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Manufacturers Offer Products to Heat Up a Cold Summer Marketplace

July 10, 1986|DANIEL P. PUZO | Times Staff Writer

As the temperature and humidity climb to their respective hot and sticky seasonal highs, supermarkets tend to lose sales to restaurants. Understandably, the comforts of table service and fast-food convenience become more appealing than a simmering stove during July and August.

This summer, however, food manufacturers have partially addressed this purchasing aberration with a collection of new products that, if not quite enough to rekindle interest in meal preparation, may make the trip to the market a bit more interesting. Several of these latest introductions warrant a look.

The packagers of mesquite wood and charcoal briquettes could face stiff competition from America's oldest distillery. The people at Jack Daniel's in Lynchburg, Tenn., are now offering backyard barbecuers Charcoal Briquets with Barrel Chunks. Two byproducts from the whiskey-making process are included in this most recent addition to the Nature-Glo line, according to the firm.

White oak barrels that at one time were used to age Jack Daniel's are pulverized and combined with hard sugar-maple wood to form the barrel chunks. Additionally, charcoal used to filter or "mellow" the whiskey is re-formed into the briquettes. A company representative said that this latest fuel source from Jack Daniel's, at $3.30 for a seven-pound bag, does not impart the taste or scent of whiskey on one's grilled chicken or franks. Instead, the product lends a more "open fire" flavor.

Another famous name in adult beverages, Arthur Guinness Son & Co., is now distributing a non-alcohol, low-calorie beer under the Kaliber label. (The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms defines, "non-alcoholic" beers as those containing less than .5% alcohol by volume.) Industry analysts have observed that growth in this catagory has been hampered because most reduced alcohol products are either poor imitations or simply uninviting. That is not a problem with Kaliber, a rich, full-bodied amber brew that could easily be mistaken for a stylish European import. Guinness, makers of the renowned Irish stout, uses atmospheric pressure and gentle heat to reduce the alcohol content to the required .5% from the much higher levels found in regular beers. The finished product weighs in with a mere 43 calories per 12-ounce bottle.

Kaliber is made from only those ingredients allowed under the strict Bavarian brewing code: malted barley, water, yeast and hops. To enhance its image as a healthful alternative for everything from beer to soda, Kaliber's American importers claim that it has six times more riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and niacin (Vitamin B3) than a slice of whole-wheat bread.

Pretzels, one of beer's more famous partners, have a new addition. J & J Snack Foods of Pennsauken, N.J., is in the process of bringing the elusive soft pretzel to area markets' frozen food counters. The news is certainly good for transplanted Easterners, particularly those from the New York and Philadelphia areas, who have long craved the ubiquitous soft pretzels sold mostly by street vendors in those cities. However, availability in Southern California has often been spotty and unpredictable.

The latest arrival, labeled as Superpretzel, offers less crunch, but more dough, for the dollar. Six fully baked soft pretzels are in each package and the only preparation required is to apply the desired amount of salt and then reheat or microwave the twisted treats.

Those Chinese cooking enthusiasts who, for some reason, always wanted to use olive oil in the wok, will be pleased by the debut of Bertolli's Extra Light. The product has a mild flavor and is thus more appropriate for cooking or seasoning delicate foods than the strong-tasting traditional olive oils. Furthermore, Extra Light has a higher smoking point so it can be used for deep frying or in high temperature wok cookery. Innovation was apparently well overdue in the Italian olive industry. The Bertolli announcement claims that Extra Light is the first new olive oil in 2,000 years.

Bertolli's is one of several food companies introducing a so-called light version of a well-known brand product. Others soon to roll out their new lines include Heinz Lite Ketchup, Best Foods Light Mayonnaise, Kraft Light Naturals cheese and Good Seasons Lite Italian salad dressing, according to Today's Gourmet, a food industry newsletter.

These changes are noteworthy because some firms have been reluctant to put a "light" label on a product with established appeal for fear of either cannibalizing sales or tarnishing the image of the senior brand with a watered-down, low-calorie version.

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