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What's New on Your Supermarket Shelf?

Health, convenience prime concerns for consumers

Farm Friendly

Natural and organic foods used to be found primarily in health food stores, but today they line the aisles in most major grocery chains. Gone are the bruised and often unappealing selections, making way for the competitively priced evolution of organic private-label store brands.

"There is a growing awareness that organic foods are more than just pesticide-free, and even if it costs more, the benefits to the consumer become real," says Lempert. "The volume and efficiency of the emerging private-label foods have kept the prices to 10%-15% more than non-organics."

Taste and nutrition, as much as ecological considerations, are driving the move toward organic, experts say. Consumers want familiar products that taste better and are priced competitively, like Frito-Lays' line of natural products.

"When Mom buys organic, she is looking for wholesome nutrition, not necessarily foods with the least impact on the environment," says Gilbert.

Hundreds of products are now labeled "organic," "natural," "homestead," "farmstead," "toxin-free" or "hormone free." But these aren't all necessarily better for you or the environment. The only term regulated by the government is "organic"; all the others are at the discretion of the manufacturer, says McDonald.

Meal Solutions

No one seems to have time to cook anymore, so consumers want good nutrition packaged conveniently. And, of course, these foods need to be great-tasting.

"Moms want solutions and convenience to buy them more time to spend with their families," says Gilbert.

Popular products include snackable items like drinkable yogurts as well as grab-n-go foods that make it easy to throw together meals in no time. Already cooked, preseasoned, and "halfway homemade" are the hottest trends, according to McDonald. And quick-cooking doesn't rule out upscale, she says.

"There are more sophisticated and innovative flavors across all food varieties that are quick and easy to prepare," she says.

According to the Institute for Food Technology, grocery stores now abound with delicate flavors and global influences to help meet our demand for quick meals with interesting flavors. Look for upscale salad mixes and prepackaged dinners, gourmet tuna, fancy cheeses, and gourmet vinegars and sauces.

Reviewed on October 14, 2005

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