'Functional foods' are those that provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition and more people are recognizing that they are an important part of a lifestyle that leads to long-term fitness and even longevity.

Liz Sloan, writing in Food Technology, has identified the top 10 trends in functional foods. The article noted that a majority of Americans, 69 percent, are incorporating foods into a preventative lifestyle, while 27 percent are utilizing food as a treatment to manage a preexisting health condition. One-third of shoppers (36 percent) are trying to reduce the risk of developing a health condition, follow a doctor’s advice (30 percent) or manage/treat a specific condition on their own (25 percent), according to the Food Marketing Institute¹ data.

“Today’s consumers are extremely sophisticated, and they are attracted to functional foods’ ability to help manage health and wellness,” said Institute of Food Technologists(IFT) spokesperson Roger Clemens, PhD. Simply put, Americans are relying heavily on the foods they consume to improve their well-being.

Top 10 Food Trends

1. Healthy Household Halo – Americans are looking to create a healthy household. Approximately 57 percent of shoppers are making a lot of effort to eat healthier². With half (53 percent) of adults controlling their diet – 61 percent for weight, 36 percent cholesterol, 22 percent blood sugar, 18 percent high blood pressure, and 14 percent diabetes³. Babies and young children also drive healthier household eating. Popular trends include DHA for brain and eye development and probiotics for digestive health. In recent years, sales of healthful kids’ foods have outsold regular kids’ products 3:14. With 28 percent of parents admitting that they have an overweight child and one in eight kids having two or more risk factors for heart disease later in life, the No. 3 concern of moms, after immunity and growth/development, is now healthy kids foods.

2. Natural End Benefits – Recent scientific validation of the health benefits of superfoods have convinced consumers that key benefits are, in fact, naturally achievable, thus creating a new trend to whole food nutrition. New superfoods include:
• Blood Oranges
• Goji Berries
• Seabuckthorn
• Mangosteens
• Garbanzo Beans
• Specialty Mushrooms

3. Balancing The “Bul-get” – The U.S. weight loss market—projected to grow from $58 billion to $69 billion by 2010—is undergoing a sea change as consumers shift from dieting/weight loss programs to managing weight via smaller portions, specific food restrictions, and light/low-fat and super-satiating foods 5. Products providing, satiety, the state of feeling full or gratified, are now a hot commodity.

4. Contemporary Conditions – As 31 million Americans turn age 65 over the next 10 years, and the oldest of the 76 million baby boomers enter their 60s, the demand for condition-specific foods will skyrocket. Conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and diabetes have created a need for functional foods to manage/treat these conditions. Boomers are looking to consume more omega-3s, polyphenols, flavanols, and plant sterols as part of a balanced lifestyle.

5. Proactive Lifestyles – With the majority of consumers trying to live a preventive lifestyle, fortified foods and beverages have quickly become a way of life. Consumers are making a strong effort to get more vitamin C, calcium, B vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, vitamin E, omega-3s/DHA/fish oil, vitamin A, potassium, iron, and folic acid from the food and beverages they consume6.

Proactive lifestyles have also created a need for functional foods that enhance skin, hair, and nails from the inside out. The U.S. “cosmeceutical” market is expected to grow from $14.9 billion to $17.2 billion by 20107.

6. Simpler, Greener, & Cleaner – Many consumers are taking a simpler, more-natural approach to the foods they eat, looking for foods with only a few ingredients and as fresh and close to the farm as time and budget will allow. Hormones topped the list of ingredients that consumers were least comfortable consuming.

Organic food and beverages sales grew 13 percent in 2007 and are expected to continue at double-digit growth through 20108. Consumers believe local products are fresher, have fewer pesticides, and in general are of higher quality9. Whole and heritage grains are among the ingredients that best symbolize the new natural direction.

7. Smart Treats – With two-thirds (66 percent) of consumers trying to eat snacks with more nutrition, 63 percent looking for lower-calorie favorites, and one-quarter looking for 100-calorie snack packs, healthier snack options is a “must have” for today’s consumer. Healthy snack sales outpaced traditional snacks nearly 3:1 over the last few years10.

8. Sensitivity Training – The number of adults who perceive that they, or their children, suffer from food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities continues to grow, creating lucrative markets, disproportionate to their true medical base. The 70 million Americans suffering from a digestive ailment expect to see more products fortified with fiber and gluten-free. Foods carrying a digestive health/probiotic clam reached $712 million in 200711.

9. Vitality Treadmill – Energy was the top reason consumers made a dietary change last year. More than half of adults (55 percent) need something to give them an energy boost several times a week, 48 percent to increase their stamina/physical endurance, 46 percent to help them wake up, 43 percent to improve mental alertness, and 40 percent to keep them awake12.

Of all new functional food concepts, consumers are most interested in new products that improve mental performance13. Just over one-third of consumers drink energy beverages for a mental boost14. Ginseng, guarana, and taurine are among the key ingredients in emerging beverages. Candies, gums, and chocolates are also gaining popularity within this market.

10. New Venues – Without a doubt, the most important factor driving the healthy and functional foods market mainstream has been the increased accessibility of healthy products through additional channels. With today’s grab-and-go lifestyle and rising gas prices, convenience stores have become a powerhouse for sales of some healthy products. Convenience stores have instituted new programs designed to increase sales of these types of products.

To view or download this Food Technology article in its entirety please the visit http://www.ift.org.