Research by International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC) finds finds that 94% of consumers reckon that certain foods have health benefits beyond basic nutrition, and 85% of Americans have some level of interest in learning more about functional foods. There is a drastic increase in chronic disease conditions among the middle aged and older populations and prevention of diseases and maintenance of health. As the popular quote goes, ‘Food is medicine’ and eating right, coupled with healthy lifestyle leads to disease prevention and healthy life. Functional foods, also known as chinese traditional medicine for the millenia, are a boon in this regard and provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition.
Health benefits of functional foods
Anti disease effects: Few beverages rich in phytonutrient can act as immunity enhancers or margarine with phytosterols may help in cholesterol reduction.
Overcoming nutrient deficiencies: Calcium fortified orange juice might help in maintaining calcium levels.
Macronutrient intake completion: Soy based food products can help in completion of daily dietary intake of proteins.
Disease prevention: Consumption of specific functional foods can help in preventing early aging and few claims extend to cancer prevention as well.
Gut health maintenance: Probiotics claim in providing the required gut microbiome for easy digestion and enhanced gut health
Addition of new ingredients or modification of the quantities of nutrients in existing food products makes a food a functional one. This can be done by inclusion of whole foods and enrichment, enhancement or fortification of nutrients in food products.
Innovative functional food startups
Gnubiotics Sàrl is developing developing functional and structural mimics of Human Milk Oligosaccharides, (HMOs) for the consumer health for gut infection prevention and protection against antibiotic use.
Nuritas combines artificial intelligence and DNA analysis to discovers novel and active peptide ingredients with scientifically proven health benefits, which include: anti-inflammatory activity, antimicrobial activity, muscle recovery enhancement, skin anti-aging solutions, and the potential management of blood sugar levels for type 2 diabetics.
Apis-Vita,a Slovenian company is the one transforming foods such as vinegar and ketchup into innovative functional food products by adding antioxidants, co-enzyme Q10 and the popular natural sweetener stevia.
Bulletproof 360, develops science-based food and beverage product lines for helping people gain long-lasting energy, eliminate cravings and boost cognitive performance.
Huge market potential
Growing health consciousness among the current population, increased health disorders and suffering, general awareness are creating a huge market for functional foods, making it one of the fastest growing segment in the food industry. Markets and markets research estimates that the functional food ingredient market currently valued at USD 68.60 billion in 2018, is expected to reach USD 94.21 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 6.6%.
Several big players in Food & Beverages industry have already started manufacturing unique functional food products vis a vis competition from several small regional brands. Brands like Coca-cola, Kelloggs, General mills, Nestle, Mondelez, Kraft Heinz, Pepsico,Cargill, Dannon, Yakult are all extending their product lines and brands for bringing functional food products into the market.
Functional foods are incorporated in the development of beverages, sports foods, infant food, energy drinks, confectionaries and condiments and so on.
Due to the wide spectrum of end benefits, varied consumer demands and increasing competition, companies are striving for more and more product innovations to create differentiation and brand value. Big players with huge pockets are investing heavily in R&D to bring unique products to the market and also keeping their eyes open on the market performance of the small players.
More innovative functional food ingredients and functional food products might open doors for healthier world indeed!