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As the introduction earlier this month of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation shows, health and wellness as an issue affecting the grocery industry has reached critical mass (pun definitely intended). The coalition of grocers, nongovernmental groups and CPG companies rolled out a comprehensive, three-pronged attack on the problem of obesity — particularly the childhood variety — that they pledged would proceed in an open, transparent atmosphere, with oversight from such esteemed organizations as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Beyond this industrywide initiative, companies large and small alike are addressing the issue in various ways, including Campbell’s product reformulation and promotional efforts on behalf of its Healthy Request line, and Uncle Sam Cereal’s partnership with the Joslin Diabetes Center to provide nutritional information via the brand’s Web site. Such programs will only become more common as consumers clamor for more guidance on what’s OK for them to eat in center store; and if grocery category managers don’t want to lose even more share to perimeter sections such as produce, which currently boasts a bigger healthy halo than the often maligned center store, they had better avail themselves of such opportunities to show shoppers what grocery shelves can offer in the way of responsible nutrition.
No doubt healthy products are high on the agenda at the newly expanded W.K. Kellogg Institute for Food and Nutrition Research, where the Kellogg Co. develops its worldwide product development, research and innovation initiatives. The $54 million, 157,000-square-foot pilot plant and office space will further the company’s goal of creating new and exciting consumer items, including many better-for-you SKUs. According to Margaret Bath, Kellogg’s VP research, quality and technology: “In the past 12 years since we [first opened] this facility, we have built Special K into a global brand by introducing Special K protein meal bars, snack bars, waters and shakes, as well as crackers and hugely popular cereal varieties like Red Berries and Blueberry. We’ve also reduced sugar and sodium in many of our products, added fiber to our most popular children’s cereals, and led the industry in front-of-pack nutrition labeling with our Guideline Daily Amounts.” Many other successful innovations are bound to see the light of day here — from which it’s just a short journey to supermarket shelves across the nation.