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A Healthy Lifestyle

Lifestyle Foods Inc., a fresh-cut processor based in York, Pa., has only been operating for four years, but already it’s expanding its lineup around healthful food choices.

“I think healthy food is in demand everywhere. I think it’s an emerging category,” said Jason Bross, president and one of the founders of Lifestyle Foods.

Bross started in the food industry in 1996 at Winter Gardens, a Pennsylvania-based processor, and quickly rose to president and CEO of the company before starting the new company in 2005. His goals as president of Lifestyle Foods are to sell the company’s products in every Starbucks store in the country and have an ad in New York City’s Times Square, according to the Lifestyle Foods Web site (http://www.lifestylefoods.net).

Ray Lopez Jr. is the chief operating officer for Lifestyle Foods. He has more than 10 years experience in the food industry, most recently with Winter Gardens, has a degree in chemistry and is a member of the American Chemists Society, American Society for Quality and the Institute of Food Technologists. Lopez oversees the plant operations, food safety, quality and raw material sourcing for the company.

Lifestyle Foods began processing fresh-cut salads in 2006 and has since grown its distribution of fresh-cut salads and snacks throughout the East Coast region. The grab-and-go snacks are self-contained – with a fork or spoon if needed – and have fewer than 200 calories.

Lifestyle Foods Healthy Salad line was designed to be a complete salad meal in a package. It’s made up of seven items, three with protein (Asian Salad with Chicken, Caesar Salad with Chicken and Grilled Turkey Chef Salad). Caesar, Fiesta, Garden and Greek round out the category. The salads come with lettuce and all the mixed-in ingredients, as well as a knife, fork and napkin for quick meals on-the-go.

There are six products in the Healthy Snacks line from Lifestyle Foods, all with names implying health or fitness. Essential is a breakfast pack with a bagel, light cream cheese, a hard-boiled egg, sliced apples and seedless grapes. Awake also makes a good breakfast choice, with trail mix, a granola bar, apple slices and seedless grapes. The Hollywood snack pack has honey wheat pretzels, apple slices, grapes and Swiss cheese. The Manhattan snack has baby carrots paired with pita and red pepper hummus, with cheddar cubes and crackers on the side. The Miami snack has fat-free yogurt, crunchy granola, apple slices and grapes. And last, the Power Up snack has peanut butter, pretzels, raisins and apple slices.

The snack trays use a modified atmosphere to extend shelf life, and each item is separated in its own compartment to eliminate cross-contamination. In the case of salads with a protein, the meat is sealed in its own bag.

In late December, Lifestyle Foods announced that it was expanding its salad line with four new side salad products. The line is marketed at health-conscious consumers, with each salad containing fewer than 150 calories, and was designed to replace french fries or a bag of chips with the same convenience. There are two Garden salads in the line, one with light ranch and the other with Italian dressing, made with Romaine lettuce, baby carrots and grape tomatoes. The Caesar salad has a low-fat Caesar dressing, croutons and crisp Romaine lettuce, and the Spring Mix side salad is made with a mix of micro-greens, carrots and tomatoes with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. The side salads also have a fork, to add to the convenience factor.

The side salad expansion of Lifestyle Foods’ fresh-cut products also shows where the company is going with its package design. The new products have a streamlined design that reduces the size of the label and the amount of plastic needed for the container. The plastic used for the packaging also comes from post-consumer recycled material or plastic made from material that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

“We pride ourselves on being innovative and pride ourselves on bringing new products to the market that are healthy and convenient for consumers,” Bross said.

The Lifestyle Foods salads, side salads and snack packs can be found at retail supermarkets, convenience stores and even in vending machines throughout the East Coast, Bross said.

The grab-and-go items can be found at some non-traditional sites as well, including business and institutional buildings, airports and fitness centers. At the LA Fitness gym in York, the owner of the in-store café even has a Lifestyle Foods case. The company is always looking for new avenues to reach consumers concerned about eating healthy but unable to find quick, convenient fruit or vegetables, Bross said.

“Healthy foods, that’s pretty much what our focus has been from the beginning,” Bross said. “And that’s where we’re going to continue to grow.”

The company reaches out to consumers with promotions, including one in the fall that paired a Lifestyle Foods snack pack with Voss water for $3.99 at Sheetz convenience stores. There’s also online communication with consumers through the company’s Web site (http://www.lifestylefoods.net), its Twitter page (http://twitter.com/lifestylefoods) and Facebook fan page.

Originally posted Friday, Feb. 5, 2010

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