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Food & Beverage Perspectives

How Regulations Affect Digestive Health Functional Food Launches

<p>Digestive or gut health has been a key focus for product activity in functional and healthy foods for many years, but with the tightening up of claims legislation, particularly in Europe, there has been something of a setback in terms of product activity in more recent times.</p>

Digestive or gut health has been a key focus for product activity in functional and healthy foods for many years, but with the tightening up of claims legislation, particularly in Europe, companies are reassessing that focus to emphasis ingredients or other aspects related to digestion.

According to data from Innova Market Insights, more than 3.2 percent of food and beverage launches carried digestive health claims of some kind in 2014, up from just 2.7 percent five years previously. This indicates that there is still ongoing interest in the sector, particularly in the United States, where the share rose from 3.3 percent to more than 3.6 percent. However, launches in the European Union using a digestive health positioning fell from 2.4 percent to 2.2 percent over the same period.

To avoid regulatory trouble associated with digestive health claims, companies are focusing on the use of specific ingredients, such as whole grains and fiber, which may already be linked with digestive health in consumers’ minds.

Cesleste Sepessy discussed the market for ingredients that promote digestive health in the INSIDER article, “Eat to Live."

“For many Americans—not to mention their global counterparts—gastric discomfort has become the uncomfortable norm," Sepessy wrote. “The prevalence has spurred many to learn more about the digestive system and its importance, and consequently, take action to support it."

Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, agreed: “There is clearly still interest in products for digestive or gut health. This is reflected in ongoing levels of product activity, despite some of the current regulatory issues affecting health claims, particularly in Europe," she said, adding that companies are moving to a “more general health and wellness positioning for their products. They are relying more on existing consumer awareness of ingredients such as probiotics and fiber, the health benefits that they offer and the kinds of food and drinks products that they can be found in."

High-fiber or source-of-fiber claims were used on nearly 3.4 percent of food and beverage launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2014, rising to 4.6 percent in the United States. Whole-grain claims were used on 2 percent of global launches, and rose to 3.4 percent in the United States.

Whole-grain claims were particularly popular in categories such as cereals and bakery products. Bakery products lead globally, accounting for 21 percent of food and beverage launches using this type of claim; however, this amounts to less than 6 percent of total bakery introductions. In addition, 5.5 percent of bakery launches used whole-grain claims. The two claims combined featured on 9 percent of bakery launches, rising to 16 percent in the United States.

Within the bakery market, biscuits accounted for nearly half of launches using fiber-related claims (excluding whole grains). In terms of significance, bread is a clear leader, with products featuring a high-fiber positioning accounting for 15 percent of bread launches, compared with just over 9 percent in savory biscuits and 5 percent in sweet biscuits.

In the biscuits market, probably the key area of activity in high-fiber products in recent years has been in breakfast biscuits, virtually all of which are promoted as high in fiber and/or whole grains, and many of which have variants such as fruit and fiber in their ranges. This started in the United Kingdom in 2010, creating a new breakfast biscuits sub-category featuring a raft of new brands. It also heralded a welter of activity in other countries, including Germany, the United States and Australia, as well as a revitalization of existing breakfast biscuit markets in countries such as France and Spain.

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