Most consumers know the all-too-familiar feeling of diving into a carton of ice cream or box of cookies and eating what feels like a normal portion—only to realize that they have vastly exceeded the measly amount that constitutes an actual "serving size."
It's a conundrum manufacturers want to solve: If consumers abide by the recommended serving size, they feel unsatisfied; but if they eat the amount they crave, they fret they have overindulged.
The nutritional label enigma
Today's manufacturers realize that nutritional labels are more critical than ever. In fact, nearly 60% of consumers say they always read labels on packaged food before buying it for the first time, and 70% say the Nutrition Facts panel is the top place they go to get information about a food's health benefits.
Any food can be part of a healthy diet, says Vanessa Rissetto, a registered dietitian and nutritionist based in New Jersey. "I tell my clients that if they're too strict and say they can't eat certain foods, they are going to suffer." That's why she encourages them to seek balance—and stay educated by seeking out nutritional information, including reading nutrition labels and checking serving sizes to ensure they aren't overdoing it.
That makes a serving size paramount—whether it's an individual product on a store shelf or in a food service setting where all nutritional information must be disclosed as chefs adhere to tight parameters.
Cutting back portion size not on the menu
It turns out that eating less is easier said than done. Most consumers know the way to a healthier lifestyle: If their doctor suggests they drop a few pounds, they realize they can log more hours at the gym or reduce their daily diet by 500 calories, but that could mean they have to sacrifice their favorite foods or limit themselves to a smaller amount, something they despise doing.
"Consumers want to hit their numbers, but still achieve satiety without sacrificing taste," notes David Rowe, founder and chief technology officer of Epogee LLC, the company that manufactures EPG, an alternative fat ingredient designed to allow consumers to enjoy favorite foods with fewer calories.
Research from IGD finds that while more than three-quarters of consumers are open to reformulations of products, they insist the taste must remain the same. That creates an issue for manufacturers who want to improve the numbers on the labels, finding it challenging to create appealing formulations that stay within the parameters consumers seek.
A new solution
This is where a new food ingredient technology can help manufacturers meet their customers' desire for a tasty food, while still keeping the calorie count where it needs to be. "Using EPG opens up a whole range of benefits and product attributes, allowing manufacturers to reimagine the possibilities," says Rowe. "It allows consumers to continue to enjoy their favorite foods with dramatically fewer calories, without sacrificing taste, texture or appearance," he says.
That can establish a new opportunity for manufacturers striving to keep their calorie count at a reasonable mark. "When I show potential clients a traditional 200-calorie serving, then show them the ample size of a 200-calorie serving of a food using EPG and invite them to take a taste, their eyes bulge out of their heads," Rowe says.
"Epogee is an innovative food product that holds great potential to transform people's lives by enabling them to maintain diets that are much lower in calories and fat," says Dr. Robert Nicolosi, professor emeritus in the Department of Clinical Laboratory and Nutritional Sciences at University of Massachusetts Lowell.
"Consumers want to continue eating the foods they love, which today they might be shying away from," Rowe says. "They want manufacturers to help make their favorite foods available for everyday consumption."