Food or Medicine Show? Groceries Get Healthful

FMI 2007: Coming to a Shelf Near You: Immune Boosters, Calorie Burners

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Largest Marketers (and Al Gore) Skip Event That Used to Be Booming
CHICAGO ( -- "If I had $1 for every grocery retailer who said 'I want to be more like Whole Foods,' I'd be a millionaire," said one disgruntled gourmet-foods purveyor at last week's Food Marketing Institute Show.

Retailers trying to reach that elusive dream roamed anxiously through the aisles of the adjacent All Things Organic show and the National Association for the "Specialty Food Trade's Fancy Foods" show. Even in the main hall, the few mainstream marketers didn't so much offer samples as promise so-called whole health solutions.

Spotted at FMI: Edamame: As part of Nickelodeon's Nicktrition program, the network has linked with soybean manufacturer Seapoint Farms to tempt kids with what it calls 'The Wonder Veggie.'

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More Items Spotted at FMI
Some Healthy Highlights

If the grocery industry's signature annual gathering looked a lot like a pharmaceutical conference, here's why: FMI's State of Food Retailing 2007 shows 73% of retailers are looking to emphasize consumer wellness and family health, and 81% seek to focus on natural and organic products.

At the Coca-Cola booth, a Dasani Plus representative did double duty as an erstwhile health guru to help a tired tradeshow trekker perk up. "Kiwi strawberry has chromium, which will help refresh and revive you," she said. In the end, he chose pomegranate blackberry -- for taste rather than its cleansing and restorative powers via a blend of fiber and vitamins E, B3, B6 and B12.

Coke's booth also offered calorie-burning Enviga; Fuze beverages named for their promises to Vitalize, Refresh and Slenderize; and enhanced Minute Maid juices, including Heart Wise cholesterol-reducing orange juice and Minute Maid Active with glucosamine for healthy joints.

Campbell Soup Co. touted its own "wellness innovations," among them a raft of lower-sodium soups and Prego Heart Smart, featuring 25% less sodium. Even Hershey Co. touted health benefits: Its Ice Breakers gums and mints featured various vitamins, antioxidants, herbs and caffeine to "center," "lift," "restore" and give energy.

Healthful halos
At the Kraft Foods booth, many products had healthful halos, including Fruit2O and Crystal Light lines said to offer immunity, energy and hydration; Garden Harvest Toasted Chips, including banana and vegetable-medley varieties featuring a "half serving of real fruit and vegetables baked right in"; and LiveActive versions of Breakstone's, Knudsen and Kraft Cheese touting prebiotic and probiotic fibers to aid digestive health.

Want a smarter kid? General Mills' new Yoplait Kids drinkable yogurt featured brain-growth-enhancing ingredient DHA (thus far only offered in infant formula). And the company has jumped into digestive-health aids with Yoplait Yo-Plus with probiotics and a new Fiber One bar that offers consumers 35% of their daily value of fiber.

The rush to regularity has also driven plums to renewed popularity. Sunsweet Growers will spend an unprecedented $16 million on TV advertising this year with spots from the pleasantly named Nice Advertising, San Francisco. Ads will tout PlumSmart Plum Juice and new Gold Label Ones, packages of individually wrapped dried plums (aka prunes).

Steve Harris, VP-marketing for Sunsweet, said research shows one in four Americans have digestive-health issues, and Dannon's success with Activia and Danactive proves the 35-to-65-year-old demographic is ready to deal with those issues.

A healthier Bikini Bottom?
Bikini Bottom -- and some other mythical places -- are getting healthier too. After last year's FMI, Nickelodeon approached soybean marketer Seapoint Farms to develop lunchbox packs of SpongeBob Squarepants organic edamame in pods and Dora the Explorer organic shelled edamame, which are on sale at major retailers including Kroger, Costco and Whole Foods. "Marvel and Disney have also approached us," a Seapoint Farms sales rep said.

Bags of Sunkist navel oranges tout a collection of Sesame Street Healthy Habits for Life magnets kids can collect, and General Mills' Yoplait Kids features Nickelodeon characters and promotions.
Spotted at FMI: Oreo Cakesters: The marketer of more than 500 Sensible Solutions products that tout health knows some pople still want to indulge. Kraft's Cakesters takes Oreo to a segment where it has yet to tread.
Spotted at FMI: Oreo Cakesters: The marketer of more than 500 Sensible Solutions products that tout health knows some pople still want to indulge. Kraft's Cakesters takes Oreo to a segment where it has yet to tread.

As usual, though, tucked among the many good-for-you offerings were fattier (and some would say yummier) ones. Though the burst of new healthful products might seem to prove otherwise, Americans are still happily enjoying categories such as snack cakes, a segment Information Resources shows grew 6% to $885 million for the 52 weeks ended April 22. Kraft, eager for growth where it can get it, wants in.

In August, it will introduce Oreo Cakesters (in chocolate crème and original varieties) to duke it out with Little Debbie and Hostess. Kraft also proudly displayed its Jet-Puffed Strawberry Mallows.

After all, spokeswoman Renee Zahery said, "Taste is king."

Spotted at FMI

In the fight against childhood obesity, Sunsweet Growers is offering the benefits of filling, antioxidant-full dried plums (aka prunes) packaged individually.
Sick no more -- at least that's what Kraft hints with its Fruit2O Vitamin Enhanced Water Beverage. Immunity offers antioxidant Vitamins C, E as well as Vitamin A.
Look out, Gatorade, Kraft's Crystal Light is getting into the electrolyte market with a hydration variety.
Jel Sert Co. is touting its Sipahh milk-flavoring straws as portable, portion-controlled and fun for kids.
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