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Health & Wellness

Protein in focus

Product developers are incorporating protein into a variety of applications
Consumer packaged goods companies are capitalizing on the demand for protein, and consumers appear to be responding. Of those consumers surveyed by the market research firm The NPD Group, 78% said protein contributes to a healthy diet, and more than half said they want to get more protein into their diets.
“Consumers want more protein in their diets,” said Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst for NPD and author of “Eating Patterns in America.” “While our interest in protein is growing, we’re looking for alternatives to meat. Many of us are looking to lower the cost of our protein sources, and animal meat is generally more expensive than plant-based protein. The cost of meat helps explain the growth in Greek yogurt and other alternate protein sources.”
The power of the trend was on display with the release of the market research firm Information Resources Inc.’s (I.R.I.) most recent New Product Pacesetters report in early March. The report highlights C.P.G. products that have achieved significant sales levels during their first year on the market.
Of the top 10 products on the list, five feature protein as a better-for-you ingredient, including Light & Fit Greek yogurt from the Dannon Co.; Yoplait Greek 100 from General Mills: Müller Yogurt, which is produced through a joint venture between the Müller Group and PepsiCo; Special K Flatbread Breakfast Sandwiches from Kellogg Co.; and Atkins frozen meals from Atkins Nutritionals.
The New Product Pacesetters highlight several important trends, most notably the power of yogurt as a source of protein. The category continues to grow, with a wide variety of product introductions, including Alpina Foods, Miami, extending its line of Greek yogurt products, and Müller Yogurt adding to its line with the introduction of such dessert flavors as dark chocolate and cherry as well as dark chocolate and pecan granola.
While there is widespread agreement among consumers protein is necessary in a healthy diet, according to NPD, there is confusion over the optimal amount of protein that should be consumed on a typical day. The research firm found that more than three-quarters of primary grocery shoppers say protein contributes to a healthy diet, but almost as many say they are unsure of the recommended daily amount.
“It is important for food and beverage marketers to highlight wherever possible that their products are a good source of lean protein,” said Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for NPD. “In fact, the protein study we conducted showed certain messages about protein resonated more than others. The study also found nearly half of primary grocery shoppers have purchased protein-enriched foods, and many are willing to pay, or have already paid a premium for these products.”
Meat muscling into snacks
The Kraft Foods Group recently launched the Oscar Mayer P3 Portable Protein Pack, which is available in four varieties with 13 grams of protein and features Oscar Mayer Selects meat, Kraft Natural cheese and Planters nuts.
“It struck us that, while protein snacking is a id=mce_marker9 billion category, meat — which for most people is synonymous with protein — has been largely absent from the conversation, and completely absent from the protein snacking space, which is where the growth is in the category,” said Thomas Bick, senior director of integrated marketing communications and advertising for Oscar Mayer.
Mr. Bick added that the P3 Portable Protein Packs are designed for the active person looking for a protein-packed snack to help keep them going strong.
“We believe these products have truly broad appeal, but we do anticipate a high interest from men,” he said.
Hillshire Brands had a similar notion when developing its Hillshire Snacking line, scheduled to roll out in the fourth quarter of the company’s fiscal year.
“Snacking is a priority for our company,” said Sean Connolly, president and chief executive officer of Hillshire Brands, Feb. 19 during the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference. “We think protein snacking is a significant growth area, and we think it’s margin-accretive.”
The Hillshire Snacking line is available in two varieties. One features Italian salami or hot calabrese salami with cheese and crackers. The other variety is grilled meats with gourmet dipping sauces in such flavors as sweet chili, honey mustard or teriyaki.
“Why are we doing this?” Mr. Connolly said. “Because consumers are telling us they are looking for protein-oriented snacks — in this case, refrigerated, which there’s not a lot out there. But unlike some of the things you do see in the marketplace, this is truly of superior quality. So this is excellent, high-protein, low-calorie, low-fat snacking in a beautiful packaging execution.”
The new offerings from Kraft and Hillshire follow a similar effort made last spring by Hormel Foods Corp. with the launch of REV snack wraps. The youth-targeted products feature meat and cheese wrapped in a flatbread, and the wraps contain 15 grams or more of protein per serving.
“We obviously believed in the concept that meat and cheese combinations could be a positive element for consumers when it comes to snacking opportunities, and so it is certainly not (surprising) to us that others have looked at the marketplace the same way and have come up with different offerings,” said Jeff Ettinger, chairman, president and c.e.o. of Hormel Foods Corp., during a Feb. 20 earnings call. “I mean, I think the offerings that I’ve seen are really all quite different from each other, so there certainly is a possibility that they could well be complementary and hit consumers at slightly different occasions or maybe a slightly different age audience.”

Emerging sources of protein
The Natural Products Expo West tradeshow, held in Anaheim, Calif., March 6-9 featured many new products capitalizing on the protein trend.

Pea protein
Pea protein offers a solution to the demand for products made without bioengineered ingredients, such as soy or dairy cattle potentially fed feed sourced from bioengineered crops. A new line of organic chewy granola bars from Cascadian Farm, a General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, brand, leverages the plant-based source with 9 grams of protein in two flavors: honey roasted nut and peanut butter chocolate chip.
Kind Healthy Snacks, New York, introduced Strong & Kind bars that contain 10 grams of protein from a combination of almonds, seeds and pea protein. Varieties include such savory flavors as honey smoked barbecue, Thai sweet chili and roasted jalapeño.

Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds also were sprouting in snack mixes and bars. SuperSeedz, a brand from Kathie’s Kitchen L.L.C., North Haven, Conn., offers shelled, dry-roasted pumpkin seeds in eight flavors, including cocoa and coffee, cinnamon and sugar, and spicy varieties. Gypsy Crunch, a new line of gluten-free granolas, gets a protein boost from pumpkin seeds, in addition to pistachios and almonds.
Brad’s Raw Sprouted Seeds, from Brad’s Raw Foods, Pipersville, Pa., feature pumpkin seeds that have been soaked and germinated in filtered water and flavored with organic seasonings. Clif Bar & Co., Emeryville, Calif., is debuting new fruit and seed varieties under its Kit’s Organic bar line featuring a cherry and pumpkin seed flavor.

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, also were seen breaking out beyond hummus as a protein provider in such products as Freedom Foods, a business unit of the Freedom Foods Group, Caringbah, Australia, is introducing Pro-Teen Crunch cereal, which has 3 grams of protein per serving from chickpea flour. Organic garbanzo beans are the top ingredient in a new line of chocolate-flavored spreads from Hope Foods, Boulder, Colo., a maker of hummus products. Maya Kaimal Chickpea Chips are gluten-free snack chips in lightly salted, seeded multigrain and sweet chili varieties. Chick-a-peas are a baked crunchy chickpea-based snack in sea salt and falafel flavors.

Positioned as “the plant kingdom’s perfect protein” in a new line of bars from Keen-Wah, the ancient grain also is gaining fame as a plant-powered boost in such products as a breakfast range launching from Qrunch Foods, which also makes quinoa-based veggie burgers. Qrunch Toastables are gluten-free waffle alternatives made with organic quinoa, amaranth and millet in such flavors as cinnamon vanilla, blueberry lemon and rich maple. I Heart Keenwah quinoa clusters have a peanut brittle texture and sweet flavor combinations, including chocolate sea salt, cranberry cashew, ginger peanut and peanut butter cacao.

A new meat alternative product called neat, from Neat Foods L.L.C., Lancaster, Pa., uses pecans, along with garbanzo beans and gluten-free whole grain oats and cornmeal, to add protein and flavor with the texture of ground beef. The products are soy- and gluten-free and available in three varieties: original, Italian and Mexican, with 4 grams of protein per serving.

From Food Business News
Keith Nunes and Monica Watrous

From Food Business News today

Three occasions define snacking segment

CHICAGO – Product developers should understand the occasions when people snack, said Barbara Katz, president of HealthFocus International. She gave examples of how a company may use certain ingredients to create snacks for three specific occasions in a March 20 session at the Institute of Food Technologists’ Wellness 2014 conference in Chicago.
For a small meal occasion, people may seek satiety in a snack, be it yogurt, a protein shake or a sandwich, Ms. Katz said. Whole grains are one ingredient option.
For a better-for-you occasion, people may want a snack to fill a need, such as energy before an exercise workout, she said. Protein and fiber may work well in a product. Snack examples include nuts, dried fruit or a nutrition bar.
For an indulgent occasion, snack examples are ice cream, baked foods or a salty snack. Formulators should consider premium ingredients as well as natural ingredients, Ms. Katz said.
Ms. Katz said many consumers still associate snacking as a cause for overeating. Healthier snacks thus may present an opportunity, she said. Data from HealthFocus International show 57% of consumers believe reductions in such areas as fat or sugar make a snack healthier.
Consumers have a perception that other attributes make a snack healthier, Ms. Katz said. They include reduced or no preservatives (52%), natural ingredients (52%), no additives (50%) and recognizable ingredients (50%).
Lu Ann Williams, head of research at Innova Market Insights, also spoke about how ingredients may improve a snack’s health attributes. She said ancient grains, including millet, quinoa and chia, experienced a 69% compound annual growth rate in savory snack launches from 2009-13.
Snack launches featuring peanuts, almonds or walnuts are growing in number, too. Thanks to drying technologies, new shapes and new sizes, more fruit inclusions are showing up in snacks.
Snacks with protein from soy, wheat, vegetables or casein have become more popular in the United States, Ms. Williams said. Bison and salmon even have appeared in protein bars.
Ms. Williams said companies should avoid promoting low sodium in a snack because it will influence consumers negatively.
“Nothing says no taste more than no salt,” she said.

From Food Business News today
by Jeff Gelski

Video from New York Times

The Best Food for your Heart

The Best (And Worst) Foods For Your Heart

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States -- a respectable reason to show your heart some love and attention. To keep your ticker in tip-top shape, add these best foods to your daily health routine -- and kick the worst to the curb.

Best: Nuts
Tree nuts are a superb source of protein and provide nutrients necessary for your heart's health. The nourishing unsaturated fats help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and boost HDL (good) cholesterol. Furthermore, nuts are rich in arginine, an amino acid that makes nitric oxide. This gas relaxes blood vessels and supports blood flow. Still not convinced? Crunch on this sweet statistic: Devoted nut eaters are 25 percent less likely to die from heart disease than those who don't eat nuts.

How to enjoy: To satisfy a need for crunch, sprinkle nuts atop a salad. When snacking, try fruit slices dipped in a creamy nut butter or a shot glass-size serving of whole nuts.

Best: Beans
Recent studies have shown that those who consume legumes on a daily basis have a 22 percent lower risk of developing heart disease than those who rarely do. And here’s why: Beans are packed with cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering soluble fiber, and contain heart-smart nutrients such as folate, a vitamin that helps reduce blood homocysteine (a biomarker for heart disease). And let's not forget how easily beans stand in for animal protein, which is often loaded with saturated fat.

How to enjoy: Use hummus as a condiment in potato salads, or get creative by adding garbanzo-bean flour to cake, cookie and muffin batters.

Best: Chocolate
Not that we need another reason to indulge in dark chocolate, but: Cacao contains flavonoids (metabolites that promote healthy blood circulation and supple arteries) and polyphenols (antioxidants that reduce inflammation and risk of atherosclerosis). It's also a good source of magnesium, a mineral essential for normal heart function. Take note, however: All chocolate is not created equal when it comes to nutrition. Be sure to select products that are at least 70 percent cacao.

How to enjoy: For breakfast, add cacao powder to a green smoothie, or end dinner with a one-ounce square of dark chocolate.

Worst: Added Sugars
Because sugar increases blood pressure and triglyceride levels and leads to weight gain, a sugar-laden diet increases one's risk of heart disease. “Also, diets high in sugar usually aren't rich in important nutrients -- like fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains -- that help prevent heart disease and keep your heart healthy,” notes upwave reviewer Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD. Sugar-sweetened beverages, cookies, cakes and pastries are obvious no-nos; sneaky sources of sugar can also include yogurt, ready-to-eat cereals and pasta sauces.

How to avoid: Satisfy your sweet tooth the natural way by savoring a fruit-based dessert. Break a soda habit by drinking sparkling water with a shot glass-size splash of fruit juice.

Worst: Saturated Fat
Diets high in saturated fat boost blood cholesterol levels, which in turn can lead to atherosclerosis. This artery-clogging fat is present in dairy-based butter, sour cream, mayo, fatty cuts of meat, cocoa butter, palm oil, coconut oil and coconut milk. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting saturated fat so it comprises less than 7 percent of your total daily caloric intake. The key here is moderation: A juicy steak or a dollop of sour cream on a baked potato is fine on occasion.

How to avoid: Instead of butter, spread creamy avocado on whole-grain toast. When making burgers, replace half the ground beef with mushrooms, which provide the same texture and an umami flavor. Meat eaters, why not shift the focus of meals to plant-based proteins or fatty fish, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids?

Note: Yes, trans fat is even worse for you than saturated fat. Luckily, the FDA is working with manufacturers to phase it out of foods.

Worst: Salt
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, and one in three Americans currently suffers from hypertension. High-sodium diets may be to blame, since excess sodium holds fluid in the body, thereby placing added burden on the heart. How much sodium is too much? The AHA recommends consuming no more than 1,500 mg per day.

How to avoid: Instead of reaching for the salt shaker, enhance the flavor of your food with spices. Skip processsed and fast foods and consume potassium-rich (aka blood-pressure-lowering) foods such as potatoes, beans and greens instead.

By Jessica Dogert
This article was originally published on


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