KANSAS CITY — You may not have heard of the ketogenic diet yet, but product developers and industry experts are predicting a big following for the low-carbohydrate, high-fat approach to eating.
“Keto is coming on really strong right now,” said Jason Thomas, owner of Hunter Gatherer Natural Foods, Barrow, Alaska. “It may be the next paleo for sure, especially with the changes in attitudes about fat.”
His company offers Pili Nuts, which are sprouted and harvested from the Philippines and flavored with spicy chili or coconut oil and sea salt. More varieties are coming soon, including dry roasted, trail mix, dark chocolate and dry roasted ginger. The products are marketed as having the highest oil and fat content and lowest carbs of any nut.
“My products just happen to be a great product that fits into the keto world perfectly,” Mr. Thomas said. “We were mostly a paleo company, but the keto folks love (our products), as do the vegans.”
The popular paleo lifestyle has sparked a surge in product development designed to meet the diet’s strict standards, according to Innova Market Insights, Duiven, The Netherlands. The number of global product launches featuring the word “paleo” has soared from single figures in 2010 to more than 300 in the year ended September 2015. Though still tiny in terms of total launch activity, paleo product introductions nearly tripled in the past year, Innova said. Devotees of the paleo diet ditch dairy products, grains, legumes and refined sugar in favor of lean meat, nuts, fruit and vegetables.
Like paleo, the ketogenic diet is gaining traction in the health and fitness community as a solution for disease prevention and weight management. Followers of the diet generally aim to eat fewer than 50 grams of carbohydrates daily from grains, legumes, dairy, vegetables or fruit in order to achieve ketosis, a state in which the body uses fat as fuel instead of its preferred source of carbohydrates. Translation: Quick weight loss.
Tracey King co-founded her Dallas-based business, Ketologie, after discovering few convenient options in the marketplace existed for someone following a low-carb, high-fat lifestyle.
“There weren’t any easy-to-grab meal options for the ketogenic diet,” Dr. King said. “A revolution is happening right now in the way we think about nutrition — more people are becoming aware of the importance of including healthy fats in their diet.”
A line of Noat-meal breakfast products from Ketologie features flaxseed meal, nuts, whey protein, medium-chain triglyceride oil and probiotics, and is available in such flavors as chocolate nut, vanilla coconut and turmeric spice. Each serving contains 17 to 18 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein and less than 5 grams of net carbs. (Net carbs are calculated by subtracting dietary fiber and sugar alcohols from total carbohydrates because these types of carbs are thought to have little impact on blood sugar levels). The company also is developing a line of ready-to-drink, keto-friendly soups and smoothies.
Quest Nutrition, El Segundo, Calif., the maker of Quest protein bars and powders, has been developing snacks and confections to fit within a ketogenic diet. Quest Keto Cups, featuring a chocolate shell and creamy filling, are available in vanilla cream, mint cream, fudge cream and peanut butter flavors, with 26 to 27 grams of fat and 2 grams of net carbs per serving. Quest Keto Snaps are low-carb cheesy crackers in pepper jack and cheddar varieties. The brand also is launching salted crackers and Italian herb crackers with 18 grams of fat and 2 grams of net carbs. Additionally, the company has a full line of keto meals in development, which it plans to roll out soon
“There’s a lot of exciting research being done on the potential health benefits of a ketogenic diet,” Tom Bilyeu, president and co-founder of Quest Nutrition, told Food Business News. “People are looking at everything from the diet’s well documented ability to help control epilepsy to its positive impact on diabetes and potentially even cancer.”
Keto Bars from Project Hecubus L.L.C., Wyomissing, Pa., have 19 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrates and 7 grams of protein. The bars are made with coconut, eggs, baker’s chocolate, whey protein, heavy cream, butter, vanilla extract, potassium sorbate, salt and stevia.
There is even a subscription snack box dedicated to the diet. Keto Krate delivers six to nine keto-friendly products each month. All snacks contain less than 5 grams of carbs per serving and range from jerky to flax crackers, to almond butter.
Despite the purported health benefits, the ketogenic diet has its downsides. For one, the lifestyle may not be sustainable over the long term, said Joy Bauer, registered dietitian nutritionist and resident health expert on NBC’s “Today Show.”
“While some research suggests that a ketogenic diet works well for weight loss, it’s difficult to maintain for a long period of time,” Ms. Bauer told Food Business News. “There are carbs in so many foods — beyond bread, rice, pasta, etc. — it’s often tough to restrict so low. Plus, you wouldn’t want to cut all carbs, as many, like fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains, are important sources of key nutrients that fuel energy, brain power and overall health.
“Also, studies suggest the diet comes with side effects like fatigue, grogginess, a decrease in energy and bad breath. Many of these typically subside after about four weeks, but there’s not a lot of research on the long-term effects of this type of plan, specifically for weight loss. On the other hand, there’s plenty of positive research linking a keto diet to neurological improvements, for example, in seizure patients.”
While she wouldn’t recommend it for weight loss, Ms. Bauer sees potential for keto to become another fad diet.
“Will it trend?” she said. “Probably, because almost anything that promises fast weight loss tends to trend, so it’s likely you’ll hear talk around the water cooler and see more products popping up in response.“But I don’t think it has any staying power or long legs because it’s so tough to maintain — people really love their carbs.”