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Hormel develops low-smell, low-effort food line for cancer patients

November 6, 2014

Cancer patients need a higher-calorie diet than the average person, but eating poses a special challenge to those in the throes of chemotherapy or radiation.

That’s why Hormel’s Specialty Foods division and a West Palm Beach-based organization called the Cancer Nutrition Consortium have teamed up to create a new line of foods specifically for cancer patients.

The line has been designed with fatigue and nausea in mind. Those are the two factors that prevent patients from getting proper nutrition, said Bruce Moskowitz, physician and chairman of the Consortium.

“Most cancer patients are too tired to make a meal, or even shop for for it,” Moskowitz said. “It feels like you’ve just run two New York marathons.”

If a patient does make it to the store, the act of cooking itself can trigger appetite-killing queasiness. Many patients turn to Ensure, a drink with as much sugar as a Coke, Moskowitz said.

“Patients have real difficulty with all the smells that accumulate in the kitchen. I like the smell of coffee and baked bread in the morning, but these are noxious odors to someone going through chemotherapy or radiation,” Moskowitz said.

The Austin, Minn.-based food manufacturer and the Consortium tapped chefs, nutritionists and doctors to weigh in on the process.

The result is a line of nutritionally balanced, high-calorie comfort foods like mac ‘n cheese. They’ll be sealed in a vacuum pack that stays on throughout the cooking process to cut down on food odors. Funkier foods like fish will be masked with odors like apple or pumpkin, which patient focus groups found pleasant.

Moskowitz said they’re still in the process of selecting a name and pricing for the line. Hormel will produce the meals, which will be available to the public in late 2015. Patients will be able to order online and have the products delivered for free.

Hormel is the multinational manufacturer of meat products and brands like Chi-Chi’s, Dinty Moore, and SPAM.

The Cancer Nutrition Consortium is a not-for-profit corporation made up of six member institutions, including Rochester’s Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. It is underwritten by Jeremy M. Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Delaware North Companies, and the Bruce and Marsha Moskowitz Foundation.