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Mainstream food: the good, the bad, the ugly

Product development cycles in the food world typically last about 18 to 20 months from ideation to store shelves. So it's taking a while to see the signs of an underlying change: the mainstream food world is shifting its focus away from cheap carbohydrates and toward nutrition.

Watch The Editor's RoundTable, available this Thursday morning at New Hope Natural Media's editors will discuss the changing mainstream food world in a quick and lively discussion. A preview:

More of the good: Fiber became a food world and consumer cause célèbre after the USDA's revised 2005 Food Guidelines recommended higher intake levels. (Not to mention the MyPyramid — will its existence continue when the new guidelines are released later this year?)

Water-soluble fiber from the likes of ADM's Fibersol-2 make fiber easily integrated into beverages. Fiber sources with a bonus gut-health kick of prebiotics from the likes of Beneo's Orafti brand inulin also complement probiotics. Patented processing technology from Z Trim makes fiber easily dispersible, stable across wide pH and temperature ranges, and hence suitable across a range of product applications. North Americans get only about half of their daily recommended intake, which is 14 grams per 1,000 calories of food — roughly 30 grams per day.

Less of the bad: The National Salt Reduction Initiative has set a five-year deadline to cut sodium consumption by 20 percent for Americans (who current swallow about double recommendations — baby steps). As some 70 percent of sodium comes from processed foods, you-know-who is in the crosshairs. Suppliers are stepping up and working with the Krafts of the world on solutions that maintain salt's manifest functional attributes — texture, taste, mouthfeel — while helping the larger battle against high blood pressure. For its effort, Kraft is planning on reducing sodium by 10 percent in its food products in a two-year time frame, and seems poised to meet it.

The ugly get prettier: Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) began with the sell that they could feed the world with better nutrition. Trouble was, the reality had nothing to do with either, and was merely a way of helping primarily biotech seed companies and, arguably, farmers. That is beginning to finally change as companies roll out bio-engineered crops that actually do improve nutritional profiles. Arcadia Biosciences has introduced a GMO safflower oil rich in gamma linolenic acid, which is an omega-6 oil that acts like a healthier omega-3. DuPont has recently launched a GMO omega-3 EPA-rich oil. Other healthier soy oils are also coming out onto the market.

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