Top Health Hits for 2008

“Healthy Eating is Hotter Than Ever” touts the industry newsletter Food Channel TrendWire, highlighting these top trends for restaurants and food producers to watch in 2008:

  • Less is better. Consumers are catching on to smaller portions of food 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 just introduced fat-free Double Berry Smoothies. Smaller concepts beat them to it; slimmed-down classics such as pizza with fat-free mozzarella is available at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza and sweet chili glazed chicken is part of Kona Grill’s varied “healthy dining” menu.
  • Increased interest in whole grains. Manufacturers are ramping up production of whole grain breads, rice mixes, cereals and other staples. Several popular concepts have already added them to the menu—often 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; Buca di Beppo menus whole wheat penne; and many Asian chains offer brown rice in their bowls and stir-fries.
  • Appreciation of heart-healthy foods.  Consumers are paying more attention to Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which lower the risk of heart disease. With awareness high, it wouldn’t hurt to boast about the benefits of fish and nuts in menu items—both of which are rich in these substances.
  • Continued interest in antioxidants. The public is knowledgeable about the positive effect antioxidants can have in preventing cancer and heart disease. On both the food and beverage sides of the menu, familiar fruits like blueberries, pomegranates and cherries, as well as more exotic types, such as acai and mangosteens, will show up more frequently.
  • Attack on high-fructose corn syrup. Some experts believe that this widely used sweetener is the “next trans fat,” slated to be monitored, reduced and eventually removed from many of the foods we eat. In the same way many companies reformulated oils and other products to be trans fat free, look for some to follow suit by substituting new sweeteners for HFCS.

The stats tell the story

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

54 percent of food and beverage companies in a 2007 Grant-Thornton survey report that the “better for you” category offered the most potential for revenue growth, up from 42 percent. Organic foods were cited by 44 percent of firms.

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 2007 Tyson Foods/Technomic study. Words like “grilled,” “fresh,” “low-fat” “whole grain” and “natural” fall into that category.

It’s all about wellness

Instead of using the words “healthy” or “nutritious” to describe its products and programs, Campbell Away From Home, the foodservice arm of the Campbell Soup Company, prefers “wellness.” The company believes it delivers a more positive message to operators and consumers. “We did extensive research to uncover those opportunity areas within wellness (positive nutrition, weight management, fitness, etc.) to see which rose to the top. We decided to focus on wellness because it truly encompasses all of these areas and also has a quality of life element to it, which we also felt was an important component,” explains a Campbell’s spokesperson. Product development is based on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for America, which recommend increasing vegetable and fruit servings, making half your grains whole grains and moderating sodium intake.

The lineup includes:

  • Campbell’s Healthy Request Soups are controlled for calories, fat, saturated fat and cholesterol and have up to 45 percent less sodium than the company’s original soups.
  • Campbell’s Well and Good Soups are controlled for calories, fat and carbs.
  • V8 Soups are vegetarian soups that provide eight key vitamins and minerals and from one-half to one full serving of vegetables.
  • V8 V-Fusion is a 100 percent vegetable and fruit juice blend that helps consumers incorporate more produce servings.
  • Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Physedibles and Whole Grain Cheddar Goldfish are snacks baked with whole grains.

“In the past, we focused mostly on the non-commercial segment, but today, a lot of our wellness products and capabilities are finding applicability in the commercial segment as operators strive to meet the needs of their patrons and stay competitive,” says Andrea Guest, director of innovation for Campbell Away From Home.  Sodium reduction continues to be Campbell’s number one R&D initiative, but vegetable nutrition, healthy kids’ products and organic and natural are also strategic priorities, she adds.

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