Functional food market growth rates remained well below the levels of the early 'noughties', as a result of tight regulation and a poor economic climate.
However, the global functional food market had grown recently and was valued at £27bn last year, which was 26.7% higher than in 2009, said Jonathan Thomas, Leatherhead’s principal market analyst.
During the economic downturn at the beginning of the millennium, consumers had shifted to cheaper groceries in favour of pricier specialist foods, showed the report ‘Future directions for the global functional foods market’.
Changes to regulation had also hindered growth, as functional food manufacturers had to provide robust scientific evidence to back up health claims on products, he added.
Despite a decline in the industry previously, the sector was picking up and the energy and mood-enhancing sector experienced the most growth. “It is the market’s largest, worth an estimated £10bn in 2013,” Thomas said.
Energy and mood-enhancing products accounted for 27.1% of the total functional food market last year, reflecting the popularity of the products – energy drinks in particular – amongst consumers, according to the report.
Digestive health and heart-health foods were worth £10bn and £8bn respectively and were the next most popular functional food products, it added.
However, foods that claimed to have a positive impact on the immune system were less popular and were valued in the report at £638M globally.
“The functional foods market has experienced fairly strong growth in certain parts of the world,” said Thomas.
“More US consumers appear to be turning towards functional food and drinks in order to address perceived shortfalls, away from dietary supplements, which have traditionally been the preferred option.”
Any future market growth would depend on the global economic situation, he added.
To grow the market further, functional food firms had to target the seven-year gap between total life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, Diana Cowland, senior analyst for health and wellness at Euromonitor told FoodManufacture.co.uk earlier this year.
The functional food market had stagnated in recent years, despite experiencing strong growth in the past, she said.
“We’re not seeing such big growth in the functional food sector as we have in recent years.
“The ageing population should be a clear stimulus for reinvigorating functional food and drink,” she urged.
Meanwhile, read about the top five food and drink trends for 2015.