Opportunities abound for heart health focussed food products but so does skepticism

Posted by James Ferre on 26th June 2009

Despite numerous warnings about the risks that cardiovascular diseases pose, Australians are still not doing enough to improve their heart health, according to Datamonitor Consumer Markets Analyst Mark Whalley. Only a third of people in Australia told Datamonitor that they pay a ‘high’ or ‘very high’ amount of attention to their heart health. Worryingly, more than a quarter (26%) admitted that they only pay a ‘low’ or ‘very low’ amount of attention to what is a critical issue both at home and abroad.

Heart healthy food

The news presents an opportunity to the food industry but is hampered by the skepticism that abounds within the consumer mindset.

The World Health Organization estimated that 17.5 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2005, and, that if something is not done to reverse the trend, that this figure will rise to 20.5 million by 2020.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that many people globally underestimate the threat of heart disease. In a survey published by Harvard Health Publications, half of women correctly stated that cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in women. However, only 13% categorised it as their greatest health risk, instead the majority pointed to breast cancer.

Functional food manufacturers are attempting to rectify this problem by creating products that claim to benefit the heart. This has resulted in a number of interesting products that claim to actively lower cholesterol or even burn calories, Mr Whalley noted.

“However, Australians remain skeptical about the credibility of such products, especially those which tout calorie-burning properties,” he advised.

When surveyed by Datamonitor, 37% considered these claims to be untrustworthy, compared to just 14% who said that they could definitely be trusted. Despite this, there has been an overall increase in interest in products that are heart healthy. Omega 3 has emerged as an ingredient which consumers are familiar with, and foods which claim to be low in saturated fats or low in cholesterol are increasingly popular.

“There are positive signs that products are getting better for our hearts, but they need to do more to convince people that they are worth the money in difficult financial times,” Mr Whalley concluded.