Magazine article Consumers' Research Magazine

Food for Thought

Magazine article Consumers' Research Magazine

Food for Thought

Article excerpt

Convenience, a powerful driving force in the food marketplace, reaches its pinnacle with home meal replacements (HMR), a burgeoning phenomenon. It has been made possible by a growing trend of cooperative ventures between food retailers and food-service operators on their premises. It is possible for the shopper who enters the store to place an order, and by the time the shopper finishes making purchases, the ordered meal is ready to be taken home.

Such partnerships between food-service operators and restaurants have long been practiced. Pre-prepared foods are used extensively to minimize food preparation, labor costs, and expensive equipment in restaurants. Also, it permits a greater number of items on menus.

Now, such partnerships are being extended between food manufacturers and outlets other than restaurants. For example, the Sara Lee Company provides pre-prepared foods at airport deli counters and college dormitories. The company operates more than 250 food-service sandwich shop outlets, ranging from lunch counters to small kiosks. Sara Lee also plans to launch a line of home meal replacements in supermarkets. Other companies, such as Pillsbury, provide all the ingredients that the store will use, such as refrigerated dough products, for an in-store bakery operation.

Food manufacturers have already begun to explore home food deliveries. A consumer might place a meal order through a personal computer. The ordered meal, packaged to ensure safety, is delivered promptly by special trucking.

A significant extension of the HMR concept is being test-marketed in Ohio by Campbell Soup Company, with a home-delivery program of medical foods. The product line, developed over several years, in consultation with the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association, is claimed to be proven clinically effective in reducing high levels of cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar in persons who have one or more of these health problems. But there are no other health claims made because the total program, not any single serving, is intended to deliver the health benefits. (The program brings to mind a four-year-old program offered through the joint efforts of Archer Daniels Midland Co. and The Pillsbury Co. aimed at geriatric patients.)

The Campbell program, called "Intelligent Cuisine," includes three-meals-a-day plus snacks, intended as a 10-week program. There are more than 40 items shipped, ranging from sirloin beef tips, French toast with sausage, to peanut butter bars. The items are provided in frozen, canned, and dried forms. The frozen items are shipped in dry ice in a corrugated container lined with insulating material to keep the foods frozen for up to 56 hours. Along with the foods are support materials that cover topics such as exercise and nutrition. Participants in the program are expected to add their own fresh fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products to supplement the home-delivered foods.

Campbell developed this program at its Center for Nutrition and Wellness, an interdisciplinary business division dedicated to research, development, and marketing of new health and nutrition initiatives. …

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