Food manufacturers develop organic and healthy products

Jennifer Vogelsong, contributing writer//May 15, 2019

Food manufacturers develop organic and healthy products

Jennifer Vogelsong, contributing writer//May 15, 2019

Consumers are more conscious than ever about what they put into their bodies, and meat and dairy manufacturers are adapting with new products.

Bob Kessler, president of Kessler Foods in Lemoyne, said his company is constantly working to develop new items – not only for its own brands, but also for other retailers and distributors for whom it co-manufactures products under its clients’ labels.

The company, best known for hot dogs, sausages, bologna and deli meats, has produced natural products using antibiotic-free beef, pork, chicken and turkey for several years. Recently it increased exposure for organic-certified products through marketing campaigns.

Kessler developed a sugar-free beef frank late last summer for its largest customer, which caters to the paleo diet market. Consumers who follow a paleo diet eat as ancient hunters and gatherers did, focusing on lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

“It has done extremely well,” he said.

Tastes also are shifting from margarine to butter as consumers add fats back into their diets.

Catherine Fox, senior marketing director at Land O’Lakes, Inc., which has a production facility in Cumberland County, said there has been strong growth in butter sales in recent years, with particular interest in premium dairy products.

The shift is partly due to greater awareness of the harmfulness of trans fats, which are found in margarine but not butter, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We like to say ‘butter is back,’” she said. “Consumers are recognizing the nutritional value of butter and preferences are moving to it as a result.”

Products in new flavors – whether that’s pumpkin pie spice butter from Land O’Lakes or siracha-flavored sausages from Kessler – have proven popular among consumers.

“Tex-Mex and Mexican-flavored foods continue to be popular,” Kessler said. “We’ll be reintroducing a jalapeno cheddar cheese frank here soon.”

Mark O’Neill, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said more and more farmers are moving to organic-certified products as consumers become more conscious of buying fresh, local foods.

Consumer demand for organically produced goods has increased about ten times over the past decade, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Increasing consumer preference for foods free of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and other chemicals propelled the market to nearly $7.6 billion in 2016, more than double the $3.5 billion in sales in 2011.

O’Neill said farm-to-table restaurants that include a number of locally grown or sourced products continue to be popular.

Agritourism – the use of agricultural land for tourism, education and entertainment purposes – also is becoming popular among young adults, who want to connect with the sources of their food.

“We are definitely seeing some success stories there,” O’Neill said.