There is no FDA definition for functional food, however industry professionals and consumers understand that this term applies to ingredients or products that offer health benefits beyond their inherent nutrients.
Consumers are looking for more than hydration – they want added value from their food and beverages.
Claims are made across all beverage categories to address the specific need states of the end user. The functional beverage category, also referred to as nutraceuticals, is expected to reach $279 billion by 2021, which represents a 60% increase from 2014. Here are the key drivers that are contributing to the growth of functional food and beverages.
Today’s consumers, especially millennials and generation Z-ers, are more resourceful than previous generations, at least in terms of how they find information. They have a better understanding of functional ingredients because of the wealth of information that is available to them. Being able to research their ailments, look into what might benefit them the most, and find products that address their specific need states allows them to make more informed purchasing decisions.
The ease at which information is available, coupled with the rising costs of healthcare, has caused many consumers to take healthcare management into their own hands. Topping a list of health benefits that consumers looked for in 2015 were food and beverages that help maintain good eyesight, boost metabolism, detox the body and improve mental energy, according to HealthFocus, a market research company focused on understanding health and nutrition trends. Pill fatigue also motivates consumers to eat and drink vitamins, minerals and other potentially healing agents.
Advancements in food science have allowed product developers to design better tasting functional products. Better flavour profiles, encapsulations and new iterations of ingredients are some of the developments that have contributed to functional food and beverage growth. The improved flavour profiles that we’ve seen in products with high protein content over the last decade is one example of such progress in action.
In our world of Instagram, Instacart and instant gratification, consumers look for an instant fix to everything. They can easily grab a beverage for a myriad of benefits and take their purchase with them on the go. Instead of remembering the nuances of a pill regimen, or paying the price associated with one, consumers are willing to pay a premium for over-the-counter purchases, if there’s value added to the product.
The clean label trend has sparked a renaissance in holistic healing and healthcare. Many homeopathic approaches are based on ancient healing techniques. Whether it’s rediscovering an old recipe like kombucha, or incorporating plants and herbs like matcha, ancient wisdom has piqued consumer interest. Ingredients that are perceived as more natural or are closer to the source will continue to influence consumer interest in functional food and beverages.
Functional products extend beyond food and beverage into personal care, cosmetics and even clothing. I’ve seen tissues with anti-viral claims and baby powder with probiotics. These categories will continue to evolve and deliver blended benefits as consumers demand more from their purchases. In the food and beverage industry, there has been a recent increase in the number of products making cognitive health and beauty claims and I expect to see more in the coming year. It’s an exciting time to be in this industry and I’ll anxiously await new functional claims, especially if they’re inspired by ancient traditions.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020