Staying on trend with functional foods

DeeAnn Roullier
Marketing Research Manager

Wanted: Tasty foods and beverages with benefits.  Must help prevent or manage chronic conditions such as obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease. Can have inherent or fortified benefits. Promotion of normal digestive function a plus. Serious replies only.

If consumers could write an ad for the foods they want, that might be how it would read. Consumers have high expectations for foods right now.  Today's shoppers expect foods to offer more than mere satiation; they want multi-taskers that meet a wide variety of consumer needs.  The potential benefits of functional foods may even extend beyond basic nutrition.

The vast majority of consumers recognize the connection between food and health. Eight in 10 say they expect foods to help them maintain good health, such as their digestive health*.  And, three-quarters say they look for foods to reduce their risks of certain diseases*.

At the same time, consumers are wary of being disappointed by products that seem too good to be true. Smarting from economic pressures such as food inflation and high gas prices, shoppers have to be convinced that products will deliver on their promises.  In recent surveys, Generation Y consumers have shown the strongest belief in the benefits of fortified foods**.  This belief helps to reinforce the potential opportunities for functional foods moving forward.

Enter Cargill. Our research supports a growing consumer demand for functional foods. Cargill has developed a proprietary trends framework that takes into account the key macro trends that impact every aspect of consumers’ lives, and applies these trends to the food and beverage space.  One of the food and beverage trends Cargill tracks is “Food with Benefits” or functional foods.

Another key trend relative to health is “Seeking and Avoiding” which looks at how consumers seek out healthier foods and beverages and avoid those they perceive to be less healthy.  Right now, the addition of “positives” is favored by consumers over the removal of “negatives.”   As a result, the “Food with Benefits” trend is growing. 

In Cargill, our customers have an active partner in the quest to better understand consumers and the trends that impact the food industry.  In addition, we have the technical expertise to work with customers in delivering great-tasting, on-trend functional foods with quality ingredients.

*Functional foods report from IFIC 2011
**2011 NMI Health & Wellness Survey

DeeAnn Roullier, Marketing Research Manager in Cargill Food Ingredients and Systems Platform, has been with Cargill for 3 of her 15 years in the industry.