Issue 2 - April, 2021 - Brian Emmerton, RD

Stealth Health: Improving Your Product Offerings…One Secret at A Time!

It may be hard to believe, but, Canadian manufacturers have been making changes to their products for the last 10 years with the goal of improving the health and well-being of Canadians…and not saying a word about it!
The concept is called “stealth health.”  It was coined by a scientist at Yale University (Dr. David Katz) who had the idea of creating healthier habits for daily living.  Stealth health can be defined as: making changes to ingredients or recipes to improve the nutritional attributes of a food or product without promoting or advertising the added benefits.
Stealth health can take many forms, such as:
  • Improving nutrient density (e.g. adding healthy multi-grain flours and oats). 
  • Including ingredients with added health benefits (e.g. the explosion of cranberries and almonds in many snack bars).
  • Reducing or eliminating unhealthy ingredients (e.g. lower in sodium or reduced fat snacks). 
  • Cleaning up the ingredient deck so that consumers know what is in the product and can name every ingredient without researching it.
With all this potential good news, why would manufacturers not want to promote the added health benefits? It is for the simple reason to protect the brand and the perception of the customer.  Consumers may not want their favourite brands to change, so the last thing manufacturers want to do is alienate existing customers by forcing healthily claims or the perception that a product will not taste as good anymore.  The formula changes to recipes must be carefully executed and often can happen gradually over time.  Let’s reflect on one of the best executions of stealth health: the Oreo® cookie’s evolution to a healthier option.  
In the early 2000’s a lot of attention was being paid to the risks of Trans fats and the high level of hydrogenated oils used particularly in the baking and snack industry. At the time, Nabisco made an announcement they would work towards removing these unhealthy oils from all of their products, and they went to work.  By 2006 their famous Oreo® cookie contained no Trans fats, however there was an absence of a large marketing campaign to highlight this; the packaging ingredients were update but you never saw a “no Trans fat” tag on the package, and customers never tasted the difference.  Extensive product development and work went into formulation changes to ensure customers wouldn’t see any noticeable difference in the Oreo® cookie.  The result…higher sales! Legacy customers stayed with the product, and consumers paying attention to Trans fats could see from the ingredient deck that the cookie did not contain any; therefore, incremental sales were achieved.
Some manufacturers have chosen to go all out to promote the perceived added health benefits, for example potato chips are being marketed as cholesterol free (surprise, they always were!) were not because of improved formulations, the interest in consumers for healthier snacks drove interest in promoting the product as a possible healthier snack item.
What does this mean for you?  Providing choice and balance in your product offerings. Pay attention to the top sellers while also ensuring that at least 10 % of what you offer caters to the health-conscious customer group who want to indulge without feeling guilty about it. 
Looking for other Stealth Health products for your vending, office coffee, or micro-market operation? Let Complete Purchasing Services (CPS) vending (formerly Univend) help you to find the perfect mix of products for your customer base. Take advantage of CPS’ “Best Value” pricing on hundreds of essential items and assistance from a dedicated locally-based Account Manager, in addition to a wealth of easy-to-use tools and helpful resources to help you run your business more efficiently and effectively. 
About the Author:
Brian Emmerton is a Registered Dietitian and the Vice President and General Manager of Complete Purchasing Services Inc, a leading supply chain solutions provider for non-commercial clients and hospitality organizations across Canada. Brian has been working in foodservice and consumer affairs for over 30 years to help clients source food and nutrition options that deliver experiences that enrich and nourish lives. Learn more about how Complete Purchasing Services can help your organization by visiting

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Issue 2 - April 2021
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