The future of functional food regulation, Canadean
Strict regulations on health claims have made Europe a centre for clinical trials in the functional food market. Japan, on the contrary, has become a test hub for innovation, according to market research organisation Canadean.
Europe a difficult market for functional food
In Europe, the number of approved health claims in food is extremely low, according to Canadean. Until March 2014, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has only approved 254 health claims out of the 2,242 submitted.
This has made Europe a hard market for manufacturers, according to Canadean. But it is also an important market, as it provides a gold standard test for health claims.
Japan less strict
Canadean said Japan was on the other end of the spectrum. The stability of Japan’s FOSHU system, as well as its less strict demands for clinical evidence, has made Japan a popular test market for new ingredients, according to Canadean.
By early 2014, total approvals in Japan had reached over 1,100 – five times higher than the number of approvals in Europe. Canadean said Japan stood out among developed countries for the range of approved innovative health ingredients.
Particularly in digestive health and immune support, such as the use of probiotics, there has been a high number of claims in Japan. Where the underlying clinical evidence is seen as too poor to get the approval in EU, Japan has approved probiotics as functional foods, resulting in many new different ways of using these in foods.
According to Canadean analyst, Ronan Stafford, Japan is the centre of functional innovation, “both in terms of the regulatory attitude towards approval of novel ingredients but also in the willingness of consumers to embrace new and unusual functional ingredients”.
Most functional food and drink consumers in US
The largest number of functional food and drinks consumers is in the US – especially as a market for lifestyle health products.
Emerging hubs such as China, India and Brazil are less important for now, but stand to exert significant influence over the functional food and drinks market in the future, according to Canadean.
More approvals likely
Canadean said the future of the regulatory landscape was hard to predict. Large emerging markets such as India, China, and Brazil will adopt stricter regulation, according to Canadean, although it is unclear how closely this will be enforced in the short term.
The second key future event is the ‘rump’ of approvals in Europe – particularly the possibility of approval for probiotic health claims.
The dairy sector, and particularly yogurt, remains the most closely linked with probiotics. Other categories such as savoury snacks and energy bars are starting to include probiotics, according to Canadean. US company, Powerful Yogurt, was the first to launch a yogurt-covered protein bar with 20 grams of natural protein and premium probiotics.
“Clinical trials evidence has lagged EFSA’s approvals process by 6-10 years so within the next five years we should see more definitive outcomes on a range of ingredients,” Mr Stafford said.