Healthy Chill

De­sire for fresher, bet­ter-for-you op­tions cre­ates op­por­tu­ni­ties in refrigerated foods.

Progressive Grocer (India) - - Editor’s Note - By Randy Hof­bauer

It’s well known that con­sumers in­creas­ingly are striv­ing to live more health­ful life­styles, and that their pur­chas­ing be­hav­iors are chang­ing rapidly as a re­sult. Take nu­tri­tion la­bels: Half of all U.S. adults read the Nu­tri­tion Facts la­bel al­ways or most of the time, ac­cord­ing to the 2014 Health and Diet Sur­vey from the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, pub­lished in May 2016.

On la­bel­ing, claims such as “all nat­u­ral,” “Gmofree,” “no ar­ti­fi­cial col­ors,” “no ar­ti­fi­cial fla­vors” and “nat­u­ral fla­vors” are ranked as “very im­por­tant” to North Amer­i­can con­sumers when mak­ing food pur­chas­ing de­ci­sions, re­ports Schaumburg, Ill.based mar­ket re­searcher Nielsen in its 2015 “Global Health and Wellness Re­port.” And roughly onequar­ter feel the same about the term “organic.”

For gro­cers look­ing to of­fer more prod­ucts with claims like th­ese, refrigerated foods are a prime area of op­por­tu­nity, as con­sumers are ever more fo­cused on fresh, and there­fore, refrigerated foods, says David Sprin­kle, pub­lisher at Pack­aged Facts, a di­vi­sion of Rockville, Md.-based Mar­ke­tre­search. com. So what are gro­cers and CPGS cur­rently do­ing to pro­vide so­lu­tions here?

Mind­ing the Meat

A sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­nity for bet­ter-for-you foods lies par­tic­u­larly in the meat case, where brands and gro­cers are chal­lenged by con­sumer per­cep­tion that

pro­cessed meats aren’t health­ful. Some 38 per­cent of U.S. con­sumers cite “all nat­u­ral” as the most im­por­tant fac­tor when pur­chas­ing red meat — es­pe­cially beef, notes Chicago-based mar­ket re­search firm Min­tel in its Novem­ber 2016 Cat­e­gory In­sight on meat, poul­try and fish.

“Con­sumer per­cep­tion of the health­ful­ness of pro­cessed meats re­mains a key chal­lenge for the cat­e­gory,” Min­tel says, adding that while brands have “stepped up clean-la­bel in­no­va­tion ef­forts, op­por­tu­ni­ties re­main to in­crease de­vel­op­ment of prod­ucts that ad­dress con­sumers’ health con­cerns through stream­lined for­mu­la­tions and clear la­bel­ing.”

Sev­eral brands, such as Os­car Mayer, with its Selects Nat­u­ral Ap­ple­wood Smoked Ham luncheon meat, have helped ease con­sumers’ minds by in­cor­po­rat­ing cel­ery juice, ex­tract or pow­der to re­place con­ven­tional curing preser­va­tives such as ni­trites and ni­trates, which some be­lieve are po­ten­tially car­cino­genic. While cel­ery ex­tract doesn’t of­fer a com­plete so­lu­tion to re­mov­ing added ni­trites and ni­trates, it does pro­vide the clean-la­bel so­lu­tion val­ued by con­sumers.

Ar­ti­fi­cial in­gre­di­ents are par­tic­u­larly un­nerv­ing for Jeremy Za­vo­ral, man­ager of the Hormel Nat­u­ral Choice brand from Austin, Minn.-based pro­ces­sor Hormel Foods, as he be­lieves con­sumers strongly value “real” food with­out the fake taste and ap­pear­ance of many main­stream prod­ucts.

“But that doesn’t mean fla­vors can’t be as bold as the con­ven­tion­ally pro­duced en­hanced prod­ucts,” he in­sists. “For ex­am­ple, Hormel Nat­u­ral Choice deli meat launched ap­ple­wood-smoked turkey, which is deli meat that has been smoked over real ap­ple­wood chips — not [us­ing] liq­uid smoke — to give it an authen­tic fla­vor.”

What’s de­sir­able, how­ever, among nat­u­ral foods — es­pe­cially refrigerated meats — is high pro­tein con­tent, Za­vo­ral stresses. Con­sumers want prod­ucts that are free from ar­ti­fi­cial preser­va­tives while still keep­ing them fuller longer and sup­port­ing healthy mus­cles. This has re­sulted in an ex­pan­sion of nat­u­ral meat prod­ucts in gro­cers’ refrigerated cases.

Gro­cers Kroger and Hormel, for ex­am­ple, both are work­ing to ex­pand se­lec­tion in cleaner meats that also sup­port sati­ety and mus­cu­lar de­vel­op­ment. Kroger has im­ple­mented ded­i­cated nat­u­ral meat sets to bring to­gether all of th­ese types of prod­ucts in one easyto-shop set, re­gard­less of prod­uct cat­e­gory. Mean­while, Hormel is ad­dress­ing this trend by de­liv­er­ing pro­tein-packed nat­u­ral prod­ucts across the refrigerated case un­der the Hormel Nat­u­ral Choice brand, in­clud­ing nat­u­ral deli meat, pep­per­oni, ba­con and ham.

Qual­ity Counts in Dairy

With dairy, health­ful­ness and pu­rity also are es­sen­tial, and a num­ber of brands are com­mit­ting more to pu­rity prom­ises with their tra­di­tional fluid milk of­fer­ings.

For its Dairy­pure brand, Dal­las-based dairy pro­ces­sor Dean Foods has de­vel­oped a Five-point Pu­rity Prom­ise, which en­sures that milk has no ar­ti­fi­cial growth hor­mones, is tested for an­tibi­otics, is con­tin­u­ally qual­ity tested to en­sure pu­rity, comes from cows fed a healthy diet and is cold-shipped fresh from con­sumers’ lo­cal dairies.

“Since the brand’s launch in 2015, we’ve fo­cused on line ex­ten­sions, in­clud­ing half-and-half, creams and lac­tose-free,” says Greg Schwarz, VP of mar­ket­ing at Dean Foods. “The brand’s at­tributes align with the grow­ing con­sumer trends to en­joy prod­ucts that are pure, fresh and lo­cal.”

“Lo­cal” is a key­word here for nat­u­ral prod­ucts in su­per­mar­kets — across all cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing dairy.

“With an eye on the suc­cess of farm­ers’ mar­kets, CSA pro­grams and re­lated trends, in­clud­ing home de­liv­ery of fresh milk by lo­cal dairies, su­per­mar­kets are mak­ing a point of fea­tur­ing lo­cally pro­duced prod­ucts, which, in turn, have be­come very so­phis­ti­cated,” says Pack­aged Facts’ Sprin­kle.

As for eggs, the in­dus­try has seen a large num­ber of gro­cers go cage-free, but one in par­tic­u­lar has ac­tu­ally gone a step fur­ther. Jonathan Clinthorne, PH.D., man­ager of sci­en­tific af­fairs and nu­tri­tion ed­u­ca­tion at Lake­wood, Colo.-based Nat­u­ral Gro­cers, notes that his com­pany sells only freerange eggs or bet­ter, as they rep­re­sent the high­estqual­ity prod­uct and most hu­mane treat­ment of egg-lay­ing hens.

With an eye on the suc­cess of farm­ers’ mar­kets, CSA pro­grams and re­lated trends, in­clud­ing home de­liv­ery of fresh milk by lo­cal dairies, su­per­mar­kets are mak­ing a point of fea­tur­ing lo­cally pro­duced prod­ucts, which, in turn, have be­come very so­phis­ti­cated. — David Sprin­kle Pack­aged Facts

Plant Power

Of course, whether it’s meat or dairy, the grow­ing health-fo­cused trend in­volves con­sumers seek­ing to eat fewer an­i­mal-based prod­ucts al­to­gether. Meg Carl­son, pres­i­dent and CEO of Pros­per­ity Organic Foods Inc., a Boise, Idaho-based man­u­fac­turer of plant-based “but­ter,” notes that with 38 per­cent of house­holds now fol­low­ing “flex­i­tar­ian” eat­ing regimes, it should be no sur­prise that peo­ple are grow­ing more in­ter­ested in health­ful fats — specif­i­cally plant-based ones — as well as plant-based al­ter­na­tives to tra­di­tional an­i­mal-based prod­ucts.

Dairy, for in­stance, is a ma­jor cat­e­gory for plant-based al­ter­na­tives, and Den­ver-based White­wave Foods is one CPG ex­pand­ing its pres­ence here. Lau­ren Tankersley, White­wave’s di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing re­search, notes that her com­pany is launch­ing var­i­ous plant-based prod­ucts such as Silk pro­tein-en­hanced nut-based milks, fea­tur­ing a blend of al­mond and cashew milks, and con­tain­ing 10 grams of soy-free, plant-based pro­tein per serv­ing.

On the re­tailer side, Nat­u­ral Gro­cers’ Clinthorne sees not just cashew and al­mond milks hit­ting shelves, but also co­conut, flax and hemp va­ri­eties.

Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances to­day are even al­low­ing for bet­ter-tast­ing but­ter al­ter­na­tives. Carl­son notes that Pros­per­ity’s Melt organic but­ter sub­sti­tute, made from a blend of ben­e­fi­cial fruit- and plant­based fats, not only sells in stick and spread for­mats, but also has the same melt and smoke points as tra­di­tional but­ter, mak­ing it suit­able for cook­ing.

As for meat, an­i­mal pro­tein al­ter­na­tives con­tinue to grow as more shop­pers re­duce their over­all meat con­sump­tion, ac­cord­ing to Beena Gold­en­berg, CEO of Cul­ti­vate Ven­tures, a di­vi­sion of the Lake Suc­cess, N.y.-based man­u­fac­turer Hain Ce­les­tial Group that in­vests in smaller, in­no­va­tive busi­nesses. Specif­i­cally, its line of Yves Veg­gies Cui­sine, now NON-GMO Project Cer­ti­fied, of­fers veg al­ter­na­tives to ev­ery­thing from break­fast meats and lunch­meats to taco fill­ing and hot dogs.

Sim­i­larly, 301 Inc, the new busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and ven­tur­ing unit of Golden Val­ley, Minn.-based pro­ces­sor Gen­eral Mills, re­cently launched its first refrigerated meat al­ter­na­tive through The Be­yond Burger, a plant-based burger that looks, cooks and tastes like fresh ground beef. Austin, Texas-based nat­u­ral gro­cer Whole Foods Mar­ket part­nered with Be­yond Meat to be the burger’s ex­clu­sive seller be­tween its fall 2016 de­but and the end of that year, stock­ing the prod­uct in both the meat de­part­ment and in the dairy/al­ter­na­tive food sec­tion to ap­peal to both car­ni­vores and non-meat-eaters.

Pros­per­ity’s Carl­son an­tic­i­pates that an in­creas­ing in­ter­est in eth­i­cally, sus­tain­ably sourced and min­i­mally pro­cessed foods and bev­er­ages that de­liver mul­ti­ple nu­tri­tional ben­e­fits will con­tinue, en­cour­ag­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers to con­tinue in­no­va­tion in plant-based al­ter­na­tives to an­i­mal-based foods. But in the end, she stresses, it’s up to re­tail­ers to give th­ese emerg­ing prod­ucts the at­ten­tion and time needed for suc­cess in their re­spec­tive cat­e­gories.

With dairy, health­ful­ness and pu­rity also are es­sen­tial, and a num­ber of brands are com­mit­ting more to pu­rity prom­ises with their tra­di­tional fluid milk of­fer­ings.

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