The rapidly growing functional foods industry has seen its consumer base expand beyond consumers with specific medical needs to include those who are merely concerned about future health risks and even those who find that functional foods offer lifestyle benefits, shows the Datamonitor report.
"Functional foods are filling an increasingly important part of our lifestyle, as we look to products enhanced with particular ingredients to get us through the day. There is an increasing demand from consumers who have no medical concerns, but who find that their lifestyle is improved or enhanced by the inclusion of gut health products in their diet, for example," comments Andrew Russell, author of the report.
This is highlighted by the data. While there is a much bigger number of consumers diagnosed and at-risk for both bone and heart health problems, products marketed for their gut health benefits generated the most sales by value in 2002 (€857 million). This cateogry is predicted to reach €1.2 billion in 2007, higher than bone health, heart health and the energy-giving products.
It appears that gut health products offer consumers benefits such as 'general wellness' and 'lightness and energy', according to buyers of probiotic yoghurts, questioned for the survey.
But while consumers may believe there are mental and emotional benefits to 'knowing that one is eating healthy', some of these benefits, such as 'general wellness', are the kind of claims set to come under the hammer in the new health claims regulation recently proposed by the European Commission.
However, significant activity in Europe's probiotics market in the last year suggests that companies are realising the importance of better marketing of different strains. Branding and marketing campaigns have driven the growing consumer awareness of gut health, and smaller companies seem to be following this approach. Sweden has also recently approved Europe's first 'gut health claim' although it is uncertain whether this will be included in a European regulation.
The report, 'Changing needs in functional food and drinks', adds that the advice given to consumers about health issues increasingly focuses on diet and lifestyle as much as on medicine, and as a result, consumers more readily accept the idea that changes in diet can have significant effects on health. This means that consumers are more likely to choose functional products based on their ability to make long-term changes to the overall quality of life.
See here for more information on the report.