NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Pizza Hut said Wednesday it will offer its customers a low-fat alternative to its regular line of pizzas in order to target an increasing number of health-conscious consumers.
"The product offering is consistent with the important trend of getting in shape and getting healthy," said Doug Christopher, an analyst at Crowell Weedon & Co. "New products typically help to add incremental sales. The question is whether it's a great product, and only time will tell."
The new line of pizzas, dubbed Fit 'N Delicious, have half the cheese of the company's regular Thin 'N Crispy recipes and leaner meats, including chicken and ham, the company said.
A slice of the new pizza contains 3.5 to 5 grams of fat, which is 25 percent less than the regular-recipe pizzas.
"As the nation's largest pizza restaurant chain, we must consider consumers' changing lifestyles and provide them with lower-fat alternatives and great-tasting menu options," Pizza Hut spokesman Tom James said.
Shares of Yum! Brands (YUM: up $0.10 to $32.72, Research, Estimates), parent company of Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell, were little changed Wednesday afternoon.
The company also said it will offer new, bagged, family-size salad kits in some cities including, Orlando, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Duluth, Minn., Rochester, Minn., and Salt Lake City beginning in November. While the company has offered a salad bar at its locations for years, this new offering is intended for take-out customers.
Growing demand for low-fat options
Several fast-food chains have begun responding to health-conscious consumers, and discussions about growing obesity, in recent months by introducing lower fat and calorie options. Taco Bell and Burger King both launched such new menu items in September.
The growing trend of fast-food restaurants creating lower-fat products has resulted from consumer demand for the lighter fare and a fundamental shift in the way consumers are viewing food, nutritionists said.
"I'm delighted the industry is doing this," said Susan Finn, chairwoman of the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition, and a registered dietician. "Because of the obesity epidemic, I think the industry recognizes people want healthier choices and they are responding."
The push for lower-calorie fast foods has also been quickened by recent lawsuits over obesity. Many of these claims allege that certain foods were responsible for making the plaintiffs overweight. Though the claims largely have either been withdrawn or dismissed by judges, the publicity surrounding them has heightened concerns.
Earlier this month, McDonald's (MCD: down $0.37 to $24.02, Research, Estimates) appointed a new director of worldwide nutrition.
"With McDonald's, the healthier options have really been part of its turnaround," Christopher said.
McDonald's shares have soared 51.7 percent in 2003. Last week the company said its sales at stores open at least a year jumped 10 percent in September, up for the sixth-straight month, helped by its new premium salad line, which was introduced last spring.
Meanwhile, shares of Yum! Brands have jumped 34.7 percent since the start of the year. The company posted third-quarter earnings last week that rose from the same quarter the prior year and beat Wall Street's average expectation by a penny.