Could've had a Refresher

Given the endless parade of variants of V8 V-Fusion, the fruit-and-vegetable juice drinks from Kraft (V8 V-Fusion Light, V8 V-Fusion Smoothies, V8 V-Fusion Energy, etc.), Mr. Tidbit had just about decided to stop mentioning any new ones. But he couldn't pass up noting the appearance of one whose name doesn't clearly define it.

Here are the distinguishing characteristics of original V8 V-Fusion, V8 V-Fusion Light and new V8 V-Fusion Refreshers.

Each 8-ounce serving of the original product is 100 percent juice and contains a full serving of fruit and a full serving of vegetables, 100 to 120 calories (depending on flavor) and no added sweeteners — just a lot of sweet fruit juice.

A serving of V8 V-Fusion Light is 50 percent juice — the first ingredient is water — and contains one combined full serving of fruit and vegetables and 50 calories; it contains less of the sweet fruit juice that sweetens the original product, so it also contains Sucralose.

A serving of new V8 V-Fusion Refreshers is 20 to 25 percent juice, depending on flavor — the first ingredient is water — and contains 100 calories and both fruit and vegetables but no claim as to how much of a serving of, either; it contains less of the sweet fruit juice that sweetens the original product, so it also contains sugar.

Need Mr. Tidbit point out that all three products — 100 percent juice, water plus 50 percent juice, and water plus 20 to 25 percent juice — are the same price? OK, he will: They are the same price.

Helper helpers

Mr. Tidbit never expected this development at General Mills: In addition to the 32 Hamburger Helpers, nine Chicken Helpers and seven Tuna Helpers, there are four new slightly upscale products: two Ultimate Hamburger Helpers and two Ultimate Chicken Helpers. Each of these contains a creamy sauce or creamy cheese packet in addition to the seasonings mix and pasta of the less-than-ultimate Helpers.

Mr. Tidbit will attest that he found the Ultimate Hamburger Helper Creamy Stroganoff indeed creamier than the Hamburger Helper Deluxe Beef Stroganoff (which until now was called "Ultimate," not "Deluxe;" there is a third Hamburger Helper Stroganoff mix; it's just called Stroganoff).

At one store, the new Ultimate mixes are $2.89; the regular (and Deluxe) mixes are $2.09.

Al Sicherman