Exhibs eye healthy eats

Concession stands may offer alternatives

Despite a recent call for healthier food in theaters from Sony topper Michael Lynton at ShoWest, such snacks may be too hard for some exhibs to digest.

Confab attendees say that while healthy snacks are ideal, most often they’re not practical.

Susan Cross, director of communications for the National Assn. of Concessionaires, says the topic is nothing new among theater owners, most of whom have taken a simple stance on the issue: “If it sells, it stays,” she says.

Cross says exhibs have tried healthier options in the past, like fruit cups or salads. But most patrons opt for traditional theater staples — usually popcorn and candy — as part of the moviegoing experience.

The people in the concession industry really believe they’re part of that whole entertainment experience,” she says. “Still, all the concessionaires want to meet their customers’ needs.”

Some vendors on the tradeshow floor have tried to find a happy medium — healthier versions of typically non-healthy food.

Earlier this month, Nestle rolled out in theaters a low-calorie, high-fiber ice cream sandwich called Skinny Cow, which has been available in supermarkets for years.

Pepsi also touted Slushies made from its Dole fruit label and has started using natural cane sugar in some of its soft drinks.

Even popcorn vendor Canola Harvest is pushing a healthier popcorn made with canola oil that has 7% saturated fat, compared to the 92% in the coconut oil used in most popcorn.

Still, when it comes to healthy snacks, Cross says factors like shorter shelf lives, packaging and food preparation all play a role in “finding that right mix for your particular theater.

When you put something in your concession stands, you have to consider all those variables,” she adds. “Everything comes around to what the customer wants.”

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