Increased consumer awareness of the long-term benefits of proper nutrition in overall health, as well as how it relates to specific health conditions, is driving new product development in the global market for functional food and beverages that is predicted to reach US$255 billion by 2024, according to Grand View Research Inc. But slapping a health claim on a nutrition bar won’t get brands very far if it doesn’t deliver desired results. Product developers and brands must keep in mind consumers are looking for products that include efficacious levels of functional ingredients, such as protein, omega-3s, calcium, fiber etc., that can combat various diseases progression and provide promising health benefits.
Whether you are an established player in the functional food and beverage category or looking to enter the game, consider these market dynamics:
Identify your target market. Key generational differences provide insight regarding growth opportunities and targeting, so research how shifting consumer demographics and needs among Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials affect their food and beverage purchasing decisions. By choosing foods and beverages that “work” for them, consumers are proactively managing specific health issues and medical conditions.
Since 2009, an increase of 49 percent of consumers believe consuming functional or fortified foods is important in maintaining their health. Such consumers have become resolute in making purposeful choices. Millennials represent the largest population of consumers—88 percent—who believe consuming functional food is important to a healthy lifestyle, followed by Gen Xers (42 percent) and Baby Boomers (36 percent).
Understand formulation challenges. Taste is always No. 1 in consumers’ minds, which means food developers must balance the beneficial effects of myriad nutritional ingredients and their chemical interactions during processing techniques such as HPP and UHT in the final product’s texture, appearance, stability, shelf life and cost. Outline your desired result and consult with your ingredient supplier to find the best ingredients to put the “function” in functional, as well as options to help counterbalance off-notes sometimes associated with certain ingredients, such as proteins and botanicals.
Taste trumps function in many cases. Even though consumers are looking for products that benefit overall health, they also are aware of caloric intake and seek out products containing clean label sweetener alternatives such as stevia, monk fruit, agave, erythritol and natural fibers that allow for calorie reduction without sacrificing flavor profile. These ingredients aren’t necessarily 1:1 replacements for sugar, and at times its’s necessary to use a mixture of ingredients to create the ideal flavor profile.
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