Europe has launched a new functional food network for the European food industry in a bid to strengthen innovation in this burgeoning area.
Functional foods specifically founded in scientific results generated within the EC 4th, 5th, and 6th Framework programmes will be the source of the new network.
The network has called on 40-50 food or ingredients SMEs, larger enterprises and industrial incubators to participate, but not large and international companies. In addition, no more than three to six businesses from each of the 15 EU member states and 10 incoming countries can be involved.
The companies are expected to produce to the submarkets dairy products, baked products, cereals / breakfast, confectionery, soft drinks, fats / oils / spreads, and ingredients. Other products with a functional foods potential are also welcome - sports drinks, vegetables, ready meals, meat and eggs. No competing companies on the same markets / products are accepted, thereby allowing close collaboration and development leading to eventual new joint ventures.
In addition, a number of EU experts in the functional foods, health, nutrition, market and innovation will be invited to assist the enterprises in their development.
Due to be up and running in the autumn this year, the network is expected to last for three years.
The rationale behind the new network is that developing new functional food products is not only a matter of interest to very large international companies, but also to smaller companies. More particularly, those who are regional or national suppliers of ingredients and ordinary foods - dairy products, baked products, breakfast cereals, soft drinks, sports products, spreads and oils, ready meals and confectionery.
According to a statement from Finn Holm, director of the FoodGroup in Denmark, the commercial interest is based on several factors - strong growth of the functional food markets, new scientific findings on the influence on chronic diseases, new functional food ingredients available and a recent draft proposal from the EC (July 2003) on accepting health claims and a procedure for approval, harmonising the legal situation in the EU.
Even if functional foods are still in a nascent state, and only over a small percentage of the total food supply, statistics suggest it is growing rapidly. Datamonitor estimated the global market - including food supplements - to be €73 billion in 2000, and growing by 16 per cent per year. The market analysts also put the functional foods market in the US at €12.7 billion in 1998 , in Europe at €8.5 billion, and Japan at €8.2 billion.
In Europe the market is estimated to grow at 6.8 per cent annually with dairy based functional foods at €3.9 bn, the largest product group, followed by cereal products at €2.5 billion, with major products confectionery products, fats and spreads, and soft drinks following behind. According to Holm, the above figures are only market estimates for UK, Germany and France so the actual gross figure for Europe is much higher.
The network structure will revolve around a general network (GN) and a number of product specific networks (PSN).
Companies interested participating in this new initiative must respond by 20 September 2003 to Finn Holm, FoodGroup Denmark, Gustav Wieds Vej 10, DK-8000 Aarhus, Denmark, or by email to Finn.Holm@FoodGroup.dk.