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Continued: Make it look natural; companies work to make packaged foods appear homespun

  • Article by: CANDICE CHOI , AP Food Industry Writer
  • Last update: June 17, 2013 - 3:45 PM

It wasn't as easy as it sounds since the meat still needs to fit neatly into a package and add up to a certain weight. Morin declined to provide details of the process for competitive reasons but said that no two packages are exactly alike.

"We have a way of making sure that the blade cuts the piece of meat differently with each cut," he said.

At Hillshire Brands Co., which makes lunch meats, hot dogs and sausages, executives also are attuned to the fact that more people prize foods they feel are natural. At an industry conference in February, CEO Sean Connolly noted that in addition to taste, the appearance of its food needed work.

Specifically, Connolly said people wanted a more natural look for lunchmeat that was "moist but not wet." They also wanted the turkey to look "a little bit grainier." Without providing details, a representative for Hillshire, which is based in Chicago, said those changes were achieved through the manufacturing process.

Reggie Moore, the company's vice president of marketing, concedes that the meaning of "natural" is hard to pin down and varies from person-to-person. But as the definition evolves, Hillshire is taking care to signal the natural qualities of its meat visually.

In revamping its turkey slices, for example, one of the cosmetic touchups the company made was darkening the edges of the meat with caramel coloring to give the impression that it was just sliced from a Thanksgiving roast.

Ultimately, Moore said the change didn't really impact the taste.

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