SOURCE: Rothman Research

Rothman Research

May 19, 2010 08:47 ET

The War on Obesity Gets New Allies

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA--(Marketwire - May 19, 2010) - - In the last winter Olympics held in Vancouver the United States won 37 medals in total, and in the 2008 Beijing Olympics the U.S. snatched 110 medals. And yet this is the same nation with an obesity rate in children that could scare Olympians' healthy image away. The obesity trend as it stands in the U.S. of A is alarming, with 1 of every 3 children already flagged as either been overweight or out-and-out obese by Pediatricians. The United States is now mobilizing led not by its Commander in Chief, but by the first lady, Michelle Obama, to fight the war against calories -- mission name 'Let's Move.' The front-fighters on this war are some of the country's big names in the food industry which supply about 20 to 25 percent of food by volume. These companies have vouched that they will cut over one trillion calories out of their products in the next five years. 

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Healthy living is not a new concept in the United States, but is one that is very often under scrutiny by health officials and non-partisan organizations which are working hard to avoid an irreversible health tendency amongst its population. Many food companies, beverage manufacturers and retailers have already been selling products with no- to low-fat and free to low-sugar for years, and the market responded well to these products. With the anti-obesity initiatives, companies like ConAgra Foods Inc. (NYSE: CAG), General Mills Inc., Krafts Food Inc., Kellogg Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Coca-cola Co. are showing their willingness to tackle one of the main health issue plaguing the U.S. society. This major free-will step from the private sector is viewed as a strong indication that it is not the fear of food-policing but rather the health concern that is bringing politics and corporate America to work together. On a corporate level, however, this move to sanction Mrs. Obama's call for healthier food is also a voluntary shift to deflect potential food taxes and other measures that could have impacted costs. 

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With the food industry treading a healthier path, some companies like The Hain Celestial Group Inc. (NASDAQ: HAIN) which are already proactive on healthy food are potential trading targets for investors. It is not a mere coincidence that in the midst of these dramatic events shaping the food industry billionaire investor Carl Icahn announced that he now has an 11.9% stake in The Hain Celestial.

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