The South Beach diet is currently enjoying huge success in the United States, positioned as a sensible alternative to Atkins and other low-carb diets. The programme, not unlike the Atkins diet, is promoted as being not 'low-carb' but 'right-carb', placing emphasis on wholegrains, certain fruit and vegetables and 'right' fats such as olive oil and canola oil.
Kraft's move follows an alliance with the South Beach diet in June last year giving the company the right to use the latter's logo on foods that can be eaten by people following the plan. After trialling the logo for 12 months, the firm is now introducing a range of products specifically formulated for South Beach dieters, such as cereals, cereal bars, frozen pizza and sandwich wraps.
The launch comes within the context of Kraft's three-year turnaround plan. Kraft's net revenues reached US$32bn last year- an increase of almost US$2bn from 2003- but the company has shown no margin expansion in the last three years.
As the first major food producer to hook up with the South Beach diet, Kraft will be hoping to reap the benefits from this year's craze early on.
Kraft is also taking advantage of a general shift towards higher consumption of wholegrains as consumers are increasingly encouraged to improve the fibre-content of their diets.
The UK Food Standards Agency and the European Union recently commissioned research projects to establish how wholegrains can help reduce risks of major diseases such as cancer and heart disease, while the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published in January, recommend that adults should consume between 25-30g of dietary fibre a day.
General Mills, Kellogg, Nestlé UK and Sara Lee are among the growing number of major food companies to reformulate their products or create new products in order to benefit from the consumer turn towards wholegrains.
Wholegrains are known to contain a mix of naturally occurring antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein, very similar to fruit and vegetables. They have been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease and also help in blood sugar control.