Functional foods can buck recession

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Functional foods, Nutrition

The global functional foods market will be worth about €175 billion by 2012 – a 25 per cent jump over 2007 levels of €120bn, according to Euromonitor International data.

In a global health and wellness market, the researcher puts at €450bn, functional foods are the fastest growing sector and second in value to naturally healthy foods (€155bn), both now and in 2012.

By 2012, better-for-you foods (€140bn) will be the third highest selling category, followed by vitamins and food supplements (€60bn); organic (€24bn); botanicals (€22bn); slimming products (€8bn); food intolerance products (€6bn) and sports nutrition products (€2.4bn).

The data was presented in a recent presentation by Euromonitor analyst, Ewa Hudson, that considered the effects of the economic slow-down on the healthy foods sector and found those foods that delivered real benefits at a reasonable price had the best chance of survival.

Such foods, which included those fortified with calcium, vitamin D, plant sterols, omega-3 and probiotic, were likely to be considered must-haves rather than unnecessary indulgences, Hudson noted.

Is it worth it?

But the whole sector, while still growing, faced tough times ahead with functional foods and drinks annual growth rates dropping below five per cent by 2012.

With the ongoing financial crisis hitting consumer's pockets – and fears the worst is yet to come – the future of nutraceuticals seems uncertain,”​ Hudson said. “Consumers ask: Beauty Pills? Fat-burning drinks? Is it really worth it? Consumers demand that manufacturers justify the extra expenditure their products require.”

She said successful products offered a particular health or lifestyle benefit that will profit them in the long term.

“Consumers need to understand and accept what they pay the premium for,”​ she concluded.

Key trends

Hudson noted several key trends including ‘beauty from within’ where skin, nails and hair were increasingly being targeted with supplements and foods.

Products included an aloe vera skin health yoghurt that had achieved sales of €4.5m in Spain in 2007. This sector has however had a shadow cast over it by the recent withdrawal of Danone’s beauty yoghurt, Essensis from the French market and its failure to take hold in other European or markets.

Weight management was another key area, with whey, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) soy and dietary fibre heading the list of star ingredients.

Digestive health, immunity and heart health were other highlighted areas.

In heart health, global fish oil supplement sales would grow 32 per cent from €1.6bn in 2007 to €2bn in 2012 with the US (30 per cent), the UK (13 per cent) and Japan (11 per cent) accounting for almost half of those sales.

Euromonitor put the global omega-3 foods market at €1.2bn. Also in the heart-health area, sterol foods came in at more than double - €2.5bn.

In the digestive health/immunity area, sales of pre- and probiotic yoghurts hit €12.4bn, a 108 per cent increase on 2002 levels.

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