LOW-FAT APPEAL THINNING?

NEW YORK -- While consumers are concerned about saturated fat, they are growing tired of low-fat food, says a new report by Find/SVP here.While reduced and low fat remain the most likely claims to be made by new products, the low-fat trend may have peaked, according to the study, titled "The Market for Prepared Frozen Foods."Citing industry sources the report says the market is saturated with low-fat

NEW YORK -- While consumers are concerned about saturated fat, they are growing tired of low-fat food, says a new report by Find/SVP here.

While reduced and low fat remain the most likely claims to be made by new products, the low-fat trend may have peaked, according to the study, titled "The Market for Prepared Frozen Foods."

Citing industry sources the report says the market is saturated with low-fat entries, and consumers today are becoming less concerned with fat and more focused on eating a whole, balanced diet. But it takes time for companies to notice declining sales and rethink their product launches.

Still, the report cites a national survey by Mark Clements Research, New York, which found that 91% of respondents have changed their food-buying habits in the last two years, primarily by comparing prices more and reading labels.

Saturated fat was a concern to 90% of respondents, who said they are trying to reduce it. More than two-thirds of survey participants said they opted for low-fat versions of the foods they usually eat, while 41% use nonfat alternatives. At the same time 69% said they buy convenience foods, even though they cost more.

Frozen dinner/entree sales increased 2.3% in the 52 weeks ended March 1, 1998, according to Information Resources Inc., Chicago. Unit sales were 1.8 billion, a 2% decline from last year.

The market leader was Stouffers dinners/entrees, with $589 million in sales. Healthy Choice dinners/entrees was the No. 2 brand, with $448 million in sales, and Lean Cuisine placed third, with $326 million in sales.