Healthy Chill
Progressive Grocer|June 2018

Desire for fresher, better-for-you options creates opportunities in refrigerated foods.

Randy Hofbauer

It’s well known that consumers increasingly are striving to live more healthful lifestyles, and that their purchasing behaviors are changing rapidly as a result. Take nutrition labels: Half of all U.S. adults read the Nutrition Facts label always or most of the time, according to the 2014 Health and Diet Survey from the Food and Drug Administration, published in May 2016.

On labeling, claims such as “all natural,” “GMOfree,” “no artificial colors,” “no artificial flavors” and “natural flavors” are ranked as “very important” to North American consumers when making food purchasing decisions, reports Schaumburg, Ill.based market researcher Nielsen in its 2015 “Global Health and Wellness Report.” And roughly one quarter feel the same about the term “organic.”

For grocers looking to offer more products with claims like these, refrigerated foods are a prime area of opportunity, as consumers are ever more focused on fresh, and therefore, refrigerated foods, says David Sprinkle, publisher at Packaged Facts, a division of Rockville, Md.-based Market Research. com. So what are grocers and CPGs currently doing to provide solutions here?

Minding the Meat

A significant opportunity for better-for-you foods lies particularly in the meat case, where brands and grocers are challenged by consumer perception that processed meats aren’t healthful. Some 38 percent of U.S. consumers cite “all natural” as the most important factor when purchasing red meat — especially beef, notes Chicago-based market research firm Mintel in its November 2016 Category Insight on meat, poultry and fish.

“Consumer perception of the healthfulness of processed meats remains a key challenge for the category,” Mintel says, adding that while brands have “stepped up clean-label innovation efforts, opportunities remain to increase development of products that address consumers’ health concerns through streamlined formulations and clear labeling.”

Several brands, such as Oscar Mayer, with its Selects Natural Apple wood Smoked Ham luncheon meat, have helped ease consumers’ minds by incorporating celery juice, extract or powder to replace conventional curing preservatives such as nitrites and nitrates, which some believe are potentially carcinogenic. While celery extract doesn’t offer a complete solution to removing added nitrites and nitrates, it does provide the clean-label solution valued by consumers.

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