (for example, Creamy Three Cheese Alfredo Rotini, Marinara & Italian Sausage Rotini).

And the Southwest is represented by five Pace Ready Meals — not to be confused with the four kinds of Pace canned chili — (for example, Santa Fe Style Steak with Black Beans & Rice, Southwest-Style Chicken with Corn & Beans).

All 11 shelf-stable pouches microwave in 60 seconds.

It’s not necessarily helpful to price-compare pouches of sauce with pouches of ready-to-eat meals, but that doesn’t mean Mr. Tidbit won’t do it:

At one discount store, where the 11-ounce pouches of Campbell’s Skillet Sauces were $2.49 (22.6 cents an ounce), the 12-ounce pouches of Campbell’s Oven Sauces were $2.59 (21.6 cents an ounce), and the 12- or 13-ounce pouches of Campbell’s Slow Cooker Sauces were $2.59 (21.6 or 19.9 cents an ounce), the 9-ounce Campbell’s, Pace and Prego Ready Meals were $2.59 (28.8 cents an ounce).

Mr. Tidbit notes with some concern that by nailing down the oven, skillet, slow-cooker and microwave, Campbell’s hasn’t quite covered the entire cooking-appliance spectrum. At least in some parts of the country, we still might be offered Campbell’s Deep Fryer sauces.



Leggo my oats?

Speaking of blanketing the market, Mr. Tidbit would have said that, although many variations were still possible, the current line of 23 kinds of Eggo frozen waffles probably was enough for utter frozen-waffle domination. He wouldn’t have thought there might be many folks who favor less-processed foods but who might also become convinced to buy frozen waffles, but now there are two flavors of Eggo Oats & Berries waffles, featuring steel-cut oats.


Beans, beans, the versatile fruit




Putting meat in your beans

When Mr. Tidbit visited the supermarket’s bean department a month ago, he noted the large number of new and apparently-new offerings from Bush’s. And now it’s Campbell’s turn.

Three of the five varieties of Campbell’s Chunky baked beans (Original Baked Beans, Baked Beans with Bourbon & Brown Sugar, and Baked Beans with Maple Bacon & Brown Sugar) didn’t carry “new” badges, but Mr. Tidbit is pretty sure he’d never seen baked beans from Campbell’s — and certainly not from Campbell’s Chunky. Note: The labels say “Campbell’s Chunky,” but these are beans, not Chunky soups.

However, two of the Chunky baked beans are labeled “new,” and they are, at least to Mr. Tidbit, really new grocery products: BBQ Flavored Baked Beans + Chicken, and BBQ Flavored Baked Beans + Pulled Pork.

The nation’s chicken and pork farmers aren’t going to get rich off of these new items: Mr. Tidbit estimates, based on the amount of cholesterol listed on the labels, that a half-cup serving of the “+ chicken” version contains a little more than a tablespoon of chicken, and the “+ pork” version might have as much as two tablespoons of pork.

Again noting that these Chunky baked beans are not Chunky soups, Mr. Tidbit must point out that, perhaps for reasons of symmetry, Campbell’s has also introduced Chunky Spicy BBQ Seasoned Chicken with Beans Soup.


How easy is hummus?

And while Mr. Tidbit was once again visiting the Sweet Aisle of Beans, he noticed yet another new offering from Bush’s. And he believes that this, too, is a new idea: Hummus Made Easy, a pouch that you add to a drained can of (presumably Bush’s) garbanzo beans and whomp in a food processor.

How is that “easy?” one of Mr. Tidbit’s little friends wondered. Well, it’s easier than making hummus from scratch.

It is not easier than buying a tub of hummus.

But it is cheaper. At one store, the mix and garbanzos together cost $2.49, making about 15 ounces of hummus (17 cents an ounce). A 10-ounce tub of name-brand hummus at that store was $2.99 (30 cents an ounce).





Did we need chocolate chip cookies from frozen, from mix? Sure!




Mixing up the cookies at Nestlé

There are two new cookie products from the mammoth semisweet-morsel division of Nestlé. That firm already offered many cookie options, including:

Refrigerated 16.5-ounce cylinders of slice-and-bake Nestlé chocolate chip cookie dough (let’s save a few electrons by referring to this substance as NCCCD); numerous varieties of 16.5- to 18-ounce flat-packs of refrigerated chunks of NCCCD, 36-ounce tubs of scoop-and-bake NCCCD, and 28-ounce trays of 20 oversize “freshly baked in store” ready-to-eat Nestlé CCCs.

What could possibly be added to that array? Yes, you already saw the headline and the photo, but play along: There are now 18-ounce bags of frozen chunks of NCCCD, and a new NCCC baking mix. Judging by how much butter and eggs you have to add to the new mix, it will make a batch that is half the size of the recipe on the bag of chips; the box says it makes 18 cookies.

Mr. Tidbit acknowledges that you can keep frozen chunks of CCCD longer than you can keep refrigerated chunks of CCCD, but how much is that worth?

As for the new mix, it requires every bit of the (minimal) drudgery of making the cookies from scratch — except for buying separate ingredients (or using them from your pantry). You still have to come up with the butter and egg.

Here are prices per cookie for the various products at the discount store where Mr. Tidbit found the new mix.

Refrigerated tub of NCCCD: Makes 36 1-ounce cookies; $4.79: 13 cents per cookie.

 Refrigerated roll of NCCCD: Makes “about 17” 1-ounce cookies; $2.59: 15 cents each.

Refrigerated flat-packs of NCCC: The different varieties of cookies in the 16.5- to 18-ounce flat-packs are preshaped into from 12 to 24 cookies; let’s settle on an average of 18 1-ouncers; $2.59: 14 cents each.

Already-baked NCCCs: The tray of 20 1.4-ounce cookies was $5.00: 25 cents per oversized cookie; 18 cents per ounce.

  New frozen chunks of NCCCD: The 18-ounce bag of 1-ounce chunks was $3.99: 22 cents each.

New NCCC mix: Makes 18 cookies; $2.99. Adding the butter and egg: 21 cents each.

  So the two new ones cost more than any of the others, possibly excepting the already-baked cookies. Please tell Mr. Tidbit you aren’t surprised.


Betty Crocker’s CCC mix, which also makes 18 cookies, was $1.99 at that store. Adding the butter and egg: 16 cents per cookie.

 Baked from scratch: 1/2 recipe, including butter and egg, $2.46: 14 cents per cookie.



Nutty Bars renamed; Snack Packs go natural



The End is near!

There has been a disturbance in The Force even more disturbing than the one caused by election: Little Debbie Nutty Bars, one of the foundations of the universe, have been renamed. The box now says “Nutty Buddy.”

The product is identical; the boxes have the same UPC code, the price is the same. Only the name has changed.

Mr. Tidbit senses the presence of A Nephew.

Mr. Tidbit’s peculiar alter ego Uncle Al, who since the 1980s has been using the size of the LDNB as a universally recognized unit of measure, is outraged and is considering driving to Collegedale, Tennessee, to lodge a lengthy and strengthy protest. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. (Uncle Al’s car needs shocks.)



Naturals Pudding

Last week Mr. Tidbit favored you with a comparison of new Jell-O Simply Good instant pudding mix and Jell-O’s regular instant pudding mix. Attempting to determine whether a second, similar discussion of a second, similar new product would be just as boring as that one — or maybe even more boring — he now presents new Snack Pack Naturals shelf-stable pudding, and will compare it with regular Snack Pack shelf-stable pudding.

Here are the ingredient lists:

New Naturals chocolate pudding:  Nonfat milk, water, sugar, corn starch, palm oil, cocoa powder, less than 2% of: whey protein powder, carob bean gum, salt, vanilla extract.

Regular Snack Pack chocolate pudding: Water, nonfat milk, sugar, modified corn starch, vegetable oil (contains one or more of the following: palm oil, partially hydrogenated palm oil, sunflower oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil), cocoa (processed with alkali), less than 2% of: salt, calcium carbonate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, artificial flavors, color added.

Mr. Tidbit notes that 19 of the 46 words in the regular pudding list wouldn’t be there if they picked one oil instead of that list of possibles — that would make the regular pudding’s list 27 words; the Naturals list is 23 words.

The sleeve of Naturals declares “All natural ingredients/ nothing artificial/ no preservatives, no high fructose corn syrup, 0g trans fat per serving.”

(Snack Pack describes the regular pudding as also having no preservatives, no high fructose corn syrup and 0 grams trans fat per serving.)

The regular pudding is sold in four-packs of 3.25-ounce cuplets; at one store the four-pack was $1.19 (9.1 cents per ounce). New Naturals is sold in six-packs of 3.75-ounce cuplets; at that store the six-pack was $2.99 (13.3 cents per ounce — 46 percent more).

Mr. Tidbit has no idea why the Naturals cuplets are bigger.


Simple pudding, complex pasta



‘Tis a gift to be pudding

The “simple” trend rolls on, today reaching out (or down) to Jell-O. There are now versions of both Jell-O instant pudding mixes and Jell-O gelatin mixes. The Simply Good products — labeled “NO artificial flavors, dyes or preservatives” — are in pouches instead of boxes, so it’s very clear which one you’re buying.

What’s the difference? Here are the ingredients lists for the chocolate fudge regular instant pudding and the chocolate Simply Good version:

Regular Jell-O instant pudding: sugar, modified cornstarch, cocoa processed with alkali, disodium phosphate (for thickening), contains less than 2% of: natural and artificial flavor, tetrasodium pyrophosphate (for thickening), mono- and diglycerides (prevents foaming), red 40, yellow 5, blue 1, artificial color, BHA (preservative).

Simply Good: cane sugar, modified cornstarch, cocoa processed with alkali, disodium phosphate (for thickening), contains less than 2% of: tetrasodium pyrophosphate (for thickening), salt, mono- and diglycerides (prevents foaming), natural flavor.

So the artificial flavor and colors and BHA in the regular version are missing from the new one, but the chemically-named thickeners and anti-foaming agent remain. Mr. Tidbit guesses that the “simple” broom didn’t sweep them out with the BHA because you wouldn’t like the product without them.

And what does simply leaving things out of a product do to its shelf price? Of course: It’s more expensive. At the store where he found them, the 3.9-ounce box of regular Jell-O instant pudding was $1.19 (30.5 cents an ounce), and the 3.9-ounce pouch of Jell-O’s Simply Good was $1.69 (43.3 cents an ounce) — 42 percent more per ounce!

Because no human being should be subjected to two side-by-side ingredient-list comparisons without a break, Mr. Tidbit will wait a week to discuss Snack Pack’s new Naturals ready-made pudding.

You’re welcome.



Veggie-laden pasta

There’s yet another unusual-ingredients pasta from Ronzoni. Besides flour, Ronzoni SuperGreens contains these dried vegetables: spinach, zucchini, broccoli, parsley and kale. The package claims that there’s so much dried vegetable in a single serving of this product that it amounts to three servings of vegetables.

It makes sense to Mr. Tidbit that this costs more. But this much more? At one online store, where regular Ronzoni thin spaghetti was $1.67 for 16 ounces (10.4 cents an ounce), the 12-ounce box of SuperGreens thin spaghetti was $2.99 (24.9 cents an ounce) — a staggering 139 percent more per ounce!

Just eat some actual vegetables!