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The Healthy Pantry: Top Health Hits of the Year

"Healthy eating is hotter than ever” touts the industry newsletter Food Channel TrendWire, highlighting these top trends:

Less is better. Consumers are catching on to smaller portions using higher-quality ingredients. Restaurants that shrink portion sizes while holding prices steady are promoting healthy options and healthy profits.

Healthier formulations of menu items. Starbucks finally gave skinny lattes a permanent place on the menu and Sonic introduced fat-free Double Berry Smoothies. Smaller concepts beat them to it; slimmed-down pizza with fat-free mozzarella is available at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza and miso-sake baked sea bass is part of Kona Grill’s “healthy dining” menu.

Increased interest in grains. Production of whole grain breads, rice mixes and cereals is ramping up. Several concepts have added them to the menu—some in response to the Whole Grains Council “Just Ask for Whole Grains” campaign. Bruegger’s offers whole wheat wraps, Cosi has a spring wheat salad and Buca di Beppo, whole wheat penne.

Appreciating heart-healthy. Consumers are paying attention to Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which lower the risk of heart disease. With awareness high, it pays to boast about the benefits of fish and nuts in menu items.

Focus on antioxidants. The public is knowledgeable about the effect antioxidants can have in preventing cancer and heart disease. On both the food and beverage side, familiar fruits like blueberries, pomegranates and cherries, and more exotics, like acai and mangosteens, will show up more often.

It’s all about wellness

Attack on high-fructose corn syrup. Some believe that this widely used sweetener is the “next trans fat,” slated to be monitored, reduced and eventually removed from foods. In the same way products became trans fat free, look for new sweeteners to substitute for HFCS.

Instead of using the words “healthy” or “nutritious” to describe its products, Campbell Away From Home, the foodservice arm of the Campbell Soup Company, prefers “wellness” for its more positive message. “We did extensive research to uncover opportunity areas such as positive nutrition, weight management and fitness to see which rose to the top. We decided to focus on wellness because it truly encompasses all of these and also has a quality of life element—another important component,” explains a Campbell’s spokesperson. Product development is based on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for America, which recommend increasing vegetables and fruits, making half your grains whole grains and moderating sodium intake.

The lineup includes:

  • Campbell’s Healthy Request Soups, controlled for calories, fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. They have up to 45 percent less sodium than the original soups.
  • Campbell’s Well and Good Soups, controlled for calories, fat and carbs.
  • V8 Soups, which provide eight key vitamins and minerals and from one-half to one full serving of vegetables.
  • V8 V-Fusion, a 100 percent vegetable and fruit juice blend.
  • Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Physedibles and Whole Grain Cheddar Goldfish—whole grain baked snacks. “In the past, we focused on non-commercial, but today, our wellness products are finding applicability in the commercial segment as operators strive to meet patrons’ needs and stay competitive,” says Andrea Guest, director of innovation for Campbell Away From Home. Sodium reduction continues to be a Campbell’s  R&D initiative, but vegetable nutrition, healthy kids’ products and organic and natural are also priorities, she adds.  

Some numbers

92 percent of firms in a Grocery Manufacturers Association poll said they are reformulating or introducing new products with reduced fat or sugar.

54 percent of F&B companies in a Grant-Thornton survey report that the “better for you” category offered the most potential for revenue growth. 

57 percent of consumers are likely to go out of their way to find a restaurant that offers better-for-you foods, according to a Tyson/Technomic study.

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