Kraft Sued for Using The Term “All Natural”

On January 8, 2007, in association with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Florida woman filed a class action lawsuit against Kraft Foods for deceptive and unfair trade practices relating to its Capri Sun juice drinks. The suit, filed in state court, claimed that Kraft deceived consumers by claiming that its Capri Sun juice drinks are “all natural.” Specifically, the suit claims that the “all natural” claim is false because the products contain high fructose corn syrup, which CSPI describes as “a highly processed sugar substitute.”

In response to the complaint, Kraft issued a press release stating that it has been working for about a year on a new package that removes the “all natural” claim. The new packaging will say that Capri Sun contains “No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.” The Corn Refiners Association sided with Kraft, stating that high fructose corn syrup is a natural food product that contains no artificial materials or color additives. The Association compared high fructose corn syrup to table sugar and honey, which are composed of fructose and glucose. Upon Kraft’s agreement to drop the “All Natural” claim, CSPI dropped its lawsuit.

To date, FDA has not published an official definition of the term “natural.” We believe that FDA will wait until the conclusion of these types of lawsuits before it promulgates any regulations concerning the use of the term.

Coke and Nestlé Face Lawsuit for Energy Drink Claims

In a law suit filed on January 8, 2007 in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed suit against Coke and Nestlé for claiming Enviga, a new energy drink, can help consumers burn calories. CSPI argues that the claim is false and misleading because Coke and Nestlé cannot substantiate the claim. However, Coke and Nestlé are fighting back. Both companies believe that Enviga can help burn calories and do not plan to revise their claims in an effort to settle the action. Rather, Coke and Nestlé state that they have scientific evidence on the calorie-burning ability of green tea and its constituent epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).

Enviga is a carbonated green tea beverage that claims to burn more calories than it provides. The drink was introduced into the market on a limited basis in February 2007. It is interesting that Coke and Nestlé have moved forwarded with marketing claims as controversial as “helps consumers burn calories” and “has a negative calorie effect.” The FTC has consistently taken enforcement action in the area of weight loss, especially against products that claim to burn calories. The FTC has taken the position that such claims are typically false and misleading because they lack competent and reliable scientific evidence. Companies have paid fines in the form of consumer redress as high as US$12 million for unsubstantiated calorie burning claims.

Mintel Identifies Key Trends for 2007

In November, market researcher Mintel indicated that there are ten hot trends that will have an effect on the global food, beverage, cosmetic, and personal care products markets. It appears that, along with personal health, consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with the health of the environment. As a result, sustainability and age-specific products are key trends that will shape the consumer packaged goods industry in the year to come, according to Mintel. More and more, companies are looking for packaging that has lower material requirements and is better for the environment. The marketplace is, therefore, expected to have a renewed interest in biodegradable packaging and refillable packaging.

In addition to packaging, worldwide appeal extends to ingredients. Mintel identifies this trend as the “Amazonia Movement.” Specifically, Mintel anticipates that consumers will turn to products that contain ingredients for indigenous resources such as the Amazon forest. This is no surprise. With a focus on health and the public perception that botanicals and fruits from that region are linked to wellness and anti-aging, we will continue to see the growth of products containing Açai and cupuacu.

Another trend is consumer packaged goods in age-specific product launches. The US market has a variety of demographics, including women, children, teens, baby-boomers, and elderly, and each has different needs. Companies intend to focus on the needs of these different groups and produce products to address them.

Food companies will be focused on improving breakfast in 2007. Mintel believes that companies will be trying to incorporate more traditional aspects of breakfast while maintaining the convenience of on-the-go juice and breakfast bars. These on-the-go products currently dominate the market and food companies are now looking for ways to provide on-the-go pancakes and other traditional features of breakfast.

Finally, simplifying, incorporating traditional ingredients, using technologically-advanced packaging, increased advertising on mobile phones and increased marketing on the Internet were identified by Mintel as important trends this year.

New Directions for Functional Foods

In the past, consumers have been faced with a choice—good taste or good health. These days, consumers are demanding foods that provide both good taste and healthy benefits without sacrificing one for the other and manufacturers have responded to this demand by producing such products. Foods that offer true health benefits beyond satiation, such as value-added or healthy foods, are called functional foods. Although these foods may be more expensive, consumers generally understand that their benefits make the additional expense worthwhile.

With the rising cost of healthcare and consumers looking for ways to take control of their own health, the functional foods market is primed for growth and innovation. The easiest functional food categories for marketers to gain entrance into are those that are already available. Consumers are used to selecting functional foods such as nutritional supplements, energy bars, powders and protein drinks, yogurts, and breakfast foods. Other options for expansion in this area are snack foods, grainbased products and beverages that serve as in-between-meal snacks.

For the functional food industry to be a success, it must be sure to provide products that are actually bi-active. Producers must also be careful not to overreach—while consumers would expect to see products such as bread, sauces, and bars fortified with protein or whole grains, it might be going too far to include those ingredients in candy.

Probiotics Lead Functional Category

Global market researchers Datamonitor and ACNielsen report that although all categories of functional food and drink are on the upswing, probiotic drinks and yogurts are leading the category. According to Datamonitor, the growing popularity of probiotic drinks and yogurts was ignited by their convenient format and advertising campaigns such as those for Dannon’s Activia line. According to ACNielsen, yogurt-based drinks topped the functional food and beverage list in terms of value growth. The convenience of single-serving products and health trends toward probiotics are said to be key factors. ACNielsen reports that yogurt-based drinks represent approximately eighteen percent of the beverage market.

Since Activia yogurt’s launch in January 2006, it has surpassed US$100 million in retail grocery sales in the U.S. Based on the product’s reception, Dannon has since launched three new probiotic-delivering products for the US market: Activia Light Nonfat Yogurt, DanActive Dairy Drink, and Danimals with Lactobacillus GG (LGG). Among other things, probiotics are hailed for their potential to support optimal digestive functioning.

Hidden Salt in Processed and Prepared Foods Pose Health Risks

Most Americans are not aware of the huge amounts of salt that are hidden in the foods they eat every day. For example, cheese slices, sandwich bread, salad dressing, canned vegetables, and even bran muffins from Starbucks are loaded with salt. Most Americans are unaware that these seemingly healthy food choices can actually be harmful to their health. The federal government publication Dietary Guidelines for Americans is published every five years by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the USDA. The most recent version of the guidelines, released January 12, 2005, recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. However, recent government surveys show that most Americans consume around 4,000 mg per day.

While most Americans are aware that excess salt intake can lead to high blood pressure, there are additional less-wellknown health risks posed by sodium. For example, one study found a link between higher sodium intake and increased bone loss at the hip in postmenopausal women. Another study found a link between a high-salt diet and decreased lung function in people with exercise-induced asthma. There is also some evidence that high-sodium diets may increase the risk of gastric cancer. In fact, the health risks associated with high sodium intake are so great that the American Medical Association petitioned FDA to remove sodium from its list of food additives that are generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

So what can Americans do to try to limit their sodium intake? It is the processing of foods that increases the sodium, so the ADA suggests that buying foods in their natural form (i.e., cooking from scratch) can help to cut sodium intake. Comparing the sodium content in different brands of a type of food and choosing the item with the lowest amount is another way to help cut sodium intake. When cooking a food that comes with a seasoning packet, using only half of the packet can help to reduce sodium intake. The ADA also suggests draining and rinsing canned vegetables before consuming them.