Foods with benefits

by Keith Nunes
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Monster Mutant and Hydro, functional foods
This past June, Monster Beverage announced the planned launch of two brands called Mutant and Hydro.

KANSAS CITY — Even against a backdrop in which clean label remains a dominant product development trend, interest in working to bring functional products bringing specific benefits to mainstream categories remains high. Monster Beverage Corp., Corona, Calif., for example, is looking to extend the reach of its energy product portfolio into the carbonated soft drink (C.S.D.) and bottled water categories.

This past June, Monster Beverage announced the planned launch of two brands called Mutant and Hydro. Mutant will be marketed as a C.S.D. and is intended to compete with PepsiCo’s Mtn Dew brand. Hydro will be marketed as a bottled water energy drink.

In an August conference call with securities analysts, Rodney Sacks, chairman and chief executive officer of Monster Beverage, said Mutant is scheduled to launch in September. Hydro, an “energized bottled water,” according to the company, is scheduled to debut during the fourth quarter.

The Mutant product will feature 115 mg of caffeine per 20-oz container, which is slightly higher than other products in the category. Hydro is formulated with 120 mg of caffeine per 500-ml can.

“The process positioning for Hydro is it’s an energy drink,” Mr. Sacks said when discussing the new product this past June. “It’s just a different form of energy drink.”

The mainstreaming of functional products also may be seen in the sports nutrition category. Products originally designed for athletes and sports enthusiasts have been updated to appeal to a wider audience.

CytoSport, Inc., a business unit of Hormel Foods Corp., manufactures and markets its Muscle Milk brand that originally was formulated to help athletes recover and rebuild muscle, according to the company. In July, CytoSport introduced Muscle Milk Coffee House, a ready-to-drink beverage that combines protein and caffeine in a product that comes in three flavors: vanilla latte, café latte and mocha latte.

Muscle Milk, functional foods
In July, CytoSport introduced Muscle Milk Coffee House, a ready-to-drink beverage that combines protein and caffeine.

The new products are available in 11-oz aseptic four-packs and contain 20 grams of protein, 120 mg of caffeine and are gluten- and sugar-free.

“This new innovation highlights our commitment to providing protein solutions for everybody,” said Greg N. Longstreet, president and c.e.o. of CytoSport, Inc. “Coffee House complements a variety of lifestyles and offers a great-tasting, on-the-go solution for protein throughout the day.”

During the Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting and food exposition, held July 16-19 in Chicago, probiotic manufacturer and marketer Ganeden, Cleveland, highlighted the variety of products on the market featuring probiotics and promoting digestive health.

“Thanks to the natural resilience that allows GanedenBC30 to survive most manufacturing processes, shelf life and gastric transit, there are endless opportunities to add it to almost any product, and companies are taking full advantage of that,” said Mike Bush, president of Ganeden.

Products featuring the digestive health ingredients include meal replacement shakes from Nutrisystem, a line of cookies from the snack maker Lesser Evil, and a line of ice cream from Brio.

Brio ice cream, functional foods
A line of ice cream from Brio contains GanedenBC30.

This past May, the International Food Information Council Foundation published its 2016 Food and Health Survey. One segment of the survey looked at food ingredients and, specifically, which health benefits consumers are most interested in getting in foods. Ranked No. 1 by consumers was “weight loss/weight management” followed by increased energy and cardiovascular health.

What stands out is a number of brands that are owned by large companies and that once focused on weight management have shifted away from the market segment. The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., for example, is repositioning its Special K brand away from weight management to “inner strength,” according to the company.

“We discussed how the shift in weight management trends has had a negative impact on Special K, and how that more than anything else has pulled down our sales over the past few years,” said Deanie Elsner, president of U.S. Snacks, for Kellogg, during an Aug. 4 conference call to discuss the company’s second-quarter financial results. “So taking a page from the cereal playbook, we are overhauling Special K’s snacks portfolio to drive consumer relevance and reconsideration.

Special K Nourish bars, functional foods
Kellogg is repositioning its Special K brand away from weight management to “inner strength,” according to the company.

“We have done a lot of work over the last year, renovating some of the Special K s.k.u.s (stock-keeping units), and launching on-trend foods like Special K Nourish Chewy Nut Bars. And we are seeing positive results. Our Nourish bars are 80% incremental to the Special K bars line. And importantly, their velocities in Q2 were three times greater than the rest of the Special K bar portfolio. So when we get the food right, this brand can grow.”

Kellogg is not the only company shifting away from weight management. In July 2015, Nestle USA, Solon, Ohio, “rebooted” the company’s Lean Cuisine line and shifted the focus away from diet to more chef-inspired, ethnic dishes that offer consumers a variety of attributes.

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