Junk Bonds

I remember when Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch was introduced. It changed my world.

OK, I’m lying. Quaker brought the extension to market in 1969. I was 2 years old. But from a very young age, I appreciated that my favorite cereal was available in my favorite flavor. And as I’ve grown, I’ve continually marveled at new food and beverage inventions. Just when you think they’ve created everything, marketers come up with more.

But some products are so obvious, and so simple, that I wonder what took them so long to arrive on grocery-store shelves. Chocolate Reddi-wip, for instance, which was introduced last year. Where was it when I was a kid? I’m not as jealous about the Blastin’ Green and Funky Purple EZ Squirt ketchup from Heinz. Don’t even care about the Passion Pink, Awesome Orange or Totally Teal colors you can get in the mystery EZ Squirt bottle, coming this month to a store near you.

But Kraft’s Macaroni & Cheese Topping, which can be sprinkled on popcorn, noodles and other foods? That I would have enjoyed.

Why the fascination with food? I confess, I’m a new mom. Throughout my pregnancy, eating became a favorite pastime—in moderation, of course. I began noticing all kinds of products at the grocery store I never realized existed. Twix Peanut Butter Ice Cream from Dreyer’s. Skippy Doubly Delicious Peanut Butter with Nestlé Crunch pieces or Nestle Tollhouse Semi-Sweet Morsels. Chocolate Decadence Philadelphia Snack Bars. The list is endless. And that’s just the junk food.

Listerine Strips. Vitamin-enriched waters. Lemon-flavored colas. Seems like this stuff would sell itself. Thankfully for those in the ad business, it doesn’t.

Imagine what life is like for the inventors of these marvels? Oh, the glory. A childhood friend of mine used to dream of the day when she would work in the Entenmann’s kitchen. She’d spend hours trying to come up with new treats. If only she were the brains behind the brand’s sumptuous new Ultimate Pound Cake.

It would seem that coming up with new products and line extensions would be, well, a piece of cake. It isn’t. Oreo cookies were first produced in 1912, but only recently did Nabisco add a chocolate filling. I’ve been polling friends and co-workers for weeks, trying to discover what products are missing from their lives, what they wish they could find at the market. It’s not an easy question.

I don’t think any confectionary company would mass-produce the chocolate Soccer Jesus one co-worker dreams he could find. Banana Nut Cheerios have more of a chance. So does string cheese in flavors other than mozzarella.

“Don’t companies realize that most kids only eat American cheese?” asks one frustrated mom I know.

Guess not. Or perhaps they do and they’re just waiting for the right time to introduce that particular extension. It’s hard to figure out why marketers delay the obvious. But one thing is abundantly clear. Although the market often seems saturated, it isn’t. There’s always room for more creations.

It’s a client’s field of dreams. If they invent it, consumers will come.