Tidbit overflow

 

Attacking the Tidbit pile

Mr. Tidbit is suddenly aware that his collection of potential Tidbit items, normally nicely contained in a corner of his kitchen counter, has rapidly, unexplainedly and quite wildly overflowed, and is threatening to take over the entire kitchen.

And given that the flow of peculiar new food products has shown no sign of slowing, if he continues to attack the pile of them at his current rate, he will soon be forced out of his home altogether.

It’s time, Mr. Tidbit has decided, to deny most of these items the penetrating analysis for which the searing spotlight of the Tidbits column is so renowned, and to give each of them just a brief mention and move on.

So:

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New Simply Made Cookie Thins is how Keebler’s Simply Made line (promising few ingredients, the kind you’d find in your kitchen) hops on the “thin” bandwagon. (There’s almost no room.)

 

 

 

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The new Oreo chocolate candy bar is a milk-chocolate-covered multisectioned bar, with an undescribed somewhat crunchy whitish filling that contains hazelnut paste and bits of what might be Oreo cookies. Mr. Tidbit must add his fond remembrance of Oreo ChocoStix wafer sticks, (first ingredient semisweet chocolate), which came and went 10 years ago.

 

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Since consumers voted last year to make Coffee Nut m&ms a permanent part of the m&m constellation, [[[mars]]apparently figured OK, what else that doesn’t go with peanuts can we put out there? Thus the new Strawberry Nut m&ms, at this point only a “limited edition.”

 

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The package of new Caramel m&ms has no such designation, so this item apparently is intended to be permanent in that firmament. Mr. Tidbit must say that the texture is unusual: the caramel isn’t just a flavor, it’s a chunk of caramel inside the thin, thin candy shell (and a bit of milk chocolate).

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Keebler’s new Club Bites are tiny cracker sandwiches (cheese or peanut butter) looking very much like Ritz Bits sandwiches. In Mr. Tidbit’s view, the big departure here for Keebler isn’t that it has taken its buttery Club crackers into tininess and sandwichery. The big news is that that this version of the rectangular cracker is round.

Well, Mr. Tidbit had some trouble holding himself to the “brief mention” thing, but he did manage to dispose of five items. It’s a start.

 

How thin it is!

Thin is unavoidably in

Mr. Tidbit has no idea how these things get started, but what was until comparatively recently a sprinkling of “thin” cookies and crackers is now an avalanche. The inflection point might have been the

first of the very successful Oreo Thins two years ago.  Here are four new thin products that are either completely new lines or significant additions to lines established not all that long ago:

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From the thin farm

Pepperidge Farm, whose Farmhouse brand was until now only a line of bread, introduces three kinds of Farmhouse Thin & Crispy cookies: milk chocolate chip, dark chocolate chip and triple chocolate chip. As is true with many things in life, Mr. Tidbit is baffled by the fact that they became a separate line, instead of joining the long list of Pepperidge Farm cookies named after cities.  Nothing on the package of dark chocolate chip Farmhouse cookies that Mr. Tidbit bought suggests how “farmhouse” has anything to do with thin — or with crispy, for that matter.

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Putting on more Ritz

Mr. Tidbit would have said that the several flavors of Ritz Toasted Chips satisfied any need for a crisper Ritz cracker. Of course, he was wrong. Now there’s a second line of Ritzes sold in bags: Ritz Crisp & Thins, which are more like potato chips than they are like the Ritz Toasted Chips — or than they are like what might be called plain-old  Nice & Thick original Ritzes. The varieties of Ritz Crisp & Thins at the moment are sea salt, bacon, cream cheese & onion and salt & vinegar.

 

Thin and glutenless

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Archway’s Cookie Thins line (cinnamon sugar and brown sugar oatmeal) just got a significant addition: gluten-free sugar cookie. Mr. Tidbit usually stays away from discussing how much he likes or hates a new product, as that’s a matter of taste. But he feels that it’s worth noting that he wouldn’t have guessed this to be a gluten-free product.

 

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Thin!

Mondelez has doubled the number of varieties of Chips Ahoy! Thins. The first two — original and cinnamon sugar — are joined by oatmeal and double chocolate. (As always, Mr. Tidbit rushes to note that the exclamation point is part of the name, not an indication of his level of enthusiasm).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new savory side dish (how sweet it isn’t)

oatmealOnion oatmeal?

For today’s excursion into the peculiar, Mr. Tidbit will depart from his normal practice, and not discuss an odd new foodstuff fresh from the laboratories of some giant grocery firm.

Instead he will discuss an odd new foodstuff fresh from his own kitchen.

Let Mr. Tidbit Be clear: He is not claiming that he is the first person to have had the remarkable insight that led to this new comestible — only that he did have it, perhaps along with hundreds or maybe millions of nameless cooks throughout recorded time.

And here it is: A serving of oatmeal (the kind that comes in the big cardboard cylinder, not the instant kind that comes in little envelopes) can be made, according to the instructions, with half a cup of oatmeal and a cup of either water or milk. Standing at his kitchen counter one recent day, about to prepare some oatmeal, Mr. Tidbit glanced at that instruction and – realizing that there are many more edible liquids than water and milk – wondered whether oatmeal could be prepared with any of those other liquids.

It should not surprise you, dear reader, that the answer is yes. Mr. Tidbit is not mean enough to drag you through all that introduction only to say that you can’t use another liquid to make oatmeal.

For example, you can prepare oatmeal with canned soup. For a single generous serving, half a cup of 1-minute or old-fashioned oatmeal and a cup of soup. And — depending on what soup you try and your own tastebuds – the resulting savory oatmeal can be pretty darn good.

That it can be that tasty, and that there’s such a wide range of potentially interesting flavors, led Mr. Tidbit to realize immediately that he had produced not a breakfast food, but rather a side dish — perhaps a flavorful substitute for mashed potatoes or rice.

His first experiment was with beef consommé (it comes condensed, so he used half a cup of soup and half a cup of water). He microwaved it (a little longer than the oatmeal instructions suggest, to produce a more substantial texture), and it was great! (And it was an inspired guess, as it remains one of Mr. Tidbit’s favorites.)

Experiments with more soups yielded some insights: Soups with lots of solids (bean with bacon, for example), aren’t very successful. And noodles or other pasta need to be strained out, because they contain lots of extra liquid, which causes the oatmeal to take much longer to cook.

But what turned out to offer the widest selection of interesting flavors was packaged sauce, gravy and marinade mixes, which hadn’t even occurred to Mr. Tidbit at first. For the single generous serving, stir a cup of water (a little at a time at first) into a teaspoon to a tablespoon of the mix (trial-and-error is involved here: Some mixes are more assertive than others). Add the oatmeal, stir, microwave and stir again afterward.

The results range from subtle and complex (béarnaise sauce is a nice one) to piquant (garlic, herb and wine marinade, for example) to spicy (chili mix).

Mr. Tidbit has taken to having a bowl of savory oatmeal as a mid-afternoon snack. In that situation, with no competing flavors from other meal components, he has been pleased to find that almost anything works. Among his favorites, besides consommé, are sausage gravy mix, sweet onion (sold as a burger mix-in) and leftover pho from the Saigon Uptown restaurant in Minneapolis. With the noodles strained out.

Cheesecake and augmented yogurt revisited

 

 

 

Who doesn’t like a little cheesecake?

In discussing the new Sara Lee individual (undersized) slice of frozen cheesecake a few weeks ago, Mr. Tidbit was pressed for space or electrons or bandwidth or something and so didn’t mention any of the previous small cheesecake and cheesecake-like items that he has nodded to as they came and went, stretching back as far as 1997’s refrigerated Jell-O Cheesecake Snacks (pudding tubs of a cheesecakey substance “made with Philadelphia cream cheese” and topped with a strawberry substance), to the more recently departed Jell-O Temptations (a similar description applies, without mention of Philadelphia).

Mr. Tidbit didn’t even think of citing Jell-O’s long-standing No Bake Cheesecake mix, which also makes no claim to Philadelphiality but does include a graham-cracker crust. And if you look hard, you can find the current version of the 1997 item: It’s Jell-O Strawberry Cheesecake Cheesecake Snacks (yes, two “cheesecakes” in a row: It’s the strawberry cheesecake flavor — and apparently the only flavor — of Jell-O cheesecake snacks — and is also marked “original”), but there’s no mention of name-brand cream cheese. (Must Mr. Tidbit point out that both Philadelphia cream cheese and all the various kinds of Jell-O are products of Kraft — now Kraft-Heinz?)

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Mr. Tidbit feels justified in mentioning all that in order to properly frame what he believes to be the latest entry: Philadelphia Cheesecake (no mention of Jell-O), a refrigerated tub of cheesecakey substance, attached to which is a smaller tub of strawberry substance you get to spoon on top yourself, totaling 3.25 ounces and sold in (6.5-ounce) two-packs for $3.99 (61 cents an ounce). At the same store, the frozen 2.5-ounce Sara Lee slice was $1.99 (72 cents an ounce). At Walmart, the four-pack of 3 1/2-ounce tubs of Jell-O Strawberry Cheesecake Cheesecake Snacks was $1.98 (14 cents an ounce).

A dipper, not a mixer

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Mr. Tidbit didn’t mean to slight General Mills’ Yoplait brand recently when he discussed Fage Crossovers and Chobani Flips, tubs of yogurt with a sidecar of mix-ins, totaling 5.3 ounces. Yoplait Dippers, which he believes are at least relatively new, are a little different: They are tubs of yogurt with, under a domed cover, substantial items to dip in it, totaling just 4.6 ounces. There are a mere six choices, example: Toasted Coconut yogurt with Honey Oat Crisps — which Mr. Tidbit would call little cookies.

 

A breakfast biscuit not to be snickered at

 

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Sons of a biscuit

New from BelVita, the outfit that Mr. Tidbit believes first used the term “breakfast biscuit,” are four kinds of breakfast biscuit sandwiches. Each sandwich is two crunchy breakfast biscuits, held together by one of these fillings: peanut butter, Dark Chocolate Creme, Vanilla Yogurt Creme or Strawberry Yogurt Creme. The four sandwich offerings add to 12 other BelVita biscuits: five flavors of crunchy (the original breakfast biscuits), five soft-baked and two Bites (mini biscuits).

In every case there are five individually wrapped 50-gram servings in a box. That 50–gram serving is four crunchy or soft-baked biscuits, two sandwich biscuits or a handful of biscuit Bites. Mr. Tidbit notes that the crunchy biscuits that make up the sandwiches are significantly smaller than the “original” crunchy biscuits (that’s how you pay for the filling).

In his tireless search for Truth, Mr. Tidbit discovered three other BelVita items being sold in England: Tops (single rimmed biscuits topped by strawberry or “choco-hazelnuts” filling), Yogurt Crunch (biscuit sandwiches — original or cocoa biscuits with “creamy live yogurt filling”) and Duo Crunch (biscuit sandwiches with “live yogurt filling” and strawberry or apricot filling. Any or all might show up here any minute now.

 

What’s in a Snickers?

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Speaking of groceries that showed up elsewhere first, Mr. Tidbit has learned that the newish Snickers & Hazelnut bar was already a standard item in several countries, including Australia and Poland.

You might assume that each of the now several Snickers variations has the ingredients of the regular Snickers bar plus the item in the name. If you foolishly made that assumption, you were incorrect. Here, according to Mr. Tidbit’s best efforts, are what he believes to be the contents of various Snickers bars:

Regular Snickers: milk chocolate, peanuts, caramel, nougat; Snickers Almond: milk chocolate, almonds, caramel, nougat — no peanuts; Snickers Crisper: milk chocolate, crisp rice, caramel, peanuts — no nougat; Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road: Dark chocolate, almonds, caramel, marshmallow-flavored nougat — no peanuts; Snickers Peanut Butter Squared: milk chocolate, peanut butter, peanuts, caramel, nougat, Snickers & Hazelnuts: Milk chocolate, peanuts, hazelnuts, caramel, nougat.

OK, so on the last two you would have been right.

 

 

Cross over to cupcake and foam

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Flavor to savor

Mr. Tidbit’s jaded reaction to new Fage Crossovers — a tub of Greek yogurt with a little sidecar of mix-ins, totaling 5.3 ounces — was that they are nothing more than Fage’s response to Chobani Flips. (Or maybe that Chobani Flips — a tub of Greek yogurt with a little sidecar of mix-ins, totaling 5.3 ounces — are nothing more than Chobani’s response to Fage Crossovers. Hard to know which startling breakthrough product line preceded which.)

Just because he had nothing else to do, Mr. Tidbit decided to look at the two products’ websites to see how many yogurt/mix-in flavor combinations each firm offers.

Yow! The Chobani Flips website lists 23! And 17 of them have multiple mix-ins. (Apple Crisp Twist, for example, is apple-cinnamon  yogurt with spiced walnuts, cinnamon crunch & glazed pie crust pieces.)

Mr. Tidbit almost walked away from the Fage Crossovers website having learned nothing more than that there are 11 flavors and that each involves only a single mix-in. That’s when he noticed what might really be a startling breakthrough:

Several of the yogurt flavors are savory, not sweet. There’s Coconut Curry yogurt with roasted cashews, Tomato Basil yogurt with roasted almonds, Olive Thyme yogurt with roasted almonds and Carrot Ginger yogurt with roasted pistachios.

Mr. Tidbit suspects that your average supermarket won’t be in a hurry to push more-traditional yogurts off the shelf in favor of Tomato Basil .

And he can hardly wait for the next advance. His money is on Hamburger yogurt with caramelized onions.

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mmm. Cupcake!

Mr. Tidbit couldn’t tell, at first, whether new Vanilla Cupcake m&ms are an Easter gimmick, a “limited edition” gimmick or a year-round gimmick. The pastel coatings shown in the illustration on the bag (Mr. Tidbit found Vanilla Cupcake only in the giant eight-ounce bags, not in single-serving bags) suggest spring, if not specifically Easter. The headline on a relatively small illustration on the back of the bag supplied clarification: “Easter is Better with m.”

Perhaps someone can explain to Mr. Tidbit what Easter has to do with vanilla. Or with cupcakes, for that matter.

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Foam at home

Good news for folks who want a latte and have been forced to trudge to a coffee shop to get it: International Delight has applied Reddi Wip technology to coffee creamer. The result is One Touch Latte “frothing coffee creamer.” Shake, point the spout into your not-full cup of coffee and press for five seconds. There you go!

At one store the seven-serving One Touch Latte (vanilla, caramel or mocha) was $3.99 — 57 cents per foamy serving.

 

Sausage and cheesecake. (Mmmm!)

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The Dean of Sausage piles it on

Every once in a while, the appearance of a new grocery product directs Mr. Tidbit’s faltering attention to how very many quite similar products from that same brand are already on the shelf.

Take Jimmy Dean sausage’s substantial presence in the freezer case. Before he gets to the two new items, Mr. Tidbit feels a need to convey just how substantial that presence is. At the Jimmy Dean website he found these Jimmy Dean sausage items (although probably no supermarket carries them all):

13 fresh sausage: links, patties, bulk (various seasonings)

19 cooked sausage: links, patties and crumbles, ditto

24 sandwiches: various ingredient combinations on croissants, biscuits, English muffins, bagels, pancakes, flatbread and French toast

10 Breakfast Bowls (combinations of eggs, potatoes, sausage, cheese, etc.)

14 Delights (light versions of some sandwiches and bowls;

5 pancakes & sausage (some on a stick)

2 skillets (like Breakfast Bowls but you add the eggs)

2 omelets

2 frittatas

That’s 91 offerings!

And now there are three kinds of Jimmy Dean Stuffed Hashbrowns. They come four to the box, each with its own microwave crisping sleeve. Choices (inside the hashbrowns) are: Sausage & Cheese (sausage, Cheddar & mozzarella cheese); Bacon & Veggies (bacon, tomatoes, peppers, onions, Cheddar & mozzarella cheese), and Meat Lovers (sausage, ham, bacon, Cheddar & mozzarella cheese).

Plus there’s new French Toast & Sausage on a stick. There appears to be only one flavor: cinnamon. How is French Toast & Sausage on a stick different from Pancakes & Sausage on a stick? The 30-ounce boxes of 12 pancakes on a stick were $7.99 at one store, where the 30-ounce boxes of 12 French Toast on a stick were $8.99.

So it’s now 95 items.

Mr. Tidbit is hoping they’ll make it 100 with five kinds of Sausage Sandwiches on Naan.

 

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Convenience comes to cheesecake

  Sara Lee makes several versions of frozen cheesecake. But apparently there’s a problem: What if you can’t eat a 17- or 19-ounce cheesecake in one sitting?

Got you covered! Now there are handy individual

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(somewhat undersized) slices of both the classic and strawberry-topped versions. (The tray makes the slice look a little bigger than it is.) At a store where the 17-ounce Classic cheesecake was $5.79 (34 cents an ounce), the 2.5-ounce single slice was $1.99 (72 cents an ounce — more than double)!

Or you could slice the full-size cheesecake.

 

A cup of granola and a biscuit of coffee

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Granola crosses the line

Clearly aware that we already have umpteen brands of granola bars in every conceivable combination of ingredients and textures, yet needing to push yet another product face or two onto the supermarket shelf, the folks at General Mills’ Nature Valley have burst into a whole new universe of possible presentations: Shape!

Yes, instead of the pleasant but boring rectangle, we are now free to select Nature Valley Granola Cups — cookie-size circles of granola with sides built up to about half an inch high, containing your choice of two fillings. There’s Peanut Butter Chocolate (peanut butter filling topped with a few peanut bits and — “dipped in” is hardly accurate; “sprayed with” might be closer — chocolate, and Almond Butter (almond butter, almond chips, no chocolate).

Now that the circle has entered the ring, so to speak, Mr. Tidbit fears that the shackles are off and we will soon see other shapes (Granola Hearts at Valentine’s Day, Granola Santas at Christmas, perhaps even Granola Dreidels at Hanukkah.

 

Wake up and smell the Snackwell’s

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Mr. Tidbit suddenly wondered, a while ago, what had happened to Nabisco Snackwell’s Devil’s Food Cookie Cakes, the marshmallow-and-chocolate-covered cookie-size cakes that were perhaps the most prominent face of the fat-free craze of the early 1990s. He certainly hadn’t noticed them on a recent scan of the Nabisco shelf space.

Well, they hadn’t disappeared. It turns out that Mondelez, which was once part of what we used to call Kraft, which owned Nabisco, sold the Snackwell’s line in 2013 to Back to Nature Foods. Thus the Snackwell’s items are no longer positioned with the Oreos and Newtons. Armed with that knowledge, Mr. Tidbit rediscovered them on a very low shelf (at least at two stores).

And beside them was a brand-new Snackwell’s item (and the only excuse for that very long introduction). It’s Snackwell’s Biscuit Thins, in three flavors: French Vanilla Latte, Caramel Macchiato and Dark Chocolate Mocha, all “made with real coffee.”

Mr. Tidbit doesn’t know why they aren’t called “breakfast biscuits” the way so many similar products are. They follow Mr. Tidbit’s interpretation of the term — a thin, rectangular cookie-like item not quite sweet enough to be a cookie, packed in pouches of four (typically five pouches to the box).

FYI, the Caramel Macchiato version, which Mr. Tidbit bought, smells like actual coffee smells, and tastes a little like actual coffee tastes. (Give it a break! The first ingredient is whole grain oat flour.)

 

Looking at Peeps from both sides now

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Peeps Oreos

It’s been just two months since Chocolate Strawberry Oreos appeared, but Easter is hard upon us (at least it is for those in the candy and cookie biz; for the rest of humanity, Easter is almost six weeks away) so some kind of Easter-related Oreo would seem to be necessary.

And here it is: Peeps Oreos — Golden Oreo wafers separated by two patties of Pepto-Bismol-pink “Marshmallow Peeps flavor creme — artificially flavored.”

Leaving aside the relatively recent varieties of flavored Peeps, Mr. Tidbit has never thought that the original Marshmallow Peeps had any flavor at all, beyond sugar. The filling in these Marshmallow Peeps Oreos, he must acknowledge, does taste quite a bit like marshmallow, but (and Mr. Tidbit bought a small pack of yellow ones, just to be sure) Marshmallow Peeps don’t taste anywhere near as much like marshmallow as Peeps Oreos do.

 

Other Peeps

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Speaking of flavored Peeps, this year’s list of 12 Peep’s Delights (larger Peeps with bottoms dipped in something interesting, sold in 1.5-ounce packs of three — typically priced the same as a 4.5-ounce pack of 15 regular Peeps) seems even longer to Mr. Tidbit than last year’s, although he didn’t keep a record of the 2016 offerings, so he can’t be sure. This year there are:

Regular Peep, dark chocolate dip.   Regular Peep, milk chocolate dip.  Coconut flavor Peep, dark chocolate dip.   Blueberry flavor Peep, dark chocolate dip.  Strawberry flavor Peep, creme flavor fudge dip. Vanilla flavor Peep, creme flavor fudge dip.  Lemon flavor Peep, lemon fudge dip.  Orange flavor Peep, orange fudge dip.  Chocolate Mousse flavor Peep, milk chocolate dip. Raspberry flavor Peep, creme flavor fudge dip (only at Target).  Chocolate flavor Peep, filled with a ribbon of chocolate ganache, chocolate dip (only at Target). Vanilla flavor Peep, filled with a ribbon of caramel, milk chocolate dip (only at Target).

Did Mr. Tidbit fail to mention that there appear to be 15 flavors of regular Peeps? The list includes Cotton Candy (only at Walmart), Bubble Gum (only at Walmart), Fruit Punch, Sour Lemon-Lime Twist, Party Cake, and more.

Too many more.

Dear friends: Last Saturday would have been my son Joe’s 46th birthday. He died in a seven-story fall from his college dorm room in Madison, Wis., in 1989. He had taken LSD; he was 18.

Hug your kids.

 

Al Sicherman

 

A soupçon of attention to soup cans

Soup, soup everywhere!

It has long amazed Mr, Tidbit not only that there are a zillion kinds of Campbell’s soup, but how many different lines of soup Campbell’s has managed to convince people are different styles or essences or something of similar kinds of soup.

Until very recently, Mr. Tidbit believes, there have been these many separate sets of Campbell’s soups, with distinguishing characteristics as he is able to make a stab at them:

Condensed soups: The originals (add water); red and white cans, 10.5 ounces or so.

All the rest are “ready to eat” (add no water).

Chunky soups: “The soup that eats like a meal.” Larger pieces of ingredients, red cans, 18 or 19 ounces, also 15.25-ounce microwave bowls.

  Go soups: Exotic or specific-subtype ingredients (shiitake mushrooms, poblano chilies), 14-ounce foil pouches with pictures of faces.

Home Style soups: (“The taste that takes you home.”) (Mr. Tidbit has no idea.) Some used to be called Select Harvest. About 19-ounce tan cans.

Organic soups: Organic, 17-ounce white and green brick packs.

Slow Kettle Style soups: (“Everything good takes time. That’s why we slowly simmer the perfect combination of authentic ingredients.”) (Mr. Tidbit has no idea). 15.5-ounce dark-green-label microwave bowls.

Soup on the Go: Red and white tall single-serve cups (around 11 ounces).

There are also a number of variant entries (low sodium, heart healthy, gluten free), that pop up here and there in the various lines, and Healthy Request Soups, which might be its own line but Mr. Tidbit isn’t sure, and frankly, my dear, at this point he doesn’t give a damn.

Surely that’s enough kinds of Campbell’s soup, yes?

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No! Now there’s Well Yes! Soups. (“When you say yes, amazing things happen. That’s why we say yes to all the good ingredients in our soup. So go ahead, say yes — eat positively and live deliciously.”) Varicolored 16-or-so-ounce cans.

Mr. Tidbit couldn’t let “Well Yes!” go without opening a can. Compared with Chunky’s Savory Chicken with White & Wild Rice, Well Yes! Roasted Chicken with Wild Rice had less liquid, the solids were predominated by wild rice, the chicken was in small bits; Chunky had more liquid, mostly white rice and chunks of chicken. (Both liquids tasted like canned soup but different canned soups.)