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Ali plans to sting obesity with health foods range

Former boxing world champion Muhammad Ali is entering the food ring with a line of healthy foods he hopes will strike a blow against obesity among the young in the US and emulate the success of other celebrities with food brands such as Paul Newman and vegetarian pioneer Linda McCartney.

The products are called GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), developed by brand inventor Peter Arnell, and will include fruit-filled rolls and finger foods and carry names like Rumble, Shuffle and Jabs when they are launched next year. All will have less than 150 calories and willl be fortified with vitamins and fibre.

The venture is a collaboration between an Ali start-up, GOAT Food and Beverage, the Arnell Group and Mars Foods.

"It is time to pass on the values, beliefs and principles that made me a champ to the next generation of champions," Ali said on his website. "I believe that better nutrition and respect for the mind and body will give everybody today the opportunity to rise above and be the best they can be."

Jack W. Plunkett, a Texas-based food industry analyst, noted Mars would not have involved itself in the joint venture unless sales projections exceeded $50 million per year.

Arnell said he approached Ali, an old friend, with the idea for GOAT after he learned Mars was developing technologies to bring low-fat, tasty foods to young adults.

GOAT Foods spokesman Edward Rapp said the new foods were designed to fit into the "grazing" behaviour of 16- to 24-year-olds. The foods should be eaten throughout the day in seven "rounds," he said, noting, "It doesn't matter how good it is for them if they won't eat it."

The Washington DC-based American Obesity Association supported the launch. "But unless it ends up actually reducing the calories that the user consumes," a spokesperson said, "it is not likely to have a benefit in terms of weight loss."

The percentage of 6- to 19-year-olds who are overweight in the US has more than tripled since 1980, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

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