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Giving women something to chew on

USA Today, May 16, 2007

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The popularity of chick lit and chick flicks — books and movies aimed at women — may have spawned the marketing world's latest trend: chick food.

More than 1,000 new foods and drinks targeting women have hit the global market in the past four years, says Mintel, which does research on new products.

These aren't just diet foods. There are energy bars for women — even one just for pregnant women. There's bread for women, and a tortilla. There's a tea for women.

Behind all this: image.

"There's some badge value in saying, 'I'm a woman and I eat Luna Bars,' " says Lynn Dornblaser, new product guru at Mintel. "You're part of a club."

Is it hype? Or is it nutritionally meaningful? Perhaps some of both.

"Marketing folks have stepped in to create a new niche," says Darra Goldstein, editor of Gastronomica, a food and culture journal. "But I don't think any of us will be healthier for it."

That said, she buys Luna Bars sometimes — and likes them.

Nutritionist Robyn Flipse says many of the items have nutritional pluses. Most add calcium, vitamin D, iron or Omega-3. "But few women will know which product is best for them."

The hottest categories:

  • Energy bars. There are about a dozen female-focused energy bars, but none has the wallop of Luna. Luna Bar was created in 1999, after women at Clif Bar lobbied for an energy bar with fewer calories. "In a perfect world, we'd see no packaged food," says Nicole Pemerl, Luna brand manager. "But convenience is huge. We offer women something thought out for them."

    More recently, Luna has expanded into tea cakes (soft cookies) and elixir (think organic Crystal Light).

    Luna's newest rival: Bellybar, an energy bar for pregnant or nursing women. It's got extra calcium and Omega-3.

    "Pregnant women are hungry all the time," says Leslie Sagalowicz, co-founder of its maker, NutraBella. "It's a healthy alternative to candy bars."
  • Breads. Woman's Tortillas rolled out late last year as a follow-up to the popular Woman's Bread from French Meadow Bakery. They've got lots of flax seed and are high in omegas and protein. And they're organic.

    A loaf fetches up to $5.99.

    "To help women understand their needs, I had to shock them with the kooky name, Woman's Bread," says Lynn Gordon, president of French Meadow.
  • Beverages. Republic of Tea, in a venture with Luna, recently rolled out Nutritional Iced Tea for Women. One 12-ounce bottle goes for $2.99.

    Coca-Cola is in the chase, too.

    Coke last year rolled out pink Tab Energy, a women's drink with the slogan: Fuel to be Fabulous. Among celebrity sightings: ultraskinny Nicole Richie.