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Food Brands Shift to Meet Needs of Health-Conscious Consumers

From well-known brands to innovative newcomers, food manufacturers and restaurants have quickly learned they can benefit by catering to this new health-conscious market.
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Food allergies are on the rise, especially among children. As medical science has learned more about the connection between consumer health and the foods people put in their bodies, demand has increased for healthier alternatives to the foods found on grocery store shelves. Restaurants, food manufacturers, and grocers have all shifted their offerings in response, changing ingredients in existing products while also creating new products for special diets.

Today's diverse consumer diets include gluten avoidance, vegan and vegetarian lifestyles, and nut-free options. In some instances, people have been advised by medical professionals to follow a certain nutrition plan while in others, they've made the conscious choice to strike certain items from their meals. Here are a few brands that have stepped up to give customers the food options they need.

Aspartame-Free Soda
Diet soda sales have been in a slump for years thanks in large part to consumer awareness of the dangers of aspartame. Last year, Pepsi responded by releasing an aspartame-free version of Diet Pepsi. The new version substitutes sucralose, which is the sweetener behind Splenda. While the FDA has ruled all artificial sweeteners safe, Splenda has become the most popular sweetener on the market, and Pepsi had hoped to capitalize on that popularity. Unfortunately, diet soda fans were disappointed in the taste of the product and sales have begun to decline even further.

Vegetable-Flavored Cereal
Parents often express concerns about the healthiness of the cereal their children eat. Sugar is often a target, but even less sugary cereals have artificial coloring and flavoring that causes concern. General Mills is helping out by retooling its line of cereals to remove additives and artificial ingredients, with plans for one hundred percent implementation by the end of 2017. The company has been trying out different fruit- and vegetable-based ingredients to replace the flavors and colors today's artificial ingredients provide.

Gluten-Free Pizza
It may be one of the most popular takeout options for families across America, but for the 7 percent of Americans who are gluten sensitive or intolerant, the risks of eating pizza outweigh the deliciousness. Fortunately, for pizza lovers, almost every major pizza chain now offers gluten-free pizza. This includes Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Mellow Mushroom, as well as grocery store-based frozen option Freschetta. In addition to the many people who have negative health reactions to gluten, a large number of Americans have decided to eliminate gluten to feel less bloated and enjoy better digestion. Because of this, gluten-free selections are available everywhere.

Healthier Cookies
With products on the shelves of Whole Foods, Walmart, Costco, and Kroger, Hampton Creek has quickly become known as a pioneer in creating healthier, less expensive food that also has a minimal impact on the environment. The company's focus on using plants in food products has allowed it to create popular mayonnaise, cookies, and egg substitutes using proteins from plants. Hampton Creek's most popular products include Just Mayo, Just Cookies, and Just Cookie Dough.

Natural Chicken
Great attention has been paid in recent years to the use of human antibiotics and artificial products in the meat consumers eat. In response to this concern, Tyson plans to phase out the use of antibiotics in its chicken, with use completely stopped by September of 2017. Fast casual restaurant chain Chipotle is also making a concerted effort to put safer food in front of consumers. The company stopped using GMO in its food early last year.

Preservative-Free Mac and Cheese
Kraft is one of many manufacturers meeting the demand for safer food. Its macaroni and cheese products are especially popular with younger consumers, which makes it a natural choice for Kraft's preservative-free movement. The company plans to replace those artificial ingredients with natural ingredients like paprika, annatto, and turmeric. Nestle's Stouffer's brand already makes a macaroni and cheese product made from whole grains that has no preservatives and is made with sea salt and real cheese.

As organic sections of grocery stores expand and specialty stores like Whole Foods thrive, the number of competing brands continues to grow. From well-known brands to innovative newcomers, food manufacturers and restaurants have quickly learned they can benefit by catering to this new health-conscious market. The biggest winners are the consumers, who now have a wide variety of food options to meet their own unique dietary choices.