July 16, 2009

4 Min Read
Targeting Functional-Food Trends


By Ram Chaudhari, Ph.D., FACN, CNS
Contributing Editor

Fortified functional foods and beverages are set for unprecedented growth as consumers continue to understand the value that nutrition plays in their overall health, as well as in the management of specific health conditions. An approach to personalized nutrition will continue to create opportunities for manufacturers savvy enough to know that fortified functional products are an excellent way to differentiate themselves from their competition on an already overcrowded supermarket shelf.

Food for thought

The target audience for brain-boosting products spans all demographic segments, including pregnant mothers, babies, toddlers, children, teens, adults and seniors. Some of the nutrients that would avail themselves to enhancing cognitive function in a variety of applications such as infant formulas, juices, bars and baked goods include: acetyl L-carnitine, choline, CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10), GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), gingko biloba, phosphatidylcholine, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, C and E.

Lifelong immunity

Immunity is a concern for all ages. However, immune-boosting products need clear focus for each target group. For instance, the aging boomer is more concerned with warding off chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease and arthritis, while mothers are likely more focused on protecting their family from the common cold or other infectious diseases. There is an intimate connection between a persons immune system and their gut. Manufacturers can target gut and digestive health with both pre- and probiotic ingredients in immunity-boosting products. Although the body has some limited capacity for storing nutrients, there is a continual need to provide good nutrition to maintain proper functioning of the body, including optimal immune function. Utilizing the following nutrients in applications that encompass dairy, juices and enhanced waters can help support immunity: biotin, folic acid, selenium, zinc, CoQ10, lycopene, and prebiotics and probiotics, as well as vitamins A, C, E, B1, B12, B2, B6, and C.

Fighting times effects

The market for nutricosmetics or cosmeceuticalsingestible, nutritional skin-care productsis driven by increased media exposure and a growing number of young and older health-conscious consumers who want to maintain or achieve a youthful and beautiful outward appearance. The best products for this category are fortified foods, beverages and beauty-oriented dietary supplements. Interesting applications for nutricosmetics include collagen-enriched soup, yogurts enriched with beauty-enhancing ingredients, functional bottled-water products, ready-to-drink tea, anti-aging jams, antioxidant-rich chocolate-based beauty products, and many more. Nutrients that can enhance ingestible anti-aging products include: collagen, vitamin E, aloe vera, CoQ10, inulin, lycopene and resveratrol.

Targeted energy

The choice of specific ingredients in energy-enhancement products should be appropriate to the needs of the target population and the purpose of the product (e.g., athletes, weight loss, mental acuity, etc.). The main ingredients in sport drinks focus on providing water for hydration and optimal levels of highly available sources of carbohydrate energy, such as sucrose or glucose-fructose syrups. In contrast, the design of an energy-boosting drink for the weight loss market would need to be mindful of caloric content, so sucralose would be a better ingredient choice. In addition, energy-promoting ingredients like caffeine, guarana, ginseng or tyrosine help address the energy drag caused by weight-loss diets. Similar energy-boosting ingredients may also go into products designed for greater mental energy. Such products may also include additional antioxidants, such as vitamin C and E or CoQ10, and deliver additional brain food ingredients, such as choline, marine omega fatty acids like DHA and EPA, zinc, and folate. Other nutrients that can enhance energy include: taurine, B-complex vitamins, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), cordyceps and rhodiola.

Effective net results

Designing a new product with a desired specific health benefit is no easy task. Developers are faced with many challenges every day regarding custom fortification. Because a number of factors, such as temperature, moisture, pH, oxygen, bioavailability and interactions, impact the stability of nutrients and their retention in foods, I would urge new-product developers to thoroughly investigate nutrient characteristics prior to incorporating them into products. Finally, I cannot place enough emphasis on the fact that the key to wide consumer acceptance of any fortified food or beverage product is taste. No matter how good your product might be from a nutritional point of view, if it does not immediately taste good, then the product is set for failure right from the start.

Ram Chaudhari, Ph.D., FACN, CNS, is senior executive vice president, chief scientific officer and co-founder of Fortitech Inc., Schenectady, NJ. He spearheads the companys extensive research and development and quality assurance efforts. He is responsible for directing Fortitechs global team of technical, laboratory and quality control personnel that help manufacturers develop new products, meet desired label claims, tackle formulation challenges and address processing requirements.

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