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COMMENT: High-carb foods fight the low-carb craze

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The food industry is getting ready to fight the surging popularity of low-carb diets with multi-million dollar marketing campaigns that tout the nutritional benefits of various high-carb foods. While such campaigns might help lift depressed sales, they are unlikely to stop the low-carb craze.

It is believed that an estimated 10 million Americans are currently practicing low-carb diets such as Atkins. The rising popularity of such diets has prompted many food and drink manufacturers to respond with low-carb alternatives. Recent entrants into the surging low-carb market include Latrobe's Rock Green Light and Heinz's low-carb ketchup. Restaurants have also been cowering to the demands of low-carb dieters - TGI Fridays and Subway both advertise an Atkin's menu.

Marketers of products such as potatoes, however, do not have the luxury of providing a low-carb alternative for their products and have paid for it with diminishing demand and profits. The United States Potato Board last year found that potato consumption fell by 4.7% from the prior year.

Determined not to let the Atkin's wave ride them out of business, many food and drink manufacturers have launched multi-million dollar marketing campaigns. The potato industry has responded with a $4 million advertising campaign. The Idaho Potato Commission also launched a $2 million campaign. The campaign, which asks "Is there too much fad in your diet?", highlights the health benefits of potatoes, such as no-fat and high vitamins.

The discovery that orange juice consumption fell by 5% last year has prompted citrus growers to launch a $1.8 million advertising campaign touting oranges as 'smart carbohydrates'. The pasta industry has also felt the heat. Barilla is currently collaborating with other pasta makers to raise money for a campaign to promote the nutritional benefits of pasta. The National Pasta Association in the US is also sponsoring a conference to discuss strategies to compete with the low-carb movement.

The health focus of these campaigns is bound to resonate with consumers increasingly concerned with total well-being. However, their impact is likely to be limited by the growing focus of Americans on losing weight as opposed to getting fit and healthy.


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