Wellness Foods: Products to Watch in 2009

Developing products with multiple health benefits is on trend — but don’t overwhelm.

By David Feder, RD, Technical Editor

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“Kellogg is introducing new Live Bright brain-health bars with 100mg of DHA omega-3 to help support brain health,” she adds. “That’s fives times more DHA omega-3 than most Americans eat each day.”

Live Bright brain-health bars are made with Martek Bioscience Inc.’s life’s DHA brand vegetarian DHA omega-3. Available in dark chocolate vanilla and double chocolate flavors, the convenient bars “offer consumers an easy way to get more DHA into their diet,” says Garrett. According to Garrett, Live Bright bars will be marketed to adults, “specifically those who actively manage their health via diet and lifestyle.”

Other growing product trend categories focusing on multiple platforms include foods for kids. Baby and toddler foods joined the merge with multiple releases of products simultaneously appealing to health, organic, vegetarian and minimally processed trends.

Until now, the majority of formulators have been of the boutique variety, but led by the larger concern, Earth’s Best (www.earthsbest.com), a part of Boulder, Colo.-based Hain Celestial Group. The big companies took note, and suddenly our little ones are getting lots of attention.

Nestlé’s Gerber group launched its Gerber Organics and followed up with its new Gerber Graduates for Preschoolers line of “healthy meals” for toddlers as well as Gerber 2nd Foods Dinners with DHA purees. Fortified with 18mg of DHA omega-3 per serving, they target support of brain and eye development.

Graduates are a mere toe in the water, limiting focus to a “no preservatives” claim. But more such foods surely are coming. This trend won’t stop growing until every manufacturer has its own line of organic, sustainable, nutraceutical-enhanced foods for the under-12 demographic. 

From exotic products (like spirulina and ginseng) to simple products (almond) with added green tea and grape seed extracts, Betty Lou’s overwhelms with the “health-plus” trend.
When Nell Newman added the organic side to her father’s Newman’s Own Co., the category was fringe. Today, organic is a fixed part of our food choice demands with NOO marketing more than 100 organic products.

Babies and toddlers aren’t our only charges benefiting from a fresh (and organic and functional) revolution in foods. Our pets are witnessing the sudden growth of organic and healthy pet foods.
As the owner goes, so goes the pet. As consumers become avid label readers of the foods they eat themselves, they’re keeping an eye out on what they choose for Fido and Fifi. As a result, our critters are graying as standards of pet care improve, adding another impetus to focus closely what these close family members eat.

Let’s not forget organic

Over the past few years we’ve reported on how the organic category continues to grow. It might be more pervasive if supply could keep up with demand.

Even in a highly stressed, near-depression economy, organic/sustainable/fair trade/eco-friendly products still are growing at rates three to eight times faster than non-organic products, according to the Organic Trade Assn. Packaged Facts estimates the organic food and beverage industry will have hit $33 billion in sales this year, with experts predicting growth edging toward $40 billion by end of 2010.

Few companies understand the continually burgeoning organic market as does Newman’s Own Organics (www.newmansownorganics.com), Westport, Conn. A pioneer of mainstream healthful, organic versions of familiar foods, the company carved a significant niche and became a trend leader.

Today, after a quarter century of leading, and with more than 100 products and annual sales of $185 million, Newman’s Own and Newman’s Own Organics carries on the late Paul Newman’s generous legacy of combining health, eco-friendliness and social responsibility to the tune of more than $250 million given to a number of charities.

The continuing growth and expansion in organics opened new opportunities for the ready-to-eat dinners category. Companies and products such as Organic Bistro Whole Life meals (www.theorganicbistor.com), United Natural Brands Inc.’s Rising moon Skillet Meals (www.risingmoon.com), and Helen’s Foods’ Helen’s Kitchens (www.helensfoods.com) are three examples of the way “in-home fast food” is trending. Specializing in organic and vegetarian heat-and-eat meals, they are price-competitive, mainstream and stepped into a breach left by the previous generation of antecedents who thought flavor could be a secondary concern.

“The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center revealed organic soy foods represent the fastest growing consumer food segment in the past 10 years,” says Stephen Moore, CEO of Helen’s. “It’s thought that improvements in the taste of soy products, along with a change in American mainstream health perspectives, has helped to spur this growth.”

Moore also notes a “resurgence of classic comfort foods” and points to other trends the company is tuned into. “Green, carbon-footprint-oriented foods are fueled by global climate-change concerns. Helen’s Foods are American-made, which cuts down on carbon emissions. Also, if an organic ingredient can be purchased locally, we buy local. We also use certified organic practices and ingredients, meaning that the way we manufacture offers the least impact the environment. In addition, we utilize certified organic ingredients taken from farms that place an emphasis on sustainable farming practices, a key to ensuring a healthier earth.”

For the next few years, food and beverage products will have to be designed  to serve multiple marketing points. But they also will have to meet the single most important criterion: taste.
The hot products in wellness are no exception. But with technology bringing new depth to flavor development and nutraceutical capacity, processors can meet demand for on-trend, healthful and responsibly made foods that fulfill taste expectations most of all.

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