Businesses jump on low-carb bandwagon

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Low-carbohydrate diets may be shrinking waistlines around Craig, but they're also adding to the bottom line for local food markets.

Major grocery stores like Craig's City Market and Safeway have been increasing their selections of the low-carbohydrate foods that customers seek in response to the Atkins diet food craze. The manager of City Market, Kirk Mahaffie, said the changes are mostly the result of customers' requests.

According to the Atkins plan, dieters should stay away from eating high-sugar foods like breads, pasta, cereal and starchy vegetables. Dieters can lose weight by sticking with high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets that satisfy hunger while keeping dieters away from sugars found in its various forms.

In response to the trend, Subway, the fast food sandwich chain, recently emerged with a new line of Atkins-Friendly Wraps at all 16,500 Subway shops nationwide starting this week.

The wraps are made from wheat and soy grains, which are high in protein and fiber, but low in carbohydrates. However, consumers will pay more for the bread alternative -- about 50 cents more than for Subway's conventional, 6-inch sandwiches.

Yet for some Atkins dieters the price may be worth it.

Doris Sadvar has followed the Atkins diet for more than a year, a feat that helped the Craig woman lose a total of 58 pounds.

According to diet restrictions, she can order hamburgers at the local McDonald's or Wendy's, but she has to forgo the bun.

"You get to the point where you want to eat something that's made fast," she said. "I'm excited to try this new thing."

Mary Funkhouser, owner of Naturally Fine Herbs in Craig, said low-carb items have been hot sellers for the last few years. Stores that offer foods catered to the Atkins diet's specifications are making smart business choices she said.

"As far as I'm concerned, (stores) have done their marketing or they wouldn't come out with it," Funkhouser said. "The biggest problem we have is our distributors can't keep up with demand."

Funkhouser said she has expanded her store's low-carb and Atkins products in the last six months to keep up with the increased demand.

Local eatery Beef and Peppers restaurant in the Centennial Mall now offers its own low-carb menu. Late last month, fast food chains Hardee's and Carl's Jr. jumped on board and announced new bunless burgers wrapped in lettuce to meet Atkins dieters needs.

Sadvar said she's managed to meet most of her dieting needs by shopping at the specialty sections at local grocery stores and eating at some of Craig's Atkin's-friendly restaurants.

She believes the low-carb dieting trend is gaining momentum. Case in point: when others notice her personal weight loss and wonder how she does it.

"I've talked to a lot of people who want to know how I'm losing weight," Sadvar said. "They want to know what they can do to get the same results. I think that's what making the diet pretty widespread."

While Funkhouser questions the health benefits of dieters sticking to the protein-rich, low-carb Atkins diet for long periods of time, the fad has helped get people hooked on some healthy new foods.

"I like it because it introduces people to some new grains," she said. "It makes people aware of what kinds of foods put on weight and what helps to take it off."

President and founder of Subway, Fred DeLuca, said the new Atkins tie-in could boost the stores sales up to 10 percent, the USA Today reported Dec. 26.

DeLuca said the changes were in response to consumer buying habits.

And giving customers what they want is always a good business choice, Funkhouser said.

"It's smart marketing," she said. "I think the (Atkins diet) is just going to keep going."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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