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Consumers shun 'diet' foods in favor of 'zero' and 'smart'

Afp/Relaxnews / November 16, 2011

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(Relaxnews) - The term 'diet' on food labels has become increasingly unpopular over the years, with consumers drawn more towards products for the ingredients they contain, rather than what they don’t contain, heard attendees of a virtual weight management conference.

Words like 'zero' and 'smart' are replacing terms like 'low-calorie' and 'low-fat' in labels by savvy marketers, said Tom Vierhile, director of Datamonitor in the US, who noted that the number of new products featuring the word 'diet' has plummeted in the last five years.

"Avoidance-type claims are becoming less popular," Vierhile said. "We’re seeing a big drop in the use of words like diet and dieting and companies are using words like zero which carry less baggage," reported industry publication FoodNavigator-USA which hosted the webinar last week.

A protein shake developed especially for people living with diabetes was used as one example of a successful product and marketing campaign.

Glucerna Hunger Smart Shakes have 15g of protein to help manage hunger and are made with Carb Steady, slowly digestible carbohydrates designed to help minimize blood sugar spikes.

The shakes also contain fiber, 25 vitamins and minerals, and picolinate to help the body’s insulin work more efficiently.

Unlike diet foods, the protein shake is sold on the principle of what the product can do for the consumer, rather than for the ingredients it lacks.

The rising interest in what the industry calls functional foods -- foods that come with health claims -- is prompting companies to come up with a variety of products that pull double duty: satisfy taste buds and deliver a health benefit. While vitamin D-fortified foods like orange juice and milk have become mainstream, cereal manufacturers like Kellogg’s in the UK and bread makers are also adding the vitamin into their products. Artery-cleaning foods have also been touted as the next big trend in functional foods.

Similarly, sales of portion-controlled foods like 100-calorie packs have begun to slow, which will force companies to seek out other weight-management solutions, Vierhile said.

Other ingredients that hold promise in the world of weight management products include Satisfit, a soluble methyl cellulose which forms a gel mass in the stomach and has been shown to linger there for two hours to help with satiety.

Okara is another high-protein, high-fiber pulp which has also been shown to help people feel full longer.

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