Informing consumers about heart health

by Keith Nunes
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A key component of new food and beverage product development often overlooked is consumer education. It is one thing to develop a product featuring a functional ingredient with proven benefits, but its success only will be realized when consumers actually buy and consume the product.

That’s why a survey conducted by the web site, a provider of on-line health information, may challenge some of the notions around the issue of heart health and heart disease. The subject has been the focus of discussion for years, yet some consumers, when surveyed, express confusion about what steps they may take to improve their heart health.

The survey, which was conducted in conjunction with the Kashi Co., La Jolla, Calif., a division of the Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., found that 77% of the women polled know they are at risk for heart disease, but 41% have not talked about taking preventive measures and 73% have not talked to their family about hereditary factors. In addition, more than half of those who admitted to never proactively looking for heart healthy foods said they do not know how to find foods that may promote heart health.

“What this survey told us is that there are many women who have heart health concerns, but are not voicing them and are generally unsure of how they can do more for their heart,” said Keegen Sheridan, a natural food and lifestyle expert at Kashi. “We know that the keystone to proper health and nutrition is education so our goal is to use these findings to spread awareness about heart health so the public will feel more confident in making heart-healthy lifestyle decisions.”

Kashi produces and markets a line of food products under the Heart to Heart brand that feature heart healthy ingredients such as soluble oat fiber and antioxidants such as green tea, white tea and grapeseed extract. The line features grain-based products such as cereals, oatmeal, crackers and waffles.

The survey of nearly 5,000 women in the United States found that older consumers are more aware of heart healthy foods than younger consumers, with 49% of respondents 55 years old and over always looking for foods that support heart health compared with 32% who are under the age of 55.

“It is unfortunate to see people of any age disregard heart health, but these figures showed us that younger generations, in particular, are not proactively looking for heart healthy foods, because they cannot find them, or they are unsure of what to look for,” Ms. Sheridan said. “This strongly supports our decision to continue emphasizing not only the nutritionals and value of our heart healthy foods, but also encouraging a healthy, active lifestyle.”

There are a variety of efforts that may be employed to improve awareness around the heart healthy aspects of food and beverage products and ingredients. Marketing campaigns designed to get consumers to seek and purchase heart healthy products or ingredients is probably the most traditional approach.

But Martek Biosciences Corp., Columbia, Md., also is taking a different approach with the inclusion of its omega-3 fatty acid ingredient in food service salad dressings and toppings. The company said its life’sDHA omega-3 fatty acid will be featured in a new line of 16 salad dressings and sandwich toppings available at Quiznos, the Denver-based quick-service sandwich restaurant chain. The company’s life’sDHA logo will be displayed on in-restaurant packaging and promotions, and in additional marketing efforts.

“We are pleased to be working with Quiznos, a national chain with nearly 4,000 stores, to offer consumers healthier options with a variety of toppings and dressings enriched with life’sDHA,” said Joe Buron, vice-president of sales and marketing for Martek. “This product launch is a significant milestone as we seek to further expand our presence in all categories of the U.S. food and beverage industry, including restaurants and food service.”

Unilever introduces margarine with plant sterols in Canada

TORONTO — Unilever Canada has responded quickly to the news that Health Canada, the country’s government body that oversees food and beverage regulatory issues, has ruled to allow the use of plant sterol and sterol esters in food products. On June 1 the company introduced Becel pro.activ in Canada, a margarine featuring plant sterols that have been proven to reduce cholesterol levels with consistent consumption.

“Plant sterols have been recognized for their cholesterol-lowering properties for decades and are available in Becel pro.activ foods in 30 countries worldwide,” said Christopher Luxon, president and chief executive officer of Unilever Canada.

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