In the beginning, there was Pritikin.
Long before ConAgra's Healthy Choice and Kraft's South Beach, or the retail versions of Weight Watchers and Atkins, diet guru Nathan Pritikin's line of low-sodium, low-fat soups, pastas, sauces and dressings pretty much occupied the top spot in conventional supermarkets' "healthy eating" pyramid.
Trendier diet plans soon came along and began eating into the brand's position; its popularity further waned after Quaker acquired the line in the late 1980s. It seemed Pritikin's orange and green logo would soon fade into obscurity.
Not so fast. Back in family hands, the company is preparing to launch a pared-down, reformulated line of nine soups in 2006. Flavors have been improved using new spice technology; all rice and pastas are now whole grain; and both chicken and broth are organic.
"There have been tremendous advances in how you can make low-salt soups taste better by altering the acid-sweetness ratio," said Robert Pritikin, Nathan's son and president of the new Pritikin Foods. For instance, the soups combine lemon juice and honey to boost saltiness without sodium. "Now I think we have something that really tastes good."
While the products are updated for a new age of health consciousness, some old-fashioned merchandising challenges remain. For example, the conventional soup aisle is full of sodium-laden cans and jars -- forbidden territory for Pritikin's target consumers.
"We need to be in an area of the supermarket that's heavily trafficked, where people who are worried about their weight and blood pressure shop."