Snacks & Health and Wellness

March 18, 2012

Snacks and health and wellness_3.18.12.jpgConsumer concerns about nutrition, health and wellness -- as well as government policy and pressure from watchdog groups -- pose an important challenge for the snack food industry as it seeks to grow and avoid harmful governmental restrictions and increased regulations, according to panelists of a Saturday morning educational session.

"As a registered dietitian," snack foods have a place in a healthy lifestyle," asserted Susan Bora, senior vice president, communications, at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). "But there are challenges and it is going to take a lot of work to get there."

Borra presented consumer trend statistics that show increasing concern among supermarket shoppers about the nutritional value of the foods they buy, and growing interest in easy-to-find and easy-to-understand nutritional labeling on the front of packages.

"What can you do?" she asked the snack manufacturers in the audience. "Reformulation of existing products and new product development," are possible approaches, she said, so products "have a healthier halo." She acknowledged, however, that flagship products probably should not be reformulated. Managing portions, providing 100 calorie packaging and child's portions are other opportunities.

"Be transparent," she said. "Let people know about your product, how proud you are of it."

There was discussion about consumer distrust resulting from food safety incidents or negative publicity about the industry spawned by anti-industry groups. David Schmidt, president & CEO, International Food Information Council, outlined steps IFIC is taking to counter those tactics, including the development of classroom materials for use by teachers to help "demystify" the process by which food reaches the table.

Beth Johnson, principal & founder, Food Directions, LLC, also a registered dietician, acknowledged that efforts are underway to restrict food allowed for purchase with food stamps and that SFA is working with other industry and anti-hunger organizations to oppose such restrictions.