CHICAGO—The pursuit of health and wellness is no longer an option for four of the biggest global food companies. It’s mandatory business. The challenge is developing healthful products that consumers choose that can help them to improve their lives.
So say senior officials from major companies Kraft, Nestle S.A., General Mills and Campbell Soup Co., who discussed their progress in creating and marketing more healthful products during the second day of the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo in Chicago.
They described difficulties they face that include regulations varying from country to country, and maintaining popular tastes in nutritious foods.
Major factors driving the wellness foods market, according to Chor-San Khoo, in charge of global nutrition at Campbell Soup Co., are an aging population, the growth of obesity worldwide, and the increase in working women in the job market.
“Wellness is no longer about reducing risk factors but about bringing about a better quality of life,” she said. “We are staying older longer and consumers want to function better” as they age, according to Khoo.
Making healthful food products with good taste tops Campbell’s list of challenges.
“We still don’t know a lot about taste,” she said.
Yet even with more nutritious products, such as Yoplait yogurt with 25 percent less sugar or single-serve veggie packets, General Mills company officials say they face a regulatory climate against marketing to kids. Reaching children’s hearts and minds is key to promoting healthy behaviors, they say.
Kraft said it’s working with Nickelodeon cable television to make kid-friendly ads.
Communicating with the public at-large in innovative ways presents another hurdle. Nestle sponsors an online forum connecting consumers to physicians and an online store. It’s a way diabetics can avoid revealing their health status while at a store.
“They are getting their products in a socially acceptable way,” said Matthew Roberts, of Nestle S.A.
Now in its 67th year, the IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo is the world’s largest annual scientific forum and exposition on food. Ranked among the largest U.S. conventions, the meeting delivers comprehensive, cutting-edge research and opinion from food science-, technology-, marketing- and business-leaders; online at IFT.org/amfe. Meetings run through Wednesday.
Founded in 1939, and with world headquarters in Chicago, IFT is a not-for-profit international scientific society with 22,000 members working in food science, technology and related professions in industry, academia and government. As the society for food science and technology, IFT brings sound science to the public discussion of food issues. For more on IFT, see IFT.org.