Ahead of Our Time
Sarah Theodore
Everyone has a favorite indulgence. For as long as I’ve been with Beverage Industry, the editors here have turned to M&M candies as our “drug of choice” (no, they’re not beverages, but we have to eat, too). To ease the guilt, we often pick those little “fun packs” that are offered around Halloween, referring to them as “portion-controlled M&Ms.” We laughed at the name when we came up with it, but now it seems we were ahead of our time. Portion-controlled treats have taken off like a rocket during the past year, and the magic number, or magic calorie count, is 100.
Kraft Foods was the first to hit on the concept, with small, individually sized packets of Oreos, Cheese Nips and Chips Ahoy. The company has since launched a whole series of the 100 Calorie Packs, and has accompanied the products with healthy-living and weight-loss advice on its Web site. Beverage companies, too, are joining the trend, with new 8-ounce cans from Coca-Cola touting “100 Calories” on the front of the can. Coca-Cola has carried those mini-sized cans for several years for less frequent users. But the addition of the prominent calorie count to the package extends the brand to weight-conscious consumers who still want their favorite full-calorie products, but in a more figure-friendly size.
According to a Mintel International presentation at the Worldwide Food Expo last month in Chicago, the trend toward mini-sized indulgent products will be one of the top global industry trends during the next five years. Not surprisingly, more than half of the trends cited in the presentation concerned health issues, and one non-health-related trend was “I want it and I want it now.” These mini indulgent products seem to cover both bases. They are healthier than super-sized portions, yet they are convenient, portable and let consumers have what they want without really giving up anything at all. And a bonus to manufacturers, they are a value-added proposition, and that helps the bottom line.
The idea certainly is not rocket science, but it is a complete turnabout from the mid-90s when beverage companies were making their package sizes as large as possible. Remember when the 1-liter bottle was considered the new single-serve size because 20 ounces was no longer big enough? Of course, there are many zero-calorie diet products on the market, but in a day when the industry is under so much pressure to create healthier products and consumers are so unwilling to make sacrifices, the magic 100 might seem like the right idea for the right time. BI
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