Sensible weight management

by Editorial Staff
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Devanie Angel has developed a number of consumer web sites, ranging from subjects such as cupcakes to crafts, but one of the most successful has been

"I’m not a nutritionist," said the former newspaper journalist, "only a consumer. But a savvy consumer, I like to think."

And as a savvy consumer she took notice four years ago when Kraft Foods Inc.’s Nabisco division and other major food processors began to offer 100-calorie packs of popular snack foods. Did Ms. Angel see this as a silver bullet for obesity? Certainly not, she said. But she did see it as a useful tool for anyone trying to watch their weight.

"I’m aware that a lot — or at least some — of the 100-calorie snack issue is mental," she said. "I think most people realize that. I don’t think the marketplace is ignorant."

Since she founded Ms. Angel has been busy listing and reviewing many of the portion-controlled products that have been introduced to the market. Earlier this year there was talk that the 100-calorie snack trend was dead — done in by a soft economy that could no longer support the extra cost of pre-measured servings and extra packaging.

But Ms. Angel isn’t writing an obituary just yet, and neither is Mintel International, Chicago, which still sees continued portion-control potential in snacks and in dairy.

Mintel documented just 11 new 100-calorie products in the dessert and ice cream categories in 2005 and 2006 combined. There were 49 such launches in 2007 and 2008, and for the first seven months of this year, 16 were introduced.

The good news about dairy and weight management is also not limited to portion control. Researchers continue to uncover new evidence showing the positive role dairy products may play in maintaining a healthy diet and a healthy weight.

A few years ago the industry staked its generic advertising message to the idea consumers may achieve a healthy weight with dairy, and the basic message of that campaign still rings true for lower fat dairy products like milk and yogurt.

Too much of a good thing

For years, fad diet proponents have told consumers there was a culprit somewhere in their diet, and that if the villain food were to be eliminated, and more healthful foods substituted, immediate weight loss would follow. The list of foodstuffs being blamed is long, ranging from eggs to meat to bread.

Some foods still wind up being vilified, (and sometimes the same foods might be praised for some newly discovered health benefit), but it also has become painfully clear that one of the biggest obstacles to weight management is the tendency to eat too much of everything. Super-sizing may be the true villain.

An April report from Mintel, "Portion Control – U.S.," noted that in 1970 the average American ate approximately 2,173 calories per day. In 2007, the average daily calorie consumption totaled 2,749.

The survey found that a lack of understanding of ideal portion size along with the tendency to not measure food prior to eating, plays a large role in Americans’ weight gain and struggles with weight loss.

The Mintel study also noted:

• Nearly half of female survey respondents are somewhat or very interested in 100-calorie packages of food, compared to just 31% of males. Convenience is a primary driver of purchasing 100-calorie packs.

• Price may be a deterrent for both men and women — some 67% of women and 55% of men would buy more 100-calorie packs if they were less expensive.

• Respondents from higher-income households ($100K+) are more likely than those from lower-income households (<$49.9K) to be very or somewhat interested in 100-calorie packs.

Interest in portion control is high, and food manufacturers know it.

In April one of the world’s leading ice cream makers introduced a new spin on a classic novelty that’s all about size. Nestle’s Drumstick Lil’ Drums is the classic sundae cone, "reinvented in a smaller, more convenient snack size," Oakland, Calif.-based Nestle Ice Cream said.

The cones come in a variety of flavors, including Cookie Dough (140 calories), Chocolate Fudge Brownie (130 calories), Vanilla with Chocolatey Swirls (130 calories), and Chocolate with Chocolatey Swirls (140 calories). Lil’ Drums are packaged in boxes of 10 and available at grocery stores and retail locations nationwide.

Last month General Mills, Inc. announced the launch of its new Fiber One 50-calorie yogurt. Each cup contains the taste consumers expect from Yoplait with the added benefit of fiber and only 50 calories.

Late last year Muscle Milk introduced 100-Calorie Shakes in a sugar-free, lower in fat formula than original Muscle Milk Light. Benicia, Calif.-based CytoSport said its new Muscle Milk Light 100-Calorie Shakes provide an excellent source of protein and nutrition.

Considering the science

Food and beverage manufacturers may now have another compelling

reason to use whey protein ingredients in products — to tap into consumer interest in controlling hunger. According to a 2008 survey conducted by NPD Group for Dairy Management Inc. (D.M.I.), 67% of consumers said feeling full is important when trying to lose weight and two-thirds believe satiety (a feeling of fullness or lack of desire to eat following food intake) is important in their food and beverage choices. The D.M.I. publicized the survey results this past June.

"We know that a higher-protein diet can be an excellent way to feel fuller longer and may help reduce the desire to reach for unhealthy snacks between meals," said Matt Pikosky, registered dietitian and director of research transfer at the National Dairy Council. "Whey protein added to foods and beverages can help increase daily protein intake to achieve a higher protein diet, which can help promote a feeling of fullness"

The D.M.I. also pointed to a recently published study (Layman, et. al "A Moderate Protein Diet Produces Sustained Weight Loss and Long-Term Changes in body Composition and Blood Lipids in Obese Adults") as further support of a growing body of science demonstrating the benefits of higher protein diets on weight management.

The findings support previous work from Dr. Layman and others that have shown a similar benefit with higher protein, reduced calorie diets that have led to a greater loss of body fat and/or preservation of lean muscle with weight loss.

"This improved quality of weight loss is preferred, as in contrast to body fat, muscle is metabolically active tissue, as it uses both fat and carbohydrate for energy, contributing to daily energy expenditure," Mr. Pikosky said. "In fact, muscle is the body’s largest tissue reservoir for the uptake and use of carbohydrate and burning of fat."

The D.M.I.’s research centers have assisted numerous food and beverage manufacturers in developing products aimed at consumers interested in weight management. Products have included whey protein-fortified smoothies and nutrition bars aimed at helping the consumer boost protein intake to help with their weight management goals.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, August 18, 2009, starting on Page 44. Click
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