Nutrition Claims: Marketing Nutrition

by Donna Berry
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More than 15 years ago the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) was established to provide a consistent approach to relaying mandatory and voluntary information on food package labels. Today’s food manufacturers use these labeling laws to market a product’s nutrition, with some messages being more easy for consumers to understand than others. Because these laws are frequently updated to reflect advances in nutritional and biological sciences, bakers must stay current to best use these tools to effectively market their products.

“Today’s food packaging claims can intimidate consumers. There are approved health claims, qualified health claims, structure-function claims and nutrient content claims,” said Geri Detroy Mertens, a registered dietitian in Chicago, IL. “Boasting the positive nutrition a product provides is simple and one of the easiest to understand. If a muffin said it contains 20% of your daily requirement for calcium, then you know you are onefifth of the way there.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires four vitamins and minerals — vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron — to be listed in the Nutrition Facts panel, or if the product is void of them, it must be stated. Voluntary vitamins and minerals can be declared following the required four, and marketers are increasingly taking FDA up on this opportunity.

For example, many baked foods use enriched flour. “Flour enrichment is an important part of improved public health in America and in many countries around the world,” said Bill Gambel, director of specialty ingredients, Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, KS. “Flour enrichment is all about restoring the nutrients that are lost during processing, and then some. This includes four of the B vitamins — folic acid, niacin, riboflavin and thiamin — and iron.” Of the five, only iron content must be declared on the Nutrition Facts panel. Why not show the others?

This is particularly true for nutrients that are present but not at levels that qualify for a health claim. For example, for a food to make the claim “Healthful diets with adequate folate may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with a brain or spinal cord defect,” the food must contain at least 40 mcg of folate per serving, which is 10% of its Daily Value. (Folate is the natural-occurring form of vitamin B9; folic acid is the synthetic form. The terms are used interchangeably when it comes to claims.) Many enriched grain-based foods contain less than 10% of the Daily Value for folic acid. But 5% is better than 0%, and this information can influence purchase decisions.

There are opportunities outside of the Nutrition Facts panel to tout the presence of nutrients. To make claims such as “high,”“good source,”“free” or “low,” the nutrient must have an established Daily Value. A manufacturer may make a statement about a nutrient for which there is no established Daily Value such as omega-3 fatty acids as long as the claim specifies only the amount of the nutrient per serving and does not implicitly characterize the level of the nutrient in the product. Such a claim might be “contains x grams of omega-3 fatty acids per serving,” not “contains omega-3 fatty acids.” Interestingly, megalevels of nutrients can be listed in the Nutrition Facts panel using values above 100%.


According to research from The Nielsen Co., New York, NY, nearly two-thirds (65%) of US consumers said they notice nutritional information on food packaging more often now than they did just a few years ago. Interestingly, while less than one-fourth (21%) of consumers said they always check the nutritional information on food packaging, double that figure (42%) said they check when thinking of buying a product for the first time.

“Given that so many consumers are taking time to read nutrition labels, there is also a marketing opportunity for food manufacturers to provide consumer-friendly information on labels that may entice shoppers to switch brands at the point of purchase,” said Deepak VVarma, senior vice-president, Nielsen Customized Research. “Without question, nutritional labeli ng can be a powerful marketing tool for savvy food manufacturers.”

To make nutrient content claims — or for that matter, any of the four types of claims available to marketers — foods must either be inherent sources of the nutrient being flagged or be fortified. It is also key that nutrient content be consistent from batch to batch.

“The process of fortifying baked foods involves adding nutritional components either at higher levels than natively present in the food itself or adding components not originally present in the foods,” Mr. Gambel said. “Nutrient premixes, combined with precise metering devices, assist manufacturers with dosing the correct level of nutrients into a recipe to ensure the finished product delivers what the label claims.”

An increasing number of ingredient suppliers offer customized premixes so that bakers can make a unique combination of nutrition claims that appeal to today’s discriminating consumer. Indeed, all types of nutrients are going into baked products these days, and many can only make content or structurefunction claims because no approved or qualified health claim is available.

“Historically, grain-based foods such as bread and cereal were the products most often fortified. But now all types of products are getting boosts of vitamins, minerals and more,” said Ram Chaudhari, PhD, senior executive vice-president and chief scientific officer, Fortitech, Schenectady, NY. “Ordinary cookies and snack crackers are being transformed into better-for-you options, something on trend with what consumers seem to be choosing when given the choice.”

According to NPD Group, Inc., Port Washington, NY, eating betterfor-you foods rather than dieting appears to be the weapon of choice in the battle of the bulge. NPD reported that the percentage of adults on a diet has decreased by 10 percentage points since 1990 while the percentage of Americans eating healthier has increased.

“While dieting for both women and men remain huge markets, they are not growing markets,” said Harry Balzer, vice-ppresident, NPD Group, and auth or of “Eating Patterns in America.” “The de sire to lose weight really was a 1990 s trend. Today consumers appear t o be making healthier food choices.”

NPD’s National Eating Trends data found that at least once in a 2-week period, more than 70% of Americans consume reduced-fat foods, and over half of them eat reduced-calorie, whole-grain or fortified foods. The average American has at least two better-for-you products daily.

Healthy eating to consumers today tends to boil down to basic mathematics, according to Mr. Balzer, who has been tracking consumers’ food consumption behavior for 30 years. “A generation ago, it was about subtracting bad things from your diet, but today, healthy eating is more a matter of addition and subtraction,” he said.

More consumers are looking to add whole grains, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and probiotics, according to the NPD Dieting Monitor, which examines top-ofmind dieting and nutrition-related issues facing consumers. Awareness of these nutritional food elements continues to grow. For example, in 2005, 36% of consumers surveyed said they were trying to get more omega-3 fatty acids in their diets. Today that figure is closer to 50%.

Even with concerns about the economic downturn, eating healthy still remains top-of-mind with consumers. According to a recent NPD Fast Check Survey on economic conditions, adults who identify themselves as financially worse-off compared with last year, said that eating healthy still had the greatest impact on the food and beverages their household selects. Saving money ranked a close second.


Baked food manufacturers are uniquely positioned to offer consumers more of what they want in terms of nutrition because grains are a characteriz- ing raw material in most formulations. Some grains contribute more in terms of dietary fiber and select vitamins. And although not technically a grain, flax added to a formula boosts protein levels and omega-3 fatty acid content in the form of alpha-linolenic acid.

“A growing variety of food products, including baked foods, are tapping into greater consumer concern for prevention of chronic diseases and are fortifying with ingredients recognized as exerting a benefit,” Dr. Chaudhari said. “For example, heart-healthy grain products often start with a base of high-fiber whole grains and are then fortified with plant sterols. Better-for-you fats high in omega-3 fatty acids are often used in place of fats high in saturated or trans-fatty acids.

“Food developers are interested in adding vitamin D to formulations, particularly in combination with calcium, in order to use FDA’s recently amended health claim linking consumption of the two nutrients with decreasing risk of developing osteoporosis,” Dr. Chaudhari said. “Grain products are uniquely positioned to include vitamin D because the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) allows it. Only a handful of standardized foods can be fortified with vitamin D and still be called their legal name.”


Indeed, many formulators are exploring fortification with calcium and vitamin D as a result of FDA’s September 2008 amendment to the health claim relating calcium intake to a reduced risk of osteoporosis. The amended claim includes vitamin D, so in addition to the claim for calcium and osteoporosis , a claim can be made for calcium, vitamin D and osteoporosis.

The claim reads either: “Adequate calcium and vitamin D throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis” or “may build and maintain good bone health.”

“There has been significant research activity linking vitamin D to improved calcium uptake as an effective treatment for osteoporosis,” said Lee Sanders, senior vice-president, government relations and public affairs, American Bakers Association, Washington, D.C., in her February report to the American Society of Baking’s Executive Committee.“This is an area where there could be opportunities for bakers in 2009.”

Dennis Gordon, PhD, a consultant and professor emeritus at North Dakota State University, who is based at Puget Island, WA, said, “Right now vitamin D is a great need among the American population,”

Vitamin D was once known as simply a bone builder. “We know vitamin D works with calcium to keep bones strong, but new and emerging research suggests vitamin D may be far more versatile, offering an array of health benefits,” Dr. Gordon said. “Some preliminary research suggests vitamin D may support a healthy immune system, heart health, normal blood pressure and healthy aging. And ongoing research continues to explore the potential connection between vitamin D and certain diseases, including some cancers and diabetes.”

The body has the ability to make vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) when the ultraviolet rays of the sun hit the skin. “However, inadequate exposure to sunlight, because of lifestyle, conscious avoidance and increased use of sunscreen means availability of vitamin D through the diet is becoming increasingly more important,” Dr. Gordon said.

Milk has been the traditional source of vitamin D fortification since the 1930s, when an industrywide program was initiated to prevent infantile rickets, a children’s bone disease related to vitamin D deficiency. However, lower per-capita consumption of milk in recent years has resulted in insufficient levels of vitamin D in the diet.

Recently, a patent-pending process developed by Lallemand/American Yeast, Montreal, QC, has allowed the pre-vitamin D form in bakers yeast to be expressed as a full vitamin D2 while continuing to demonstrate all of the normal properties of commercial bakers yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and the extra benefit of allowing the baker to achieve maximum vitamin D levels without the high cost and additional handling constraints of using a vitamin D supplement.

“The ingredient is used in the baking process at normal dosage levels and contributes the vitamin in the D2 (ergocaliciferol) form allowing activation in the body,” said Jim Kopp, vice-president, nutritional food ingredients, Lallemand.

Both Both the the D D2 2 and and D D3 3 forms for are re allowed llowed in grain products, per 21 CFR 184.1950. “Vitamin D2 is derived from yeast, while D3 is commonly derived from lanolin (sheep) or fish,” Dr. Gordon continued. “However, CFR designates a maximum of 90 international units (IU) of vitamin D per 100 g of a grain product. There is a petition in place to amend this to be per 50 g serving to allow bread to be formulated that can make an ‘excellent source of vitamin D’ claim. Research suggests that even among heavy bread consumers, it would be highly unlikely to overdose on vitamin D at this suggested higher fortification level.”

Mr. Kopp added, “Tests conducted at our Technical Baking Center have consistently produced bread with high levels of vitamin D2 that remain stable in the baked product throughout the shelf life of the bread. In fact, we have made breads with 10 to 100% of the Daily Value per 50g serving.

“The vitamin D bakers yeast is the normal bakers yeast in all formulations and bakery processes and applications,” Mr. Kopp continued. “In addition to ease of use, the yeast can be added to bread and rolls targeting the vegetarian market, especially the vegan fraction because vitamin D2 is natural and vegetarian.”

Adding calcium to standardized bread poses a problem, as CFR does not allow it. However, there are ways around that. For one, a fanciful name can be used. “Just don’t label it bread,” Dr. Gordon said.

Another option is to boost calcium levels through the addition of permissible ingredients containing calcium such as milk powders and select preservatives.

There are many creative options to boost the nutritional profile of baked foods and even more ways to market them. Explore the label.

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