Will ‘aesthetic’ benefits prove key to the future of functional foods?

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags New product development Nutrition

Consumers are showing increasing interest in the ‘aesthetic’ benefits of functional foods, according to a new report from RTS Resource entitled ‘SuperTrends: Health & Well-Being’.

Such aesthetic advantages, according to RTS, encompass products that enhance mood, boost beauty and promote a greater sense of well-being; the the market research and analysis firm predicts that within the next five years such benefits, “will become as desirable as heart health, brain health and digestive health for some consumers”.

RTS Resource told NutraIngredients.com that recent launches on an aesthetic platform included Nestlé's Glowell beauty drink, the French success of which RTS attributed to the product's positioning in pharmacies alongside more traditional beauty products; meanwhile, Newtree has launched mood enhancing chocolate bars in Belgium, France and the UK that include 'energising' chilli and lavender for 'tranquility'.

Functional foods market diversifying

Jamie Rice, director, RTS Resource said that demand for functional ingredients targeting core health concerns – for instance, products proven to reduce cholesterol or others fortified with calcium – was still there, but that the the market for functional foods was diversifying.

Aesthetic products are now making inroads as a "niche area"​, he said, with clear trends affecting new product development. However, given that health claims submitted to EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority) claiming benefits such as ‘mood improvement’ risked being somewhat diffuse, he said that any new launches would most likely be on a passive platform as regards health claims.

Said Rice: “The legal area isn’t my strength, since we focus on market sizes and trends, but manufacturers are looking at health claims by association, trusting general knowledge amongst consumers for the benefits of products containing, say, lavender or chamomile.”

Manufacturers must prove ‘naturalness’

On a separate yet related level, Rice said the abilty of functional food manufacturers to prove the ‘naturalness’ of their products over the next five years would be key in winning consumers trust.

“'Naturalness' is something we preach about, but it is very important given increasing consumer concerns surrounding sources and provenance of ingredients.

"We are seeing emerging demand for 'natural-functional' ingredients and products, and this is likely to increase significantly over the next five years.

“'Functional food' is a bit of a 90s term, we need something a bit more modern nowadays, given that consumers want health benefits but don’t necessarily want them synthesised artificially into foods.”

Japanese market driving trends

​As for interesting world market trends, Rice said RTS Resource’s report showed some interesting functional food developments in Japan, where “quite wacky”​ recent launches included confectionery with added collagen to enhance lips and breasts.

So did Rice predict that such apparently outlandish trends could catch-on in Europe, given a demand for things such as breast enhancement: “It isn’t so crazy to think so, but as with all launches, everything is becoming so niche – so firms need a clear target market.”

"Of course, new product development is always risky. Big firms such as Nestlé, etc. have the money to develop new products​, but sometimes it's the smaller firms (UK fruit juice and smoothie firm Innocent is one classic example), who can spot a trend and quickly develop a hugely successful brand and product range."

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