Nothing Else: A Healthier Snack Bar
Yan, Mary Rong
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Diet and nutrition are modifiable risk factors for chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Maintaining blood glucose within homeostatic limits and eating foods that suppress hunger and promote satiety have beneficial impacts on health. In response to the growing consumer demands for healthier foods associated with disease prevention and health promotion, many food manufacturers have reformulated established brand products. However, taste appeal, sustainable ingredients and valid health claims are challenges for successful marketing of healthier food products. Nothing Else™ is a brand created at the Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand in 2010 with the intention to promote sustainable consumption. Food products of the Nothing Else brand have eight or fewer ingredients, all perceived as natural, that are listed on the front of pack within a circle band displaying the words “Nothing Else”. The aim of this body of work was to prove the principle that a healthier snack bar under the Nothing Else brand could be developed. The objectives were to produce evidence that the prototype bar would meet the criteria of a nutrient profile required for high-level health claims, and at the same time in comparison with similar commercial bars would have a more favourable effect on blood glucose response and induce similar or better satiety; furthermore, would have favourable effects on snacking habits and glucose homeostasis in the longer term. Alongside these objectives, from a branding and marketing aspect, it was important that the bar would be liked and purchased by the consumer. In this original body of work, in partnership with a commercial food manufacturer, a healthier snack bar was developed using the nutrient profiling scheme (Food Standards Australia New Zealand) as a guideline. At the time of developing the bar, there were very few snack products available in the New Zealand market that were made of all natural ingredients, and met nutrient profiling criterion for health claims. The prototype Nothing Else bar contains eight natural ingredients, meets nutrient profiling criterion for health claims, and is able to be manufactured commercially. The consumer liking study indicated that compared to five top New Zealand brand snacks, the Nothing Else bar was the least liked snack bar. However, after the packaging of the products were presented to the participants, overall liking of the Nothing Else bar increased by 14% (p = 0.023), while overall likings for the four commercial products were unchanged. While the most popular commercial bar was ranked the highest for taste and purchase intent, the Nothing Else bar was ranked the highest for healthiness and naturalness. The findings indicated that branding and health related nutrition information could improve consumer liking and brand perception, particularly if backed by marketing. The snack bar composition and their acute glycaemic and satiety effects were investigated with 26 participants (aged ≥ 50 years). Compared to two top selling commercial snack bars (Bar 1, Bar 2) after consumption of a serving size of each bar on different days, the incremental area under the blood glucose response curve (iAUC) over two hours was 30% lower for the Nothing Else bar than Bar 2 (p < 0.001). At 45 minutes after eating, the Nothing Else bar induced the highest fullness rating and lowest hunger rating among the three snack bars. At two hours, fullness induced by the Nothing Else bar was twice that of Bar 2 (p = 0.019), but not different to Bar 1 (p = 0.212). The Nothing Else snack bar, with its high protein and dietary fibre contents, had a lower glycaemic impact and induced a higher subjective satiety than the two commercial snack bars of equal weight. The effects of daily consumption of the Nothing Else bar for 6 weeks on snacking habits and glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) were investigated. During a 13-week trial, twenty-eight participants (aged ≥ 40 years) were randomly allocated to two groups to either consume the bars as the main snack for 6 weeks (n = 14) or receipt of the bars was delayed for 6 weeks (n = 14) following a stepped wedge design. All participants had HbA1c measured at weeks -1, 0, 4, 6, 10, and 12. A short dietary habits questionnaire was self-completed at weeks 0, 6, and 12. Participants consumed the bars they received instead of other snacks for 6 weeks and found the healthier snack bar was acceptable as part of their daily dietary pattern. Over the 12 weeks, there was a significant reduction in intake of biscuits, cakes and pies (~2 servings/week, p ˂ 0.05) in both groups. Fruit juice intake was reduced (~1 serving/week, p = 0.029) in the first group. Twenty participants experienced a decrease (n = 15) or no change (n = 5) in HbA1c (range 0-4 mmol/mol); while eight participants experienced an increase in HbA1c (range 0.5-2.5 mmol/mol). There was high compliance with the healthier snack intervention and a trend toward a favourable effect on glucose homeostasis. The results suggested that habitual snacking behaviour has the potential to be improved through changes in the food supply and in the longer term may reduce the impact of poor nutrition on public health. This body of work was proof of concept for the feasibility of development of a commercial healthier food product by a university in partnership with the food industry. The translation of the diverse skills, such as health and nutrition; food science; marketing; creative commination, was one small step towards providing a food environment that is supportive of a healthier diet.