Brandscape

The healthy option - the rise of the functional food

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Functional foods have been on the rise in recent years, driven by increasing consumer interest in healthy eating and the desire to prevent and manage chronic diseases. These foods, also known as nutraceuticals or designer foods, are foods that provide health benefits beyond essential nutrition. They can be fortified with vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients, or they can contain bioactive compounds that positively affect health.

The market for functional foods is growing rapidly and is expected to reach £221 billion globally by 2025. This growth is driven by many factors, including an ageing population, increasing healthcare costs, and the rise of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Consumers are becoming more aware of the link between diet and health and are seeking out foods that can help them maintain optimal health and prevent disease.

Functional foods come in various forms, from fortified cereals and energy bars to probiotic yoghurts and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Some of the most popular functional foods include:

1          Probiotic – live bacteria that help maintain a healthy gut microbiome and improve digestive health. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, and sauerkraut.

2          Omega-3 fatty acids – found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, omega-3s are essential for brain function and can help reduce inflammation in the body.

3          Fibre – found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; fibre is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system and reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

4          Antioxidants – found in colourful fruits and vegetables such as berries, spinach, and kale; antioxidants help protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation.

In the UK, we’ve seen a growing presence of these enhanced foods on our supermarket shelves. Whether it’s a brand purely focused on providing a “solution”, such as Huel or Grenade, or those “mainstream” fortifying their products with added fibre, such as Hi-Lo breads, Kallo lentil cakes and Quaker’s Oak So Simple Protein cereal . There’s also a growing trend for those little treats to offer more than just that sugar hit; look at Luker Chocolates and The Functional Chocolate Company.

Functional foods have been shown to have several health benefits, including improving cardiovascular health, boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation, and improving cognitive function. They can also help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

One of the challenges of functional foods is educating consumers about their benefits and helping them navigate the often-confusing landscape of health claims and marketing hype. Many consumers are sceptical of health claims made by food companies and may not understand the science behind the benefits of functional foods.

To address this challenge, some companies are improving transparency and providing more information about their products’ health benefits. For example, Nestle has developed a program called the Nestle Nutritional Profiling System, which helps consumers understand the nutritional content of their foods and how they can be used as part of a healthy diet.

Another challenge is ensuring that functional foods are accessible to all consumers, regardless of income or geographic location. Some functional foods, such as organic produce or speciality supplements, can be expensive and unavailable in all areas, and this can create a “healthy food divide” between those who can afford to buy functional foods and those who cannot.

To address this challenge, some organizations are working to promote functional foods in low-income and underserved communities. For example, the non-profit US-based Wholesome Wave works to increase access to healthy food by providing incentives for low-income consumers to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.

Overall, the rise of functional foods represents a growing interest in the link between diet and health and a desire to use food as a tool for disease prevention and management. As the market for functional foods continues to grow, it will be essential to ensure that consumers have access to accurate information and that functional foods are accessible to all.

Whether you’re a start-up brand looking to bring a new product to market or an established brand wishing to expand your portfolio, Wow Me Design is the perfect partner. A Cheltenham-based brand positioning agency helping brands people want. We would love you to get in touch at hello@wowmedesign.com

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