Special Edition: Functional Food Trends

Heart health claims underscore functional cereal boom

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Breakfast cereal Nutrition Functional foods Leatherhead

Bakery and cereals account for almost 23 per cent of the global functional foods market with sales worth $5.5bn between 2006 and 2010, claims Leatherhead Food Research; And heart health is the leading claim in the sector.

Leatherhead values the international functional food and drink market (products making specific health claims) at $24.2bn in a new report Future Directions for Functional Foods, ​and predicts a 4 to 5 per cent annual growth rate over the next few years.

Trailing in second position to fortified dairy, which holds 38 per cent of world market, fibre, mineral and vitamin-enriched bakery and cereal products expanded nearly 54 per cent in value terms in the years under review, report the UK based market analysts.

“Much of this growth has been due to the increasing number of cereal-based products marketed on a heart health platform, in the US in particular,”​ comments the Leatherhead publication, with the healthier breakfast cereal market dominated by the US and following in second place is the UK.

The analysts remarked that this is unsurprising given the scale of consumption of breakfast cereals in these two markets compared to the rest of the developed world.

And Leatherhead observes the increasing use of claims referring to wholegrain or oat content backed by FDA approvals, particularly on breakfast cereal products in the US.

Calcium and vitamin D

The UK researchers note developments in the bread and breakfast cereal category in terms of calcium and vitamin D enrichment. “Cereal products supplied by General Mills and Nestlé’s Uncle Toby’s business unit continue to feature high levels of calcium,”​ comments the market research team.

Specific consumer group targeting has also been a feature of fortified cereal product marketing, said Leatherhead, with women and children the focus of several recent cereal product launches in Australia, France and the US.

Indeed, Australia has seen a number of exciting innovations in the area of probiotic fortification of bread and cereals, remark the functional food specialists.The earlier part of 2011 saw leading Australian bread maker George Weston releasing its Tip Top functional bread with high levels of calcium.

Gut health

And the analysts predict a trend for additional digestive health claims on the back of future calcium and vitamin D fortified cereal launches.

Meanwhile, gut health claims on breakfast cereal or cereal bars through fortification with fibre or prebiotics (using inulin or oligosaccharides ingredients) are also gaining ground, with the multinationals such as Kellogg/Kashi or the smaller operators such as Attune Foods, marketing products along these lines, reports Leatherhead.

Leatherhead reports that fibre and wholegrain additions are boosting the number of companies making weight management as well as gut health or heart benefit claims on their bakery and cereal products.

With sales worth $2.5bn in 2010, bakery and cereal products account for a third of the world’s weight management food industry despite the fact that refined starch carbohydrates are negatively associated with weight control and weight loss, note the researchers.

Cereal bars have also entered the mental/cognitive health area, mainly via the use of soya phospholipids and DHA, added the researchers.

Product failure

But despite the growth trajectory for functional foods, the Leatherhead report highlights that product failure rate is as high as 80 per cent in terms of the global functional food market, and they cite a number of factors for this, chief of which is the continuing scepticism among consumers about the efficacy of product health claims.

Furthermore, the market analysts note that growth in parts of the functional food and drink industry now appears to be slowing due to factors such as the economic recession and the fact that various authorities have started to impose limits upon the health claims made by such food and drinks.

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