Better For You Food Companies Doing Better

By: Saira Malhotra

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported on how companies with 'better-for-you' foods are financially outperforming their non-BFU food counterparts. The report was based on a study performed by the Hudson Institute that looked at 15 large food and beverage companies from 2007 to 2011.

The 'better-for-you' food and drink encompasses packaged goods, such as, "no-, low- and reduced-calorie items, such as flavored waters or diet sodas, as well as products that generally are perceived to be healthier, such as yogurts and whole-grain cereals," according to the Hudson Institute. Companies that make BFU products, such as Wheat Thins, Quaker Oats and Coke Zero, are responsible for 70% of the growth in the food industry. "The bottom line is, it's the first time we've been able to prove that the food industry players can do well by doing the right thing," says Hank Cardello, director of the Hudson Institute's Obesity Solutions Initiative. According to Hank, by drawing from the relationship of these foods and financial return, more and more companies will have incentives to manufacture BFU foods and ultimately 'pull calories off the street'.

Many would agree that this serves as an indicator in a significant shift in consumer behavior regarding food and nutrition. However, some are debating the authenticity of this report. According to Michele Simon, author of Appetite for Profit :  How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back,  "The higher growth is usually because these are newer products, which tend to do better in growth figures, so it's somewhat misleading to even say 'better for you' products are growing faster when they may just be newer," she says.

Other food campaigners believe that the very foods covered by the BFU groups add to the challenges of obesity and other health risks, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes rather than beat them. For many consumers, it is a confusing topic as they Ping-Pong amongst divided points of view and an ever-growing number of buzzwords. To keep it simple, the U.S. dietary guidelines, suggests "healthy eating pattern" that "emphasizes nutrient-dense foods and beverages - vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products, seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds."

For some consumers, this report, serves as a pointer of being a step in the right direction and for some, this data is viewed with skepticism, leaving them baffled and unsure of whether it is truly their best interests that companies have in mind or yet another way to beef up their own bottom line.

Photo: maebmij 

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