Energy Foods Witness a Renewal

Whether they're a fad or a mainstay, energy foods are hot right now. Their solid nutrition will make many products perennial favorites.

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

Some foods really are energy boosters. Researchers studying the links between what we eat and how we feel claim there's evidence that changing one's diet to include more energy foods can change metabolism, affect energy levels, even transform our mood.

Quinoa, for example, can keep energy steady throughout the day. Protein-rich quinoa is also considered a super grain because it contains almost twice as much fiber as other grains (fiber guards against heart disease by reducing high blood pressure and helps curb diabetes).

To rev up those human engines, Ancient Harvest, recently introduced Lentil & Quinoa Supergrain Mac & Cheese, which is gluten-free.

Available in Mild and Sharp Cheddar varieties, a 6.5-oz. box includes quinoa-based elbow macaroni and equally nutritious red lentils to deliver 7g of fiber and 16g of protein per one-cup serving, all in a creamy, cheddar cheese sauce.

A boost from nuts

Nuts pack protein and fiber, which keep energy up and fatigue down. A great way to enjoy them in moderation is a new snack from Fisher Nuts called Fisher Nut Exactly snack bites. Launched nationally in June, the bite-sized nuggets are made of whole-grain popcorn, rolled in roasted almonds, pecans or peanuts, and dipped in milk chocolate, dark chocolate, peanut butter or salted caramel. Each high-energy bite (they come in 5-oz. reclosable pouches) has 15-16 calories and no artificial preservatives. It's not exactly popcorn and not exactly chocolate, thus the name, explains Howard Brandeisky, senior vice president of global marketing and customer solutions at John B. Sanfilippo & Son Inc., Elgin, Ill.

Like nuts, peanuts (which are actually legumes), have enough wholesome energy, dietary fiber and protein to fuel activities for hours. Kraft Heinz Co.'s Planters brand, launched two new zesty flavored peanut varieties early this year: Chili Lime and Sea Salt & Vinegar, which join Salted Caramel, Cocoa, Chipotle and Smoked. All have key nutrients, vitamins, minerals and "good" polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

For serious get-up-and-go, Clif Bar & Co., Emeryville, Calif., is offering three new Organic Trail Mix bars made with organic oats, fruit, nuts and dark chocolate. Cranberry Almond, Wild Blueberry Almond and Coconut Almond Peanut varieties contain 4g of dietary fiber, 160mg of potassium, 5g of protein and 180 calories. "We not only nourish some of the world’s best athletes, we also offer on-the-go organic snacks for busy people," says Doug Cornille, brand director.

Archer Daniels Midland Co., Chicago, produces a number of energy-promoting ingredients, including nuts, fruits, seeds, legumes and ancient grains, says Lesley Nicholson, ADM project manager. "Protein is a critical element in nuts and is essential to muscle building and maintenance," she says. "Increasingly, people are looking for new protein sources (other than meat), such as vegetable and plant-based proteins, so nuts, seeds, soy and wheat are being more readily used in healthy products like trail mixes. Through our Specialty Commodities business, we're developing high-protein nut butters that can be used in drinks, desserts, energy bars and snack products."

Going more mainstream

Energy drink makers are repositioning their products to attract a broader audience, says Sensient Flavors and Fragrances Group, Hoffman Estates, Ill. Ingredient mainstays like caffeine, taurine and vitamin B complex are being replaced with more natural and plant-based alternatives. "Naturally positioned energy drinks have grown tremendously due to the health and wellness movement," says Tina Rzeha, marketing associate for North America beverages.

Also, categories are blurring when it comes to sports and energy drinks. "Fusion-style teas, functional waters and dairy products containing added energy and protein ingredients can enhance everyday appeal," she notes. "Low-sugar/low-calorie waters containing minerals, vitamins, guarana and coffee bean extracts are moving into supermarkets."

DuPont Nutrition & Health, New Century, Kan., which supplies soy proteins for protein supplement products in powdered and liquid forms and energy and nutrition bars, also sees the energy/protein supplement category going more mainstream. "It's capturing a wider cross section of health and wellness consumers, with sales moving into more conventional retail channels," observes Jean Heggie, strategic marketing lead.

The company sees opportunities to improve the taste and performance of such products with its new ingredient called Supro XT 221D isolated soy protein. The company has found through sensory studies that the rapidly dispersing formulation can optimize the taste of energy beverages and improve formula economics by blending soy with dairy proteins.

"As for nutrition bars, it's all about how they look, taste and feel," Heggie adds. "We're optimizing bar textures, combining high protein ingredients with whole-food ingredients like nuts, seeds and grains to deliver bars with high protein and a natural appearance."

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