Fat Profits from Slim Calories
It may seem logical to place the responsibility for making better food choices squarely on consumers, but food manufacturers bear at least some responsibility as they develop the foods that consumers eat. But can food manufacturers develop lower calorie foods and still make a profit? In the session “Cut the Calories, Not the Profit” on Thursday morning, June 28, presenters discussed how food manufacturers can develop and distribute more food products that meet the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans while increasing their bottom line.
Speaker Indra Mehrotra, Bell Institute of Health at General Mills, said that health is important to General Mills, the sixth largest food company in the world. The company has made great strides in improving the health profile of its products. General Mills uses the U.S. Dietary Guidelines to help determine recent product reformulations. As a consequence, more of the company’s food products contain more whole grains and low-fat dairy and less sugar and solid fats.
Even though various surveys indicate that consumers want healthy food that tastes good and is convenient, a dichotomy exists between what consumers say and what they do. “We need to understand consumer behaviors in order to understand how to help them cut calories,” said speaker Rodrigo Troni, Birds Eye Foods. According to Birds Eye Foods’ consumer research, dinners prepared at home are the key to helping consumers balance their diets. This is because Americans consume 80% of their vegetables during dinner. Unfortunately, most dinnertime meals do not meet the recommended daily servings of vegetables and whole grains. Birds Eye Foods offers a variety of vegetable-rich side dishes that can be prepared in a short period of time, giving consumers solutions for a more balanced, nutritious dinner while increasing Birds Eye’s bottom line.
Restaurants are also altering their menus to include more healthy food options. Cheryl Droven, Darden Restaurants, said that nutrition is part of the conversation more and more at the restaurant company, which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster. To cut calories, the restaurant has down-sized portions, decreased fat, and increased vegetable content in entrées. The company’s newest restaurant, Seasons 52, has a menu on which nothing exceeds 475 calories and everything is roasted, grilled, or braised.