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Despite tough times, snack nation marches on "Is this just me? Am I the only one who thinks this new stuff tastes so bad?"

Economic times are tough -- no one will argue that. And many Americans, including children, are overweight. Nobody is going to argue that either.

So, consider this column a definite rant. Why do large food companies continue to market the kind of junk that can't be rationalized under conditions like the ones above? The stuff can't even be excused because it tastes good.

Of the new product introductions that have crossed my desk in recent weeks, most are snacks. And one is a real beaut -- Chex Mix Bars from General Mills, which has formed a chewy dentist's delight from the relatively healthful party mix we all know and love. The list of ingredients is long and complex but essentially what the company has done is gunk everything up. In the "Turtle" variety, for instance, they add caramel stuff and chocolate bits to the cauldron.

"Good Source of Whole Grains," the label trumpets. But is this what dietitians have in mind? Doubtful.

Each skinny bar represents 150 calories -- and maybe an hour in the dentist's chair.

Have I mentioned that the oversweet bars don't taste all that good either?
Talking about taking coals to Newcastle or adding calories to a reasonably healthy snack, let us now examine Rold Gold Pretzel Waves, a product of Frito Lay. It consists of pretzel chunks drizzled with artificially flavored chocolate or vanilla yogurt.

"The sweet taste and chiplike crunch are a hit with consumers craving this type of snacking experience," says the publicity.

"If it isn't broke, don't fix it," say I. Why not just leave pretzels alone?

Actually, I know the answer.

Members of the Snack Food Association (SFA), whose Web site tells us that the membership includes but is not limited to, makers of:

Potato chips, tortilla chips, cereal snacks, pretzels, popcorn, cheese snacks, snack crackers, meat snacks, pork rinds, snack nuts, party mix, corn snacks, pellet snacks, fruit snacks, snack bars, granola, snack cakes and cookies." No wonder we all weigh so much!

Anyway, these guys well know that innovation is vital to keep a market moving.

Is this just me? Am I the only one who thinks this new stuff tastes so bad? Not to mention being costly.

I hereby solicit your opinion.

Let me know what new packaged products you really love -- or hate. As mentioned on my recent blog, I genuinely want to know.

Am I a lone voice in the wilderness?

Tell me.

e-mail: jokun@buffnews.com

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