When removing calories from a product, comp-anies may want to pro-mote what is still in it.

“Everybody but consumers seem to be focused on calories,” said Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight for Mintel International, Chicago. “Is it time to re-think how we talk about calories?”

Consumers may respond to more positive messages, such as protein and fiber content, than to low-calorie promotions, she said during a session at the SupplySide West Global Expo and Conference in Las Vegas this past month.

Mintel data show the number of product introductions with fiber claims grew 30% from 2008 to 2011 while high protein claims and satiety claims rose 50% and 117%, respectively. While consumers may not initially understand satiety, they do understand what it means to manage hunger and to feel full longer, Ms. Dornblaser said.

“We’re seeing companies offering more positive messages as opposed to negative messages,” she said.

Adding protein and fiber may give a product more satiety benefits while removing calories from fat and sugar. Ms. Dornblaser gave an example of Healthy Choice Greek frozen yogurt from ConAgra Foods, Inc., Omaha. It has 40 grams of protein and 100 calories per serving. The product had average weekly sales of $125,000 after eight weeks on the market.

On the exposition floor at SupplySide West, Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., had a tart cherry and almond prebiotic chewy bar prototype. It featured the company’s Nutraflora prebiotic soluble fiber, Globe Plus 18 DE maltodextrin, Enliten stevia sweetener and Hystar 5875 maltitol syrup. Each 35-gram serving had 120 calories, 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of sugar.

During Hi Europe in Frankfurt, Germany, in November, Beneo featured sausages with inulin, a prebiotic fiber that may replace up to 50% of fat in sausages.

“Under shearing force, inulin develops particle sizes that are similar to fat,” said Joseph O’Neill, president and general manager of Beneo. “As a result, mouthfeel of fat-reduced sausages is not affected when inulin is used. Inulin also has a neutral taste and therefore does not produce an undesired off-taste.”

He said up to 8 grams of inulin may be used in 100 grams of frankfurter sausage. Other potential sausage applications include pate-type items and fermented meat products such as salami-type sausages, Mr. O’Neill said. Using inulin at 6% of the total application may allow for a source of fiber claim, depending on national legislation.

Ms. Dornblaser in her presentation gave another example of a possible positive message in a low-calorie product. Smaller, portion-control items may be indulgent. For example, a 0.49-oz Kit Kat bar has 70 calories and 0.7-oz Il Villaggio cheese snack bites in the flavors of brie and Parmesan are 80 calories.

In summarizing possible strategies to low-calorie products, Ms. Dornblaser said companies should consider that consumers may equate calorie restriction to dieting, which may be seen as a negative; should acknowledge fat and sugar reduction may be more inclusive messages; should try to emphasize the positive attributes in the product; and should work with indulgence attributes in smaller portion sizes.

Stevia innovations lead to calorie reductions in beverages

More ways to reduce calories in beverages are available due to more innovations in stevia extracts, which are zero-calorie, high-intensity sweeteners.

Sweet Green Fields, Bellingham, Wash., focused on the best-tasting ratios of sucrose and steviol glycosides from stevia leaves to create Optesse HPS and Optesse HPX. Optesse HPS has been shown to reduce sugar 33% to 50% in soft drinks as well as other applications, such as baked foods. Optesse HPX has been shown to work in formulations with more complex flavor systems or in zero-calorie or low-calorie products.

Cargill, Minneapolis, has developed a reduced-sugar apple juice drink prototype that has the company’s Truvia rebiana stevia sweetener and no added sugar. A 75% juice drink with stevia has 20 grams of sugar and 80 calories, which compares with 26 grams of sugar and 110 calories in a control apple juice. A 40% juice drink with stevia has 10 grams of sugar in 50 calories.

“The juice category is an exciting area for rebiana, with at least nine brands introducing naturally-sweetened, reduced-calorie products in the U.S. and France,” said Melanie Goulson, applications manager at Cargill. “Truvia rebiana has been applied across the board from mainstream flavors like apple and orange to multi-fruit blends and even more trendy super fruits like blueberry, pomegranate, cranberry and acai blends.”

Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., had an energy drink formulation that featured the company’s Enliten TG Reb A stevia and Erysta erythritol at the SupplySide West Global Expo and Conference in Las Vegas in November. The drink had 12 grams of sugar and 50 calories per 8-oz. Due to the addition of Ingredion’s Nutriose FM06 soluble fiber, the drink had 5 grams of fiber per 8-oz serving.

Consumers still may need some education on how much beverages may increase their daily calorie count, judging by the results of the study “Actionable solutions for overweight segments of the population” from HealthFocus International, St. Petersburg, Fla. It involved 1,500 consumers.

When asked to what extent drinking high-calorie beverages contribute to weighing more than they think they should, 25% said a lot, 30% said a little and 44% said not at all.

Questions about calorie count for almonds, other nuts

A research study published on-line July 3 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition casts doubt on whether a traditional system to count calories is fitting for almonds and whether almonds should have a lower calorie count per serving.

The energy value (calories) of almonds found in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s national nutrient data-base for standard reference is based on Atwater specific factors, but the Atwater system for determining the energy value of food was founded more than 100 years ago at a U.S.D.A. experimental station in Storrs, Conn.

According to the study’s U.S.D.A. researchers, the Atwater factors may be poorly suited to nuts, including almonds, because a key component of the Atwater factors in the coefficient of digestibility. The digestibility of fat from whole nuts may be lower than that for other food sources. The researchers compared the measured energy value of almonds in the study with the value calculated by the Atwater factors.

The U.S.D.A. and the Almond Board of California, Modesto, Calif., supported the randomized, crossover, controlled feeding trial at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Md. The 18-day study involved 18 healthy adults. They ate diets that contained one of three almond doses: 0, 42 or 84 grams per day. The energy content of almonds was found to be 129 calories in a 28-gram serving, which compared with 168 to 170 calories in the Atwater factors.

“There is certainly a need for additional studies to be conducted,” said Roger Clemens, Ph.D., immediate past-president of the Institute of Food Technologists. “The studies with almonds and other tree nuts raise important questions about the energy value of food. We aren’t yet at the point where the study method can be applied to all foods, but results and conclusions of these studies serve a critical purpose by demonstrating that further research is needed in this area. It will be some time before any labels are changed.”

Dr. Clemens also is chief scientific officer at Horn, a distributor of specialty ingredients, raw materials and chemicals in La Mirada, Calif., and an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Pharmacy.