Australian consumers warm to nutrigenomics

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Austrlians are embracing personalised nutrition
Austrlians are embracing personalised nutrition
The mainstreaming of functional foods has created an increasingly sophisticated nutritional landscape that is leading into food choices being driven by genetic expression, according to new market research.

Datamonitor found more than half of Australians are interested in nutrigenomic ideas providing individuated nutrition and diet-related advice.

“Consumers have always wanted food and beverages which cater to their individual needs,”​ said Datamonitor analyst, Dan Bone. “However, it is only in the past few years that manufacturers have really woken up to this fact and begun to create grocery products that consumers really feel identify with their personal attitudes and requirements.”

Datamonitor highlighted products that seek to rectify a health problem such as a diminished immune system, as examples, or those that cater for genetic flavour preferences.

“As interest amongst consumers increases, we expect to see a surge in the number of food and drink companies launching products with DNA/genetic influences over the next few years, probably originating from coming smaller niche companies looking to find gaps in the market,”​ Bone said. “The larger brands will likely wait to see what products are launched and also how these are received by consumers.”

Still some way to go

Dutch research from 2008 found consumers are still uncertain about nutrigenomics​, both in terms of what it is and how it works.

Amber Ronteltap, from the Agricultural Economics Research Institute (LEI) at Wageningen University and Research Centre, said consumers were most concerned about any kind of scheme that may force them to register their genome somewhere and also demanded proven efficacy along with consumption time convenience.

“The general public also wants to see clear scientific agreement about the usefulness of the possibilities provided by nutrigenomics,”​ Ronteltap said.

A gulf existed between the wishes of consumers and the expectations of experts, she observed.

Attracting interest

Nutrigenomics is a field that has attracted the attentions of many food ingredient suppliers as well as food makers, although products are as yet, scarce.

Danish probiotics​, flavours, enzymes and phytochemical specialist, Chr Hansen, set aside €30m of its 2007/08 budget to develop research and development in the area with partners and other groups.

In June, Chr Hansen announced that it had teamed up with researchers from Denmark and Japan in an effort understand the genetic make-up of bacteria and see whether this knowledge can be used to improve probiotic food products.

The scientists are using bioinformatics, using complicated mathematical models and statistics, to analyse the bacteria.

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