Food symposium identifies consumer attitudes, new trends

by Staff
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NEW YORK — Current consumer attitudes toward food and diet and trends over the next five years formed key topics at a symposium Tuesday sponsored by the Canned Food Alliance.

The event, which featured leading chefs, food writers, researchers, policy makers and nutritionists, began with a panel discussion on the highly publicized 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and implications for the industry.

Issues included canned foods' changing role as related to past, present and future dietary guidelines; an industry perspective on challenges and opportunities for food marketers and how they can get out ahead of federal recommendations; how consumers perceive and react to product labeling changes and health claims; and opportunities for canned foods in helping consumers follow the recommendations of the dietary guidelines.

The symposium also featured commentary from Fran Carpentier, senior editor of Parade Magazine, about the changing palate of America. As part of her work, Carpentier oversees the special section "What America Eats," an annual snapshot of U.S. eating habits, and she used key findings from the most recent survey to discuss Americans' changing expectations for food.

This year's "What America Eats" survey highlighted consumers' continued desire for convenience. Americans seek to spend less time cooking, yet still want the flavors, tastes and textures of "home-cooked" meals.

According to the survey, the No. 1 change Americans have made in their diets over the last year is reducing portion size, with the survey showing 45% taking this step. Some 40% are eating low-fat foods, while 31% are reducing overall calories.

One in five Americans, down from one in three last year, is dieting to lose weight. Dieters want to lose an average of 38 lbs, and one in three Americans would like to shed 50 lbs or more. In the last two years, 39% have tried the Atkins Diet, 23% joined Weight Watchers, and 12% tried the South Beach Diet.

About four in 10 Americans are eating fewer sweets (41%), potatoes (43%), pasta (40%) and bread (39%). Half are eating more complex carbohydrates, including vegetables (50%), salad (49%) and fruits (47%).

To round out the symposium, the Canned Food Alliance opened the floor to David Lockwood from Mintel, a research firm specializing in consumer food trends. The day's closing topic, "How America Shops: Retail and Consumer Trends" is based on Mintel Reports' research of the consumer packaged goods market around the world at the beginning of 2005.

Research identified the top 10 specific trends for the next five years that will shape the food marketplace and new product introductions. The specific trends generally follow the over-arching trend in the U.S. towards healthier eating.

The 10 trends reveal themselves in packaging and labeling, as well as consumer shopping preferences and attitudes:

• The "G" word replaces the "C" word — glyclemic versus carbs
• What do you mean, "good bacteria?" — probiotics
• You've gotta have heart — resurgence of heart-healthy foods
• Doing a balancing act — diets move toward balance
• B.B. King, Mary Tyler Moore, Ron Santo — diabetic-friendly foods
• You can't eat it if you can't open it — easy-open innovations
• Going beyond "dashboard dining" — new portability
• Just kidding — fun packaging for children's foods
• It's food, of course it smells good! — Language and scents of aromatherapy moving into food and beverage
• Dining for dollars (and profit) — Restaurants menus influence product innovation

The Canned Food Alliance is a partnership of the American Iron and Steel Institute's Steel Packaging Council, the Can Manufacturers Institute, select food processors and affiliate members. The primary mission of the C.F.A. is to serve as a resource for information on the nutrition, convenience, contemporary appeal and versatility of canned food.

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