The old adage, “You are what you eat,” has been more top of mind in recent years as the wealth of health and wellness information inspires consumers to consider their diets. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2012 Food & Health Survey, nearly all Americans say they have given at least a little thought to the healthfulness of their diets, physical activity and the safety of the food they eat and are trying to improve at least one of their eating habits. The report notes that consumers are considering calories and various dietary components — including fiber, sugars and fat — when making purchasing decisions and cite healthfulness as the third most important factor in their purchase decisions, following taste and price.  

However, the wealth of information that drives these dietary changes and purchase decisions also can confuse consumers due to its changing and sometimes conflicting nature.  According to the report, 76 percent of consumers feel that changes in nutritional guidance make it hard to know what to believe.  In fact, more than half of Americans believe it is easier to figure out their income taxes than to figure out what they should and should not eat to be healthy, the report states. In order to determine whether or not they believe new information about food and health, 26 percent of Americans say they will follow up with their own research to make a judgment call, 24 percent will judge the information based on how much they trust the source of the information, and 14 percent will simply use their own judgment.

The definition of a health expert also is changing in the minds of consumers, notes David Emerson Feit, vice president of strategic insights for Bellevue, Wash.-based The Hartman Group. “When it comes to healthy eating, the agenda for consumers is decreasingly influenced by health practitioners and increasingly [influenced] by celebrity chefs, local restaurateurs and to some extent even by bartenders,” he says.

On the other hand, according to Packaged Facts’ February 2012 report, “Targeted Health and Wellness Foods and Beverages,” one-quarter of shoppers surveyed cited doctors as one of their key sources of information when buying groceries targeting a specific health concern. The report also notes that consumers believe that clinical trials and testimonies by healthcare providers lend credibility to health-related nutritional claims for food and beverage products.

This wealth of changing health information and redefining of health experts poses a new challenge for marketers, says The Hartman Group’s Feit. “It’s important to recognize that your customer might not be thinking about [health] in the same way that you do or that health professionals do,” he says. “This means that to succeed you must understand emerging health and wellness trends, understand who your target consumer is, precisely, and map out how your consumers connect with changing wellness trends in order to guide the optimal at-shelf strategy.”


Tipping the scales

Regardless of how they’re finding their health information and how they view health, more Americans in general are concerned with obesity. According to Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare survey, which was conducted Nov. 15-18, 2012, 16 percent of Americans say obesity is the most urgent health problem facing the United States, making it the third most urgent health problem in the country, following access to healthcare and cost of healthcare.

According to an October 2012 Gallup poll based on data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Americans in nearly every age group now are more likely to be obese than those same age groups were four years ago, with the largest increase in the 44- to 47-year-old age group at 30.4 percent compared with 27.9 percent in 2008. Overall, 26.1 percent of Americans are considered to be obese based on their body mass index, a method of estimating body fat based on height-to-weight ratios. 

As a step toward improving these rates, Americans can start by looking at their diets, researchers suggest. “Regardless of socioeconomic status, age, race and education, the American diet as a whole needs to be improved,” said Hazel Hiza of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion in Alexandria, Va., in a Nov. 29, 2012, Reuters article. Hiza and her colleagues compared what 8,272 Americans said they ate in the course of one day with USDA recommendations for different food groups and assigned them a score from 0 to 100 based on how well they followed USDA guidelines. Comparing the participants by age groups, children and adults each earned scores of 56 while seniors scored 65. No group came close to a perfect score of 100, it reports.

To improve diets, Americans should increase their overall fruit and vegetable consumption, advised Gary Bennett, who studies obesity prevention at Duke University, in the Reuters article. The beverage industry offers a convenient way for consumers to pick up the recommended servings of these food groups through fruit and vegetable juices. For example, last summer Bakersfield, Calif.-based Bolthouse Farms introduced its Orange + Carrot juice, which contains 3 and three-quarters servings of fruit and vegetables in each 450-ml bottle. Juices like this can offer portability and convenience in a way that whole fruits and vegetables do not, explained Virginia Lee, senior research analyst at Chicago-based Euromonitor International, in a January 2013 Beverage Industry article. Instead of having to carry around a piece of fruit or spend time peeling or slicing it, consumers can pick up a bottle on the go in a ready-to-drink format that doesn’t require extra prepping, she says.

Last fall, Miami-based FreshForward Beverages launched its Spacho all-natural vegetable juice, which provides a convenient beverage format for consuming vegetables. The beverage was inspired by an Andalusian gazpacho recipe and contains Italian tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, extra virgin olive oil and sherry wine vinegar and is seasoned with garlic, pepper, onion, cumin and sea salt. Each 10-ounce bottle offers consumers two servings of vegetables, the company says.

As part of the stealth health trend, beverages have hidden the vegetables altogether in some juices by masking their flavors with sweeter fruit juices. Targeting children who might not be interested in eating their vegetables, Camden, N.J.-based Campbell Soup Co.’s V8 brand released its V8 V-Fusion juice drink boxes last fall. The on-the-go beverages are available in Apple, Berry and Fruit Punch flavors and provide a combined serving of fruit and vegetables in each 6.75-ounce box. Plus, the beverages are naturally sweetened and contain vitamin A.

Despite the nutritional value behind many beverages, recently some beverage segments have been scrutinized for their sugar content, which has been cited by some as a source of extra calories, says Agata Kaczanowska, beverage industry analyst for Santa Monica, Calif.-based IBISWorld. A consumer desire for drinks with less sugar has pushed beverage-makers to reformulate, she adds.

To fulfill this consumer need, last spring PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y., launched Pepsi Next, which offers 60 percent less sugar than Pepsi-Cola while using a blend of cola flavor and sweeteners to closely mimic the taste of a regular cola, the company says.

“Research has shown that there is a segment of consumers who are resistant to both regular, full-sugar cola and diet cola offerings,” the company said in a statement. “These consumers love the taste of Pepsi but they don’t believe you can achieve full-flavor taste with a diet cola. The launch of Pepsi Next is intended to fulfill this unmet need in the category.”

Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPS), Plano, Texas, also launched the Ten line, a lower-calorie version of its carbonated soft drink (CSD) line, to serve these consumers who want fewer calories but not less flavor. After the successful launch of Dr Pepper Ten in 2011, the company expanded the Ten line to include 7Up Ten, A&W Ten root beer, Sunkist Ten orange soda, Canada Dry Ten ginger ale and RC Ten cola, which hit select retailers last month and are expected to be available nationwide by March, the company says. The CSDs use a unique blend of caloric and non-caloric sweeteners to deliver a full flavor with 10 calories in each 12-ounce serving, it says.

“As consumer trends shift toward flavors and healthier options, DPS saw an opportunity to use Ten technology as a reason to bring users back to the CSD category,” said Dave Falk, 7UP brand director of marketing, in a statement. “By giving consumers a full-flavored, regular-tasting option with fewer calories, we’re able to keep the category relevant and increase consumption of CSDs.”

The company is using the low-calorie CSD line to target consumers in the 25- to 39-year-old demographic who love regular soda but have cut back their consumption because they are watching their calories, the company says.

“We truly believe we’ve hit the sweet spot with our Ten products, providing both a fully satisfying flavor and low calories,” said Jim Trebilcock, executive vice president of marketing for DPS, in a statement. “This new platform gives shoppers a great tasting experience and a reason to visit the soda aisle and enjoy the brands they love more often.”

The reduced-sugar and calorie trend also extends into the juice category. Last year, The Coca-Cola Co. subsidiary Honest Tea, Bethesda, Md., reformulated its Honest Kids juice line to reduce the drink’s sugar content. The brand removed the organic cane sugar from all five varieties of the juice line and sweetened the beverage with added juice instead, the company says. The juices now contain 30 to 42 percent juice, an increase of 12 to 26 percentage points, depending on the variety, and 40 calories in each 6.75-ounce pouch, it says. 


Check, then choose

As the wealth of wellness information makes consumers more health-savvy, they also are increasingly reading the labels on the products they consume. According to St. Louis-based Fleishman-Hillard Inc. and’s report, “Cart to Kitchen 2013: Slicing into Mom’s Food Attitudes,” 78 percent of moms read food labels, especially urban and suburban mothers.

More specifically, the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2012 Food & Health Survey reports that 71 percent of Americans say they consider calories, 62 percent check the fiber content, and 60 percent look at sugars, sodium and/or fats and oils when making decisions about buying packaged food or beverages.

New information from the government and the media is making consumers more health-savvy about what nutrients are most important and what kinds of nutritional deficiencies they need to address, and they are using online programs to get feedback about how to improve their lifestyles, says Stephanie Prymas, health analyst for Chicago-based Euromonitor International. “As consumers become savvier about those kinds of things, I think they want to see that stuff on the label, and they want to make choices based on what they see,” she says.

To give consumers more health information about the beverages they are consuming and encourage more consumers to consider nutrition facts before sipping on a soda, the American Beverage Association (ABA), Washington, D.C.,  in conjunction with PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Co. and DPS, will launch this year the Calories Count Vending Program. For this initiative, participating vending machines are tagged with a vending snipe at eye level that reads, “Calories Count. Check then choose,” to remind consumers to consider the nutritional content of their beverages. The selection buttons on the machines also feature calorie labels, helping consumers choose the amount of calories that are right for them on each use occasion.

“The idea here is to be supportive of helping our consumers think about how they’re balancing their calories, how they can have a balanced lifestyle, and just give them some information and a little bit of a nudge to think about those calories before they make a selection,” says Susan Neely, president and chief executive officer of the ABA.  “The right choice is going to differ by person and their situation and what they’re doing that day. Plenty of people look at it and say, ‘I want a regular soft drink,’ or others may look at it and say, ‘I want a flavored water with a little bit of calories in it.’ There’s a myriad of choices in the machine … and the calorie information and then a little push to check before you choose, we decided, was a good way to present [the information].”

The campaign is the next logical step in fulfilling the association’s promise to First Lady Michelle Obama to put a calorie label on the front of every beverage package, Neely says. The vending program will launch in Chicago and San Antonio test markets early this year in response to mayoral requests for support of their broader 2013 wellness campaigns, including health competitions among city employees, she says. The Calories Count vending machines are being installed in city buildings and will stay in place throughout the city wellness campaigns and beyond, she adds.

The ABA also is looking to expand this program into other interested cities and through other third-party vending companies, Neely says.  So far, the program has received positive feedback from the mayors and focus groups, and the association believes Calories Count can be a real winner for vending companies as well, she says. “[Consumers are] very clear that they want choices and they want information that helps them make a choice. When they see a program like this, they’ll say that, ‘This makes sense to us, you know, Check then Choose,’ and having the calorie information allows them to think about what makes sense to them,” she adds.

In the digital arena, The Horizon Foundation Inc., a Columbia, Md.-based community health organization, in conjunction with Howard County Unsweetened of Maryland launched the Better Beverage Finder last December. This online tool allows parents to find and compare beverage options based on beverage type, sweetener type and caffeine content in order to make informed beverage choices for their families.


Preventative health

Consumers also are making beverage choices based on how a product can benefit them in the long run and promote overall health, says Jonas Feliciano, beverage industry analyst for Euromonitor. “Chronic conditions are very widespread right now, and they’re very expensive: things like diabetes and heart disease … and so there’s this idea that if we can try to prevent those conditions from popping up, then we can drive down health costs,” he says.

Instead of approaching their diets in a way that restricts intake of ingredients that are not perceived as healthy, some consumers are opting to add healthy beverages to their diet, explains Euromonitor’s Prymas. “Consumers [are] sort of looking at beverages not only [as], ‘Is this not going to hurt me?’ but [as], ‘Will this help me?’”

One specific subsection of this approach to consumer health is an interest in probiotics, IBISWorld’s Kaczanowska says. “Consumers have been shifting toward kombucha and kefir products that have a high level of these microorganisms, which can aid in digestion and have a bunch of other health benefits,” she says. Probiotics are most common in dairy-based beverages, although with their increasing popularity, probiotics have the potential to bleed into other beverage categories, Euromonitor’s Prymas adds.

Within the last year, probiotics already have moved into the coffee category. Buffalo, N.Y.-based Tipton Mills launched a probiotic coffee last November through its private label and direct-to-consumer lines of instant coffees, lattes, cappuccinos and other beverages, the company says. The drink uses a patented probiotic that can survive heat, cold and other conditions that destroy most probiotics, making this warm probiotic beverage possible, it says.

Other warm beverages have the potential to fill consumer health needs, Euromonitor’s Feliciano adds. Tea, which has long been used in Europe for its wellness properties, could be used in the United States for those same reasons, he says. In Europe, many fruit and herbal teas that were marketed as being able to treat ailments are now being promoted as a daily dose of wellness to detoxify the body or serve as a source of antioxidants, he says. “The hope is to shift fruit/herbal teas from the mindset of ‘drink to get healthy,’ to one embracing the concept of ‘drink to stay healthy,’” Feliciano says.  As the second most-consumed beverage in the world next to water, more than 5,600 scientific studies about tea in the last five years have supported tea’s ability to promote weight loss, support heart health and healthy blood pressure, improve bone formation and muscle strength, sharpen the mind, and even prevent cancer, according to the Tea Council of the U.S.A., New York.  However, the use of tea as an organic medicine currently is not as prevalent in the United States because of U.S. Food and Drug Administration restrictions, Euromonitor’s Prymas adds.

 This preventative health segment also fosters a premiumization trend as consumers are willing to pay more for such health benefits, Prymas and Feliciano say. This trend is expected to continue as disposable income increases during the next five years, IBISWorld’s Kaczanowska adds. BI 


Formulating for weight management

  By Jennifer Haderspeck

When it comes to dieting, sometimes the hardest part can be kicking the snack cravings and fighting the urge to nibble throughout the day. To help consumers overcome these hurdles on the road to better health, the beverage industry has developed ingredients to curb snacking and increase satiety.

Morristown, N.J.-based P.L. Thomas & Co. in the last year launched the water-soluble beverage ingredient Satiereal. This clean-label, natural spice extract made from saffron acts as a natural serotonin reuptake inhibitor to decrease cravings for sweet tastes and snacking, says Rodger Jonas, director of national sales for P.L. Thomas. Clinical studies have shown that 100 percent of women taking Satierial reported decreased hunger, and nearly 81 percent of women lost up to 11 pounds in two months, mostly in fat mass, the company says. Although suitable for a wide range of beverages, the ingredient does add an orange color and a natural spice flavor note to the mix, Jonas adds.

Also to help with weight management, Cyvex Nutrition Inc., Irvine, Calif., offers Solathin, a potent mixture of natural potato proteins that naturally contain the satiety agent Protease Inhibitor II (PI-2), says Puya Yazdi, medical director for Cyvex Nutrition. These PI-2 properties prevent the breakdown of the Cholecystokinin (CCK) hormone, which acts as a neurotransmitter that suppresses appetite, she says. Studies have shown that PI-2 consumption leads to increased levels of CCK circulation and slower reductions in CCK after meals, ultimately resulting in weight loss, she adds. This 90-percent vegan protein has self-affirmed generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status, is certified Kosher and Halal, and serves as a source of vegetable protein, she says. Suitable for ready-to-drink shakes, pre-meal drinks and dissolvable packets for fruit- or water-based drinks, Solathin is recommended for consumption prior to meals to promote balanced food intake, she adds.