The Intersection of Health and Convenience

According to the Global Food Forums, one of the notable 2016 food trends to watch for is “foods and beverages that deliver on both health and convenience.” These types of foods and beverages are expected to “proliferate and gain wider distribution as consumers look for easy ways to incorporate more good-for-you products into their lives.”

Most Americans are spending almost 50% of their day focused on their jobs, which includes getting to and from their workplaces, as well as work itself. —This means there is limited time to plan out healthy meals, mini-meals and snacks, particularly when it involves recipes, shopping lists, and trips to the grocery store. What’s interesting to note is that, despite being pressed for time, households are increasingly more aware of healthy food brands and products—for example, choosing to add whole grains into their diet versus refined starches. Americans may want to make smarter decisions, but time is not always on their side.

As a result, the retail market has grown with its offerings of healthy on-the-go type products—focusing on a key macronutrient or a combination of vitamins and micronutrients that enable Americans to eat healthy without having to dedicate time they don’t have.

Here’s what we’ve seen so far:

1. Increased Access to Protein: The importance of this macronutrient has been demonstrated in several studies, including this University of Missouri study. Starting off the day with adequate protein doesn’t have to be hard either, and the benefits likely outweigh the effort. You may not have the time to whip up a plate of eggs before work, but you could easily pair a 6oz container of Greek yogurt with fruit or a super-grain granola. You could even drink your protein in the form of a shake, as recent product offerings include protein beverages, on-the-go, Greek yogurt-based products, and individualized protein powder packets.

2. Added Fiber: Fiber is often neglected in Americans’ diets, even though it plays a large role in the prevention of chronic disease and weight loss. Dietary sources of fiber include oats, vegetables and fruits. While the most recent Dietary Guidelines suggest five cups of vegetables/fruits per day, that’s not always easy to achieve. That’s why we’ve seen the rise in popularity of smoothie blends (protein, fiber, vitamins on-the-go), and, more recently, an upgrade to the granola bar. Most dietitians don’t recommend granola bars in their traditional form because of an undesirable ingredient list full of hidden sugars and fats. As a result, retail offerings now include savory vegetable bars, variations of low sugar oat-based granolas, and dried fruit snacks.

3. Wholesome condiments: In general, there has been a big push for Americans to start reading nutrition labels. Thankfully, the FDA addressed this concern by implementing a new label layout. It’s important to understand what you’re consuming ingredient by ingredient, rather than just reading the marketing or perhaps trusting the branding. This was hugely applicable to the condiment market—salad dressings in particular. Several of the popular brands used high fructose corn syrup and even monosodium glutamate (MSG). Because of the increase in nutrition education and awareness, however, a variety of non-GMO, low-processed alternatives have become available.

4. Superfood Sources: Don’t get overwhelmed by the recent addition to the ongoing list of superfoods. They’re called superfoods because of their power to do good within our bodies, whether due to their antioxidant content or overall nutritional quality. The list includes chia seeds, hemp seeds, alternative whole grains (sorghum, teff, amaranth) and leafy greens such as red leaf lettuce and collard greens. While it’s not always easy or affordable to find and purchase such items, many food products are now using them as an ingredient. Retail offerings include chia seed beverages, grain and seed protein bars, and nut spread blends, so be on the lookout.

5. Sustainable Pulses: Ever since the Unites Nations declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulses, they’ve caught our attention. Why, all of a sudden, are pulses popular? Because in the era of climate change and sustainable farming requirements, the traditional sources of protein have become compromised on quality. Pulses are a subgroup of the legume family and include the following variety: peas, lentils, chickpeas, and dried beans like kidney beans or navy beans. This is especially exciting for vegetarians and vegans. In addition, the health benefits are tremendous. Retail offerings include pulses-based pasta varieties, roasted chickpeas, and spreads or dips.

The concept of healthy eating is constantly evolving and the variety of food products will continue to grow in order to meet the definition. Hopefully, with access to these items, the landscape will move towards lower rates of chronic disease and obesity.

**The purpose of this piece is to educate consumers to be on the lookout at their local grocery stores or online channels of such products — with hopes to make smarter, healthier decisions.

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