It’s Not About the Cheese

cheese sliceNo doubt, you’ve heard about the flap over Kraft Singles.  And as a dietitian and a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this cheese debate doesn’t have me smiling.

The news coverage of the implied endorsement of Kraft Singles by the Academy has been extensive, including today’s Wall Street Journal.  Besides the mocking by Jon Stewart on a recent episode, probably nothing has been more painful:

The incident highlights the risk public health and nutrition groups take when they partner with food companies, often in relationships that involve donations and sponsorships, said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University and an author of several books on the food industry. The academy “has become a laughingstock,” Ms. Nestle said. “Its viewpoints are so tainted, they’re so deeply influenced by their sponsors that it’s hard to take them seriously.”

A laughingstock.  Wow, that’s tough.

Credibility is everything.  That’s why some wonderful RD friends and colleagues started a Change.org petition to #RepealtheSeal.  I signed that petition, along with 11,000 others (as of today).

It’s not that I’m horrified by the product.  To me, that’s irrelevant.  It could be a banana and I’d still be opposed to my professional association putting any type of seal on it.   That was my response to the Ellyn Satter Institute who recently told us dietitians to lighten up.

Latest food flap: Kraft Singles’ carrying Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics “Kids Eat Right” label. Many dietitians are upset because they feel singles are not real food and should not be endorsed. The Academy says the “Kids Eat Right” label is the food company’s endorsement of the Academy, not the other way around.

What I say: This is exactly the kind of mess created by trying to  micromanage people’s food choices by labeling some foods good, others bad. It’s all food, folks, and it is all good. Kraft singles have a plenty respectable nutrition profile, and LOTS of people depend on them. People do very well nutritionally when they follow the tenants of eating competence http://bit.ly/1nzmukz and 1) Feed themselves faithfully and 2) Give themselves permission to eat: what and as much as they want.

The bottom line: LIGHTEN UP!

I adore Ellyn Satter, but I had to speak up.  Here’s my response on Facebook:

While I appreciate you weighing in on this issue, I’m not sure you’ve fully captured the situation.  As a dietitian, I agree with your point about not demonizing foods. Even though some RDs have focused on the “product,” to me (and many others), that’s irrelevant.  I wouldn’t want my professional association appearing to “endorse” any food product — even a banana.  I agree that I want to give people the permission to eat what and as much as they want.  But we want to protect the integrity of our profession.  We don’t want it compromised.  That’s at the heart of this debate.

Yes, this debate is about the integrity of our profession. It’s about our credibility. To me, it’s really not about the cheese (or pasteurized prepared cheese product).   When you make it about the merits of a specific food, we’re losing focus of the bigger issue. And you can lose your audience, which is what I thought happened to Andy Bellatti during his recent Fox TV appearance. He was challenged by the anchor Stuart Varney who asked if he was a bad parent and grandparent for serving these American cheese slices to his kids and grandkids. He questioned Andy about what he would do as a parent if that was the only type of cheese his 4-year-old would eat, but then laughed when he learned that Andy didn’t have kids. That’s when the conversation took a dramatic turn. Varney said it matters, “parents really want their child to eat.”

The Academy stands firm that this is not an endorsement or “seal of approval.” I get that. But the public doesn’t. That’s why I believe we need new policies in place so there’s never any confusion. But let’s stand up for our profession, without demonizing “Big Food” or any single food product.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not about the cheese.


Image: 1952 food ad by Classic Film on flickr

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Friday Food News

bricks bar

SAVORY BARS REINVENTING SPORTS NUTRITION
Via BakeryandSnacks.com

America’s sports nutrition market has been reshaped by a clear shift toward savory flavors and meat in the bar category, says Packaged Facts.  Meat bars made with beef,  lamb or turkey may be the next jerky.

EDIBLE INSECTS ARE NOVELTY TODAY, BUT MAINSTREAM TOMORROW
Via Food Navigator

Two or three years ago, you could count the number of US firms using cricket flour in food products on the fingers of one hand; today there are more than 30 companies making everything from bars to cookies, writes Elaine Watson.

ASIAN CHEFS TAKE INSPIRATION FROM AROUND THE GLOBE
Via The Wall Street Journal

As Asian cuisine surges in popularity around the globe, chefs are adding whimsical touches to their dishes and incorporating new flavors from other cuisines. “The trend used to be Brazilian, or French or Japanese. But now everyone uses all the techniques,” said Japanese chef Tetsuya Wakuda.

EATERIES LOOK TO CSA MODEL TO BUILD LOYAL CUSTOMER BASE
Via Eater

A handful of restaurants are borrowing from the business model of community supported agriculture, financing their openings and cultivating loyal customers by trading up-front “membership” investments for specific perks. “Members bring in customers. They’re our immediate advocates and our greatest advertisers,” said Ismail Samad, chef of the Gleanery in Putney, Vt.

 sriracha-grilled-shrimp

RESTAURANT CHAINS BRING ON THE HEAT
Via Nation’s Restaurant News and FoodBusinessNews.net

More than half of U.S. households have hot sauce on hand, and 54% of consumers have a strong preference for spicy foods, according to two recent surveys. Eateries are feeding the demand for spice with new sriracha-flavored dishes at Applebee’s, Red Lobster and Corner Bakery Cafe, and habanero-spiced items at McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Bonefish Grill.

TOP CHEFS LIGHT UP WOOD-FIRED GRILLS
Via Bon Appétit online

Wood-fired grills are heating up high-end kitchens as top chefs such as Dan Barber and Tom Colicchio install the heavy-duty equipment to grill meats and vegetables to smoky, wood-scented perfection. Grill manufacturer Grillworks formerly designed the kitchen tools for home use but now is creating commercial versions for chefs that weigh more than 1,500 pounds and include multiple adjustable grates.

TECH DEVELOPMENTS INFLUENCE HOW CONSUMERS INTERACT WITH FOOD
Via FoodNavigator

Social media sites like Instagram, tools that track food intake and gadgets like mobile phone plug-ins that emit scents are some of the technologies that are influencing how consumers eat, according to Mandy Saven, head of food, beverage and hospitality at Stylus. “The intersection between technology, digital culture and food is fascinating. Technology is influencing the look of our food not only on the plate but also how we experience our food,” Saven said.

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Natural Food Trends: Highlights from the Natural Products Expo West

The world’s largest trade show of natural and specialty food just wrapped up in Anaheim, Calif. The Natural Products Expo West is where companies showcase new products — which makes it an ideal place for tracking trends.  Carlotta Mast and Jenna Blumenfeld from New Hope Natural Media, producers of  Expo West, point to six key forces shaping the industry and driving the trends:

Ancient wisdom.  From chia to baobab, the market for whole, nutrient-dense ingredients has exploded.

Feed me. Forward-thinking companies are addressing the challenge and opportunity of feeding a growing population.

Food tribes. Increasingly, more consumers are gaining identity not by what they wear or where they live, but by what they eat or don’t eat.  Newer tribes include paganism (a blend of paleo and veganism),  lessitarians and flexitarians who may reduce intake of animal protein, grains, gluten or dairy.

Transcendent transparency. More companies are providing transparency through certifications and product claims, such as organic and gluten-free. Other aspects of transparency include clear packaging and front-of-package ingredient labeling, technology-enabled transparency, tracking and storytelling.

Snackification. Snacking is in, but traditional snack staples are out, with the rise of savory nutritious snacks.

The value(s) shopper. Consumers will pay more for products that deliver on demand for convenience and nutrition or support a good cause.

FunctionalBurritosEmbedded

Here are 10 trends from Expo West, sourced from New Hope Natural Media:

1. Protein Power

Protein is the star again — with food, beverage and supplement products featuring new, innovative protein sources and higher levels of protein per serving.  From pea protein to cricket protein to products containing a mixture of both plant and animal protein, these ingredients are hot.

2. Paleo on Parade

The paleo trend continues to gain momentum, with the emergence of a new paleo certification, and more packaged foods made with simple, whole food ingredients that follow the paleo doctrine of no grains, processed sugars, dairy or legumes.

3. Mission Matters

More and more natural products companies are starting with a philanthropic mission and building a suite of natural, organic and healthy products to support and grow that mission and create a positive social impact.

coexist coffee4. Heritage to Hipster

“Old School,” traditional ingredients long known for their nutritional benefits such as apple cider vinegar and turmeric are popping up in new ways in foods, beverages and even dietary supplements.

cidermain

5. Coconut Reimagined

Coconut has been a hot ingredient for several years, but now we are seeing the debut of new healthy packaged products featuring coconut in imaginative, new ways that provide the health benefits of coconut — often in place of less-healthy ingredients.

Jacksonshonestchips16. Probiotics Pop

Probiotics also continue to be hot, showing up in new supplemental formulations, cosmetics, green powders, snacks and even fresh-pressed juice.

7. Clean, Simple Ingredients Rule

Innovation is showing up as simplification, as the ingredient lists for products continue to get shorter and cleaner. There are many new food and beverage offerings that include only high-quality, whole food ingredients. The move to cleaner, food-based ingredients could also be seen in supplements and personal care.

8. Vegan On the Down Low

cooksimpleThe number of vegan foods and beverages is once again on the rise, but this year many vegan brands choose to emphasize the quality ingredients, delicious taste or mission of their products more so than their vegan positioning. The end result is a much more accessible offering for mainstream audiences.

9. Back to the Source

“Local” is for more than just the farmers market, with a growing number of exhibitors touting the sourcing stories behind their products. From ketchup made with only New Jersey-grown tomatoes to an entire supplement line featuring only ingredients grown in Nepal, the farm-to-field movement is taking on more local flavor. Fishpeople’s pouches include codes that enable consumers to track the ingredients.

fishpeople_food10. Water 3.0

The success of coconut water has everyone on the hunt for the next healthy billion dollar beverage concept. Emerging are numerous low-calorie plant waters: maple water, birch water, almond water, artichoke water, cactus water, olive water and watermelon water.cactus water

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Friday Food News

PINEAPPLE BURGERISLAND FLAVORS MAKE THEIR WAY ONTO MORE MENUS
Via Nation’s Restaurant News

Chefs and restaurants have been adding more pineapple, coconut and other tropical flavors to the menu in recent months, according to Technomic. Cuban-inspired Sriracha Black Bean Soup made with coconut milk is Corner Bakery Cafe’s latest limited-time offering, and pineapple features in Applebee’s Grill & Bar’s Sweet Chile Brisket Sliders.

WORLDS OF FLAVOR CALLS FOR A WIDE RANGE OF RARE INGREDIENTS
Via FSR Magazine online

The 17th annual Worlds of Flavor conference at CIA’s Greystone campus in St. Helena, Calif., will center around Asian cuisine, featuring chefs from around the world cooking a range of dishes that show how Asian cuisine has influenced other cultures. Sourcing ingredients for the chefs can be a challenge, and sometimes chefs bring their own supplies. “In general, I tell chefs that if they can get something through customs, they can present it,” writes Scott Samuel, executive chef for the CIA Industry Leadership division.

6 FORCES SHAPING THE FOOD INDUSTRY
Via Food Business News

By 2020, sales of natural/organic foods are expected to represent 14% of total food sales.  A session at the recent Natural Products Expo West discussed six key forces shaping the industry:  ancient wisdom, feed me (challenges of feeding a growing population), food tribes (from paganism [ paleo + veganism] to lessitarians and flexitarians), transcendent transparency, snackification, and the value(s) shopper.

bluerange

MCDONALD’S MODERN MENU MAKEOVER WILL MAKE ROOM FOR KALE
Via Reuters and CNBC

McDonald’s, which booked a bigger-than-forecast 4% same-store sales drop last month, promised shareholders Monday it will transform itself into a “modern, progressive burger company.” The chain plans to add kale as a salad or smoothie ingredient in the near future, as part of a bigger effort to improve its reputation for food quality, according to Janney Capital Markets.

QUICKSERVICE CHAINS TRY OUT SUPER FOODS
Via CNBC

Quickservice chains looking to boost sales and market share are increasingly experimenting with better-for-you “super foods” such as kale, quinoa and yogurt. Wendy’s has tested a spinach, chicken and quinoa salad, McDonald’s plans to put kale on the menu in the near future, and Taco Bell will launch a Greek yogurt test this summer.

WEEKEND DRINKERS SHIFT FROM VARIETAL WINES TO RED BLENDS
Via The Wall Street Journal

Red blends have seen explosive growth in recent years, now accounting for $900 million in annual sales, according to Nielsen, and the shift from varietals to blends has become an unstoppable trend among diners that want an affordable bottle that’s easy to enjoy, writes Lettie Teague, who recommends the 2012 Chappellet Mountain Cuvee, 2011 DYN 2880 Napa Valley Red, 2011 DeLille Cellars D2, 2012 Ridge Vineyards Three Valleys and the Bedrock Wine Co. Shebang! Eighth Cuvee.

DORITOS RELEASES NEW 3D CHIPSdoritos-jacked-3d-jalapeno-pepper-jack
Via FoxNews.com

Frito-Lay is back with an updated version of their 3D product. Originally released in the mid-1990s, Doritos 3D were bite-sized triangle puffs filled with air. Though they were pulled from the shelves in the early 2000s, fans everywhere have been calling for Frito-Lay to bring them back. Now their prayers have been answered. The newest 3D Doritos chip is part of the company’s jacked flavor line. Its first flavor is a spicy Jalapeno Pepper Jack, soon to be followed by Bacon Cheddar Ranch this summer.

HOW WILL WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY CHANGE THE GROCERY STORE?
Via PSFK.com

The release of Apple’s smartwatch and other wearables could change the way consumers shop and interact with retailers, according to Rehabstudio Creative Partner Tim Rodgers. Rehabstudio created a mock-up redesign of a Whole Foods store that includes open aisles, flex space, a community kitchen and a hydroponic garden to reflect how beacon technology and wearable devices might affect store design.

images: pineapple burger by anssl koskinen on flickr, Blu Protein Tea, Doritos 3-D Chips

 

 

 

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Friday Food News

A look at what I’ve been reading about food this week. 

7139865899_3fff442fab_z“MASHUPS” ARE THE NEW FUSION CUISINE 
A growing number of chain restaurants are adding “culinary mashups” — a type of fusion cuisine — to their menus. Menu trend analyst Nancy Kruse and Nation’s Restaurant News Senior Food Editor Bret Thorn agree that fusion cuisine is part of America’s culinary DNA, and today’s adventurous diners are looking for chefs who combine global cuisines in new ways.

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