Euromonitor examines functional foods in continental Europe

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Functional food Nutrition

Tighter spending, more stringent regulations and growing health concerns are all major factors impacting the European market for healthy foods. In the first article of a two-part series, looks at the markets in France, Belgium, Germany, Greece and Spain.

The information below is taken from a series of Health and Wellness reports published by the market researcher Euromonitor in July 2010.


French consumers continue to have a strong understanding and acceptance of health and wellness foods and drinks, and are increasingly looking for clear information about the benefits of foods in order to look after their health in a preventative way, says Euromonitor.

The tighter economic environment of 2007-2008 did not cause the French to turn away from health in foods, but prompted them to “more carefully” ​select healthy products.

Tighter European health claims regulations combined with a sceptical consumer base and an unwillingness to compromise on taste or price have also prompted the French to increasingly opt for health via more ‘natural’ or organic products.


Consumers in Belgium continued to prioritise health and wellness, although growth of higher-end functional food categories did slow in the first half of 2008 due to high price inflation.

Nevertheless, although Belgian consumers traded down to economy lines in some fortified and functional food segments, the category continued to perform well, driven by products such as pro/pre- biotic yoghurt.

“Strong brand support combined with a continual strategy of innovation from multinationals such as Danone with Actimel and Activia in food and Coca-Cola Enterprises Belgium with Aquarius in beverages helped the category to remain dynamic despite the recession,”​ said Euromonitor.


The economic slowdown and the maturity of the market both impacted sales of health and wellness foods and drinks in Germany. In addition, the new health claim regulations – being more restrictive that German legislation in the past – are also expected to impact product innovation.

Discounters and internet sales are also gaining market share, with these retailers increasing their functional food and health and wellness offerings.

However, the market continues to be “very fragmented”​ overall, with only fractional growth in private label sales of healthy goods.

Moving forward, growth rates are expected to return to levels similar to 2008, before the full effects of the economic slowdown were felt. Potential threats to growth include a longer-than-expected economic downturn, as well as a shortage of health and wellness ingredients or foods, which could push prices up.


The Greek market was severely impacted by the financial crisis as well as the country’s high fiscal debt, which created a “lethal cocktail” ​for retailing, with a reduction in consumption of even basic foods, said Euromonitor.

“[Health and wellness] food and beverages was not left untouched, causing marginal growth in most categories of this once highly dynamic environment.”

However, moving forward, functional foods could benefit from the increasing westernisation of lifestyles in Greece. Poor diets, lack of exercise and too much stress have contributed to a rapid increase in the number of people suffering obesity, diabetes and heart-related conditions such as high cholesterol and blood pressure.

“Scientific research indicates that the situation is deteriorating, with Greeks become fatter and less healthy year after year,” ​said the market researcher.

“Consequently [better-for-you] and [functional food] products have found the room to blossom, targeting adults, especially those with particular problems, such as women suffering osteoporosis and men with high blood pressure, which is a good basis to the development of health and wellness products in the forecast period.”


Economic pressures have also been sharply felt in Spain, with the market struggling to keep up with past performance.

Value sales growth rates plummeted in 2009, driven by the increasing penetration of private label in the Spanish health and wellness industry, and also by the consumer shift towards cheaper products.”

Manufacturers will struggle to regain consumer support for pricier functional food products, particularly as people have now become used to restraining impulses to purchase when they see the latest novelty on supermarket shelves.

However, one area of opportunity is the support given by Spanish doctors to foods targeting heart health and high cholesterol.

Spanish doctors continue to play a key role in boosting sales of fortified/functional products targeting high levels of cholesterol and heart health issues. Spanish patients take very seriously the recommendations of their doctors when it comes to diet and prescriptions,” ​says Euromonitor.

“With high cholesterol and heart-related diseases affecting an increasing number of Spaniards, the suggestions of doctors about the benefits of daily intake of specific products targeting such diseases has contributed to boosting sales of fortified/functional products, despite the poor economic outlook.”

Russia, Scandinavia, British Isles

Click here ​for our article on the functional food markets in Finland, Norway, the UK, Ireland and Russia.

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