Families want fast, healthy foods

Convenient and healthy. These are key concerns for busy women preparing meals for their families, according to a recent survey sponsored by the Campbell Soup Company.About 60 per cent feel their lifestyle frequently or often has an impact on their food choices, according to the report.“More than half of Canadian Moms also believe they sacrifice nutrition for speed, with 76 per cent of them feeling extremely or somewhat concerned,’ states a release about a survey of 230 Canadian women.

Campbell’s did the research to launch a new line of ready-to-serve soups. They come in plastic containers which can be re-sealed. The company is also selling ready-to-use chicken broth in a foil package that can be re-sealed.

Campbell’s commissioned the survey in the fall and says the results apply to all Canadian mothers, within a small margin of error.

Many food manufacturers have done similar research. They know the average Canadian family is busy during the week and mealtimes can be hit and miss. Food companies are looking at how to pitch their products to this huge and lucrative market. In the multi-billion dollar food industry, launching and positionina new product is a high stakes undertaking.

Home made pasta
Five Roses Flour has just released a new pasta flour, based on the appeal of a homemade, nutritious food and family fun. A release says the specialty flour is made of 100 per cent durum wheat, contains no additives and makes non-sticky pasta. The flour can also be used in breads and desserts.
Denis Pascau is the retail-marketing manager for ADM Milling company, makers of Five Roses Heritage Pasta Flour.

“We’re not selling a convenience food, we’re selling a quality food, which also develops the family aspect of the thing. It’s something that people can do together. It takes 20 minutes from start to finish. If cooking a meal only takes 20 minutes, I don’t think it’s much time at all,’ he says.

Both companies have conducted extensive research that confirms what every family knows from personal experience. People are busy, they’re concerned about health and nutrition and family time together.

Campbell’s hired a food trends forecaster named Ann Coombs to look ahead to the year 2025.

“For some Canadian families, the sandwich generation-taking care of elderly parents and children-is already a reality today. In the next 25 years, our hyper culture of high-speed style of living will increase. One impact will be an increased demand for nourishing and instant meals,” she says in a release from Campbells.

Too much salt
Bonnie Cowan is the former Editorial Director for Canadian Living Magazine. The magazine is well known for its quick, easy and nutritious recipes. Cowan agrees parents, especially mothers, are concerned about nutrition, and feel guilty about food choices made for convenience.

 “If food manufacturers are really concerned about serving busy families, they need to look at what they put in their prepared products. People are really starting to be concerned about what’s on the label. For example, my husband has kidney problems, so he can’t have potassium, phosphorous, and he certainly can’t have sodium. I can’t use chicken broths anymore to make soups, because it’s full of salt. I can’t find a can that doesn’t have salt as the second or third ingredient,’ says Cowan.

But Cowan also thinks people will respond to the pitch of ready-to-serve soups more than they will to flour for home made pasta-even if they feel a bit guilty.

“It is economical fun-cheaper than buying ready-made fresh pasta. And it would be a stress buster-but I don’t think it solves that problem of what you’re going to have for dinner on a Wednesday night,” says Cowan.

 Pascau admits there’s an “education process” involved in selling Heritage Pasta Flour.

“People have to be convinced that it’s good for them. And they have to buy the pasta machine. You can do it without a machine, but it’s much simpler with a machine. So it’s not going to be an overnight million dollar success,” he says.

But he may be the turtle in this race of appealing to busy, family-oriented consumers.

“We absolutely have no preservatives or anything in this flour. This is as plain as it comes Convenience food is full or preservatives, generally, and it tastes like it, too,’ he says.

Simple recipes key
Cowan says he’s on the right track. She sums up the challenges for all food manufacturers looking to create new markets.
“I think with the boomers aging, with that whole generation, health is going to be even more of a concern. Food companies really need to think about how they’re going address these concerns,” she says. Cowan also says families can have both convenience and nutrition when they make their own meals from scratch. It starts with simple recipes without too many steps or long cooking periods. 

“At Canadian Living, we always tried to have meals you could make within an hour of when you come home during the week. And an equal need is that it be healthy,” she says. She offers some simple examples:

“I think it would be unreasonable to ask people to make lasagna from scratch during the week. That would be a weekend kind of meal. But you would encourage them to buy boneless chicken breasts, and make a stir-fry. There are other quick things you can do. Take pork tenderloin, for example. That’s a really quick dinner. So rather than going and buying prepared something, buy, say, a pork tenderloin. Then maybe bake some potatoes and maybe some squash. You just throw it in the oven, and in an hour, it’s ready. It takes a little more planning, but it can be done.”

Sounds like a more nutritious version of having your cake, and eating it, too.