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ACNielsen Study: Good-For-You Items Get Only Temporary New Year's Sales Lift

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Many food and beverage products touting health-related claims on their labels ranging from "reduced carbohydrates" to "fat free" get a sales boost at the New Year, but research released yesterday by ACNielsen U.S. shows that the "January Effect" appears to end just as quickly as New Year's resolutions are forgotten.

The findings are being presented this week during the Consumer 360 education and networking conference for the consumer packaged goods industry. The event is sponsored by VNU businesses ACNielsen and Spectra.

Of the 10 label-claim segments analyzed by ACNielsen through its LabelTrends service, all but one experienced sales gains in the first four-week period of the New Year, vs. the previous four-week period. Only the reduced sodium segment declined. Further, in all cases except one, sales slipped back in the second four-week period of 2005. The reduced-sugar segment was the only one to enjoy continued gains.

"Our research shows the roller coaster people ride as they attempt to eat more healthily," said ACNielsen U.S. s.v.p., marketing Alice Fawver in a statement. "Year-end food-centric holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to bring about something of a healthy-eating hiatus, followed by a short-term spike in buying healthier products that likely coincides with New Year's Resolutions. Clearly, there's a lot of room to grow in encouraging people to make healthy eating a way of life."

Of all label-claim segments analyzed by ACNielsen, the low-/no-fat segment is the largest in terms of dollar volume. In 2004, sales of such products topped $32 billion, far outpacing sales of the second-largest segment, products with low and no sodium.

The carb-conscious segment registered the strongest year-over-year sales gains in 2004. Most of those gains took place in the first half of 2004, however, with sales moderating in the second half. In fact, during the third quarter of 2004, sales began decreasing for the first time since ACNielsen began tracking the segment in 2000. Sales continued to go down until the first four-week period of the New Year.

Many of the health-benefit segments showed strong levels of new product introductions last year. For instance, manufacturers launched more than 3,000 new no-/reduced-fat products in 2004.

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