PF: What are the major trends this year?

Lynn Dornblaser, director, GNPD Consulting Services (Chicago): The overall concept of health and wellness continues, although it has taken various forms over time. It impacts issues such as how products are formulated and how they promote well-being.

William Roberts, PF business editor: Low-carb is passing, and the industry is answering consumers' health demands through reduced portion sizes or functional foods.

PF: A Morgan Stanley survey of 2,500 U.S. adults in December 2004 showed 13% intended to start a diet, with one-third of those expecting to choose a low-carb diet plan. Is the death of low-carb premature?

WR: Consumers may still be interested; however, new product introductions have fallen, and there have been some high-profile disappointments, notably Coca-Cola's C-2 and Pepsi Edge.

PF: What about culinary trends?

WR: Ethnic foods have a whole new meaning. Consumers and manufacturers are interested in “authentic ethnic.” For one, this translates to “regionalized” foods such as Barilla's three new Italian sauces, each one drawing inspiration from Rome, from Campania and from Genova.

LD: I agree that there is a big increase in ethnic flavors, specifically Mediterranean and Middle Eastern.

PF: What about beverages?

WR: There is a big push in energy beverages. Coca-Cola is introducing Full Throttle, and Anheuser-Busch has a beer with energy-enhancing ingredients. Meanwhile, flavored alcoholic beverages have faded, with only 2% sales growth in 2004.

PF: In mid-January, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, Atlanta) said that, from 1990 to 2000, obesity-related deaths climbed to 400,000 a year, an increase of 65,000 (not an earlier reported 100,000). This is still a major issue. There are increased sales in green tea extracts (which can have thermogenic properties), as well as chromium forms, which are associated with weight control. The food industry is responding with increased dietary fiber use. Do you have comments on this issue?

LD: The percent of obese consumers is increasing. However, the food industry has perhaps mistakenly focused only on overweight consumers whose rates have remained constant.

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