Is portion control the key to stopping the obesity epidemic? Many bakers think so, and are launching new products designed to satisfy the two most dominant trends in the food industry: health and convenience. Here are a few examples:
• In the cookie and cracker aisle, portion-controlled 100-calorie products are being viewed as a major key to rejuvenating declining sales. Kraft Foods Inc., Northfield, Ill., was the first company out of the box with a 100-calorie pack, and has since been copied by numerous bakers interested in cashing in on health and convenience trends. Kraft Foods’ 100 Calorie Packs line also was named one of the Top 10 New Product Pacesetters from Information Resources Inc.
• In the pie aisle, bakers are flooding the marketplace with single-serve items. In a commercial promoting Edward’s Fine Foods’ single-serve pie slices, the Norcross, Ga.-based company uses the tagline: “2 slices. 1 Package. No commitment.”
• In the dessert cake aisle, George Weston Bakeries, Totowa, N.J., has made no secret that its Entenmann’s brand is struggling in the knife-and-fork side of the category. Conversely, the company’s single-serve items are performing well.
|The success of the 100 Calorie Packs line has spurred Kraft Foods to expand its roster of products under this brand, including Chips Ahoy!® Thin Crisps.|
And it’s not just bakers putting an emphasis on portion control. Last year, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) to request comments on whether to amend certain provisions of labeling regulations concerning serving size. Among the questions asked in the ANPRM is whether to “require food packages that can reasonably be consumed at one eating occasion to declare the whole package as a single serving.”
The answer to this question could have a severe impact on many bakery foods. Many of the industry’s products, such as muffins and bagels, would be forced to change serving sizes, which may negatively impact consumers’ perception of the products’ healthfulness.
The debate over serving size and portion control has been detailed thoroughly in numerous surveys and studies, too. A recent study from Cornell University found that portion size influences intake just as much as taste. As part of the study, participants were given varying sizes of stale popcorn. Study results showed that consumers ate 34% more stale popcorn in big buckets compared to stale popcorn in medium-size containers.
What is a serving size?
FDA defines serving size as the amount of food customarily consumed per eating occasion by persons 4 years of age or older. This measurement must be expressed in both common household measures, such as cups, tablespoons, teaspoons, piece, slice and fraction, and metric measures such as grams or milliliters.
Similar to the trans fat and carbohydrate issues, bakery foods once again have become the poster child of what is wrong with serving size requirements. When promoting the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, many articles and brochures were disseminated from U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) about how to compare portion size with serving size.
Most of this information used muffins and bagels as the main sources of consumers’ confusion. For example, one such informational brochure from USDA, “How Much Are You Eating?,” states that consumers generally eat a bagel that weighs 4 ozs. However, this one portion translates to about four servings according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Making a change
In response to lingering questions about the discrepancies between portion sizes and serving sizes, many bakers have taken serving sizes into their own hands and launched portion-controlled products. Kraft Foods leads this charge with its 100 Calorie Packs of cookies and crackers.
|100 Calorie Packs Oreos® thin crisps are not sandwich cookies, but wafers that mimic the taste of Oreo® cookies.|
Introduced in 2004 under Kraft’s Nabisco brand, these products are positioned to take advantage of the health and convenience trends in the food industry. “These are snacks that fit in with someone looking at their overall calorie intake,” says Laurie Guzzinati, Kraft Foods’ senior manager, corporate and government affairs. “But I think equally, convenience is key.”
Kraft Foods’ 100 Calorie Packs line fits into the company’s overall strategy of transforming its product portfolio toward more health and wellness products. Health and wellness in the cookie aisle has been a tough sell for Kraft Foods and other bakers. In the past, low-fat and low-calorie products have been met with indifference by consumers interested in indulgent snacks that taste great. However, Kraft Foods 100 Calorie Packs have struck a chord with consumers.
Products in the 100 Calorie Pack lineup are not miniature versions of their traditional counterparts. They also are not reformulated to remove fat or calories. Instead, the company formulated new products that have similar taste characteristics of the traditional products, but a much different texture, look and feel. For example, 100 Calorie Pack Oreos are not sandwich cookies, but a thin crisp that mimics the taste of an Oreo cookie.
“It’s a completely different platform of products,” Guzzinati says. “You’re having the Oreo experience, but it’s not a mini Oreo.”
The success of the 100 Calorie Packs line has spurred Kraft Foods to expand its roster of products under this brand. The lineup consists of Ritz® Chips, Wheat Thins Multigrain Chips, Planters® Peanut Butter Cookie Crisps, Oreo® Thin Crisps, Chips Ahoy!® Thin Crisps, Kraft® Cheese Nips® Thin Crisps, Honey Maid® Cinnamon Thin Crisps and Ritz® Snack Mix.
The success of these products also has spurred many companies, including Nabisco’s main brand competitor, Kellogg’s Keebler brand, Battle Creek, Mich., to jump on the portion-controlled bandwagon. Frito Lay, Plano, Texas, is the latest company to launch a 100-calorie line of products. The company’s 100 Calorie Mini Bites line is available in Baked! Cheetos, Doritos Nacho Cheese, Doritos Cool Ranch and Cheetos Asteroids varieties.