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Gulfood Green 2024

17 Jan 2024

Elevating the benefits of functional foods

Elevating the benefits of functional foods

The embrace of “food as medicine” is growing, with marketers exploring the use of health claims and “functional suggestions” that speak to consumers who are pursuing holistic health. For many, diet has become intentional. If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what other foods have attributes that may contribute to healthy living?

“Category innovation will need to cater to interest in evergreen health and wellness concepts by encouraging frequent consumption for long-term benefit,” said Doug Resh, director-commercial marketing, T. Hasegawa USA, Cerritos, Calif. “These efforts can be balanced by innovation that plays to interest in trendy health and wellness concepts that provide immediate or short-term benefits.

“Connecting functional claims to broader and even preventative health measures will afford consumers a sense of empowerment in their routine wellness efforts. Educating users on health and wellness benefits can create intentionality among users to incorporate ingredients into their daily diet.”

Mr. Resh explained that top-tier functional ingredients are mainstream. The most recognized is caffeine, followed by blueberries and spinach, then electrolytes, antioxidants, probiotics and added protein, according to a survey of 2,000 internet users aged 18 or older conducted by Kantar Profiles/Mintel in December 2022.

“While their functionality may be a known added benefit, they may not always be the intentional catalyst to consumption,” Mr. Resh said. “Yet these subliminal added benefits can distinguish a brand from its competitors. This is a valuable status to secure, and it can come through education and efficacy grounded in scientific validity, but do not discount the impact of taste.

“While coffee drinkers may routinely wake up to the expected energy boost, or salad fans may enjoy superfoods rich with antioxidants, the majority of consumers make food and drink choices based primarily on taste. Conversely, nascent functional ingredients, like prebiotics, melatonin or adaptogens, may be sought for their benefits among their niche audiences. They can still benefit from positive promotion coupled with pairings with familiar flavors.”

Powerhouse micronutrients

Many of the functional ingredients that emerged in the supplement space are transitioning to food and beverage as research shows supplements may not provide the health benefits that they often are promoted to do in humans. Scientists found adequate intake of certain nutrients was associated with a reduced risk of death by any cause, but the benefit was only present if the nutrients were consumed in food sources. When the same nutrients were taken in the form of a supplement, the lower risk of death disappeared.




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