Functional foods market is expected to grow 25% by 2017: Leatherhead

By Anna Bonar

- Last updated on GMT

'Much of this growth is expected to be driven by ongoing concerns over worldwide obesity levels,' said Jonathan Thomas from Leatherhead
'Much of this growth is expected to be driven by ongoing concerns over worldwide obesity levels,' said Jonathan Thomas from Leatherhead

Related tags Health claims Nutrition

The global functional food market is forecast to reach $54bn (€43bn), an increase of 25% compared to the last available data from 2013, says Leatherhead Food Research.

According to the Leatherhead report, energy drinks as well as products aimed at improving mood maintained their popularity, with a 27.1% market share for the countries analysed. However, products offering other health claims such as those addressing cognitive and mental decline as well as eye health are also growing in importance.

The forecast applies to products matching a strict market definition, i.e those making functional health claims.

“Much of this growth is expected to be driven by ongoing concerns over worldwide obesity levels, together with the development of food and beverages offering benefits such as satiety,” ​Jonathan Thomas from Leatherhead told NutraIngredients.

Indeed, the report suggests that the US is expected to be the fastest growing market - overtaking Japan as the world’s largest market for functional foods.

Meanwhile the situation is Europe is a bit more complex with stricter regulations regarding health claims. 

“As a result, more manufacturers within the wellness foods arena have been moving towards ‘softer’ health claims, which carry more general health and wellness messages,” ​said Thomas.

“Sales of functional foods are also vulnerable to economic circumstances, given the fact that they typically command higher prices. Also, some sectors appear to be reaching maturity,” ​he added.   

A functional future?

The Leatherhead report showed that the despite the challenges, many consumers believed functional foods could resolve some of the health problems.

“Leatherhead research carried out for the report indicates that although less than a quarter (23%) of UK consumers are inclined to believe the health claims typically made by functional foods, three in ten are of the opinion that these types of products can play a major role in helping to combat some of the health problems facing society today, such as growing obesity levels,” ​said Thomas.             

While the report shows a strong market demand for functional drinks and mood related products, and growing demand for solutions to the obesity crisis, the situation does not look so good for products offering immune support - which represented $1bn (€0.8bn).

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