Leftovers: Nestlé’s Lean Cuisine gets a low-carb makeover; Mtn Dew Spark makes a return

Leftovers is our look at a few of the product ideas popping up everywhere. Some are intriguing, some sound amazing and some are the kinds of ideas we would never dream of. We can’t write about everything that we get pitched, so here are some leftovers pulled from our inboxes.

Lean Cuisine updates comfort classics for modern diets

Even those who are trying to eat healthy crave the comforts of food staples such as pasta and mashed potatoes. That’s the angle Nestlé’s Lean Cuisine is taking with its new Cauli’ Bowls line and High Protein Bowl varieties.

For consumers watching their carbs, Lean Cuisine Cauli’ Bowls contain pasta made with cauliflower for one-third fewer net carbs than recipes made with the brand’s traditional pasta, according to a press release. Varieties include fettuccine with meat sauce, mac and cheese, garlic parmesan alfredo with broccoli and creamy tomato vodka pasta. The meals contain anywhere from 10 to 13 grams of protein, 9 to 10 grams of fiber and 400 calories or less per serving. 

Nestlé has played with pasta ingredients in its frozen meals in the past to elevate or edit a particular nutritional quality. In April, it debuted two varieties featuring Banza chickpea pasta for its Life Cuisine line, and the company has added ingredients such as cauliflower rice and spiralized zucchini to serve diet trends such as high protein, gluten free and low carb.

For consumers in search of high-protein meal options, Lean Cuisine has added two varieties to its High Protein line, with oven-fried chicken as the star ingredient. The white meat chicken is blasted with superheated air to create a crispy and juicy “air fried taste,” the company said. One variety pairs the chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy and sweet corn for 14 grams of protein, and another with macaroni in a cheesy buffalo-style sauce at 22 grams. 

These latest flavors reflect the millions of dollars that Nestlé is investing in frozen this year, as consumers seek out convenient meal options throughout the pandemic. In July, the company announced it would invest $100 million to expand operations at its frozen foods factory in South Carolina to produce more of the meals.

It takes money to make money, and for Nestlé, the early results are promising. In its most recent earnings call, CFO François Roger noted Nestlé’s frozen food business saw high single-digit growth in the fourth quarter of 2020, led by its Stouffer’s, DiGiorno and Hot Pockets brands. 

— Samantha Oller


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Courtesy of PepsiCo


Mtn Dew lights a spark with the return of limited-edition flavor

PepsiCo’s Mtn Dew is reviving a hit flavor by popular demand, with a chance for consumers to win prizes and show their brand loyalty.

The beverage giant is bringing back Mtn Dew Spark, a pink-colored variety with a raspberry lemonade flavor, to Speedway convenience stores. The limited-edition flavor sold out within weeks last year upon its debut at the retail chain, which was acquired by 7-Eleven last year for $21 billion.

The racing-themed return of Mtn Dew Spark coincides with new tiers in the brand’s Dew Nation rewards program, where consumers scan their sodas and win a variety of prizes once they achieve enough points. Some of the prizes teased with Mtn Dew Spark include tickets to racing events, Speedway gift cards, and Mtn Dew merchandise.

Convenience stores have proven a popular platform for the launch of limited-time-only beverages. In 2014, 7-Eleven distributed a fan favorite, Mtn Dew Solar Flare, which had a tropical punch taste, as a fountain drink exclusive. In summer 2020, another fountain exclusive came with Mtn Dew Atomic Blue at Sheetz and Kum & Go convenience stores. Pineapple-flavored Mtn Dew Maui Burst was originally a limited-time offering at discount chain Dollar General in 2019, but in 2020 became a permanent fixture on shelves of the discount store due to consumer demand.

Along with soda, energy drink brands have also seen the value in retailer-exclusive flavors. This March, Circle K convenience stores in the U.S. and Canada launched a limited-edition sugar-free Coconut flavor of Red Bull. Coca-Cola’s Monster Energy released its popular Mango Loco flavor initially as a 7-Eleven exclusive in 2017, but it is now widely available. Given its popularity as a limited-time offering, Mtn Dew Spark may light up shelves enough this year to earn its spot as a permanent flavor.

— Chris Casey


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Courtesy of Kellogg


Eggo doesn’t leggo of its emotions

The line “You wear your emotions on your sleeve” is well known, but Kellogg is hoping consumers will soon want to do the same with their waffles.

The cereal and snack giant has introduced new Eggoji waffles that are embedded with playful animated faces. The popular breakfast offering under Kellogg’s Eggo brand has six possible emojis, including the iconic smile, heart eyes, and tear-jerking laughter.

“We’ve made our classic Eggo waffles even more exciting for families in the mornings,” said Joe Beauprez, Eggo’s marketing director. “What better way for parents to create small wins for their kids than by serving them — quite literally — smiles on a plate?”

With more people at home, a less hectic pace has boosted demand for breakfast — a shift food manufacturers are confident will stick around after the pandemic. CPGs of all sizes have moved aggressively to invest in innovating their breakfast staples to attract shoppers and keep them once they return to school or the office.

The use of emojis is particularly effective in drawing the attention of kids and young adults who regularly use them when communicating with their friends. By hooking younger consumers now, it could serve as a way to keep them interested in the Eggo brand as they get older. 

Kellogg is not the first company to incorporate digital emojis into their product. In 2019, Hershey added emojis to its original milk chocolate bars and their packaging. It was the first change to the look of Hershey’s signature candy in its 125-year history.

At the time, Hershey’s cited research that said 87% of kids believed the emoji sweets would be a good product to share with others. Kellogg is no doubt hoping kids at home will love the heart eyes or crying laughter emojis so much they will talk about them with their friends, who will want them too.

— Christopher Doering   

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