Unilever, after losing nearly half its Slim-Fast sales during the low-carb craze, developed a new Slim-Fast line. The new key, according to Terry Olson, general manager of marketing for Slim-Fast, is the product "convinces the body that it has consumed [the equivalent of] 500 calories," when it actually has consumed only about 190 in, for example, the Slim-Fast Shake. The new products appeared on shelves in January.
Kraft also has been looking to resistant starches. Todd Abraham, vice president of global research and technology strategy, was quoted earlier this year announcing "a new technology using resistant starches that act like fiber." He called the starch X150, for the 150th experiment that Kraft performed to find a good working starch that performs technically, but breaks down slowly during digestion.
In pursuit of the weight-loss magic bullet, Unilever is hedging its bets in another, far more audacious way. The company is looking seriously at hoodia, an African cactus that showed at least some promise in preliminary studies (see "Nutrition Beyond the Trends: Hoodia Love").
The hoodia component that is effective in killing appetite with no discernable side effects was patented by The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in 1997 and subsequently licensed by Phytopharm. Unilever gained marketing rights, and is developing the compound with Phytopharm in an unusual (for Unilever) move. Products, according to company spokespersons, will appear in the marketplace next year.
What will provide the next big wave of diet products for people who need or desire to lose weight? Whether it's the Satiety Index, the low carbohydrate-based Glycemic Index or the fat-based ileal brake mechanism, the answer remains a scientific and marketing puzzle. But it's certain to be a puzzle with a big payoff.
About the Author
Frances Katz was vice president of research for American Maize Products, a past editor of Food Processing and was director of publications for the Institute of Food Technologists.
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