From Tuscan-seasoned chicken breast strips to cubed honey-baked ham to sliced sopressata salami, meat and poultry processors are well poised to offer flavorful, innovative and satiating proteins for ready-to-eat (RTE) meals and snacks. These convenience foods often complement the many varied high-protein lifestyles that a growing number of today’s consumers follow.
In fact, one in three US consumers indicate they are following a specific diet or eating pattern, such as paleo, keto and low-carb, with many increasingly averse to carbohydrates and sugar, according to the 2018 Annual Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, Washington, D.C. These lifestyle diets are expected to increase in popularity. Currently they are mostly followed by younger consumers (age 18 to 34) who will eventually influence household eating patterns once they partner and parent.
Processors are getting creative with the flavors and forms of the fully cooked meat and poultry items they offer for inclusion in RTE meals, such as bowls, salads and protein boxes, as well as snack packs and kits. Often, processors are incorporating innovative technologies to eliminate artificial and unfriendly ingredients to complement today’s clean-label trend. This includes making claims of no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, as well as sourcing and processing claims, such as uncured, grass-fed and no GMOs.
Clean label has always been Chipotle Mexican Grill’s platform. So, it’s no surprise that the quick-service chain recently introduced a line of Lifestyle Bowls. These first-to-category, diet-driven menu offerings are helping those who have committed to living a healthier lifestyle by making it easy to order delicious bowls that only contain the real ingredients permitted by certain diet regimens, including keto, paleo and Whole30. There’s also a Double Protein Bowl for general low-carb diners. All four bowls feature seasoned meat or poultry along with other real ingredients.
“We are always looking for ways to make the Whole30 easier and more accessible, and travel has always been a pain point,” said Melissa Hartwig Urban, co-founder of Whole30. “It’s not always easy to find compliant options on the road, so I was thrilled to work with Chipotle to create a tasty, satisfying salad bowl that meets our program guidelines.”
Whole30 is a 30-day nutrition reset eating plan designed to eliminate unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal the digestive tract and balance the immune system. Created in 2009, Whole30 has helped millions of people change their health, habits and relationship with food. Meat and poultry are a prominent component of this elimination diet that excludes grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol, sweeteners and specific controversial ingredients, such as monosodium glutamate and carrageenan.
Chipotle’s Whole30 bowl features romaine lettuce, carnitas, fajita veggies, tomato salsa and guacamole. The paleo bowl is romaine lettuce, barbacoa, fajita veggies, green salsa and guacamole, while the keto bowl is romaine lettuce, carnitas, red salsa, cheese and guacamole. The Double Protein Bowl is all about the meat. It features full portions of both chicken and steak, along with white rice, black beans, red salsa, romaine lettuce and sour cream.
These fresh bowls can easily be modified to be multi-component products offered in the prepared foods section of supermarkets. Frozen bowls would simply eliminate the lettuce.
Protein boxes and snack boxes can also easily be designed for these higher-protein lifestyle diets. The rules to follow are that the keto diet is approximately 70 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent each simple carbohydrates and non-starchy vegetables. The paleo diet is all about meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats and oils. Foods to avoid include anything processed, sugar, soft drinks, grains, most dairy products, legumes, artificial sweeteners, vegetable oils, margarine and trans fats.