Functional foods set to surge?

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 18th January 2010

Against the background of growing health consciousness among consumers, the demand for foods that support and enhance health is continuing on an upward trajectory. This is evident from the growing uptake of natural and safe alternatives such as functional foods and beverages and dietary supplements, all of which form an integral part of the nutraceuticals space. Consumers are displaying a preference for convenience food with palpable benefits.

Responding to this trend, the food industry has been working toward offering healthy products, fortified with nutrients to confer potential health benefits that go beyond the purview of simple nutrition. Steadily these products are emerging in the mainstream, although sales results have not been as high as many expected for a number of reasons such as consumer skepticism and ineffective marketing.

New analysis from market researchers Frost & Sullivan, Nutraceuticals–Global Developments in Dietary Supplements, has found, however, that, with the growing awareness among all age groups about healthy living, the consumers’ perspective of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is undergoing a radical change, triggering a shift toward alternative and safe methods such as the use of nutraceutical products.

“Significant volumes of scientific studies have proven that nutraceuticals may be beneficial in preventing the onset of chronic disease conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease conditions, and obesity,” notes Technical Insights Research Analyst Bhavatharini Rajesh. “A higher awareness level of the prevention of various disease conditions is the key driver for companies in the nutraceutical space to develop natural products enriched with vitamins, minerals, proteins, fibres and more.”

Rising healthcare costs are also helping to bolster growth in the nutraceuticals space. Both the ageing population and younger generation are resorting to these preventive measures instead of spending large amounts on conventional treatment.

“Although the prospects for the market look upbeat, regulatory challenges have slowed market momentum,” Rajesh noted. “Manufacturers in this space have to contend with stringent standards imposed by the various regulatory bodies that oversee the safety and efficacy of nutraceutical products.”

To obtain regulatory clearance from the authorities, manufacturers must ensure that their product complies with the standards set by the regulatory board. Therefore, companies must provide adequate scientific proof to confirm that the product is safe for consumption and offers significant health benefits.

Participants in this space have to walk the tightrope, communicating the advantages of their products while conforming to the dictates of the scientific and regulatory bodies, the report concluded.