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Marketers dish out healthier Super Bowl snacks

USA Today, January 27, 2006

Hold that chip. And that dip. And that Super(size) Bowl of chili.

Better-for-you foodies -- from Newman's Own to Stonyfield Farm to Whole Foods Market -- have a near-heretical message: Their grub could provide partygoers a nutritionally friendly Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl may seem an unlikely haven for healthy food mavens. But gobs of people will consume as many -- or more -- calories while watching the Super Bowl then they take in at Thanksgiving Dinner, one nutritionist says.

"The Super Bowl coincides with the official end of New Year's resolutions," says Robyn Flipse, a registered dietitian. She applauds the better-for-you marketing -- but doesn't think it will work.

Many viewers will eat more than 3,000 calories on Super Bowl Sunday -- about equal to their Thanksgiving meal. Why? Much is linked to nervous snacking, Flipse says. And many viewers who watch the game, she says, feel oddly entitled "to eat like football players."

But Lisa Katic, a registered dietician who consults for the Snack Food Association, says it supports "sensible" snacking on game day. But for those who don't, "It's not doomsday," she says. One day of overeating won't lead to long-term weight gain, she says.

Even then, some familiar marketers are trying to cash in on nutrition-minded consumers who keep one eye on the calories and one eye the game:

  • Newman's Own. The food line founded by Paul Newman just ran a national newspaper ad urging folks to spend halftime eating salads made with Newman's Own Lighten Up salad dressings. "Who would have thunk that Newman's Own would be sharing ideas around Super Bowl parties?" says Michael Harvard, marketing chief.
  • Whole Foods. The natural grocer has sections in many stores promoting healthier game snacks, such as vegan meatballs and roasted peppers with goat cheese. One ad to run next week in the Los Angeles Times touts its $79.99 Party in a Box with "all natural" snacks.
  • Stonyfield Farms. The dairy maker is promoting online "Super Healthy" low-cal dips made with Stonyfield yogurt. "If eating healthy is your New Year's resolution," the Web promotion says, then Stonyfield can help you keep it through the game.
  • Emerald Nuts. For a second year, Emerald Nuts will advertise on the Super Bowl, hoping, among other things, to drive viewers to its website for nutritional data on nuts, says Tim Cannon, marketing director at Diamond Foods. "We're trying to introduce younger consumers to a snack that's healthier."
  • California Avocado Commission. The group is unleashing West Coast radio ads suggesting Big Game celebrants consider avocados for more than dip -- and even plop them in salads. More avocados are eaten during the Super Bowl than on any other occasion, says Jan DeLyser, the commission's marketing chief.