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Consumers Seek Healthier Hydration

There's good reason why Pathmark's Healthy Steps nutrition newsletter features Mott's for Tots a juice drink that has 40% less sugar than regular apple juice and no artificial sweeteners and Old Orchard Healthy Balance, a reduced-sugar pomegranate/cranberry drink. Parents are on the lookout these days for healthier alternatives for their kids. Nearly one-quarter (21%) said they were more restrictive

There's good reason why Pathmark's “Healthy Steps” nutrition newsletter features Mott's for Tots — a juice drink that has 40% less sugar than regular apple juice and no artificial sweeteners — and Old Orchard Healthy Balance, a reduced-sugar pomegranate/cranberry drink.

Parents are on the lookout these days for healthier alternatives for their kids. Nearly one-quarter (21%) said they were more restrictive about their children's beverage consumption last year, according to Morgan Stanley's “The State of the CPG Industry” report. While that's slightly lower than the 23% who said the same in 2006, it's still up from 16% in 2005.

Likewise, 24% are reluctant to give their kids beverages with artificial sweeteners, up from 17% in 2005 and 22% in 2006.

The childhood obesity epidemic has led many parents to take a closer look at the food and beverages their children consume.

“Being overweight puts kids at risk for health problems during their youth and as adults,” Jacqueline Gomes, Pathmark's registered dietitian, wrote in the April edition of “Healthy Steps.”

Big Y's “Living Well, Eating Smart” newsletter also addresses children's health. The April issue has an article on getting kids to eat and drink healthier. While plain milk is best, the newsletter says Nesquik with 25% less sugar and additional calcium offers good nutrition.

Carrie Taylor, registered dietitian for Springfield, Mass.-based Big Y, said juice can be a part of a healthy diet, as long as it is 100% juice and not a “juice drink.” Taylor recommends such brands as Juicy Juice Harvest Surprise, which blends carrots and fruits together without any added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Each 8-ounce glass offers a two-thirds serving of veggies, one and one-third servings of fruit, 120% of the daily value for vitamin C and 70% of the daily value for vitamin A.

“I think parents are becoming more aware that 100% juices should be the focus of their juice drink choices, though the portion sizes they allow children to consume remains a lesson,” Taylor told SN.

Big Y also touts the health benefits of Apple & Eve 100% Juice, Northland Cranberry Juices and WaddaJuice.

“WaddaJuice is made from 4 ounces of 100% juice and 4 ounces of water, so it is truly watered-down 100% juice in every 8-ounce container — a great item for controlling the amount of juice children consume,” said Taylor.

Adults, too, are paying closer attention to their beverage choices. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of adult consumers said they were trying to drink more water last year because it's healthy, up from 67% in 2005, according to Morgan Stanley's research. And 39% said they don't like the taste of sweet beverages as much as they used to, up from 30% in 2005.

Such attitudes reflect a global trend of retreating from full-calorie carbonated soft drinks because of health reasons, according to Morgan Stanley. In Mexico, for instance, 60% said they are reducing cola consumption for health or weight reasons, and 22% said that while they still like cola, they're drinking more water instead.

Indeed, sugar is a top-of-mind concern for many consumers, according to the Hartman Group, a health and wellness consulting firm based in Bellevue, Wash.

When asked, “When you hear the word ‘sugar,’ which of the following do you think of,” 96% of respondents chose “refined white sugar” from a list of sweeteners.

In addition, 40% of respondents also attribute the term to high-fructose corn syrup and corn syrup. This finding underscores that consumers are beginning to associate refined white sugar and corn syrups together as “sugar.”

Big Y's Taylor typically recommends flavored waters such as Aquafina Alive and Dasani Natural Flavored Water; sugar-free drink mixes like 4C's sugar-free iced tea; and sugar-free soda.

“I discuss them in the context as alternatives to their flavored beverage counterparts made with sugar,” Taylor said.

At Dorothy Lane Market, a popular seller is VitaminWater, from Coca-Cola's Glaceau unit. Samples of VitaminWater were distributed at DLM's Health Fair in March.

“VitaminWater is lower in calories and has vitamins for energy added,” said Dorothy Lane's healthy living director, Joy Kemp.

Dorothy Lane caters to kids by carrying Switch, a carbonated 100% juice drink in such flavors as watermelon/strawberry and black cherry.

The retailer is also having success with its own DLM brand of private-label water. Many consumers prefer water to other drinks because they view it as a healthy alterative.

“People are reading the labels more for the beverages they drink,” said Kemp. “They don't want to see high-fructose anywhere.”

Syracuse, N.Y.-based Penn Traffic frequently profiles better-for-you beverages in its “Fresh Ideas” health and wellness newsletter. The most recent issue highlights Propel Fitness Water, which has 20 calories per serving; and Propel Invigorating Water, a vitamin-enhanced water with added caffeine that has 20 calories and 20 milligrams of caffeine per serving.

“When your energy starts to fade, resist the temptation to choose high-sugar drinks and snacks,” the newsletter reads.

Instead, Penn Traffic suggests trying VitaminWater.

“These enhanced water beverages are free of artificial sweeteners and chemical preservatives,” according to the newsletter. “They're mildly sweetened with crystalline fructose. Crystalline fructose is sweeter than sugar, so less is needed to achieve taste appeal.”

Chain dietitian Melissa Entenmann said that while hydration is important, it should come from low-calorie options.

“The problem with beverages is that many positioned as ‘healthy’ have a lot of calories,” she said. “They're basically liquid sugar.”

Entenmann said it's important to stay hydrated, provided that the beverage of choice is low in calories. And while diet soft drinks may be low in calories, the acid in them can wear away tooth enamel.

“Consumers need to be more cautious about what they drink,” she said.

While plain water is best, the many flavored waters on the market are a good backup, Entenmann said.

One beverage that Penn Traffic recommends is SoBe LifeWater drinks. They are infused with herbs, lightly sweetened with natural sucrose and contain only 40 calories per serving. As Americans become more concerned about the health aspects of their beverages, they're also becoming more aware of the snacks they consume.

About one-quarter (24%) of consumers limited most of their snacks to healthy options in 2006, up from 15% in 2003. And while about one-quarter (23%) said in 2006 that they don't pay attention to health, that's less than the 29% who said the same in 2003.

The reason for this could be the fact that along with their general health, 82% of consumers are concerned with their weight, according to a survey from Information Resources Inc., Chicago.

Entenmann said the 100-calorie snacks serve a purpose, because they show people what an average portion should look like.

“For some people who are used to having a whole bag of Doritos, the 100-calorie versions are a good alternative,” she said.

Dorothy Lane's Kemp said 100-calorie snacks are definitely a better option than their full-calorie counterparts, but she would like to see people eat less processed foods.

Higher on Penn Traffic's suggestion list are whole-grain snacks like Pop! Organic Butter Popcorn, made without artificial preservatives, flavors or colors. Each bag is 94% fat-free and has zero grams of trans fat and no cholesterol. Penn Traffic also touts Snyder's of Hanover's new line of MultiGrain snacks, which contain up to 20 grams of whole grains and have zero grams of trans fat per serving.

Dorothy Lane encourages healthy eating by promoting Late July crackers and Sha Sha Ginger Snaps, among other snacks. It also recommends Clif Bars and Stretch Island fruit leathers.

At Dorothy Lane's annual Health Fair, held in March, vendors sampled a variety of healthy snacks, including Odwalla bars.