The US bread industry was expected to hold a crisis summit last week to discuss the recent fall in sales due to rising interest in protein-rich, low carbohydrate regimes such as Atkins. While Atkins has propelled sales for low-carb alternatives, high carbohydrate staples like bread and pasta could suffer significant losses if Atkins is here to stay.

The low-carb Atkins regime appears to have firmly entrenched itself in the US. An eDiets-Datamonitor survey showed that bakery products are the most likely to get axed when dieting, with 16% of respondents claiming they eat less bakery products when dieting. Over 38% also stated that the most important characteristic when dieting was low-carb, followed by low fat (17%).

Many manufactures are taking advantage of the lucrative opportunities created by the Atkins fever. Recent months have seen the proliferation of low-carb products such as Michelob Ultra and Rolling Rock Light. Restaurants have also followed suit. In Atlanta, Balance patrons can get the 'six-pack stomach' special, featuring dishes that are low in fat and carbohydrates.

Not everyone is happy though. More than 100 representatives of the bread industry were expected to meet last week to discuss falling sales resulting from the rising interest in low-carb regimes. According to the National Bread Leadership Council, some 40% of US consumers are eating less bread than a year ago. The summit hoped to dispel some of the 'myths' encouraging consumers to switch from bread to meat. The council argues that the Italians and French, who do not suffer from obesity, eat nearly three times as much bread as Americans.

The bread industry is not the only one worried about the impact of a possible long-term change in eating habits. Earlier this month, leaders in the pasta industry participated in a panel to discuss ways to promote their products to health and weight conscious consumers.

Whether Atkins is a fad or here to stay, it is clear that to keep in the game, manufacturers of long established staples, such as bread and pasta, must offer alternatives that are more appealing to dieting consumers

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