Preparing to Use a Premix

Without ingredients, it is pretty obvious that our daily food products would be nothing, as would our health if it wasn’t for essential vitamins and minerals incorporated into these products.  The decision to use premixes to add to food products may be the best and easiest method to reaching the desired nutrition label.

There are several factors one must consider before deciding on a premix, however.  The sources in which the ingredients come from and the familiarity of these ingredients are very important.  The amount of space the ingredients take up should be considered as well as if they are visually appealing and taste good.  The ingredients must be known to be either stable or non-stable and how they will interact with other ingredients.  Also, all of the options should be known as far as the form of the ingredients desired such as an oil, trituration, or powder.

Inventory management should be researched.  As far as volume goes, they may be smaller than bulk ingredients.  Shelf life is accounted for to ensure fresh products at all times and customized to the use of each product.  Incoming testing should be conducted as well as scaling and dispensing methods should be known.

Homogeneity of low use ingredients is of high value, as it is important for any ingredients used in small amounts to be evenly dispersed throughout a mix.  The easiest example to use for homogeneity is Vitamin B12.  The daily value for Vitamin B12 is only six micrograms, so for every serving it is an extremely small amount.  In order to distribute B12 evenly throughout a mixture to become completely homogeneous the options are to either blend it or make it into a trituration.  With blending, particles of Vitamin B12 are mixed in to the mixture of ingredients.  For triturations, the vitamin is sprayed on to carriers that allow for a higher distribution throughout the mix.

The provider of a premix should also have formulation expertise.  They should demonstrate knowledge in daily values and recommended daily intakes for label claims and know the sources of ingredients and their functionalities.  It is essential for them to know the interactions of ingredients and be comfortable with the regulations for the products, especially in different countries.  There are also some limitations between marketing and production that may arise, and being able to bridge that gap is crucial.  Forming solutions to reach the needs of everyone is a benefit for successful business.

A premix can offer single ingredient benefits.  There would only be one set of documentation for supplier approval which would be easier to manage.  There would be increased homogeneity with the use of triturations.  Incoming testing is a main focus as well.  With every step of processing, testing is conducted to ensure the quality and correct forms of the ingredients.  Concerning inventory management, we have all ingredients on the floor at all times, so we are always prepared for any order.  Every order is always customized.  Even if the nutrition labels are identical for two products, the ingredients could still be different due to what the product is being used for, the desired shelf life, and other requirements that are relevant.

When using a premix, it is important to know what ingredients are available to your premix supplier as well.  They must be familiar with the components of the premix and have formed a positive relationship with their ingredient suppliers.  If ingredients are being sent from overseas, their quality systems or processing may be different.  With constantly increasing and decreasing prices, suppliers may run out of ingredients, which is why they should have dual sourcing.  It would be unfortunate if a product is ready to be launched and the premix is missing.  To avoid this conflict, suppliers must have at least two sources to obtain ingredients.  Their inventory turnover reflects how fresh the products are and should be known.  If ingredients are not in stock for a premix supplier, they must be familiar with the market and have purchasing power for quality products.  If they have the proper relationships established this should not be an issue.

Further processing is something to consider when making a decision to use a premix.  Some processing of the ingredients are either performed internally or already completed at the purchase.  Some mixes can be blends or triturations, as was mentioned earlier with Vitamin B12.  Encapsulation is another option which involves either spray drying or fluid bed processing.  The manipulation of particle size is crucial regarding factors such as mouth feel, solubility, and homogeneity.

The styles of blending equipment may behave differently as well as the sizes available that may affect the premixes.  The ability to scale samples of premixes is important to test small portions of a mix and then produce the same mix is mass quantities.  Lot sizing should also a Certificate of Analysis for the premixes.

The data in the Certificate of Analysis should relate to audits, calculations, lots, reports, and be reviewed by the analyst with a signature.  The premix supplier must understand where modifications are appropriate, have every modification validated, and available to you.

Quality is a value to any food and dietary supplement company employee.  Any supplier should be approved and internal documentation should be understood and completed.  Internal documentation may refer to HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), food risk, and analytical work.  Any change in the industry must also be recorded and handled appropriately to ensure the highest quality ingredients.  The quality systems of the premix supplier would be beneficial if it was aligned with yours.  As far as raw materials, the suppliers, approvals, and incoming testing should be documented, performed, and understood.

A number of quality systems in the plant should be in place such as those under the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI): British Retail Consortium (BRC), Safe Quality Foods (SQF), Food Safety System Certification 22000 (FSSC), and International Featured Standards (IFS).  HACCP plans should be in place along with allergen controls and foreign material controls.  With dietary supplements, raw material testing and finished good testing are important to be performed.

A strong Quality Assurance team must be established.  They must all be familiar with regulations and independent of the production staff.  They should also have audits for production in addition to Critical Control Points (CCP).  The laboratory should conduct internal and external testing and perform qualified methods appropriate for the premix.  It is important that they can share these methods and prove their validation.  Proper equipment is necessary and testing that is aligned correctly.  The trained staff must provide in process and finished goods in the highest quality.  With testing, active components need to be understood as well as the physical parameters of the ingredients such as bulk density, flow, particle size, and moisture.  Microbiological, heavy metal, and other contaminants may be required.

The Quality Control team, just as the Quality Assurance team, should be knowledgeable and trained.  They should be familiar and proficient in various testing and stand as a positive resource for the customer and third party laboratories.

In the labs, all employees should have formulation expertise.  They should be fully aware and be familiar with the products, processes, and regulations.  The blend and preblend design may affect the premix and the lab should know how powders may affect the premix.  Homogeneity is carefully focused on, especially when using powders.

Overall, choosing a premix supplier requires a significant amount of research.  With the right decision, a valued long term relationship can be formed and a product can be launched with greater ease and trust that it will be successful.  There would always be access to all of the resources and market trends can be easily shared.  Conflicts can be solved and the team bond between the customer and supplier can yield an accomplished business.



Genetically Modified Organisms: Labeling

You enter the grocery store and glance at your list: snack bars, frozen dinners, and cookies appear.  More than likely, these items contain genetically modified ingredients.

GMO Awareness states on their website that Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, are plants whose genes are modified to a form that does not occur naturally.  For example, crops can be genetically modified for weather resistance, pest resistance, to grow a certain color, and to develop a particular flavor.  Genetically modified plants contain the DNA from another plant.  Genetically engineered plants are hybridized by cross pollination and people choosing two plants to breed together due to specific favorable traits they express.

On June 1, 2013 in Connecticut, the announcement was made that GMO foods are going to be required to be labeled.  This will take effect once four states pass a similar bill; one state must border Connecticut.  Also, any number of northeastern states must approve a similar bill with a combined population of at least 20 million people.  The law will take effect by October 1, 2013 as long as the two requirements are met.

There are already 25 states in the United States that have a GMO labeling law in progress or passed.  For example, Alaska has a law requiring genetically engineered fish to be labeled.  Indiana is protected against genetically engineered seafood now that Marsh Supermarkets no longer sells it upon FDA’s approval.  Minnesota has two bills in consideration, one being the genetic engineered label law on a federal level as opposed to state level.  Pennsylvania is deciding on labeling all genetically engineered foods or those foods made with genetically modified organisms.

California had a similar proposition as Connecticut in 2012 called Proposition 37 for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food.  It required that all raw and processed foods be labeled and prohibited “natural” labels.  The New York Times explains in an article that if this proposition had passed, it would have been the first GMO labeling law to pass in the United States.  It was a close vote; out of 4.3 million voters, 46.9% voted “yes” and 53.1% voted “no”.  This proposition fueled the debate on whether or not GMO’s should be labeled and other states soon began to consider such a law.

Know Your Terms

Under the Connecticut State legislation for this amendment, the following significant terms have been defined:

Label: written, printed, or graphic images on any container or packaging and additional information to be visible on the outside container or packaging in order to be complied with.

Natural food: food not treated with preservatives, antibiotics, synthetic additives, artificial flavoring or coloring, not processed in any manner to be made less nutritious, and not genetically engineered.  The FDA has not established an official definition for “natural food” as of yet, but for the terms of this legislation, this is how natural food will be understood.  Flavors and colors are an exception, however.

Organically grown: food produced through organic farming methods with ecological soil management and mechanical/biological control of insects, weeds, pathogens, and other pests.  These rely on crop rotation, crop residues, composed animal manures, legumes, green manures, composted organic waste or mineral-bearing rocks.  The National Organic Program states that “organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.”

Raw agricultural commodity: food in its raw and natural state.

Safe: concerns the health of humans and animals.

Genetic engineering: the genetic material has been changed via in vitro nucleic acid techniques or fusion cells.

In vitro nucleic acid techniques: including recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid techniques that use vector systems and techniques with the direct introduction into organisms.

Organism: any living being that can replicate, reproduce, or transfer genetic material in any way.

Processed food: food intended for human consumption besides raw agricultural commodities and any food processed through canning, smoking, pressing, cooking, freezing, dehydration, fermentation, or milling.

FDA on the Watch

Genetically engineered food products are regulated by the FDA and are processed for their safety just as non-GMO foods are.  Since GMO food must meet the same safety requirements as non-GMOs, they are approved as safe to consume.  The food products are not shipped to go on the market unless it passes the consultation process by the FDA.  Approximately 80% of processed foods are genetically engineered.  Corn, canola, soybeans, and cotton are the plants that are the most genetically engineered, corn being the top genetically engineered crop.

What Does Watson Do?

Watson has many ingredients available for formulations and products that are labeled with a non-GMO label.  We have an IP (identity) certification that allows access to information regarding the origin of the ingredients or seed they came from.  These ingredients are more expensive than their genetically modified forms, but we will be using them in order to meet demands of our customers.  Overall, we can customize orders to fit the customer’s desire to use GMO or non-GMO ingredients.

Vitamin K: Watching out for Your Bones and Heart

“Drink your milk, it’s good for your bones!” is what most children are constantly reminded of by their parents.  While calcium and vitamin D in milk are understood to support bone and heart health, there may be one nutrient overlooked.

Vitamin K is essential for a variety of bodily processes.  Vitamin K1 is made by plants, retained in the liver and synthesizes clotting factors.  Vitamin K2 functions easiest in longer chained forms given that they have longer half-lives and remain in circulation for a longer period of time.  These vitamin K molecules are commonly referred to as menaquinones and are found in lipoproteins which set into circulation.  They allow for calcium homeostasis and transport.

Osteocalcin is a calcium-binding protein in the blood that takes calcium from the blood to the bone matrix.  Matrix Gla is another calcium-binding blood protein that is activated by vitamin K.  The USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University concluded from studies that 50% of osteocalcin is uncarboxylated, or inactivated, because of a deficiency in vitamin K.  In result of this, calcium deposits may form in the blood.

Vitamin K2 has been known to decrease one’s chance of heart disease.  Erasmus Medical Center in a Rotterdam study proves that with a higher level of menaquinones, fewer deaths occur from heart disease and circulation conditions.  Vitamin K2 is involved with osteoporosis as well, according to an Emory University study.  Menaquinones facilitate pro-anabolic and anti-catabolic effects on bone cells and suppress the molecule responsible for controlling the inflammatory process.

Calcium and vitamin D play an important role in the functioning of vitamin K.  Vitamin D allows calcium absorption.  In turn, vitamin K can then be transported from the blood to the bone tissue.  When vitamin D is activated, osteocalcin is regulated for transporting calcium.

Vitamin K1 is mostly found in leafy green vegetables whereas menaquinones are in organ meats, egg yolks, and dairy products.  Adults should consume about 90 milligrams of vitamin K per day.  A deficiency in vitamin K can be brought on by the use of antibiotics for a significant period of time.

While parents may be correct in urging their children to drink their milk for calcium and vitamin D, they must be aware of other nutrients that are essential for proper heart and bone health.

Don’t Wait to Lose Weight

Countless diets, worn out gym memberships, and junk food stashed in the corner of the kitchen cabinet shooting tempting glares are what many Americans can relate to today.  Diet plans only offer bland meal options, life becomes too chaotic for workouts, and the junk food that was supposed to be thrown out is kept for that daily splurge.  Losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not an easy feat but it is a challenge that can be made a reality with motivation, perseverance, and the desire to accomplish a life-changing event that can most positively affect one’s life forever.

The Numbers
From 2009 to 2010:

  • Over 35% of adults in the United States were obese
  • Nearly 17% of children and adolescents in the United States were obese
  • More than 78 million adults and more than 12 million children and adolescents in the United States were obese

From 1999 to 2010:

  • The percentage of obese men increased by 8%
  • The percentage of obese women increased by 2.1%
  • The percentage of obese boys increased by 4.6%
  • The percentage of obese girls increased by 1.2%

Know Your Nutrients
Vitamins and minerals, as well as other nutrient groups, are vital for a healthy body.  Eating is the method of supplying the body with the nutrients and energy that is needed to function properly.  It is important to be educated on what nutrients can assist in reaching that golden number on the scale:
Vitamin D:  helps the body react to insulin and allows the cells to use glucose for energy; a deficiency in vitamin D prevents fat from being burned.
Calcium: works with vitamin D to burn fat and the more that is stored in cells, the more fat that is burned.
Protein: maintains body composition for proper fat to muscle proportions and preserves muscle mass with vitamin D and calcium.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: enables the enzyme to burn fat in cells and prevents the overeating mechanism in the brain.
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids: maintains blood sugar and appetite.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid: strong fat burners in dairy products that allow blood glucose to enter cells and are burned to produce energy.
Polyphenols: antioxidants that increase metabolism, allow for fat burning, and reduce hunger and cravings.
Iron: allows red blood cells to transport oxygen to the body; vitamin C assists in the absorption of iron.
Choline: an essential nutrient that is water soluble and improves brain, liver, and cardiovascular health as well as increases mental concentration.
L-Carnitine: reduces fat mass and increases muscle mass, reduces fatigue, and acts as an antioxidant.
Leucine: an essential amino acid that allows for the loss of fat and maintains lean muscle when exercising.
Fiber: provides a satisfying feeling after meals, prevents constipation, involved in the digestion processes, and may treat diabetes, heart disease, and diverticulosis.

Stop Dieting
Losing weight and keeping it off is possible through a healthy lifestyle.  Although there are numerous diets that provide balanced meals, low-calorie recipes, and suggested grocery lists, dieters often do not follow the structured diet plan for life.  This oftentimes results in weight gain after months or even years of working hard to lose just that.
In order to effectively remain at a comfortable and healthy weight, a healthy lifestyle must be adopted.  Structured diet plans rarely work long-term.  Learning to make smart food choices on a daily basis and discovering ways to make eating fun and healthy make eating right easy.  Providing the right nutrients for your body and being healthy should not be such an arduous task.  Anyone can do it!

Let’s Eat!
Many may fall into the trap of tricking themselves into thinking, “This is healthy, it has vegetables in it!”, but what are you truly eating?  That “healthy” vegetable-stuffed omelet more than likely is oozing with full-fat cheese, cooked with greasy oils, and has too many eggs.  The side of carrots served with dinner is drowning in butter.  The chicken tenders ordered at your favorite restaurant are deep fried.  Instead, use low-fat cheese, cook with non-stick cooking spray, and cut down on the eggs for your omelets.  Use salt and pepper or low-calorie butter brands to add flavor to vegetables at dinner.  Order grilled chicken instead of chicken that has been fried.  There are many delicious alternatives to the most famous fatty and caloric meals that are easy and will blast that weight off!

Work Out Your Workout
Developing an active lifestyle is another element of leading a complete healthy life.  The combination of eating right and staying fit is the key to success.  Exercising can be anything from a daily walk, a jog, a bike ride, or hiking, to weight lifting, aerobics, and training for triathlons.  Working out should be something enjoyable and should not feel like a chore.  Choose an activity that fits into your schedule and one that you look forward to every day.


Healthy Snack Innovations: Which to Love and Which to Be Wary Of

When fending off hunger cravings, most snackers prefer to eat healthy snacks, with 78% of the snacks consumed being reported as healthy. The good news for snack companies and consumers alike is that a large demand for healthy snacks creates a need for healthy snack innovation. According to Mintel, creating nutritious snacks is no longer a trend, “but a competitive necessity. When coupled with health and wellness trends, staying in the healthy snack market necessitates constant innovation”. However, consumers should be aware that some innovations might be better suited to them than others.

One of the newest trends we have seen over the past few years is a rise in gluten-free snacks, with a 933% increase in new product growth since 2004. According to Mintel, growing awareness of gluten allergies and intolerances has lead many manufacturers to either emphasize the lack of gluten in their products or to create new versions of their products without gluten. For the three million consumers who suffer from Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance, or other health disorders that are believed to be helped by a gluten-free diet, this recent surge of innovation is long overdue and is a trend to be loved. However it is important to note that gluten-free products are not good for everyone. For consumers who are healthy and do not have gluten-sensitivity, gluten-free products can be more harmful then good.

Like many other food allergies, those who suffer from gluten-intolerance cannot digest the protein in wheat. Gluten-free products therefore either use other grains that don’t contain the gluten protein or use formulations where the protein has been removed from the grain. While this enables those with gluten-sensitivity to enjoy the luxury of eating wheat-based products again, like sandwich bread, removing the gluten protein usually eliminates all nutritional value, making many gluten-free products only empty carbs. So while whole wheat bread delivers vital nutrients to those without gluten-intolerance, gluten-free bread is nothing more then a vehicle for the ham and cheese.

However, the nutritional emptiness of gluten-free products presents a large opportunity that has largely remained unmet by food manufacturers. One of the effects of Celiac Disease is that sufferers are unable absorb enough of the vitamins and minerals they desperately need, causing many celiac suffers to become malnourished. Since celiac sufferers need nutritionally fortified products more then the average person, innovation of fortified gluten-free offerings, especially fortified sandwich bread, remain one of the largest opportunities in the allergen-free product market.

Another hot spot of recent innovation has been in the energy bar market. According to Mintel, 44% of healthy snackers are interested in snacks that “boost their energy and deliver functional nutrition in a convenient, portable form”. Bars that contain easily recognizable functional ingredients, such as iron, vitamin C, magnesium, folic acid, caffeine, vitamins B12, B3, B5, and B6B and protein, are especially popular with consumers. BALANCE Bar and Kind Snacks Fruit & Nut bars are two of the best innovators in the field according to Mintel. BALANCE Bar’s 40-30-30 specialized formulas stabilize blood sugar levels by including carbohydrates, proteins, and good fats that provide long-lasting energy and satiation. Kind Snacks, on the other hand, contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help the body convert food into energy, as well as promote immunity and skin health.

There are a variety of opportunities for innovation in this market, including formulations that target specific users as well as flavor innovation. CLIF LUNA and CLIF Kid bars, for example, are specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of active women and kids and come in a variety of flavors and textures. While most energy bars are sweet, recently we have seen savory bars, such as Journey Bars that come in Parmesan and Coconut Curry flavors, become increasingly popular.

Fruit snacks have also been experiencing a lot of innovative growth lately. Due to their simple ingredients, long shelf life and wide appeal, fruit snacks have become popular snacks for children and adults looking for an inherently healthy snack. Fruit bars and dried fruit slices are easy to eat on the go and come in portion control sizes. In addition, many of these snacks can be easily fortified with vitamins such as calcium, and vitamins D and C, vitamins kids need to grow strong and maintain immune health.

In addition to flavors, salty snacks have recently experienced a wave of innovation aimed at creating healthier options. General Mills, for example, has reduced the sodium content of their Chex Mix by 36%. In addition, other companies have focused on creating substitutions for traditional salty snacks, such as Beanfields Crispylicious bean and rice chips and Food Should Taste Good sweet potato tortilla chips. Unique flavors contributed by unusual bases will appeal to trendy, young foodies who are looking to healthier options without sacrificing flavor.

All in all, there are a lot of new product innovations coming out that are worthy of a little love and excitement. While some snacks are more appropriate for some then others, it is clear that increased interest in healthy snacks has prompted innovation in a number of fields, all of which have yielded some extremely tasty results.

Navigating the Snack Jungle

Its 3 o’clock and you are sitting at your desk working on a project for work. You are in the zone, busting out this project and all of a sudden, grrrrrrrrrowlll, your stomach rumbles and your concentration is lost. All you can think about from this point on in how hungry you are. What you need is a snack, the problem is, what should you choose?

According to Mintel, two thirds of people say they snack in between meals. In fact, many doctors recognize that snacking in-between meals can help to control hunger cravings, boost metabolism and help maintain a healthy weight. However, for many snackers, the problem is not deciding whether to snack, but what exactly to snack on, whether to avoid the temptation of the readily available, not-so-healthy snacks in favor of those that are good but not-so-available snacks.

This dilemma is often compounded by the fact that within the “healthy snack” category there is a wide range of products, from healthy to not-so-healthy munchies. For example, Mintel found that “37% of consumers consider snack/energy bars a healthy snack, yet these types of snack can range from healthy to purely indulgent”. Mintel lists Archer Farms Banana Split Indulgent Granola Bites, Price Chopper’s Market Classics Gourmet Butter Toasted Virginia Peanuts and Safeway’s Select Green Bean Crips as some of the worst offenders in the “healthy” snack category. While granola bars, peanuts and string beans are often associated as healthy foods, the second you smother them in chocolate, roast them in butter… and lets not even get started on deep-frying them, these traditionally healthy foods loose their intrinsic nutritional value. While there are several lists out there that will help you weight the merit of individual products ( and, it is mostly up to the consumer to use their common sense when navigating the snack jungle.

The key to successful navigation is to seek out information, which only 39% of snackers actively do. According to, healthy snacks usually comprise of enough calories to be satisfying (roughly 100), lower levels of saturated fats and sugars then similar snacks, vitamins and a healthy serving of other important nutrients such as whole grains, fiber (roughly 7g), and protein (roughly 9g) that have staying power.

However, not everyone wants a healthy snack when they get hungry. According to Mintel, 43% of snackers like to treat themselves to an occasional indulgent snack (I know I certainly do!) Not surprisingly, one of the most popular types of indulgent snacks are salty snacks, such as chips, which account for 86% of salty snack usage. Interestingly enough, Mintel found that “only a small percentage of respondents said that healthier attributes (e.g., whole-grain, organic, low cholesterol/salt, etc) are very important to them when selecting a salty snack”, meaning that “consumers are quite comfortable with their belief that salty snacks are indulgences to be enjoyed at its fullest without concern over any possible health implications”.

Conversely, the second most popular type of snack, brownies, are often packaged in small or single-sized portions. For ready-to-eat baked goods, quality and moderate sizes tend to be more important then calorie counting. However, it is important to be aware that, although they look to be individual portions, many of these sweet snacks contain several servings.

When looking for a snack to satisfy your food cravings, it is important to choose the correct snack, especially when it comes to choosing a healthy snack. While there are a plethora of options on the supermarket shelves, not all of them are healthy ones. By looking at nutritional panels, you will be better able to determine if the snack you are holding will help or hurt your ability to maintain your healthy and weight management goals.

Consumer Demographics and 2013 Snack Trends

Happy New Year! Here at Watson we are excited to start the New Year and, like you, have been looking ahead to what the year ahead will bring, especially in the area of healthy snacks. Lets discuss several of the factors that will be influencing healthy snack sales in 2013.

According to Mintel, there are several demographic factors that will influence snack sales in the upcoming year.

A better economy means better habits. Unfortunately, many believe that eating healthy means spending more. During the economic downturn of 2008, many people abstained from purchasing healthy snacks to “save a buck or two”. However, with the economy improving and disposable income increasing, many consumers feel more comfortable purchasing healthy snacks and feel more comfortable “splurging” on healthy food then they did a few years ago. According to Mintel, 38% of healthy snackers say they are purchasing healthier snack options this year. However, economic improvement is not good news for snack companies alone. During the uncertain economic times, many snack companies limited R&D spending and product launches to remain conservative. However, now that conditions are looking better, many snack companies have increased their R&D spending. This means more innovative and better quality snacks for consumers.

Women desire healthy snacks. According to Mintel, although women tend to purchase less snacks overall then their male counterparts; the snacks women do choose tend to be healthier, with 78% of their snacks purchases consisting of healthy snacks. While this makes men the greatest target segment for growth, women remain the most engaged consumers. As women tend to be more receptive to “health-related marketing efforts”, according to Mintel, there is opportunity in creating healthy snacks specifically formulated to meet women’s needs, such as calcium for bone health, antioxidants for healthy skin, and energy boosting vitamins.

Young snackers are avid snackers. While young snackers, classified as those being between the ages of 18-34, tend to eat more snacks then average, they also tend to eat less healthy snacks on average. According to Mintel, snackers in this age group are “less likely to make an intentional effort to eat healthfully”. However this segment is poised to grow, with 23% of snackers in this segment saying they plan to purchase more snacks in the upcoming year. To cater to these consumers, snack companies should focus on product attributes other then health such as energy boosting attributes that would appeal to this fast-paced segment.

Sell to your elders. Another growing segment are the more distinguished consumers, those who are 55+. According to Mintel, this age group represents the fastest growing and largest population segment, with the 55-64 age group expected to grow 31% and the 65-74 group expected to grow by 48% by 2016. Healthy snacks with “low in” qualities, such as snacks that are low in sugar and cholesterol, and are formulated with ingredients like glucosamine, calcium and vitamin E that promote joint, bone, and heart health, will greatly appeal to this group as they look to maintain their active lifestyles.

Family feud: healthy vs. tasty. As mentioned in earlier posts, while children are avid snackers, they are also some of the pickiest. According to Mintel, the percentage of healthy snacks consumed in a household with kids is lower then households without – 75.3% compared to 79.2%. However, the current focus on childhood obesity has encouraged parents to choose healthier options for their tots. According to a Fleishman-Hillard and survey, 78% of mothers say they are reading more food labels to look for ingredients they want to avoid, such as high fructose corn syrup, high-levels of sugar, artificial dyes and gluten. The challenge for snack companies is to create healthy snacks that come in kid-friendly portions and combine kid-friendly flavors with parent-friendly nutrition. Portability is another important aspect when developing snacks for this segment as the majority of snacks are consumed on the go.

In addition to the factors listed by Mintel, there are several taste and flavor trends that will be hot in 2013. According to Datamonitor’s 2013 consumer trend watch, high impact flavors, such as balsamic vinegar and caramelized onion, will be extremely popular when it comes to chips and dips. For bakery snacks, different textures will make the consumption experience more interesting while sugar becoming more acceptable. According to a recent IFIC survey, 61% of consumers believe that sugar does not need to be eliminated from their diet in order to loose weight. This shows that many consumers are willing to accept small amounts of sugar in their snacks. Protein also remains an important factor for snacks, with consumers becoming more focused in the protein contribution of yogurt in a variety of snacks, such as yogurt covered granola bars and dairy-based chips.

All-in-all, there are a lot of things that snack companies should be aware of when formulating snacks this upcoming year, from custom formulations and marketing campaigns to unique flavors and ingredients to reach their target markets. I don’t know about you, but yogurt covered granola bars and caramelized onion flavored chips sound delicious to me!

The Obesity Epidemic and Snacking: Aligning Intentions with Actions

As a company that manufacture’s vitamin and mineral premixes, the health of the average American is foremost on our minds. What are the vitamins and minerals that American’s need the most? Are there deficiencies we should be aware of? In short, are we producing the right, high quality products that Americans depend upon day in and day out?

As a country, it is hard to ignore the health epidemic that is slowly but surely consuming our nation: obesity. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) program, the prevalence of obesity has gone from 23% in 1988 to 68% of the population being categorized as overweight or obese in 2008. That comes out to a staggering 45% increase in just twenty years (Check out the CDC graphic here).

What makes the epidemic so deadly, according to Mintel, is that being overweight has become the new norm. While the NHANES study found that 68% of the American population was overweight and obese, a survey conducted by Mintel around that same time found that 52% described themselves as normal weight, with only 44% describing themselves as overweight. A complementary study conducted by the Columbia University Medical Center had similar findings, according to an article in USA Today. In the study, 66% of mothers were found to be overweight or obese, however, only 18% of obese women and 57.5% of overweight women were able to accurately estimate their weight when looking at figure silhouettes.

And unfortunately it is not just adults. According to the NHANES study, 17% of children between the ages of 2-19 are obese, and according to the USA Today article, 47.5% of moms of overweight or obese children “thought their kids were at a healthy weight”. This is a very serious issue, because according to the New England Journal of Medicine, being obese at a young age can result in “life-threatening consequences in the future”.

The reason I bring this up is not to be a Debbie Downer, but to demonstrate a point. Although it is a proven fact that more people are overweight and obese today then they were in the past, if they do not recognize that they are overweight, and that their current diet is unhealthy, they will not feel the need to make changes. The challenge for food marketers is to align consumer intentions with actions. According to Mintel, one of the greatest opportunities in the industry is to develop snacks that foster alignment between wanting to be healthy and eating healthy, and to communicate the health benefits of their snacks. However in doing so, the health claims must be common sense associative (ex. Calcium in milk) and the snacks must actually taste good. Lets be honest, no one is going to give up their low-fat baked potato chips for something that tastes like cardboard.

The key to creating alignment between consumer perceptions and purchasing habits is information. Educating the population about basic nutrition and healthy eating habits will not only help to improve the health of the general population overall, but will help to nurture demand for healthy snacks as well, spurring innovation and sales in that market. Already we have seen some headway made. In response to childhood obesity statistics, media, government and medical communities have begun to focus on healthy snack innovation targeting kids.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, the Food Trade Commission (FTC) found that foods being marketed to children in 2011 contained less sugar and more whole grains then they had in 2006. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowtiz was quoted saying, “ The encouraging news is that we’re seeing promising signs that food companies are reformulating their products and marketing more nutritious foods to kids, especially among companies participating in industry self-regulatory efforts. But there is still room for improvement”. While parents are responsible for the end purchasing decision, marketing is still a powerful tool when it comes to influencing children’s’ perceptions and creating habits. By educating children on the importance of a healthy diet and how tasty healthy foods are, food companies can hopefully expand the current dialogue to help inspire healthy habits in their young target audience.

How Snacks Can Help or Hurt Your New Year’s Resolution

As we approach the New Year, many of us are thinking about our New Year’s resolutions. For many, this includes losing weight and developing healthier habits. In fact, if this year is anything like last year, according to a Wall Street Journal article, 42% of people list losing weight as one of their top resolutions. Unfortunately, losing weight also ranked as one of the top “unachieved resolutions” in the same study.

According to a 2008 study conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey group, the type of snack you eat can greatly affect the success of your diet. The study found that although the number of snacks consumed by the average person per day has doubled in the past 30 years, the number of snacks consumed in a day did not differ significantly by weight across the surveyed population, suggesting that the type of snack heavily determines the success of a diet.

In 2011 Mintel conducted their own study, which found that the average person consumes 2.6 snacks a day, 78% of which were considered healthy. While the study had respondents self classify “healthy snack” (and as discussed in the last post that the definition of “healthy” is highly contextual and subjective), it does show that the importance of healthy snacking is getting through to consumers and many engage in strategic snacking to try and manage their weight. In their study, Mintel found that healthy snacking tendencies varied by age and gender. While women were overall more likely to report eating healthy snacks, healthy snacking was found to be lower among 18-34 year olds and families with young children.

Mintel found that families with small children tend to eat more snacks then average, roughly 2.7 snacks per day since children tend to have faster metabolism then adults. For families, the biggest hurdle to healthy snacking is finding a snack that is not only nutritious, comes in kid-friendly portions and is portable, but most importantly is something kids actually like/want to eat. As mentioned in the last post, many families with children will sacrifice the “health acceptance level” of a snack and settle for a marginally healthy snack, such as a whole-wheat cracker, in order to gain taste and portability.

Consumers who are between the ages of 18-34 were also found to consume the less healthy snacks, consuming 6% less healthy snacks then average consumer. According to Mintel, this is due in part to the cultural trend of “on the go snacking”, where quick snacks take the place of meals. This is especially troublesome for those wishing to lose weight, as skipping meals have been shown to slow metabolism and lead to binge snacking. Mintel found that higher snacking frequency is associated with higher total calorie intake, about 1.5 times as many calories as adults who do not snack.

So while healthy snaking can help you achieve your weight management goals, unhealthy snacking can spell the death of your diet. According to Alexander Chernev, an associated professor of marketing at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and author of the New Year resolution study, “When making our resolutions, we think ‘big picture’ and focus on the long-term. Then life takes over. When given the choice between the immediate gratification of indulging now and the future gratification of losing weight, people tend to by myopic and favor the short term”. Since on-the-go snacking trend remains strong, it is up to food companies to create products that not only fit into consumer’s busy lifestyles, but also are nutritious.

While the majority of snackers consume healthy snacks, consumers also desire an indulgent snack during the day. Mintel suggests that food companies create healthy snacks that include indulgent flavors, such a chocolate, so that consumers can treat themselves in a way that does not ruin their diet. In addition, food companies should look into creating more filling, meal-replacement options that are easy to grab-and-go that will help consumers feel full longer. This will help consumers resist the urge to binge snack, and hopefully enable them to attain their goals for the New Year.

Health Is In the Eye of the Eater

Now that the holiday season has come to an end, and all the holiday cakes, cookies and chocolates have been enjoyed, the season of cheer is over and the season of responsible eating has begun. Gone are those glorious days when the single oatmeal chocolate shot cookie you grabbed while running out the door can be considered a “reasonable” snack by virtue it being made of oatmeal and that you only grabbed one.

Looking back, its rather interesting how context can affect your view of a healthy snack. While there is that 9% who view cookies as a healthy snack all year round, unfortunately for the rest of us, we know that fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts are what constitute as healthy snacks. Not surprisingly, these three groups are part of the six groups highlighted by the USDA’s food pyramid. However, these are the items that also tend to be less portable then other snacks. While the majority know what constitutes as a healthy snack, portability is a major deciding factor which leads to “snack compromise”, or a lowering of the “health acceptance” bar, as seen in the oatmeal cookie situation.

According to Mintel, in addition to the three food groups listed above, the top fifteen snacks include yogurt, dried fruit, trail mix, cheese, popcorn, rice cakes, frozen yogurt, cereal, snack bars, fruit snacks, pretzels and crackers. While crackers and cereal are viewed as more processed, and thus less healthful then whole food snacks such as fruits and vegetables, their portability makes them more popular snacks then the healthier, whole food choices, especially when compared to other portable snack options such as chips.

This can be most clearly seen when it comes to parents purchasing snacks for kids. According to Mintel, parents tend to have a skewed perception of what constitutes as a healthy snack due to the fact that they are looking for a snack that is not only nutritious but is also something their kids will eat. As many parents can attest, animal crackers and graham crackers are popular snack choices for young kids, but are mostly considered healthy due to their preferred flavor profile, small serving size and portability, rather then their intrinsic health benefits. Sound familiar?

In the end, the perception of health is dependent on what each consumer views as important health benefits and how those benefits are weighed against portability. According to Mintel, companies should make snacks that are not only portable, but that include vitamins and minerals so that they can make legitimate nutritional health claims. In this way consumers can purchase snacks that not only have the benefits they want but also have the portability they need.