TAKING THE STARCH OUT

Baby food makers continue to be driven by the idea that customers want a product that is perceived as "health food."Hindes, director of corporate affairs at Gerber, Freemont, Mich. "We already had a number of products without added starch or sugar, but we did hear consumers, and announced in late June that we are reformulating 42 products without added starch or sugar."According to Hindes, this brings

Baby food makers continue to be driven by the idea that customers want a product that is perceived as "health food."

Hindes, director of corporate affairs at Gerber, Freemont, Mich. "We already had a number of products without added starch or sugar, but we did hear consumers, and announced in late June that we are reformulating 42 products without added starch or sugar."

According to Hindes, this brings the varieties without the extra ingredients up to 121. The company has also introduced four vegetarian meals, which "contain the same amount of protein as our other dinners." Hindes said Gerber was responding to "a changing lifestyle" in which people are looking for ways to eat less meat. The spokesman from Gerber said he expects the full line of reformulations to be on supermarket shelves by December.

Meanwhile, Heinz, Pittsburgh, is in the process of making modifications in its line, according to Deborah Magness, spokeswoman.

Magness said the Heinz strategy, which could be completed within the next few months, mirrors Gerber's.

An SN consumers survey (see story, Page 4A) revealed that most consumers were aware of reports last year that some baby foods are more nutritious than others and that most switched because of those reports.

Heinz does not plan to remove all modified starches and sugars from its products. Magness said there is a place for these ingredients in baby food and that they are not merely fillers. For example, they enhance palatability, aid digestion, and create texture and nutritional uniformity.

Beech-Nut, St. Louis, is a strong supporter of foods without added salt, sugar and starch, according to Pat Farrell, a Beech-Nut official.

"In 1977 we removed added salt from the entire line. In 1985 we removed all chemically modified starches from all stages, and in 1991 we removed added refined sugar from every non-dessert baby food," Farrell said.

Earth's Best, an organic baby food line recently acquired by Heinz, currently has 44 stockkeeping units, including eight vegetarian offerings, with some of them containing lentil beans and tofu.