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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Health Management (including Cancer, Heart Disease, Immunity)

Health Management is a broad category encompassing some of the driving forces behind many health trends that have come into their own over the last couple of years. Certain health crises and diseases, here presented as subcategories of health management, are doing the driving: cancer, heart disease and arthritis.

But immunity against these conditions is also included as representative of how a trend can result from a proactive direction; rather than react to disease states plaguing our population, developers of wellness foods and beverages are trying to get ahead of the curve.

Heart Health

According to Datamonitor's report, "Insights Into Tomorrow's Nutraceutical Consumers," almost 25 percent of people suffer from heart-health problems, including high blood pressure - the key risk factor for most other lifestyle-related heart disorders. This reflects the high levels of stress and obesity, poor diet and limited exercise among Western consumers of all ages. There is a strong potential market in all countries considered for food and drink that can help heart health.

Cardiovascular disease is the lead cause of mortality in the U.S. among both men and women in every major ethnic group. It accounts for nearly 1 million deaths per year and is responsible for about one in five deaths in the U.S. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer. According to the American Heart Assn., stroke accounted for one in every 15 deaths in the U.S. It's estimated the number of persons suffering high blood cholesterol/triglycerides million will reach nearly a third of a billion 2015.

Ingredients for Health Management

Anthocyanins and antioxidants (such as the carotenoids beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin) and isoflavones (and other soy ingredients) remain important functional ingredients, and all are experiencing strong upward-trending growth. These ingredients, and the products containing them, are marketed for their cancer-protective effects.

David Suriani, industry manager of food and beverage for BASF North America, Florham Park, N.J., has noted, "There has been increased interest in ingredients such as lycopene and omega-3 fatty acids as food processors begin to understand better the cardiovascular benefits of carotenoids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. In general, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein react synergistically they work more effectively in combination."

Coenzyme Q (CoQ-10), briefly on the health radar screen in the 1990s, may be poised for a more recognized return. The supplement is known to specifically strengthen the heart muscle. However, since few foods are rich in CoQ-10, it has to be added to formulations.

Phytosterols and omega oils really pushed to the forefront this year. Phytosterols in their most natural format   green tea - or as specific extracts or extract combos, such as DSM Nutritional Products Inc.'s Teavigo brand of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), and Cargill Inc.'s Corowise or ADM Corp.'s Cardioaid brand of sterols, phytosterols have been included in dozens of beverage and bar formulations, as well as yogurts and spreads.

Omega oils have enjoyed a wider dispersal into the food chain of late. Odorless, flavorless highly-stable versions of fish-derived omega 3s by such manufacturers as Ocean Nutrition Canada Ltd. (www.ocean-nutrition.com), Nova Scotia, plus increased availability of plant and algae sources, have seen the versatile nutraceutical supplied to products as diverse as breads, bars, breakfast foods and beverages.

While worldwide demand for omega oils in supplemental form more than doubled last year," says Ian Lucas, executive vice president of global marketing for Ocean Nutrition, "our company alone has provided more than two billion servings of omega for foods and beverages across 10 different product types since January."

Cancer is a class of diseases noted for unchecked, aberrant cell growth and proliferation. Suspected causes of cancer are numerous, but cell damage caused by genetic, environmental and dietary causes has been checked in studies by antioxidant compounds. In fact, the connection between antioxidant intake and reduction of cancer risk is one of the more heavily studied nutrition links, and shows some of the strongest results.

Controversial reports from new studies questioning the levels of efficacy of isoflavones, and soy in general, had some manufacturers worried earlier in the year. But soy showed its staying power as a healthful functional food. According to Tom Woodward, vice-president of Devansoy Inc. (www.devansoy.com), Carroll, Iowa, "Recent data show the U.S. soyfoods market will continue to steadily grow for years to come. In fact, the market for soyfoods in the U.S. is expected to grow at rates of nearly 20 percent per year through 2012. Included in this growth will be baked goods, desserts, beverages, cereals & energy bars and more."

Big Ingredients for Health

One seasoned veteran of the nutritional ingredient category is nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans and others). The popularity of nuts for health continues to grow, and for a number of good reasons. Nuts are sources of omega 3 oils, antioxidants (including the antioxidant mineral selenium), minerals and protein.

Note To Manufacturers
"Manufacturers should not only focus on the long-term benefits of nutraceutical products," say Datamonitor experts, "but on the short-term ones as well - chiefly, beauty and anti-ageing properties. This should help to attract consumers who are not sufficiently motivated by the long-term effects to overcome their desire to stick with cheaper non-nutraceutical products."

Nuts are attracting new interest by manufacturers and consumers for their heart-health benefits specifically, too. A study from the University of Toronto, reported by the Almond Board of California, described how almonds, reduces inflammation by about the same level as taking a first-generation statin drug.

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