The world is full of inventors and inventresses, and every now and then I like to use this space to highlight some of the exciting new developments they've come up with—especially as they impact the worlds of vegetarianism and anti-vegetarianism. Both the good guys and the bad guys have been doing a lot of innovating lately, so let me just pop the top on a frosty Soy Beer (the latest drink of choice for the discerning vegetarian) and let's see what's new.
- Neither Fish Nor Ford— You'll be excited to know that a new product named FastBass, a plastic fish painted to look like a race car, is available on-line for $59.95 at www.fastbass.com. It aims to capitalize on the growing market appeal of both NASCAR racing and professional bass fishing—the so-called "redneck twins of Southern sports." Marketers see this as a natural fit, noting that, "The 100,000 bubbas in the [NASCAR] stands are the same people who have an avocation for bass fishing."
- Even the President Gets No Respect— And speaking of bubbas… Eaves Food Incorporated of Georgia has developed a one-third pound hamburger affectionately called the "BUBBA burger". Recently the company was forced to recall 28,860 pounds of BUBBA burgers because of possible E. coli contamination.
- My Bells!— The Bella Mia restaurant in San Jose, California came up with a great way to save on the cost of veal—they just used pork instead. Now the restaurant has agreed to pay a $60,000 court settlement. The district attorney assigned to the case noted, "There are several groups who don't eat pork products, and many of those people may have been ordering veal to avoid pork." Gee, I wish I had $60,000 for every time I've gotten meat in a restaurant entrée labeled "vegetarian"!
- Kids' Stuff— The dairy industry always has something dubious in the works, and lately they've been developing new containers targeted toward children. Among those being tested are the "Milk Chug" (jazzy single-serving bottles of flavored milk aimed at teenage boys) and new three-liter bottles that young children can pour without lifting.
- Better Kids' Stuff— To promote the 75th birthday of the Green Giant, the company asked kids to compete at the National Veggie Eating Invention Contest at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Museum in Washington. Winners included a "Veggie Pult" that launches carrots into the mouth and an "Easy Biter Motorized Corn Cob," with motorcycle-inspired handles.
- Whatever Happened to Olestra, anyway?— Just down Madison Avenue from Green Giant, America's food processors seem to be climbing back on the high-fat bandwagon. Among the new offerings are Philadelphia Snack Bars from Kraft (cheesecake "in a convenient on-the-go package"), and Calzone Creations from Sara Lee Corp. (microwavable sandwiches with as much as 12 grams of saturated fat each). According to a poll sponsored by the Food Marketing Institute, just 46 percent of the supermarket shoppers who say they are "very concerned" about nutrition are worried about the fat content of foods. That's down from 60 percent in 1996.
- Soy is Hot!— Have you been noticing the twelve new types of soymilk showing up every day at the supermarket? It's no wonder that the National Milk Producers Federation has registered a trade complaint asking the Food and Drug Administration to stop use of the word "milk" by soybean beverage makers. Indeed, soymilk sales in mainstream supermarkets reached $126 million last year, a 60 percent increase over the year before. (That may sound like a lot, but it's still less than 1% of the $22 billion Americans spend each year on soda and cows' milk.) Of course, the soybean's popularity isn't limited to soymilk. Everyone wants to get in on the action. The Indiana Soybean Board sponsors an annual "soybean utilization" contest that in the past has yielded such novelties as soy-based gelatin, ski wax, lip balm, fire starter and breakfast cereal. One of this year's winners was SoySnaps, a cracker said to be "similar to a Ritz," but with the "light texture of overdone pizza crust." Mmmm!
- Try a Little Tenderness— Finally, there's some exciting news from the meat industry in their long battle to make better use of the 10 "subprimal" cuts of meat they say they get from every steer. (Of course, for some of us all cuts of meat are "subprimal," as are the brains of those who produce and sell them.) One slaughterhouse in Corpus Christi, Texas has started zapping animal carcasses with 400 volts of electricity. They say this tenderizes them by tearing apart muscle tissue and "accelerating the aging process." Even more innovative is the new "hydrodyne" meat tenderizing process, developed in part by scientists at the USDA. They put meat—400 pounds of it at a time—into a vat of water anchored in concrete. Then they set off a small explosive charge, and voila—shoe leather is magically transformed into filet mignon! This invention is dynamite! (That's a joke.) Think of the possibilities. Think what this could do for your boss. He could certainly stand to be a little more tender!
Well, that's what's new. I didn't have time to tell you about the New York hotel that decorates with cheese, or the "Elvis Sandwich," but maybe I can save them for another time. I have to admit, though, I did make up the part about the Soy Beer. (It sounds like a good idea though, doesn't it?) Yes, Soy Beer is just an idea whose time has yet to come. I'm working on it. Meanwhile, I'm promoting another great idea I have: Organic Water.
Think it will sell?