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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Arthritis and Bone Health

Datamonitor reports that promoting nutrients for their role in skin and hair health leads consumers to "understand they can look beautiful and healthy on the outside while maintaining health on the inside." However, also of great significance to our aging population is the nutritional role in maintaining supple joints and addressing the effects of menopause.

Anti-aging benefits are not exclusively relevant to middle-aged women (generally perceived as the core market for functional beauty products). According to Datamonitor, men are increasingly interested in anti-aging issues.

"Male Early Seniors" and "Late-Midlifers" remain a relatively untapped market for functional beauty products. "Manufacturers could grow nutraceutical penetration among this group by focusing on their beauty and anti-aging needs," note Datamonitor experts. "Beauty foods, beverages and supplements can also appeal to time-pressed younger consumers; swallowing a pill or drinking a fortified shake is less time-consuming than a nightly moisturizing and skin toning regimen. There is an opportunity for manufacturers to develop 'beauty-supplementing' foods and beverages."

Long-term Health Important by Datamonitor
As people become increasingly focused on health and nutritionally aware, the health concerns targeted by functional and other fortified products will shift. There will always be demand for weight-loss and energy-giving products, but the longer-term factors consumers currently sweep under the carpet will rise in importance - and consequently in consumption potential.

Much of this awareness will be driven by health campaigns on the part of government and the food and drinks industry. Already, awareness of heart-health issues is far higher than it was in the recent past. At the moment, this does not always tie into heart-healthy behavior, but this will change over time. Foods and drinks that target the heart, the eyes and the bones will become increasingly important across the U.S. and Europe. People will also increasingly consume nutraceutical products for anti-aging and beauty reasons.


Bone Health

Our aging population - the over-65 demographic is expected to roughly double in the next couple of decades - is bringing more attention to bone-health problems. The Datamonitor report, "Insights Into Tomorrow's Nutraceutical Consumers," reveals that the numbers of consumers with bone health problems have increased 1 percent a year in Europe and by more than 2 percent per year in the U.S. from 1999 to 2004.

This is significantly above population growth; there is a close correlation between poor bone health and age (so much so, official osteoporosis statistics only include people over 55 years old). The increased prevalence of arthritis has been driven almost entirely by population ageing.

Although calcium and vitamin D are the ingredients typically associated with bone health, recent research indicating their benefits for heart-health and even cancer protection has only helped to enhance their attraction. Calcium, especially, is finding its way into more and more products, especially beverages other than milk, soy and orange juice, for example waters and soft drinks.

Gut Health

Europe is way ahead of the U.S. when it comes to concerns regarding gut health. Social taboos in America made it hard to market foods and beverages for a "healthy bowel" until only very recently. That's finally changing. Many nutraceutical products are targeted at maintaining gut health.

However, the number of consumers suffering from serious medical conditions affecting the gut (defined here as inflammatory bowel disease, which exists both as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease) is low. There are only about one million people in the U.S. currently diagnosed with these bowel diseases. This has not stopped gluten-free products from landing at the starting gate of trendiness. The number of gluten-free products hitting the market has jumped, but whether they stay popular is too soon to tell.

But the data strongly suggest there are "outlying" consumers of gut-health products, specifically probiotic yogurts and similar products, who believe - correctly, for the most part - that these products enhance their health status. Probiotic yogurts contain live cultures which promote the growth of healthy bacteria.

Researchers have determined this growing popularity of gut health products is not only from their having been heavily marketed to health-oriented consumers but because such products are perceived as providing additional benefits, such as enhancing the immune system.

Weight Management

According to Datamonitor's study, "New Consumer Insight: Overweight Consumers and the Future of Food and Drinks," the obesity crisis is still growing. Awareness is no longer the problem. And, although significant urban populations live in "food deserts" that put little but fast food within their reach, for many American consumers the availability of healthier foods is sufficient enough to not block averting or reversing obesity.

Involved processors have been taking a more aggressive approach by ramping up the sheer number of choices for healthier foods and beverages for weight management.

Although the U.S. has by far the highest proportion of overweight and obese consumers, with 65.8 percent of the adult population estimated to be in the category in 2004, some European countries are not far behind. Germany and the U.K. in particular stand out in Europe, with 54.2 percent and 61.6 percent of consumers, respectively, being overweight and obese in 2004. However, the number of overweight consumers in the US will continue to grow fast.

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