Trends Point Toward Smaller Meals, Healthy Ingredients

With trends toward more but smaller meals and health-imparting ingredients, don't let dinner spoil your snacks!

By Mark Anthony, Ph.D.

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Company literature explains: "The name Kashi is a synthesis of 'kashruth' or kosher, and 'Kushi,' the last name of the founders of macrobiotics [a whole foods way of eating and living]. In Russian, the word kashi means porridge. In Hebrew, the word kashruth signifies simple or pure food. In Japanese, kashi implies energy food. And in Chinese, it means happy food."

To the company, Kashi has come to mean "healthy foods that taste great" (another company motto). Kashi's TLC line features all natural, whole-grain granola bars, crackers and cookies. Innovations in cereals include Kashi's Vive for digestive wellness, the first non-perishable product in the U.S. to contain probiotics, and Mighty Bites for kids, which has a unique blend of nutrients designed for kids, including choline for brain development.

When you do something simple and do it well, it can rise to the level of an art. Such was the art of Klaus Karg, the original baker of Dr. Kracker crackers, who began experimenting with various cracker recipes in his grandfather's bakery. "Hand-rolled, artisan flatbreads -- crackers to Americans -- long on flavor and simple in ingredients, are a common bread product in Germany's best traditional bakeries," says George Eckrich, director of sales and marketing for Dallas-based Dr. Kracker (www.drkracker.com).

Ekrich says he's been on a quest for a healthier snack for most of his adult life, "something I could feel good about eating. As a Texan, I have consumed more than my fair share of corn chips, all loaded with fat, transfat and salt. The baked chip alternatives were a good idea, but they offered little flavor. Then I found these flatbread crackers.

"We are redefining crackers and flatbreads by baking with whole grains and whole seeds without added fats, trans fats or oils," Eckrich continues. The flatbreads and Snacker Krackers are 100 percent natural and USDA certified organic. Dr. Kracker began producing the flatbreads in Dallas in early 2004, and distribution now reaches most major cities in the U.S.

Not just the latest flavor

Market research indicates sales of healthier snack items will continue to grow exponentially, say officials at Archer Daniels Midland Co. (www.admworld.com), Decatur, Ill. As a result, the company is putting a lot of R&D behind healthier ingredients for snacking, many of them bundled into preconfigured and custom solution sets for processors.

"Healthy ingredients can have an impact on taste, color and texture at certain levels," says Julie Ohmen, business manager of Aspire Food Systems, which is a new ADM service designed to help snack food formulators to bridge the critical gap between indulgence and healthful eating. The unit offers customized formulations for snack pieces, cookies, trail mixes, crackers, wafers and nutrition and energy bars.

"Aspire reflects our commitment to meet today's consumer demands and to envision tomorrow's needs," interjects Graham Keen, vice president of corporate marketing.

As if soy’s health halo weren’t enough, ZenSoy recently introduced Soy on the Go, which includes 32mg of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid.
As if soy's health halo weren't enough, ZenSoy recently introduced Soy on the Go, which includes 32mg of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid.

Few foods are as versatile as soybeans, the richest sources of complete vegetable protein. Tofu and tempeh are vegetarian protein staples. Soymilks have gown in popularity as an alternative to milk. Soy also boosts the protein in nutrition shakes, bars, and a variety of baked snack items. Although its isoflavones have been linked to healthy blood lipid profiles and reduced risk of coronary heart disease, soy for some is still an acquired taste.

"In speaking with customers, we saw a need to break down consumer barriers to the soy category as a whole in terms of packaging, portability and taste," says Bruce Goria, director of marketing for ZenSoy (www.zansoy.com), South Hackensack, N.J. ZenSoy puddings do much to break down those barriers; the company claims its chocolate soy pudding is a top seller in the dessert/pudding category.

ZenSoy recently introduced Soy on the Go, a line of healthy soy milks in convenient single servings. Made from organic soybeans, the beverage offers 32mg of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid from algae.

"There is a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating that people of all ages, from infants to aging adults, benefit from an adequate supply of DHA in the diet," says Goria. "Several recent scientific reviews have noted the importance of DHA in proper brain and eye function, as well as its potential role in decreasing the prevalence of several neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease. Despite its importance, natural food sources of DHA are limited, causing Americans to have among the lowest dietary intakes of omega-3 DHA in the world."

Most omega-3-rich plants contain linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that cells convert to DHA. Fish obtain linolenic acid from algae, and convert much of it to EPA and DHA. Recent research suggests that obtaining DHA already formed is highly beneficial for the brain, peripheral nervous system, retina and heart. But involving fish presents a dilemma for some vegetarians: how to obtain an abundant vegetarian source of DHA.

"Life'sDHA from algae is a vegetarian source of DHA. It's produced from start to finish in an FDA-inspected facility with controls in place to ensure the highest quality," says Cassandra France-Kelly, spokesperson for Martek Biosciences (www.martek.com), Columbia, Md. "And because it's not from fish, there is no risk of ocean-borne pollutants."

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