Scientia Forecasts Sunny Future for Functional Foods

December 18, 2008

In a study released on December 18, Scientia (Palo Alto, CA) predicts an annual compound growth rate of 7% through 2012, averaged across all segments of the industry.

In a study released on December 18, Scientia (Palo Alto, CA) predicts an annual compound growth rate of 7% through 2012, averaged across all segments of the industry. The rapid rise will bring global sales of functional foods to $195 billion-a 52% gain over 2006 sales of $128 billion.

Functional foods, also called “medicinal foods” or “nutraceuticals,” are those fortified with naturally occurring ingredients that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition.

Functional foods may include probiotics, omega-3 extracts, phytonutrients, or other natural substances. Some of these ingredients can reduce the risk of certain diseases or help manage chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Others can enhance physical and athletic performance, memory, or cognitive performance.

The expected growth in the functional foods marketplace will come as a result of a constellation of factors, according to Bob Jones, a principal consultant at Scientia, who led the study. Factors include: increasing scientific evidence of functional foods’ effectiveness; increased media publicity encouraging consumer adoption; an aging population with growing chronic health needs, and food companies’ ability to work in a regulatory environment that increasingly requires scientific substantiation of claims being made.

“Both large and small companies are developing efficacious new ingredients,” Jones said. “Currently, there are clinical trials underway to test the role of omega-3 fatty acids in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. There is also work supporting the role of probiotics in enhancing immune systems.” Equally important, “companies are making commercially successfully products that taste good, are affordable, and can be found in the supermarket.”

Not all functional food products enjoy equal success, the study found. For example, yogurts fortified with probiotics have enjoyed great success, where margarines fortified with a cholesterol-lowering sterol have largely failed in the United States. The study identifies several factors responsible for the commercial success of some functional food products and the disappointing sales of others.

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