Functional foods still booming, despite recession dent

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Functional foods Nutrition

Functional foods have seen a slowdown in growth in the last year as the recession bites into grocery spending, but analysts’ outlooks are not all grim. They are cheaper than supplements in the short term, and cheaper than medical bills in the long, notes Packaged Facts.

In a new report called Functional Foods and Beverages in the US, 4th Edition, the market researcher valued the US functional foods and beverages market at $30.7bn at retail in 2008, up 6 per cent on the 2007 value.

“This performance reflects a slow-down from the 8 per cent growth rate seen in 2007, reflecting both the increasing maturity of the market and the impact of recessionary pressures on consumer spending on ‘fancier’ and less essential food and beverage items,”​ says the report.

The compound annual growth rate between 2003 and 2008 was 8 per cent.

Nonetheless, the expectation is that revenue will not drop dramatically, and consumers will save in areas such as restaurant meals before cutting back their grocery bills.

Functional foods also carry the same nutrients as are available in nutritional supplements, Packaged Facts points out, but are less expensive. In the long-run, it says they can help consumers avoid expensive medical bills later on, as ensuring adequate nutrient intake can ward off ill health.

The US functional foods market is predicted to be worth around $43bn by 2013.

Proactive consumers

According to Tatjana Meerman, publisher of Packaged Facts, consumer are now much more proactive about their health than in the past, when issues were dealt with only after they occurred.

“Consumers are re-evaluating their health, nutrition and lifestyle choices adopted years ago. This re-evaluation includes considering the role functional foods and beverages could or should play in diets in order to avoid or help treat all kinds of health conditions.”

In an online poll of 2600 US adults in February 2009 55 percent of respondents said they prefer to buy foods for nutritional benefits rather than vitamins or supplements. By contrast, only 24 percent said they prefer to take pills.

Sixteen percent agreed strongly that they are buying more foods for this reason.

Gender-wise, women were seen to be more receptive to functional foods than men, with 19 percent agreeing strongly that they prefer foods or beverages with specific nutritional benefits instead of pills.

Just 13 percent of men strongly agreed to the same question.

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