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However, five years later manufacturers of ready meals are producing ready meals low in sugar, fat and sodium, as well as organic varieties. As a result, these processors are targeting parents’ concern for their child’s health more.
Additionally, in 2001, fruit and vegetables were targeting parents, since children were not interested in eating fruit and vegetables. Today, manufacturers of produce are packaging their products in convenient, hand-held, no-mess portioned packets while using popular cartoon characters to attract attention to the healthy products.
The child obesity crisis has led to a renewed interest in earlier healthy food starts. According to a recent report by Mintel, baby food and drink companies are looking for new options to boost sales within the $3.5 billion-plus baby food and drink market. The report states, “Toddler-focused foods and organic products are new avenues manufacturers can explore to address new markets within the category.
"There is a stronger emphasis placed on nutrition and combating obesity in the younger years than ever before," said Erin Fowler, analyst for Mintel. "Parents are looking for the proper nutritional mix for their children earlier. However, they are still feeling the pressures of a time-deprived society, so more convenient offerings that can promote better health for toddlers are a necessity.”
The organic baby food and drink category has experienced growth and is positioned for greater development. Premium prices have supported sales growth for several organic brands, according to Mintel, and the healthy images organic brands portray influence some consumers to “open their wallets a little wider.” Additionally, more than 60 percent of consumers surveyed by Mintel say that “a food being ‘all natural’ is ‘very important’ when they are choosing baby foods and drinks.”
Other top ingredients poised for growth, according to Fortitech, include fibers, proteins, soy isoflavones, CoQ10, plant extracts and probiotics. Fanion cautions, “The challenge for manufacturers is incorporating these ingredients and other nutrients into beverages, while avoiding the bad taste, sedimentation and other consequences that often result from ingredient interaction.”
“The demand for functional foods and fortified products continues to surpass most industry professionals’ expectations with each passing year,” says Mark Fanion, communications manager for Fortitech Inc. Schenectady, N.Y. (www.fortitech.com). According to Fanion, 2006 was no exception. “The booming industry had led to a still-growing surge for products with added-nutrients.”
In a 2006 Nutrition Market Trends report based on surveys of Fortitech’s list of nutraceutical ingredient purchasers, there was noted a growing demand worldwide for the health benefits from fortified products, particularly those with organic, natural or energy-boosting ingredients.
According to the report, this trend is “reflective of the consumers desire to maintain and improve energy, reinvigorate and replenish body fluids, manage weight gain and enhance the nutritional value of popular foods and beverages.”
Among the “high-demand ingredients” the company noted being researched by consumers are: calcium for bone health, beta-carotene, a beneficial antioxidant and antioxidant vitamins including A, C and E. “Iron, selenium and Omega 3’s are also quickly rising in popularity,” the report noted.
“Yogurt and oils containing DHA/EPA as well as mixed tocopherols also have solid market potential in the coming years,” says Fanion. “In addition, phytonutrients and sterols are becoming popular additions to many emerging products maintaining taste, texture and stability in finished products.”
Not surprisingly, children and teens combined account for the most researched market for 2006. Because of differing food patterns and high requirement for certain nutrients in children compared to adults, children are at greater risk of developing deficiencies of key nutrients and micronutrients.
Product manufacturers and nutrition professionals are just now scratching the surface of the potential demand in fortified products dealing specifically with the boomer market. too. Bottled water and functional beverages overall are still rapidly growing in popularity, with no decline anticipated.
There are growing numbers of functional soft drink products ranging from health-driven nutraceutical and vitamin-enhanced products, including waters and energy drinks offering specific benefits for specific health concerns. The beverage market is dynamic, with virtually unlimited potential. The factors that will shape the future of the beverage industry include health, flavor and ingredient innovation, and targeting of specific age groups.
Many studies have shown consumers are as concerned with good health as they are about maintaining a high quality of life. The majority of consumers believe some foods and beverages contain active ingredients that reduce the risk of disease and improve long-term health. Higher nutritional education, among all demographics, has a lot to do with this increase in demand. This new awareness of the beneficial health impacts of food and beverage fortification has fueled the double digit growth of the functional foods and beverage market worldwide and will continue to do so for many more years.
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