Going Greek
As discussed in aPrepared Foodsarticle in May of this year, Greek yogurt is a quickly emerging segment, amid the burgeoning popularity and scientific support of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Stonyfield Farm’s Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt, produced in partnership with Greek yogurt maker Euphrates, was but one example of many new products finding their way into American groceries.

Now, Stonyfield Farm has announced a further expansion of its organic, “authentically strained,” 0% fat Greek yogurt. Strawberry fruit-on-the-bottom Oikos joins the other flavors: plain, vanilla, blueberry and honey.  Each promises 90 calories or less and up to 12g of protein per 4oz serving, while also including five live and active cultures.

Greek yogurt is thicker than its regular counterpart, courtesy of a straining process which removes the whey, and Stonyfield Farm notes it can be used in place of sour cream or to replace fats in recipes.

Just Like Home?
Of course, nutrition is not just for more mature audiences. It is also a concern for time-stressed parents, and Beech-Nut is targeting those consumers, with a new line of Stage 3 jarred infant food called Homestyle.

The Beech-Nut Homestyle Stage 3 Fruits are formulated to have “more texture for baby’s physical developmental changes from about eight months plus.” The all-natural products contain 5-7g of fiber per serving and include such flavors as pears and blueberries; apples, cherries and plums; cinnamon raisin and pears; and peaches, apples and bananas.

The Homestyle brand joins other Stage 3 products, as well as Stage 1 and Stage 2 items, in Beech-Nut’s portfolio of infant food, in addition to the Let’s Grow line of toddler foods with a “no junk promise.”

This Day...and Age
While the Baby Boomer generation has matured to the point of entering retirement age, fairly few food and beverage products have marketed themselves around age-related issues outright, at least in America. American Boomers have embraced products that help them maintain a rather precarious hold on their youth, but few such products have dared to proclaim they address health conditions facing aging consumers.

BeneVia, however, has embraced the notion. The fruit-based protein beverage promises to “address common health conditions faced by aging consumers.” Fat-free and containing approximately half the calories of other beverages in the adult nutrition category, the HealthSpan Solutions LLC introduction focuses on strength and energy; memory and focus; heart health; and immunity protection. The company notes that protein, or a lack thereof, can be a critical factor in a healthy and active life. 

Not So Sweet
During the XV International Symposium on Atherosclerosis, experts reviewed research indicating “the growing problem of increased consumption of sweetened caloric beverages and its link to negative health impacts.”

The workshop, “Calories from Beverages: An Underestimated Dietary Target for the Prevention/Management of Obesity/Type 2 Diabetes,” saw Barry Popkin, Ph.D., with the University of North Carolina, note, “We’re facing a serious global public health threat that is caused in part by an upward trend in the consumption of sweetened caloric beverages, combined with an accelerated shift toward inactivity, poor diet and obesity...In order for Americans to better manage their health, they need to consider their daily intake of beverage calories.” Researchers found little change in water consumption and “essentially” no reduction in food consumption to reduce the impact of these additional beverage calories.

Research presented also correlated regular soft drink consumption with a 49% increase in the risk of coronary heart disease in women, based on data from the “Nurses’ Health Study.”

Grim Outlook for Restaurants
Technomic Information Services held its annual Restaurants: Trends & Directions Conference in Rosemont, Ill., on June 18, and Ron Paul, founder, CEO and president of Technomic Information Services, revealed the industry grew only 0.4% in 2008. While the top 100 and top 500 each grew 3.4%, respectively, the rest of the industry fell 4.3%, and full-service restaurants (FSR) experienced a 2.5% decline in sales.

Unfortunately, the consumer outlook for restaurants presents a grim picture. Technomic consumer research has found nearly a quarter (24%) of consumers expect no change in their restaurant spending. However, 35% will use the “same restaurant, less often;” 19% are going to restaurants for “special occasions only;” and 4% are no longer going to restaurants altogether.  Some 8% plan to go to restaurants just as often, but to less expensive ones, while 10% are going to spend less at their usual restaurants.

Operators, meanwhile, have seen traffic and sales decreases, by and large. In terms of operator confidence, only 35% are optimistic on foodservice growth over the next 12 months, an increase over the 31% sharing that opinion in January, yet still far off the 67% pace of August 2006. In 2009, operators are expecting traffic decreases, and no one is looking for robust growth, at least through this year, Paul has found. In fact, some 73% believe their business will not recover until after 2010.

Technomic predicts LSR sales will grow 1.5% in 2009, with FSR declining 7.5% and no growth in bars and taverns. For the industry as a whole, therefore, Technomic is predicting a 2.4% decline in 2009.

For daily industry news updates, see the homepage of www.PreparedFoods.com and www.NutraSolutions.com.

* ABF Ingredients is merging two of its business units: Protient Inc. and PGP International, which will operate under the latter’s name and under the leadership of Zachary S. Wochok.
* Diehl Food Ingredients acquired the emulsified powders and non-dairy creamer business from ACH Food Companies (ACH), a subsidiary of Associated British Foods Plc (ABF).
* Cargill Salt’s redesigned website, www.cargillsalt.com, has a new layout with information about commercial and retail salt products.
* Joanne Ferrara, senior director at Gilroy Foods & Flavors, has been elected president of the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association.
* Brett Groom is the new vice president of Media, Digital and Social Marketing with ConAgra Foods.
* Wixon has launched a new website (www.wixon.com) with expanded interactive features and content.
* Land O’Lakes Ingredient Solutions added Mindy Berrey as account representative.
* MGP Ingredients Inc. announced additional changes to its organizational structure: Scott Phillips is in the newly created position of vice president of supply chain operations, while Don Coffey has a new role as executive vice president of sales and marketing. 
* National Starch Food Innovation has launched a global initiative to help its customers stay competitive in the current cost-conscious climate. The initiative encompasses a two-fold approach to maximizing value by combining reformulation consultancy with targeted ingredient tools. To support the initiative, a new dedicated microsite (www.foodinnovation.com/valuematters) will offer insights into value-adding opportunities across the whole NPD landscape.
* Sargento Foods Inc. announced a number of personnel changes:  Jim Besiada as national customer business manager; Steven Harrison as national account sales manager; Rob Krause as marketing manager of core business; Nicole Pauly as associate marketing manager on Refrigerated and Non-Refrigerated Snacks; Shawn Marcom as senior director of procurement; and Brian Jenny as senior manager of pricing and analysis.
* Wixon Inc. named Karen Linck regional sales manager for industrial products.
* John B. Sanfilippo & Son named Robert J. Sarlls vice president of Strategy and Business Development.