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ConAgra gives hot choc functional twist

By Clarisse Douaud , 24-Oct-2007

The cup of hot chocolate you enjoy on a cold winter's day may now have more functions than just taste and warmth - a perk ConAgra Foods says could be particularly alluring to women.

The food brand giant is targeting women by expanding its Swiss Miss line of hot chocolates to include functional offerings as it says these products tap into the needs of this important consumer group. Women are the most sought after demographic for food manufacturers as they tend to be responsible for making much of a household's purchases.

 

 

 

According to a new survey from ConAgra, 51 percent of women look to fortified foods to get their essential nutrients and more than a third would also like to get these from indulgent foods like chocolate.

 

 

 

The survey of 500 women, between the ages of 25 and 44, also found that nearly three out of four respondents crave chocolate more than any other sweet and consume caffeine at least once per day.

 

 

 

With its line extension, ConAgra is looking to meet these intersecting needs.

 

 

 

"The survey revealed that caffeinated drinks are important to the lifestyle of many women, and that vitamin and mineral enrichments are also of importance to this demographic," said Sergio Pereira, vice president of Swiss Miss marketing.

 

 

 

The new beverage offerings include Swiss Miss Pick-me-up cocoa swirls, which the manufacturer says have as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, as well as the same amount of calcium and vitamin D as a glass of milk. The company says Swiss Miss Great start cocoa is enriched with 15 essential vitamins and minerals.

 

 

 

These products could indirectly benefit from increasing links being made between chocolate and health. Chocolate has been gaining credence as a functional food, though Swiss Miss is not promoting its hot chocolates along the virtues of functional cocoa.

 

 

 

Polyphenol-rich cocoa products have been associated in scientific research with preventing a range of conditions including blood pressure, diarrhoea, and breast cancer, as well as decreasing the effects of aging on the brain.

 

 

 

However, chocolate treats claiming to deliver the benefits of antioxidants have been criticized because of the calories and fat they also pack in. Swiss Miss says its new cocoas have only 110 calories and two grams of fat per serving.

 

 

 

As for caffeine, this is not the first time it has crossed into the functional arena alongside healthy ingredients. The super trend of energy drinks has largely been carried by marketing based on either caffeine content or related energy rushes.

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