Think of it as "Shark Tank" with food.
No one involved in "Supermarket Superstar" disputes the comparison. Premiering Monday, July 22, the Lifetime competition invites those with new ideas for edibles to pitch them to three mentors -- Mrs. Fields Cookies entrepreneur Debbi Fields, chef Michael Chiarello and marketer Chris Cornyn -- then to Tom Dahlen, the buyer for A&P supermarkets. That company's CEO, Sam Martin, appears in the season finale to decide which of the three finalists wins ... and lands his or her product in that chain of stores.
Stacy Keibler is the program's host, and the former WWE Diva (and former George Clooney girlfriend) knows she has a balancing act in showcasing the contestants but also letting the show's experts have their say.
"It's such a learning experience," she tells Zap2it, "even with the vocabulary that's used. I'm always like, 'Wait, hold on. What does that word mean?' I don't think a lot of people watching will know as well, so it's fun for me to learn as the show progresses."
For Fields, "Supermarket Superstar" is deja vu. In the late 1970s, she built her business from square one, without the help of a television program.
"Trying to get a small business launched is a lot of hard work," Fields states from experience, "and the biggest challenge is to get the guts to do it. This is not about talking about how fabulous your homemade recipe is, it's about doing something about it -- realizing your dream and making it happen."
Indeed, Fields notes, "The thing I love about the show is that it's nurturing. My job is really to be like a support system; it's not about tearing [the contestants] down, it's about finding a way to build them up.
"They've come so far just to get there, it's about what we do to motivate them to move forward," adds Fields, who remains a Mrs. Fields Cookies spokesperson, though she sold the company in the 1990s. While she says the other mentors on the series have their own focus, Fields explains hers is "the taste ratio. I don't care what something costs, first it has to taste good."
A Season 2 contestant on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" (she placed third), Keibler considers "Supermarket Superstar" a good fit since she has a related interest: a healthy-snack line she's launching, with children very much in mind as potential customers.
"You never know how something was edited, but I always give my feedback" on the new products sampled on the show, she says. "It might be something like, 'This is great, but there's too many calories in it.' I'm always trying to give the healthier approach, the way I live my life.
"I feel blessed that this show is a launching pad for me to talk more about food. I eat as fresh as I can and support my local farmers market, and hopefully, I can be a good role model."
A contest such as "Supermarket Superstar" gives some people their big breaks while denying others theirs. Keibler's own pursuits have made her familiar enough with the nature of competition to know that's the name of the game.
"I really get behind the contestants, and I love their journey," she says. "These people have worked so hard on their products, they're not about to let anything get in the way of their success. It is hard because I want all of them to win, and it becomes emotional. But I also think it's really fun to watch."
Photo/Video credit: Lifetime