He’s Baaaaaack!

Dan Malovany, editor

Just when you thought it was safe to walk through the bread aisle, the Son of Atkins reared his ugly head.
In fact, according to the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association in March, the Atkins diet is more effective than other fad diets for losing weight, at least in the short run.
Please, please. Don’t bring back those crappy low-carb breads. I can’t take them anymore. Ahhhhh!
But I digress.
The study monitored 313 overweight women for one year starting in February 2003. Those chubby dieters who were on the Atkins plan lost an average of 10.4 lb., which was more than those on the Zone, LEARN or Ornish diets, after a year. It also indicated that women on the Atkins diet showed more improvements in cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Not surprisingly, most of the dieters eventually gained back all of the weight that they lost. And the researchers cautioned that the long-term safety of the Atkins diet remains in question.
Despite those caveats, the damage was done. The articles ran on the front page of The USA Today. In the Chicago Tribune, the headline read, “Atkins tops other diets in 4-way study.”
It isn’t a surprise that the Atkins plan grabbed headlines again. In fact, the Grain Foods Foundation has been repeatedly warning the baking industry not to get too complacent and to be prepared for Atkins Jr.
Although most consumers don’t understand what the glycemic index is, many of them do believe that there are good carbs and bad carbs. Moreover, even though white bread sales have stabilized in many parts of the nation, most Americans don’t believe that it’s beneficial to their health.
That’s one of the results of an online consumer survey by InsightExpress and Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery magazine, done in conjunction with the American Bakers Association Marketing Committee.
Our survey shows that nutrition and health aren’t major factors in consumers’ minds when they’re deciding what bread to eat. In fact, fewer than one-third of respondents listed “nutritious ingredients” or “a balanced diet” as a somewhat or very important reason for eating bread.
That figure can be interpreted in two ways. Either there is a great opportunity for the baking industry to educate consumers about the nutritional benefits of baked goods, or the industry still is extremely vulnerable to fad diets. One thing is for sure: Industry professionals need to continue supporting the Grain Foods Foundation and the Wheat Foods Council, both of which work to set the record straight and get the word out on the benefits of bread and other baked goods. Now is not the time to lose the momentum that has been building over the last two years.
Many studies report that consumers are confused about health and nutrition. That may be true. But our survey indicates that consumers, whether they know what’s good for them or not, have definite opinions about health and nutrition and why they buy certain baked goods and snacks. You might not agree with them. You might think their opinions are wrong or misguided. Then again, those consumers who responded to our survey might not agree with you.
Check out our exclusive research in this issue. (Turn to page 8.) By the way, when it comes to dieting, our survey shows that 6% of consumers are on the South Beach or Atkins diet, but some 12% are on Weight Watchers. More than two-thirds of respondents make up their own diet plans. No doubt, the industry needs to continue to speak out and make sure that those diets include a balanced variety of snacks and baked goods.
That’s because like a bad horror film, fad diets never die. They always find a way to haunt you in the end.