The market for functional ingredients is continuing to grow in popularity, interest, innovation and scientific backing.
Health and well-being remains the driving force behind the functional sector, with reformulation becoming an important tool for manufacturers to continue to improve and boost the nutritional profile of their products.
The London 2012 Olympic Games has provided the perfect platform for companies to launch targeted marketing campaigns and initiate a real buzz around natural, performance-enhancing ingredients. Beneo has taken this opportunity to reveal its slow-release carbohydrate Palatinose (isomaltulose) that will be the power behind Nth Degree’s Low GI drink, a new low-glycaemic index performance beverage created for endurance, performance and energy.
Industry demand for all-natural alternatives is becoming a necessity, as more and more sports supplements fail to deliver on their promises or live up to the health claims presented on the packaging.
Recently, another sports supplement has been under the danger spotlight. Warnings have been issued on an international level about supplementary sports foods containing an ingredient known as DMAA, a dietary supplement used in the sports world to boost performance.
Natural, safe and honest will be the secret to success regarding the use of functional ingredients in the sports sector.
Fun into functional
A new trend that's rapidly emerging – and will perhaps become the new fashion in nutrition – is fortified products aimed at children.
Even those companies that have based their business concepts on 'all-natural' or 'nothing added' taglines are dipping their toes in this new pool of interest, attempting to bring the 'fun into functional'.
The most popular seems to be the use of added vitamin D for bone health, or added antioxidants for general health. Buddy Fruits has showcased a great couple of new products this year, including a Cocomilk and Fruit pouch that contains fibre, vitamins and potassium and coconut milk, which also doubles as a healthy substitute for dairy.
LycoRed has given me many products to write about in the Functional Food & Drink digital magazine (FFD) this year by tapping into the natural and functional colours market. (The August issue of FFD analyses this market sector in more detail.)
Antioxidants remain a reliable and important aspect of the functional market, with particular focus around the link between tocotrienols and neuro-protection.
Though studies presenting a positive link between the vitamin and brain health have been around for some time, it's exciting to see the new evidence to show that vitamin E may become a vital contributor to reducing (or stalling) the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in the near future.
Manufacturers are on the ball with this trend by boosting the functionality of everyday products such as teas with tocotrienols.
It's positive to see that levels of corporate and new product activity are remaining high within the global functional foods industry. I would expect to see even more exciting innovations coming to the market this year that utilise functional ingredients in a positive and pure way, especially in the functional dairy, soya-based and lactose-free foods, and sports & energy drinks.
When once it was the norm to market a product with one strong health claim, I believe multifunctional will become the new functional (with particular focus on anti-ageing) as the competition in this sector becomes yet more competitive.
Rebecca is editorial assistant of FoodBev.com
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