Consumers want functional and fortified foods that are healthy, safe and enjoyable, but not necessarily in that order. Taste is always number one on consumers’ minds. But food manufacturers must balance that yum factor with health, texture, appearance and cost.
It’s a daunting task that could take years to complete, but with careful planning, testing and reformulating, brand owners can offer appealing, healthy foods.
Developing a functional food or beverage starts with research and development, a process that can be lengthy and frustrating. Most experts agree that starting with consumer demand is a good first step.
“Reliance upon support initiatives from consumer marketing surveys on the subject of taste is very helpful," said Michael Crabtree, technical sales manager, Bioenergy Life Science. “Departmental cooperation and teamwork that gleans valuable information from a target constituency can be transformed into R&D success."
The ingredients that make functional food appealing, such as vitamins, phytochemicals and healthy fats, can be detrimental to a long shelf life. Functional food ingredients need to stay potent enough through shipping, store-shelf display and in the pantry until consumers are ready to eat.
“A functional food may contain an ingredient that may be very stable as an ingredient," said Shaheen Majeed, marketing director, Sabinsa, “however it may not be able to withstand the production stress, and may end up degraded inside the functional food, imparting a detrimental effect on the taste, appearance and even on health."
The taste issue may come as a big surprise to companies that are just entering the functional food space, as Bob Green, chairman, Advantra Z Inc., noted. “With functional products, there are, of course, taste issues that aren’t a concern when formulating tableted or encapsulated dietary supplements," he said.
Food formulators must follow regulations to ensure food is safe for consumers, but food safety goes beyond following the law.
Learn more about formulating safe, healthy and tasting foods in the article “Food Formulating" in INSIDER’s Functional Foods Digital Issue.