Interesting (Yet Disturbing) Food Industry News: Paleo Diet is on the Multinational Food Company Radar

Because of my job, I subscribe to several Food Industry, web-based newsletters.  Last month this article was published.  I’ll quote bits of it, but you should also take the time to read it.

The gist of the article is that Unilever R & D has started a three year project to “identify nutritionally valuable varieties of fruits and vegetables from the past, in order to produce natural food ingredients for the future.”  The project will be focusing on five plants which the team feels has the most potential.  These are mangos, apples, onions, bananas and tea.

The article goes on to state the Unilever has been studying the Paleolithic Diet in its lab for several years.  As a result of these studies the researchers have “recently realized” that the plants that our ancestors thrived on were nutritionally different than the inbred, high yield crops that most people are currently eating.

Unilever plans to identify ancient, or heritage varieties of various plants which have a better nutritional profile than the modern varieties generally in use.  These “Paleolithic” foods will then be incorporated into Unilever products which will be sold as natural, Paleo foods.

I had really mixed reactions when I first read this article.  On one hand, it shows that the Paleo Diet is being viewed as a nutritious, healthful diet in the mainstream. The R & D teams at multinational food companies are very skilled at identifying and capitalizing on the latest food trends.  The Unilever R & D team started looking into this several years ago.  They have decided to put a lot of money into developing Paleo Processed foods.    This strikes me as the ultimate nutritional oxymoron.

It appalls me that in a year or two the multinational food companies will be marketing these Paleo Processed Foods to the masses.  They are gambling that people eating the SAD will have heard that the Paleo Diet is healthy, and will incorporate these new and improved Paleo “food” products into their family’s diet.

It’s the same sort of thing that happened when the Low Carb diet was trending and all the major food companies had low carb line extensions.  Unilever has identified an emerging food trend and hopes to capitalize on it.  I expect the other multinationals will also have Paleo offerings in their lines.

I’m concerned that when these “Paleo” products hit the grocery store shelves, they will create confusion about what the ancestral or paleo diet really is.  This low carb, paleo locavore is going to continue spreading the word that everyone should be eating real food:  unprocessed meat and vegetables, grown in close proximity to where they are eaten.

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