The Government Weighs In

February 1, 2005
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The Government Weighs In
After much speculation about revisions to, or even the demise of the USDA Food Pyramid, the United States Department of Health & Human Services and the United States Department of Agriculture last month released the sixth edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The recommendations, which are revised every five years, emphasize reducing calories and increasing physical activity, and give more specific guidance on some previously nebulous food categories.
“The report gives action steps to reach achievable goals in weight control, stronger muscles and bones, and balanced nutrition to help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers,” said HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson of the new guidelines.
The proportionate intake of calories against activity plays strongly in the recommendations, as does increased consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetables, which could be positive for juice-makers. Producers of dairy-based beverages can smile over the increased recommendation of three servings of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products per day. The government also more specifically defined grain intake, saying at least half should come from whole grains.
Beverage-makers may want to note the recommendation to “chose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugar or caloric sweeteners,” and “reduce the incidence of dental caries by … consuming sugar- and starch-containing foods and beverages less frequently.”
Alcohol recommendations are largely unchanged from conventional guidance of one drink per day for women and up to two per day for men, and no alcohol for pregnant or lactating women.
Hits the spot
PepsiCo is on the leading edge of the wellness trend with Smart Spot, an initiative that highlights better-for-you and good-for-you products across its entire portfolio of food and beverage brands. The company announced the program last year, identifying more than 100 products, including Tropicana, Quaker, Dole, Gatorade, Diet Pepsi and Baked Lays, to feature the Smart Spot logo.
“Health and wellness is one of the largest growth opportunities in the food business,” says Aurora Gonzalez, spokeswoman for the health and wellness program. “PepsiCo took on the task because we have such a broad array of brands and products that are well positioned to have an impact.”
In fact, the company has said more than 55 billion servings of Smart Spot products will be consumed this year, and it has set a goal to have 50 percent of its future products meet the Smart Spot criteria. PepsiCo based those criteria on guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration and the National Academy of Sciences, which limit the amount of fat — trans and saturated — cholesterol, sodium and added sugar. Smart Spot also will be used to identify products that contain fiber, vitamins and other nutrients, or that have a specific health or wellness benefit.
In keeping with the trend to not be trendy, PepsiCo’s program takes a wellness rather than a diet approach, and leaves room for the range of full-calorie, better-for-you and good-for-you offerings. “People aren’t looking to make drastic changes, or they have done so over the years and said that’s not the way they want to go,” says Gonzalez. “Our program is modeled on the idea that you don’t have to do drastic things, but you can do small, simple changes and have a greater impact on your long-term health.”
It also has sponsored exercise initiatives such as America on the Move to help consumers understand the correlation between calories burned and calories consumed, and teamed with “The View” co-host Meredith Vieira to spread the word about the program. It recently partnered with 16 of its largest retailers, including Albertson’s, Costco, Safeway, 7-Eleven, Walgreens, CVS, Wal-Mart, and others, for in-store, point-of-purchase displays that group the targeted products, allowing consumers to, “get a sense of the larger scope of Smart Spot,” says Gonzalez.
On the ‘Plus’ side
The launch of 7 UP Plus from Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages created a new category of carbonated soft drinks based on wellness rather than diet.
“This is the first CSD that is talking about what we are putting in instead of taking out,” says Executive Vice President of Marketing Randy Gier. “That’s where we parted with the industry and where we thought the big play was.”
The company chose 7 UP as the base for the product because it is perceived as lighter and healthier than other soft drinks, and added fruit juice, vitamins and calcium. It sweetened the product with Splenda for 10 calories and 2 grams of carbohydrates per serving, but for the most part, it left calorie content out of the brand message.
“We tried very hard not to give it a reference to diet or regular,” says Gier. “It’s not like a mid-cal, which is trying to be in between something and something else. We decided to positively position it as what it is, which is a benefit-added soft drink.”
So far, the brand is “exceeding all of our expectations,” says Gier. “When you do something that different, you never know for sure, but the whole trademark is up… We’re right on track with where we expected to be from a repeat standpoint, and a little ahead of where we expected to be from a volume standpoint.”
In addition, Cadbury has taken the Plus concept and extended it to the Mott’s brand. This month, it is introducing Mott’s Plus for Kids’ Health, a 100 percent juice with 10 percent of the RDI for vitamin A, 100 percent for vitamin C and 10 percent for calcium; and Mott’s Plus Light apple juice, which is sweetened with Splenda for 50 percent fewer calories, and has 10 percent of the RDI for vitamin A, 20 percent for vitamin D, 100 percent for vitamin C and 10 percent for calcium.
Growth opportunities
Better-for-you beverages are some of the biggest growth leaders, according to ACNielsen’s What’s Hot Around the Globe: Insights on Growth in Food and Beverages 2004.
• Soy-based drinks were up 31% from ’03-’04
• Drinkable yogurts increased 19%
• Sports/energy drinks, up 10%
• Ready-to-drink non-carbonated beverages grew 8%

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