Food & Beverage Perspectives
heart-healthy bars and snacks

Grab-and-Go Heart Health

<p>Grab-and-go is the new go-to food model. Consumers are busy, often overwhelmed, and they are eating at least one, if not all, of their meals on the run. But they don&#8217;t just want a quick, convenient meal; they want it healthy and nutritious, too. Did you know 53 percent of consumers are seeking foods to help prevent or manage health problems, according to SymphonyIRI group? But only a few companies have developed specific bar solutions to address cardiovascular health concerns.</p>

Grab-and-go is the new go-to food model. Consumers are busy, often overwhelmed, and they are eating at least one, if not all, of their meals on the run. But they don’t just want a quick, convenient meal; they want it healthy and nutritious, too. Did you know 53 percent of consumers are seeking foods to help prevent or manage health problems, according to SymphonyIRI group? But only a few companies have developed specific bar solutions to address cardiovascular health concerns.

In this executive summary of the digital issue Straight To The Heart: Formulating Bars For Heart Health, you'll hear how product developers and marketers have an opportunity to create new bars with nutritional ingredients that support heart health and how bar manufacturers should take full advatange of FDA-approved health claims.

So yes, there are bars and snack foods for just about everybody—moms, athletes, energy junkies, vegans, etc.—but very little are formulated for heart health, as Kimberly J. Decker, author of the article Straight to The Heart: Formulating Bars for Heart Health, pointed out. This is surprising when "you consider that heart disease is the leading killer of Americans, responsible for one in every four U.S. deaths per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And given the availability of ingredients that are both heart-healthy and bar-friendly, not to be building bars that target heart health is the definition of a missed opportunity," she said.

What’s more is FDA has approved several health claims linking certain ingredients to heart health. Taking full advantage of these claims may be one more missed opportunity for bar manufacturers, according to Jean Heggie, strategic marketing lead, DuPont Nutrition & Health, as “the category [snack bars] has to date focused more on delivering a better-for-you snacking experience than on making functional health claims." And yet functionally speaking, she continued, “bars are an excellent format for delivering heart-health benefits."

"Consumers eat them daily, their convenience makes them attractive heart-health platforms, and the heart-health claims FDA permits cover ingredients that are the “bread and butter" of bar formulation," Decker said.

Soy is getting a lot of attention in the protein arena (well, in truth, ALL proteins are getting a lot of attention lately, as protein is the new it ingredient). In fact, "soy protein remains the only protein to receive an authorized health claim for its ability to potentially reduce the risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), which it appears to do by helping lower total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad") cholesterol without cutting into the “good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol," Decker said. Even better, right?

As for soy protein’s stability, the bar has proven a reliably hospitable environment, Decker explained in her article. Even so, suppliers offer bar-friendly formulations that prevent hardening during shelf life—a common defect that could lead to an “unacceptable consumer experience with your brand," Heggie warned, but one that’s easy to avoid “provided you’ve chosen the right type of protein."

What soy pairs nicely with are phytosterols. "Research on diets incorporating both have shown their benefits to be additive when consumed together," Heggie said. Phytosterols are know for their ability to lower cholesterol and FDA authorized a health claim for phytosterols and reduced rick of heart disease. Fiber, nut and omega-3s are other heart-boosting ingredients.

But when it comes to marketing a heart-healthy bar, "it is critical to consider the type of claim that is desired, how that claim will impact taste (most consumers are unwilling to trade taste for health), the perceived health image of ingredients used in the formulation (e.g., high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated fats, sugar alcohols, non-nutritive sweeteners, or ingredients with complex naming may stop a consumer from purchasing product with health claim), the amount of sugar per serving, the serving size of the bar (which will drive nutrient content amounts), product price point, and location of sale," said Susan Heddleson, author of Market Watch: Grab-and-Go Heart Health. "While challenging, there are certainly plenty of marketing opportunities to bring consumer snack bar choices to help heart health, and surround them with additional messaging to make other important lifestyle changes required to gain optimal health."

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