Guidance gives healthy, high fiber foods a boost

Related tags Euromonitor Dietary guidelines Nutrition Euromonitor international

According to Euromonitor, manufacturers of healthy foods, and in
particular those containing wholegrains, are likely to profit from
an upwards swing in sales thanks to publicity surrounding the new
Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the MyPyramid food guidance
system, writes Jess Halliday.

Among 41 individual recommendations, one of the key messages of the new guidelines, published in January, is that foods from every food group should have a part to play in a healthy, balanced diet - in particular fiber-rich foods, vegetables and whole grains.

MyPyramid is based on the dietary guidelines and is intended to be an easy to understand symbol to remind consumers of the key messages.

In it, the five main food groups represented by different colored bands tapering towards the apex - green for vegetables, red for fruits, blue for milk, and purple for meat and beans - their varying width showing the recommended proportion of overall diet. A thin yellow section represents fat, sugar and salt, which should be consumed only in small amounts.

Of all the advice contained in the two government initiatives, in particular Euromonitor​ expects the advice that consumers should opt for whole grain products often to prove a boon for the high fiber bakery sector which, despite being the largest and best established sector of the overall health and wellness bakery market and accounting for 7.2 percent of bakery value sales in 2004, is a relatively mature market and has therefore seen sluggish growth in recent years.

Between 2003 and 2004, sales of high fiber bakery products growth 3.3 percent, reaching an overall value of $4,609 million. But at the same time, sales of low carbohydrate bakery products went into overdrive, growing by 83.6 percent to $1,533 million.

Christiana Benkouider, Head of Health and Wellness research at Euromonitor International said: "Until recently, reduced carbohydrate products have been enjoying much of the limelight in the US. But many nutritionists agree that switching to whole grain foods rather than excessively restricting carbohydrate intake is a more sensible and sustainable weight management solution."

Given the fall off in popularity of low-carb diets such as the Atkins approach, Euromonitor's prediction means we may well see high fiber striding away from competitive segments once again.

But according to Euromonitor, food companies have not just sat back and expected their consumers to make the link between the guidelines' message and their products themselves. Rather, they have been proactive in turning the new advice to their advantage.

"The new emphasis on whole grains has encouraged manufacturers to promote products that are high in fiber, and at Euromonitor International, we expect this renewed focus on whole grain foods to provide a boost to the sector,"​ added Benkouider.

One way in which some companies have done this is to change the wording on their packaging from 'high fiber' to 'wholegrain'. Wholegrains are an excellent source of fiber, but without food companies spelling it out, consumers might not realize this.

The Grain Foods Foundation was also quick to turn the dietary guidelines to its advantage, reinforcing them with a multi-million dollar campaign launched in the New York and Washington, DC areas in February, to help educate consumers on the nutritional benefits of bread and other grain products.

"For the most part, consumers are unaware of how bread can contribute to the prevention of heart disease, some cancers, birth defects and diabetes, as well as maintaining optimal health,"​ said Judi Adams, president of the Grain Foods Foundation. "Our campaign is designed to balance that equation by reinforcing all the reasons why including bread in your diet is a smart choice."

A recent survey carried out amongst 2000 adult Americans on behalf of the foundation showed that only 12 percent of consumers were aware that bread can help protect against serious health conditions.

However Euromonitor said that not all the messages contained within the dietary guidelines are likely to compel consumers to take action to the same extent. A case in point is low fat dairy products.

While the recommendation to consumer low fat dairy products may have a positive effect on the sector, its impact could be limited by the perception that dairy products are already 'good for you', even if they are in a full fat form.

As for the overall impact of the dietary guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid on the health and waistlines of Americans, Euromonitor points to a "marked contradiction between what Americans think they should eat and what they actually do eat"​.

In 2004 an estimated 69 percent of American women and 62 percent of men were overweight or obese. Based on its research, Euromonitor predicts that the prevalence will continue to rise over the next 15 years, so that by 2020 three-quarters of women could be obese and 70 percent of men.

Despite praising media and government initiatives that have raised health awareness in the United States, and the introduction of 'better-for-you' foods such as reduced sugar or carbohydrate that have become commonplace in Americans' diets, there is plenty of scope for further action on all sides:

"With obesity increasing the risk of a host of illnesses, the need to combat the epidemic is clear,"​ it said.

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