Big Opportunities In Smaller Portions

by , May 19, 2009, 4:08 PM
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100 Calorie Pack With record numbers of consumers in dire need of help with reducing their weight, big opportunities lie in marketing palatable, portion-controlled food choices, concludes a new study from market and consumer research company Mintel.

 

As of 2007, 26.3% of Americans were obese (versus 15.9% in 1995) -- the highest incidence in U.S. history, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

This is not surprising, considering that the average American ate 2,749 calories per day in 2007 compared to 2,173 in 1970. Why? More calories from flour and added fats, much larger portion sizes (some estimates put the number of large portions being sold in supermarkets at 10 times the number sold in 1970), and dinner plates that are nearly 40% larger than in 1960.

In addition, just 52% of respondents to Mintel's survey understand that a "portion" represents the amount of food you choose to eat as a snack or meal, while 43% confuse this term with a "serving" -- a measured amount of food/drink containing a specific number of calories, such as three ounces of meat. Failure to understand ideal portion size and measure food prior to eating contribute to Americans' propensity to obesity, the researchers point out.

Upscale restaurants caught on some time ago to the appeal of smaller, more snack-like portions of healthier foods, and now chains like T.G.I. Friday's are discovering that smaller-portioned meals appeal to some because of their lower costs and others because they are healthier.

According to Mintel, the most successful portion-controlled packaged food brands share many or all of the following attributes: they are low-calorie (450 or fewer for meals, 100 or fewer for snacks); high or relatively high in fiber; high or relatively high in essential vitamins and minerals; use natural ingredients and have broad health appeal; offer popular ethnic flavors such as Italian, Mexican and Chinese, as well as "healthy gourmet" varieties; and are targeted primarily to women who want to lose weight or maintain a desirable weight.

Other specific opportunities in portion-controlled foods, according to the report:

  • Middle-aged consumers seeking to manage their weight. Obesity is somewhat more prevalent among adults 40 to 59 compared to young adults and those 60+, and these demographics are on the rise. The number of Americans 45 to 54 is projected to increase 7.5% -- and the number of Americans 55 to 64 by fully 39.8% --between 2003 and 2013.
  • States with the highest incidence of obesity include Mississippi (32%), Alabama (30.3%), Tennessee (30.1%), Louisiana (29.8%) and West Virginia (29.5%). This suggests a need for portion-controlled prepared meals with Southern flavor profiles, such as barbeque and American classics.
  • Ethnic groups. Black women (52.9%) and Hispanic women (41.9%) have some of the highest rates of obesity of any U.S. population segments. However, 32% of black survey respondents self-reported as being "the right weight," compared to 26% of whites and 28% of Hispanics.
  • "Better for you" foods. Demand for low-cholesterol, no-trans fat and other healthier foods is higher among women and affluent consumers.
  • 100-calorie packs. Nearly half of female respondents to Mintel's survey said that they are somewhat or very interested in 100-calorie packages of food, compared to just 31% of males. Consumers 25 to 34 (22%) and 35 to 44 (18%) are most enthusiastic about these packs (although young adults are most likely to cite taste as a barrier to purchase).

Convenience is a primary driver for purchasing 100-calorie packs. However, price can be a deterrent (67% of women and 55% of men would buy more if they were less expensive). Those from households with incomes of $100,000+ are more likely than those from households with incomes under $50,000 to be very or somewhat interested in these packs.

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