Catching up on prices, getting lost in pieces


Nothing’s ever cheaper

Mr. Tidbit was so mesmerized last week by the novelty of the several kinds each of new Green Giant Riced Veggies, Roasted Veggies, Veggie Tots and Mashed Cauliflower that he forgot to mention (or ran out of steam before he could mention) that — of course — they cost more. The many frozen vegetables in this line don’t carry a single price, nor is there always a similar product in the regular Green Giant collection, for easy comparison. But here are two examples from one store: Roasted Veggies unseasoned roasted corn, 10 oz., $2.69; Steamers Niblets corn & butter sauce, 10 oz. $2.19. And Riced Veggies unseasoned Cauliflower & Sweet Potato, 10 oz., $3.19; Steamers Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots & Cheese Sauce, 10 oz., $2.19


Reese’s down the rabbit hole

Now full of vegetables, Mr. Tidbit feels he can safely turn once more to junk.

Specifically, yet another version — but more peculiar than most — of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. We already had quite a few of those, in several sizes and in seasonal shapes, mostly milk-chocolate covered, but also Reese’s Dark and Reese’s White Peanut Butter Cups and Crunchy (filled with crunchy peanut butter).

Peanut Butter Cups, of course, are the just tip of the Reeses’s iceberg. Principally, there’s Reese’s Pieces, the (can Mr. Tidbit say it?) m&m-like candies with peanut butter filling. But there are also a host of other Reese’s candy bars: Reese’s Sticks chocolate-covered peanut butter wafer bars; Reese’s Crispy Crunchy bar (chocolate, peanut butter, crispy peanut candy (think Butterfinger) and chopped peanuts); Reese’s Nutrageous bar (chocolate, peanuts, peanut butter and caramel), and Reese’s Fast Break bar (chocolate, peanut butter and nougat). Never mind Reese’s cereal, ice cream, syrup, baking bits, etc.

So what combination are we missing? New Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Stuffed With Pieces Candy. Not clear? It’s a Peanut Butter Cup, within the peanut butter filling of which are Reese’s Pieces — candy pieces themselves filled with peanut butter. Peanut butter filled with candy filled with peanut butter.

Mr. Tidbit felt dizzy there, for a minute, imagining peanut butter filled with candy filled with peanut butter filled with candy filled with peanut butter filled with . . .  [Slap!] Thank you; Mr. Tidbit needed that.


Changes from The Valley


Ho, ho, ho — and mashed cauliflower

Our friend the Jolly Green Giant has been through a fair amount of change. In 1950 the Minnesota Valley Canning Co. (founded in 1903) changed its name to Green Giant. In 1979, Green Giant was acquired by Pillsbury, and it went along for the ride when Pillsbury was acquired by General Mills in 2001. In 2015, General Mills sold Green Giant to B&G Foods of Parsippany, N.J., whose many grocery brands include Ortega, Accent, Cream of Wheat, and Joan of Arc.


Suddenly, it’s Green Giant that is changing frozen vegetables. There’s practically an army of new Green Giant products, many of which are significantly different from anything Mr. Tidbit can recall.

The theme of a set of four lines of these new products (there are lots more) seems to be that they represent interesting or better-for-you choices than other starches – notably rice and potatoes. Thus we see such phrases as “Veggie Swap-Ins” and “Swap in More Veggies” promoting several kinds each of Green Giant Riced Veggies, Roasted Veggies, Veggie Tots and Mashed Cauliflower

The ricing in Green Giant’s Riced Veggies has nothing to do with rice, but is the process that produces tiny dice of vegetables that, if Mr. Tidbit wanted to give the impression that he watches cooking shows, he would say resemble mirepoix. The four versions, all of which contain nothing but the named vegetables — not even salt — are Cauliflower, Cauliflower & Broccoli, Cauliflower & Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Medley (Cauliflower, Green Peas, Yellow Onions, Carrots and Green Onions).

The five kinds of Roasted Veggies, also containing nothing but what’s in the name — again, not even salt — are Corn, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli and Carrots.

Mr. Tidbit understands the purity idea here, but he has to say that some of these items, while nicely textured, are quite bland.

The other two lines of Green Giant Swap-Ins, in identical packaging to the Riced Veggies and Roasted Veggies, don’t share the philosophy of few ingredients and no seasoning. They are three kinds of Veggie Tots: Broccoli, Broccoli & Cheese and Cauliflower; and several flavors of Mashed Cauliflower: Cheddar & Bacon, Original With Olive Oil & Sea Salt, and Garlic & Herb.

Mr. Tidbit could swear he saw a nothing-but-cauliflower version of Mashed Cauliflower, but he can’t find it now.


Shreds and circles



Shredding a standard

Wisconsin’s Crystal Farms makes many, many kinds of cheese, and Mr. Tidbit might have missed the introduction of the several shredded varieties that he didn’t recognize when he scanned the dairy case recently. But he believes they’re new, and in any case they would seem to be forerunners of something that is decidedly new.

Mr. Tidbit is speaking of Crystal Farms’ shredded Wisconsin Extra Sharp White Cheddar, Wisconsin Garlic Jack, and several varieties that the labels promote for use in Mexican dishes: Asadero, Oaxaca, Quesadilla and Muenster.

Lack of parallelism in naming of those latter cheeses aside, what makes these offerings significant is this: The bags of Crystal Farms’ many other shredded cheeses carry a large red blaze that says “Same amount of cheese; new stand-up bag,” and each contains 8 ounces — 2 cups — of cheese. The bags of the cheeses that seem new to Mr. Tidbit carry an admittedly smaller but still quite visible notice: “1 3/4 cups of cheese.” They each weigh 7 ounces. And they have the same shelf price as the others.

Everyone who thinks that a year from now the standard bag of shredded cheese from all the major producers will remain at 8 ounces, raise your hand.

Not so fast.



Concentricity comes to Oreos

   It has been almost five months since the most recent peculiar new variety of Oreos (Fruity Crisp Oreos, last August: “Imagine a Kool-Aid Tropical Punch cookie”), and Mr. Tidbit was beginning to worry. Had Oreo’s mighty Flavors Unheard of and Newly Generated (FUNG) department been swept away in some corporate reshuffle? He needn’t have been concerned: The FUNG boys are clearly still cranking them out.

New Chocolate Strawberry Oreos might have taken a little extra time to produce because, to Mr. Tidbit’s knowledge, they represent the first time that a biflavored Oreo filling was executed not with simple side-by-side semicircles of the two flavors involved nor with two layers of filling, but with a central circle of one filling (in this case, strawberry) and a wide surrounding ring of the other (chocolate). And this engineering marvel comes to us at the same shelf price as other Oreos — although admittedly in the smallest (10.7-ounce) Oreo bag.

Is this a great country or what?





There’s smart, and then there’s naked


This one really smarts

Smart Ones, the frozen entree line from Heinz (now Kraft Heinz) has introduced SmartMade, a new line of frozen entrees that joins the “ingredients you can pronounce” and “no artificial flavors or preservatives” parade. Those two claims, combined, make up the only meaningful one of four elements of the package’s “SmartMade Promise.” The others are “Made the way you do at home,” “Made with cooking techniques that bring more flavor to food — like grilling and roasting,” and (maybe count this as halfway meaningful) “Made with smart ingredient swaps that do not compromise taste.”  In the White Wine Chicken & Couscous entree that Mr. Tidbit bought, the package highlights “Smart swap of couscous for white rice.” He’s not sure why that’s “smart,” but he’s willing to let it go.

He notes that SmartMade does not make what is often the third leg of the “simplicity” claim: fewer ingredients. There didn’t seem to be any closely parallel items in the Smart Ones and SmartMade universes, so to compare with the White Wine Chicken & Couscous, Mr. Tidbit gave up and picked at random the Smart Ones Creamy Basil Chicken with Broccoli. Not very similar, but he’s willing to forgive himself on that one too. The Smart Ones item had 22 ingredients — including spelling out the parenthetical ones. The SmartMade entree had 34.

  The regular line of Smart Ones is cobranded by Weight Watchers; that doesn’t seem to be the case for SmartMade, but Mr. Tidbit isn’t sure that’s significant; it’s not as if the SmartMade stuff is full of pork sausage and whipped cream. In fact, of his admittedly unparallel choices, the Smart Ones Creamy Basil Chicken with Broccoli had significantly more fat, saturated fat and sodium than the SmartMade White Wine Chicken & Couscous.

Virtually all the varieties in both lines weigh in at 9 ounces. The biggest difference: At the supermarket where he bought them, The Smart Ones entree was $2.19; the SmartMade item was $3.69, a startling 68 percent more.


The naked truth

Godiva enters the upscale single-serve candy bar market with the Double Chocolate Bar, a small (1.2-ounce) bar described on the label as a “layer of cocoa biscuit & chocolate ganache in milk chocolate”), priced at $1.29 at one supermarket. The ingredient list had two noteworthy entries: The bar includes hazelnuts (surprisingly unclaimed on the front label), and the second entry (after sugar, of course) is palm oil.

Also surprising to Mr. Tidbit was “Product of Turkey.” Had Mr. Tidbit been paying attention, he would have noticed that Campbell’s Soup, which owned Godiva since 1967, sold it to Istanbul-based Yildiz Holding in 2007.





Has Mr. Tidbit gone gaga? Oui-oui!