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Archive for the ‘Ingredients’ Category

How Bittersweet It Is

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Is sugar to blame for America’s obesity epidemic? Of course, it’s not the sole cause of thickening waistlines, but sugar has become the scapegoat as recent headlines have claimed it a toxin. And, CPG marketers have taken note.

The International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) annual Food and Health Survey reported that in 2012, 20 percent of consumers selected “sugars” as the “source of calories most likely to cause weight gain.” This figure is almost double that of the 11 percent reported in 2011.

CPG manufacturers have the opportunity to help relieve a public health crisis, as overconsumption of sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Ahead of the curve, some have already responded to consumer demand with new sugar-free offerings and even reformulated additions to traditionally sweet product lines.

In the past, artificial sweeteners took sugar’s place in diet soda, candy and baked goods, but frequently came under attack for possible negative effects. Sucralose still has its place in the market, but more and more products are now substituting chemical-based sweeteners for all-natural options, such as monk fruit, oats, and the popular stevia.

Natural sugar alternatives provide more ingredient choices to CPG manufacturers but also complicate the selection process. When choosing an ingredient, keep these factors in mind:

  • Claims: Front-of-package health claims can lead to sales increases. Will your target market see “all-natural” as a benefit?
  • Cost: Natural stevia is much more expensive than artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose. What price point is optimal for your product?
  • Calorie reduction: It’s possible to mix natural or artificial calorie-free sweeteners with sugar for only half the calorie count. What calorie range fits your consumers’ needs?
  • Aftertaste: Sugar alternatives sometimes have a lingering or bitter aftertaste that may need to be masked by other flavors.

For retailers, giving health-conscious consumers more options is key. The UnitedHealth Group predicts that by 2020, more than half of the American population will be diabetic or pre-diabetic. By adding more sugar-free products to their shelves, grocers can help this group achieve weight management goals. Many retail stores have expanded sugar alternative sections by carrying a greater variety of products lines and package types. Retailers should also consider dedicating increased shelf space to products with a sugar substitute as a main ingredient.

These efforts will not only encourage lifestyle changes, but also increase brand and shopper loyalty. What steps are you taking toward implementing sugar-free substitutes in your products or on your shelves?

Eat This or Die

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Coffee, wine, beer and chocolate have long been considered vices, but recent studies reveal their health benefits: Coffee cuts skin cancer risk and lowers women’s depression; beer can help women protect against osteoporosis; and red wine and cocoa antioxidants could boost metabolism and benefit the heart, respectively.

Even so, consumers should have enough sense to not overindulge in traditionally unhealthy products. But, how do they react when a study reports health claims of nutrients without an existing bias?

The overly-trusting consumer may run out to buy every product with ginger in the ingredient list after reading that it reduces colon inflammation and cancer risk. Suddenly, CPG manufacturers of ginger-snaps have some decisions to make. Should they attempt to capitalize on these claims with front-of-packaging ingredient information?

Packaging claims have been a hot issue lately, as two camps of thought sparked a great debate. The Grocery Manufacturers Association’s (GMA) “Facts Up Front” rivals the Institute of Medicine (IoM) over what should be included in front-of-package nutritional facts.

IoM believes displaying calories and a simple star rating will sufficiently inform consumers of nutritional level, while the Facts Up Front Label will present calories, total fat, sodium, sugars, and two “nutrients to encourage” for the manufacturer to choose.

These systems ultimately have the same goal: help consumers make healthier choices. But striking a balance between information overload and ease of use is key.

Time Healthland featured a University of Minnesota study suggesting that people don’t actually look at the same nutrition information on food packages as they claim. Researchers used an eye-tracking device with a group of designated shoppers to reveal which components of nutrition labels participants paid attention.

“Although 26% of people self-reported that they almost always look at Nutrition Facts labels at the grocery store, 37% of them actually noticed at least one component of the label for almost all food items,” according to the article.

But, customers seem to be unaware of which components they actually noticed. There were large discrepancies between self-reports and eye-tracking data. While 33% said they looked at calorie count, only 9% actually did. In addition, 31% reported they paid attention to total fat content, 24% said they looked at sugar content, and 26% said they looked at serving size, when in reality, only 1% studied each of these components.

It will be interesting to see if this data changes when front-of-package nutrition facts become more prominent, as they’re expected to do in 2012. Will consumers trust only a standardized system, such as Facts Up Front or IoM’s, or can CPG manufacturers continue to play up key healthy ingredients in a less structured manner?  What’s your take?