This month’s Market Watch column details the efforts of a couple more companies to add 100-calorie-portioned products to their respective lines. This rush to downsize is nothing new, of course. At various times, manufacturers reformulated their products to reduce calories, fat and carbohydrates, but the 100-calorie pack efforts have seen a different approach. Despite a few exceptions (notably Kraft with 100-calorie versions of Oreos and Chips Ahoy cookies), these products have simply been portion-controlled versions of existing items, with little to no reformulation. Coke, for example, offers 100-calorie mini-cans of Coca-Cola Classic, Sprite and Cherry Coke in 8oz cans.

This leads to an interesting prospect: what if this phenomenon, like the carb-cutting craze before it, ventures over to the foodservice side of the business? Are consumers likely to embrace a 100-calorie version of, say, a Big Mac? At 540 calories for the full-size sandwich, that would mean a sandwich a fifth the size of what consumers now enjoy, little more than a couple of bites for the McDonald’s “super-heavy” (company lingo for often-repeating) patron. For the record, Burger King would have to make an even more drastic reduction to its 670-calorie Whopper.

Admittedly, these hamburgers are designed as a meal and not a snack like many of the 100-calorie retail products. However, the notion of portion control is creeping into foodservice. T.G.I. Friday’s new Right Portion, Right Price menu features six entrées priced between $6.99 and $8.99. It is interesting to note that this menu is featured concurrently with the chain’s “Better for You” menu section, which lists items with 500 calories or less and 10g or less of fat per serving. (Two Right Portion, Right Price options are in both areas: Dragonfire Chicken and Shrimp Key West.)

Expect more such moves in the future, as restaurants and their suppliers realize they are the next target of one of the more-influential public interest groups. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has accused “many” restaurant chains of promoting “extreme eating” by offering items containing “a whole day’s worth of calories in a single dish, or several days’ worth in the whole meal,” yet not disclosing those nutritional facts to their consumers.

If suppliers and restaurants work together to create and aggressively promote smaller, more nutritious menu items, they could well beat the CSPI to the punch, prevent federal regulations requiring menu labeling and, most importantly, benefit the consumer.

Prepared Foods Welcomes New Staff Member

As part of Prepared Foods’ continuing efforts to enhance its services to the food industry, Michael Leonard has joined its staff as director of business development, effective March 12, 2007. In his new position, Leonard will be responsible for Prepared Foods’ national and international sales efforts and for identifying and implementing new opportunities to serve its advertisers.

Peter N. Havens, group publisher of Prepared Foods, says, “We are very pleased to have Mike join our team. His skill set includes working effectively with customers based on his broad and deep knowledge of our industry. His creativity and customer-centric style will be highly valuable in integrating our total market offerings of magazines, events and digital products.”

“Prepared Foods’ stable of publications and events offers a uniquely exciting opportunity to assist our advertisers in finding more creative and integrated means to market their products,” says Leonard. Leonard has extensive food industry experience, starting his career with  Prepared Foods at Gorman Publishing, followed by 16 years at Food Product Design as well as serving on the board of directors for the Research Chefs Association (RCA).

Prepared Foods is in the midst of a strong growth surge, with ad page increases over the last three years, making it the leading R&D magazine in its industry. In addition, it has diversified its services to the industry with the launch of:

  • ProductInnovationXchange (PIX), a strategic, senior-level, product development sales event.

  • R&D Applications Seminar, a classroom-style event dedicated to educating the industry’s bench-level formulators.

  • An aggressive expansion into digital media with the e-Learning Center and the industry’s most-highly visited websites, and