The top three trends were: Real food nutrition, 'mini-managers' – or preference for healthier versions of stable foods – and bioavailability – the search for foods that will deliver important nutrients that will protect against disease.
More consumers are choosing foods for their inherent nutritional value, such as nuts or fruits, and integrating whole food supplements, such as coconut milk, into the diet, rather than supplementing with a vitamin, revealed the research.
Dr Elizabeth Sloan, who led the research and is president of Sloan Trends, said: "Consumers are preferring to get their nutrients naturally and their health benefits naturally, versus fortified foods or vitamin and mineral supplements."
"This has been going on for 20 years. What's new is that it's being put into action."
Vitamins and nutrition
The number of consumers who tried to serve meals that are naturally higher in vitamins and nutrition rose by 6% from 36% to 42% between 2009 to 2011, researchers discovered.
During the same period, vitamin and supplement users reported cutting consumption significantly. The reasons were: a belief that the quality and benefits of nutrition in foods was best, doubts about the bioavailability of even the highest quality supplements and concerns about the long-term effects on the digestive system, according to the research.
Also consumers believed that vitamins and minerals were more beneficial when consumed in food, said Sloan.
Mini-managers, the second top trend, confirmed that growing numbers of consumers preferred, to seek out healthier versions of staple products such as bread and pasta. This was in preference to making drastic dietary changes,
Sloan highlighted one study which revealed 66% of shoppers reported switching to whole grain bread.
Others were said to consider whether a product has artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup when evaluating its nutritional value.
Bioavailability, the third top trend, reflected consumers’ belief that nutrition plays a key role in maintaining health and staving off serious diseases, said Sloan. Acting on this opinion, more consumers will seek products that help them get important nutrients, she predicted.
Sloan highlighted the results of one unnamed study which revealed:
• 55% of consumers believe calcium is very effective for bone health.
• 55% believe fibre is very effective against colon cancer.
• 38% believe omega vitamins are very effective for heart health.
For consumers who buy dietary supplements, magnesium was the fastest-growing mineral – up 25% last year.
The full article about the Top Functional Food Trends will be in the April 2012 issue of the IFT’s Food Technology magazine.
Top 10 functional food trends
• Real food nutrition
• Protein power
• Plant Based
• Gourmet nutrition
• New risks (stroke and heart attack prevention)
• First aid (relief from sore throat, constipation and sleeplessness)
• Kids, dads and grannies (appealing to these groups)
• Liquidification of foods.