The nutra space: Eyes turn to 2017

By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn & Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags European union Nutrition

Only the seemingly foolish would have predicted 2016 would see the UK vote to leave the EU and Donald Trump win the US presidential election. But in the post-truth era, these are the facts.

Can better nutrition alter the political landscape? It is difficult to say – but certainly a world divided between those who have proper nutrition and those who don’t, only adds to the melting pot of unrest.

Beyond that are the more serious consequences of unhealthiness, chronic disease and premature death and nations struggling to cope with the burden and cost of disease and hospitalisation. More and more governments are turning to nutritional interventions. In this sense nutrition has massive latent power. 2017 can’t come fast enough…

We asked a few stakeholders for their views on what lies on the horizon in 2017 for healthy and functional foods, food supplements and nutrition.

Luca Bucchini PhD, managing director of Italian-based EU food law and science experts, Hylobates Consulting:

“We will see if those in favour of a single EU market will prevail over those who prefer to erect national barriers, depriving as a consequence consumers and businesses of opportunities.

“Particularly, we will see where the Commission stands on many issues, and whether it is ready to defend EU law even if it makes national regulators a bit unhappy; it used to be obvious, but in 2017 it is not.

“Of course, we will observe what happens in the US, with Brexit, and how it affects us in the rest of Europe. Can we count on more or at least continued free trade? Will the EU become more, or less, integrated in response to such changes? 2017 bring concerns, but it will be certainly interesting to observe.

brexit - FutroZen
Brexit's final impact remains uncertain. ©iStock/FutroZen

“There are a range of narrower issues. First, we will see as industry and national regulators adapt to the new regulatory status of sports nutrition foods. The transition for other formerly ‘dietetic’ foods – like gluten free – is likely to be smooth, but there are more questions for sports foods.

“Secondly, on Foods for Special Medical Purposes​: the new regulation should herald more harmonisation, and an easier time for consumers and businesses particularly SMEs, but there are forces opposing an effective single market. Third, we will get a sense of where the EU is going to go with botanicals, on health claims and on quality, and on nutrient profiles, as the REFIT effort enters its key year.”

Ewa Hudson, Head of Health and Wellness, Ethical Labels and Nutrition Research, Euromonitor International:

“We’ll see growing popularity of the free from movement – free from lactose, gluten, dairy etc – already at €8bn in western Europe and expected to rise by 45% between 2016 and 2021  –as the number of digestive health and immune system conditions rises.

“There’ll be greater personalisation of diets in the developed world with the growing education around health and help of technology like mobile phone apps.

“Expect increasing industry responsibility for sugar and fat contributions to global obesity – aided by changing legislation around sugar in a number of countries and a recent WHO report suggesting a minimum 20% excise tax on certain products. These combined initiatives are likely to result in sugar reduction in beverages or launches of new, containing less added sugar beverages, as well portion size restrictions for snacks (eg Magnum ice cream at 250 kcal).

“We see greater recognition of science, greater understanding of health benefits of ingredients leading to regulatory changes, for example the mandatory fortification of milk formula with DHA omega-3 from 2020.

“Increasing transparency around sourcing will come, increasing sustainability to build consumer trust. Ethical labelling is on the rise with various certification schemes. Control of the supply chain – longer contracts, fewer ingredient suppliers, to be in better control of the chain.

yoghurt pots
Could probiotic claims return to these in 2017? ©iStock

“And I am hoping for the first health claim in the EU for probiotics!”

Joris Geelen, partner, Food Compliance International:

“In the first quarter of 2017 I expect the proverbial ‘laying of the cornerstone’ of an ambitious project for which the foundation has been laid five years ago. Belgium will, at long last, update the lists in their decree on botanicals, based on the BELFRIT​ project.

herbal botanical tradition medicine areeya_ann
2017 could be the year to ring the BELFRIT ©iStock/areeya

“This will finally give the well-deserved recognition to the botanical experts who work hard to evaluate the safe and traditional use of more than 1000 plants. France and Italy are supposed to copy this design in their legislation soon after.

“I sincerely hope that other EU member states take the initiative of following this science based approach to ensure the safe use of plants and provide legal certainty to the sector, as opposed to refusal or restriction of botanicals without scientific basis.

“And who knows, they might discover some dusty blueprints for a unified member state electronic notification system in a drawer in the building shed...”

Virpi Varjonen, strategist, co-founder, Invenire:

“Consumer-centric thinking will rise more within the health and nutrition industry.

All those in favour of I-nutrition say 'I' ©iStock

“There will be less buzz around narrowly focused health benefits, more focus on the whole body-mind-spirit connection and how nutritional solutions play a role in here (i.e. holistic approach).

Personalisation will also continue to gain attention and how the industry can deliver solutions (products/diets/fitness plans) that are specified just for me, based on measured information about one’s body (technology plays a big part here).

"Also, the value chain players (e.g. ingredient manufacturers) are starting to look into this opportunity. This development is about consumers taking more control, especially regarding health and nutrition. The rise of personalised nutrition will likely drive a shift of power, where consumers are more in charge. With more information, tools and choices than ever, we already see consumers reluctant to blindly follow new diets trends - and rather, devise their own regimes eg diet-hacking.

"This shift of power towards consumers would force manufacturers to adopt a consumer-centric approach, to engage with a more empowered and decisive consumer.

Ethical labelling within health products will gain stronger ground. The big growth begins in a similar way to normal foods. Organics will be at the forefront and start moving into the mainstream also within health foods and supplements.”

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