Consumers confused by conflicting science

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

The health and wellness market needs to focus on avoiding consumer
confusion as a result of an abundance of scientific information,
according to a new report from Packaged Facts, a division of

The report, entitled Ingredients Affecting Health and Wellness: Innovations and Trends to Watch in​ 2007, takes an in-depth look at the ingredients under-lying major health and wellness trends. It does not put a figure on the health and wellness market. It stresses that avoiding consumer confusion over scientific findings, often leveraged in marketing materials to boost credence, is crucial. The science that is communicated should be sound, and products compellingly positioned to inspire confidence. "Consumers are becoming both less receptive to dietary advice and confused when recommendations made one day are later refuted,"​ says the report. "To some extent, consumer scepticism of the latest information is on the rise for this reason."​ Ingredients that have established themselves in the market, and which need to maintain momentum, are said to be whole grains, trans fat alternatives, antioxidants, organics, and omega-3. In the case of omega-3, the fatty acids "appear in 2007 to be on their way to becoming 'the next low carb'",​ as their presence is flagged on products that naturally contain them, as well as those in which they are added. The science behind omega-3 is robust, however, and it is unlikely that they will fall out of favour in the foreseeable future in the same way as low carb looks to have been a stepping-stone towards low-glycemic diets. The GI index has yet to fully catch on in the US, however, but it may well do yet. Although acceptance may be limited without endorsement of the American Diabetes Association and American Diabetics Association, products are already being formulated using the principles of low GI - without necessarily making the claim. Other topics that are likely to start being taken more seriously are salt reduction, foods aimed at the baby boom generation (especially for bone health, eye health, and cognitive function), and fibers (especially barley, the recent recipient of FDA heart health claim approval). "Five years ago few people would have thought that we'd be reporting on the advent of cellulose, bamboo, and cottonseed as fiber alternatives,"​ said Packaged Facts publisher Don Montuori. "But today's more wholistic and scientific approach to wellness is opening up diverse opportunities for developing food and beverage ingredients from both common and exotic sources that have not been readily tapped, making the growth potential in this market very dynamic." Of the factors influencing the food ingredients market, obesity - and particularly childhood obesity - tops the bill. Others are consumer fears over unwitting ingestion of potentially detrimental substances like sugar, salt, fat and hormones, changing demographics (immigration and ageing); and regulatory changes, particularly concerning definitions of the terms 'natural' and 'whole grain'. Food safety fears are also coming into play, stemming from contamination of bagged spinach to ago-terrorism fears. "Food safety has a new level of importance in 2007 and will underlie all food ingredient issues,"​ says Packaged Facts. It also identifies a shift in shopping patterns, as consumers do not necessarily go to the supermarket each week, but make use of more and varied retail channels.

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