Wellness Food Trends for 2007

We consulted the top experts in consumer and producer research to bring you the latest on the ingredient and product trends that affect your industry. Whether the latest hot antioxidants or the focus on healthy oils and proteins, the "in" ingredients will help attract consumers to better health.

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We went to some of the top trend-tracking and resource groups to distill the shifts and changes in good-for-you product supply and demand of the past year. Organizations that contributed generously to this issue include Datamonitor USA (www.datamonitor.com), New York, as well as Business Insights Ltd. (www.globalbusinessinsights.com), London; Hort Research (www.hortresearch.co.nz), Auckland; Innova Market Insights (www.innova-food.com), Duiven, Netherlands; the International Food Information Council (www.ific.org), Washington; and Mintel International Group Ltd. (www.mintel.com), Chicago. Their invaluable input helps us provide you with a comprehensive picture of the trends impacting the quarter-trillion dollar healthy foods industry.

Trends Overview

Market analysis group Business Insights Ltd. reported earlier in the year that "the following key market trends will comprise the lion's share of the future of wellness foods and beverages:

  • Heart Health - reformulating products to include ingredients that actively protect the heart, such as plant sterols, soy, whole grain and tea. Lead categories in the heart health trend are snacks, bakery and cereals, dairy, oils and fats.
  • Well-being - manufacturers are driving the trend by highlighting the wellbeing ingredients of a product in marketing and on the packaging and reformulating products to include ingredients that promote wellbeing, such as antioxidants and pre and probiotics. Lead product categories in the well-being trend are soft drinks, snacks, dairy hot drinks and meal substitutes. Many products in these categories contain ingredients such as pre- and probiotics and antioxidants to promote digestive health and immunity.
  • "Right" fats - is a trend being driven due to awareness of rising levels in heart disease, scientific validation that omega-3's slow down the onset of dementia and symptoms of arthritis.
  • Nutraceutical/Pharmacologicals -  is being driven due to rising levels in cancer, high prevalence of osteoporosis, women searching for more natural methods to help relieve the symptoms of menopause and increasing healthcare costs. Manufacturers are driving the trend by adding and marketing the inclusion of ingredients that provide specific health benefits. Furthermore, industry executives believe that pharmaceutical companies will have a significant impact on innovation in healthy food and drinks over the next 5 years.

And according to the Helmut Kaiser Consultancy group, Tubingen, Germany,(www.hkc22.com), about 400 Companies worldwide in R&D and Production use nanotechnologies and molecular science in food processing.

Why We Buy

"Energy is top, and will remain top," asserts Datamonitor's "Insights Into Tomorrow's Nutraceutical Consumers" report. "Energy is the biggest functional need driving U.S. nutraceutical sales. Americans bought energy-boosting products worth $6.5 billion in 2004, accounting for a third of total nutraceutical sales. Energy products are concentrated within the confectionery and soft drinks categories, but also include other products ranging from fortified peanuts through to nutraceutical flatbreads."

Heart-health is the second largest category, reflecting millions of Americans' susceptibility toward cardiac problems. The market was worth $4.1 billion in 2004, and sales have been growing by more than 8 percent per year over the past five years. Heart-health products range from cereal to olive oil, covering all products that the FDA recognizes as reducing the risk of coronary disease.

Nutraceutical products targeted at gut health are of limited popularity in the U.S., despite being a leading category in Europe. This reflects the relative unpopularity of active yogurt in the US because of consumer wariness - a large proportion of gut health products in Europe are in this category. However, as tastes start to change, gut health has been by far the fastest-growing nutraceutical category in the US, with annual growth of more than 23 percent over the 1999 to 2004 period.

Designing and producing food by shaping molecules is the future of the food industry, according to Helmut Kaiser. The consultancy also predicts nanotechnology and nano-bio-info convergence will influence over 40 percent of food industries to 2015. The nanofood market doubled from $2.6 to $5.3 billion from 2003 to 2005 and is expected to reach $20.4 billion in 2010. The risk for the food companies lies not in not entering the nanotechnology, but entering too late.

Business Insights points to young adults as the key marketing targets for new healthy food and drinks: growing consumer awareness of the benefits of consuming certain ingredients, are likely to be more health conscious and have less cemented purchasing/consumption patterns.

The group believes snacks to be the most innovative category in healthy food and drinks. The reasoning is that snacks can easily be reformulated; single-serve products provide convenience to the functional food and drinks consumer.

According to Datamonitor, "Manufacturers believe the most important functional products to consumers are those targeting weight loss and energy needs, while long-term health concerns are the least important aspects of well-being. This reflects a tendency for nutraceutical consumers to focus on the short-term benefits of products, as would be expected from their general consumption behavior."

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