Low-carb craze attracts consumers; flavor and convenience will keep them.
It has been a good year for all things protein — thanks to the widespread appeal of the Atkins and South Beach diets — and the prepared-meat sector is no exception. Bacon, in particular, is benefiting from the low-carb craze, enjoying a more-than 10 percent retail sales hike in the 52-week period ending July 11, 2004, according to InfoScan data from Chicago’s Information Resources Inc.
“Manufacturers introduced hundreds of low-carbohydrate items and began featuring carbohydrate claims on current items low in carbohydrates,” notes Greg Sykes, vice president, technical research and development for Cincinnati, OH-based Sara Lee Foods.
However, the demand for such products appears to have peaked. What will not go away, however, is consumers’ desire for convenience and flavor.
“Consumers are demanding taste, taste and taste,” stresses Jim Schloss, vice president of marketing for Smithfield, VA-based Smithfield Foods.
Italian, Mexican, and Asian flavors are popular, notes Schloss, and consumers are showing more interest in Pan Asian and Thai, along with flavor-intensive regional favorites such as Cajun. However, the same consumers also clamor for convenient products that can be prepared in 10 minutes or less, he adds.
“There will be continued focus on convenience, with exciting new forms and flavor varieties, so we can enjoy home-cooked meals without spending the time to create [them] ourselves,” says Sykes. “There will be continued focus on nutrition and diet as the industry responds to ever-changing consumer demands, such as lowering trans fats and calories per serving,” he adds.
Thin is in
One area that is on trend and primed for growth, says Sykes, is the thinly-sliced or shaved-lunchmeat category. Sara Lee’s rapidly growing Hillshire Farm Deli Select Ultrathin line, for example, features thinly sliced, low-fat ham and beef varieties that also are low in carbohydrates.
New products scoring high marks for both convenience and health include Nutrition Wise Boneless Pork offerings from Kansas City, MO-based Farmland Foods Inc. Billed as “high-protein, low-fat, low-carb,” the vacuum-sealed refrigerated line includes Kabob Cubes, Stir-Fry Strips, Thin Pork Strips, Center Cut Pork Chops, and other pork varieties.
Preparation is a breeze with Fast Fixin’ Restaurant-Style frozen Philly Beef Steak, Bacon Cheeseburger, and Beef Fajita offerings from Advance Brands of Oklahoma City, OK. The fully cooked products are packaged in bright red plastic bags and promoted as “convenient, low-carb solutions.”
Tyson Foods Inc., Springdale, AR, introduced Family Pack Bags with Country Fried Steak, Steak Fingers, Pork Patties, and Homestyle, Italian-Style, and Swedish Beef & Pork Meatball varieties. Packaged in resealable bags, the frozen products promise “Quick ‘N Easy” family meal solutions. Tyson also made news this year for removing the trans fats from its products.
Promising both convenience and flavor are the new Flavoré products from Smithfield/RMH Foods, Morton, IL. Offered in eight fully cooked varieties such as Italian Meatloaf with Asiago Cheese in Marinara Sauce and Beef Burgundy with Penné Pasta, the refrigerated entrées provide heat-and-eat portions generously sized for two adults. Each includes a seasoning/garnish the consumer adds at the point of serving.
Even the hot dog category is not immune to the flavor infusion. Sara Lee recently introduced Ball Park Grillmaster Franks in Beef, Cajun-Style, Garlic, and Smokey varieties.
Report courtesy of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods magazine.