Three top trends to tap into demand for functional foods

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Health claims, Nutrition

Functional foods: three top trends
The top three trends food manufacturers need to consider when devising functional products are ‘naturalness’, demand for energy products and the popularity of fruit – not least because the health properties are either already understood by consumers or have European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approved health claims in place.

Allene Bruce, commercial manager at New Nutrition Business, outlined 10 trends that were driving strategy in the food, drink, nutrition and health sectors at the NutraFormulate show in Birmingham earlier this week (March 20).

While demand for ‘naturalness’ would not come as a surprise to UK manufacturers, she said it was now evident all over Europe.

“Naturalness means many things to different people, but for consumers it tends to mean fewer and more simple ingredients and that it has a functional health benefit. The really good thing is that products associated with naturalness don’t need other health claims, because consumers already think it has functional benefits,”​ she said. A recent survey found that only 1% of consumers thought ‘natural’ products had no health benefits.

A major recent development, she added, was how the natural trend was also being adopted by brands which might not normally be associated with health.

Stella Artois

For example, Stella Artois launched a major advertising campaign to promote that its lager contained only four ingredients. Haagen Dazs did something similar for its five ingredients, even though two of them were cream and sugar, showing that major brands clearly believe fewer ingredients are perceived positively by consumer, regardless of what they are.

Despite energy drinks being on the market since 1973, Bruce added there were still plenty of growth opportunities in the market with tiredness and a lack of energy being the third highest consumer health concern.

She said very few products were targeted at older people or those who didn’t relate to the “Redbull image”.​ Furthermore, the sector is ​super premium”​ – with many products selling for £1.98 ($3) a litre more than Coca-Cola, while caffeine, a key ingredient, already has an approved health claim that can be used on packaging.

Fruity opportunities

The third trend ripe for product development was fruit, she said, with consumers seeing it is as one of the few indulgences they can eat guilt-free, even though it is high in natural sugars.

"There is a lot of potential here,"​ she said. "Research in fruit is now where it was in dairy 20 years ago”

New studies were increasingly finding “new niches”,​  including benefits in terms of immunity, satiety and digestion.

What’s more, only 15% of the recommended daily amount of fruit has to be included per 100ml of a product to use its associated EFSA health claims, such as the one for vitamin C and its immunity benefits, she added.

The remaining seven trends were

  • Dairy
  • Targeting the seniors market
  • Healthy snacking
  • Packaging and ‘premiumisation’
  • Digestive health
  • Weight management
  • Immunity

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