HOUSTON -- The Coca-Cola Co. has created a new division to study consumers and the role of beverages in regards to health and nutrition.
The Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness, to be based here, will provide the parent company with research it can use to develop new beverages that meet health and nutritional needs, said Donna Shields, senior manager of health and wellness for Coke.
"In the long term, it could have an impact on supermarket retailers since the institute will be looking for opportunities for beverages with a health and wellness platform. That research will be funneled back into Coca-Cola to help drive new product innovations," Shields told SN.
The group will also study such issues as the role of hydration in nutrition, vegetables as beverages, and malnutrition in developing countries, she stated. "We're looking at all sorts of health and nutrition topics that would have an application for beverages."
The institute's staff includes specialists in nutrition science, food technology, consumer insights and communications. An external 13-member advisory board includes many academic leaders and physicians. The group has a Web page at www.thebeverageinstitute.org.
Coca-Cola joins other food companies in focusing on health and nutrition since the national debate over the obesity issue has resulted in the consideration of healthful alternatives as an avenue for growth. Kraft Foods, Northland, Ill., in February said it would introduce a number of products in the first half of this year meeting consumer needs for health and wellness in the areas of weight management, nutrient delivery, performance nutrition and natural/organic.
"The growing importance of health and wellness has significantly altered consumption and buying behaviors," said Roger Deromedi, Kraft's chief executive officer, in a statement. "Low-carb diets, concerns about trans fat and obesity, and greater demand for natural and organic products are requiring a shift in what we market and how we market it."
Among the new products are Nabisco's 100-calorie packs, a four-item line featuring Wheat Thins, Chips Ahoy, Nips and Oreo brands. The single-serve packages contain snacks that have three grams of fat or less, zero grams of trans fat, and no cholesterol.