Market Watch -- February 2010

BFY Becoming Big Deal
With consumers increasingly concerned about their own health and that of their children, quick-service restaurants are introducing health-oriented fare to their menus. While the trend is by no means new, it is gaining momentum.

Chick-fil-A has added yogurt parfait to its menu, a response to “customers’ growing demands for lower-fat alternatives for breakfast and for menu items that can be served as a healthy snack or dessert option throughout the day.” The parfait has slices of fresh strawberries covered in vanilla yogurt, topped with a granola blend or chocolate cookie crumbs, with 240 calories and 5g fat in the former and 200 calories and 4.5g of fat in the latter.

Likewise, Dunkin’ Donuts is adding “better-for-you” (BFY) items, by allowing consumers the option of ordering any of its breakfast sandwiches with egg whites-only; DD also is adding a low-fat cranberry orange muffin to its DDSmart menu.

Light and Frozen
The healthier move is by no means exclusive to restaurants, as store shelves see an abundance of weight-oriented introductions to coincide with new resolutions. Matterhorn and Crystal Light are trying to combine indulgence with weight management efforts.

Crystal Light frozen pops and Italian ice cups are available in 10-count frozen pop combo packs and four-count cup packs, in flavors such as wild strawberry, raspberry ice, lemonade, raspberry lemonade, cherry pomegranate, pink lemonade, classic orange and fruit punch.

The pops promise 15 calories each, with 35 calories from each cup of Italian ice.

Kraft Foods’ 2010 Food and Beverage Plans
Kraft Foods has announced more than 20 new foods and beverages in the first months of 2010 that will boast on-trend, restaurant-inspired flavors. “Many of our new items reflect consumers’ interests in bold flavors, especially those that are Italian-inspired or have a Mexican flair,” said John Li, director of Kraft’s Culinary Center. “Hot and spicy is big, so chipotle and garlic are key flavor notes, while berry-infused items remain on-trend.”

Planters Flavor Grove Nuts adds five almond and cashew varieties, with such flavors as Sea Salt & Olive Oil, Cracked Pepper with Onion & Garlic and Chili Lime. A new line of Kraft Sandwich Shop Mayo reduced-fat mayonnaise features Chipotle, Garlic & Herb and Horseradish-Dijon (made with Grey Poupon mustard) varieties, all with half the fat and calories of regular mayonnaise.

Kraft also announced new portion-control options: Mousse Temptations by Jell-O in Dark Chocolate, Chocolate and Caramel Creme flavors, at 60 calories per serving, and Kraft 100 Calorie Packs Cheese Bites.

Mister Salty
Sodium is rapidly emerging as food enemy number one for many health officials. The National Salt Reduction Initiative, an effort comprising 17 national health organizations and 26 city or state health agencies, including New York City, has stated a rather ambitious goal: reduce the average American’s salt intake by 20% by 2015.

Recommendations posted on the website for New York’s health department are both ambitious and a bit vague. It calls for sizable reductions in the sodium content of many products, but those reductions vary from product to product. Peanut butter should have its sodium levels reduced by 20%, but canned vegetables must reduce their sodium content by 40%. In fact, according to the city’s suggestions, nearly every burger sold at McDonald’s already meets the 1,200mg of sodium guideline for restaurant hamburgers.

The New York initiative is voluntary, and no penalties will be enforced for companies that ignore the guidelines. However, health officials expect food manufacturers to recognize sodium as a major health problem that needs to be addressed, noting that Americans now consume about twice the amount of salt that they should.

The official notice suggests manufacturers gradually lower the sodium content of their foods over several years, hoping consumers will not notice the change. In fact, as the city’s health commissioner, Thomas Farley, M.D., notes, “We think people won’t notice,” although he does acknowledge that for food developers, “it isn’t simple for them to just change the amount of sodium in their products.”

Indeed, some of the city’s goals are challenging in their own right: a 40% reduction in the salt in breakfast cereals, a 25% drop in breads and cold cuts, and 30% less in salad dressing.

From the January 18, 2010, Prepared Foods’ E-dition.


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