Food Companies Aim to Reinvent Diet Foods to Stay Relevant

U.S. consumers are shifting away from weight-management foods, forcing companies ranging from Kellogg Co to Nestle SA to change ingredients and focus their marketing on different health benefits as sales slip.

Food companies are grappling with how to market brands such as Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice and Special K, and come out with new products tailored to changing tastes. These days, companies say, consumers care more about ingredients that are simple to understand than they do about counting calories. They also want more ethnic flavors, as well as foods that are higher in protein and gluten-free.

Nestle will shift its Lean Cuisine frozen dinners from a diet brand to one built around “healthy eating and healthy lifestyles,” said Jeff Hamilton, president of the prepared food division, in an interview on Thursday.

The company, whose 2014 sales fell below its long-term goals, said that its performance in North America was hurt by its frozen foods business. Hamilton said the category has been declining annually at an average of 2 percent in recent years.