What's New on Your Supermarket Shelf?
Health, convenience prime concerns for consumers
Last year's hottest supermarket craze -- low-carb products -- can be found
in this year's clearance aisle. In a country obsessed with dieting, we've seen
low-fat, fat-free, sugar-free, low-carb, and no-carb foods come and go with
little impact on our girth. In fact, as a nation, we're heavier than ever.
So what new foods can you expect to see next on your supermarket shelves?
WebMD asked the experts for their predictions on the latest trends.
As with most everything else, baby boomers are affecting how the nation
eats, according to the NPD Marketing group. Boomers made their mark with fast
food in the '60s, fern bars in the '70s, microwaves in the '80s, take-out in
the '90s, and a trend toward healthier foods today, according to Harry Balzar,
NPD's vice president. As the boomers age, they are coping with health and
weight concerns that drive their eating patterns.
But boomers aren't the only ones behind changes in food buying habits.
"Increasing Latin populations have had an enormous impact on our food
trends," says supermarket guru Phil Lempert, editor of the Facts,
Figures and the Future newsletter. "They don't drink sodas with
high-fructose corn syrup, and their diets are more abundant in fruits,
vegetables, and fresh foods."
Among the once-exotic fruits and vegetables Hispanic cuisine is bringing to
supermarket shelves are mangoes, cherimoyas, and a host of others, says trend
tracker Linda Gilbert, president of the HealthFocus market analysis firm.
Another issue that continues to exert a huge influence on food
manufacturers: our ever-increasing desire for convenience.
What's In, What's Out
To address the nation's health concerns, manufacturers are scrambling to
reformulate foods that taste good but are lower in fat, salt, cholesterol, and
sugar. Many are designed to help reduce cholesterol, prevent type 2 diabetes,
and protect the heart.
Cholesterol-lowering, plant-derived chemicals called sterols are being added
to orange juice, dark chocolate, yogurt, and margarine. The FDA has determined
that some products containing sterols may carry a heart-healthy claim.
Another heart-protective ingredient comes from fatty fish and vegetable oils
-- omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Higher intakes of food that contain
these fats are an option for the heart-healthy conscious. Flaxseeds, walnuts,
and their oils are among the richest sources of these fatty acids.
Another trend is foods that are enriched, fortified, or otherwise pumped up
nutritionally. Manufacturers are adding nutrients such as calcium and folate to
foods to help fill the nutritional gaps in our diets.
"This is great for minerals such as calcium for people who have trouble
tolerating dairy," says Linda McDonald, RD, editor of the Supermarket
Savvy newsletter. But she notes, "some food manufacturers have taken it
too far." Eating some foods or beverages is similar to taking a vitamin
pill -- and they don't always taste so great, she says.