ICR XChange: Healthy living to pick up steam in 2013

MIAMI: The healthy living market will gain more momentum this year as consumers become increasingly concerned about genetically modified food, said executives during a panel discussion at the ICR XChange conference in Miami.

MIAMI: The healthy living market will gain more momentum this year as consumers become increasingly concerned about genetically modified food, said executives during a panel discussion at the ICR XChange conference in Miami.

Speakers on the "Healthy Living" panel said more consumers are demanding to know whether foods contain genetically modified ingredients. Irwin Simon, CEO of natural and specialty food company Hain Celestial, called on large food companies to limit genetically modified products.

Other healthy living trends that will dominate 2013 include an emphasis on portability and convenience, allergen awareness, and juicing, panelists said.

Jamba Juice CEO James White said most large food companies are only "doing the minimum" to promote health and wellness among consumers.

"The big guys are too slow-footed," White said. "That gives the little guys an opportunity to become the big guys."

Jamba Juice put a greater emphasis on health and wellness last year with the launch of its “Healthy Living Council,” an advisory team of nutritionists that helps the company with anti-obesity initiatives aimed primarily at children. The council's formation came as Jamba Juice prepared to open kiosks in hundreds of schools nationwide last year. Earlier this month, the company also introduced a line of healthy children's meals. The "Jamba Kids Meals" contain two and a half servings of fruit and provide quick, on-the-go options for mothers, said nutrition consultant and Council member Liz Ward.

The rising emphasis among companies on healthy living was evident elsewhere at the ICR XChange this week. For example, nutritional supplements retailer Vitamin Shoppe told investors during the company's presentation on Wednesday that the healthy living trend was driving growth in its US stores, e-commerce, and international franchises. Vitamin Shoppe operates an educational website about health and wellness called Vitamin Shoppe University, and the company gives salary increases to employees partly based on how many levels of the university they've completed.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, which heavily emphasizes sustainable agriculture and ingredients, drew a packed room of investors and analysts on Thursday. The fast food chain said it will also introduce a new vegetarian dish this year, initially testing a tofu meal in the San Francisco Bay Area next month.

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