How Functional Are Current Functional Foods and Beverages?

Thanks to strides in technology and product formulation, which have allowed for better-tasting functional ingredients with a longer shelf life, the offerings in the functional food and beverage category continue to expand. Despite the recession, 770 new functional food and beverage products were launched in the United States in 2009.

But just how “functional” are these products?

It’s a question being asked with urgency by many in the functional food and beverage industry—and one Nutrition Business Journal explores in depth in our upcoming 2010 Functional Food and Beverage issue (which publishes later this month). As we learned, concern appears to be growing regarding the use of less-than-efficacious amounts, or varieties, of ingredients within functional foods and beverages products in order to boast them on product labels and command a premium price. The practice, which some refer to as “pixie-dust” dosing, has prompted an array of regulatory actions in the past year and is prompting some ingredient companies, such as Cognis Nutrition & Health, to establish mandatory guidelines for their clients on just how much of an ingredient must be used in a product and how it must be portrayed on the label.

In the meantime, manufacturers, including The Hain Celestial Group and Next Foods, are calling on their peers to be more clear and consistent in their labeling, while consumer watchdog groups are asking the government to force the industry to do so.

In surveying functional food and beverage companies and ingredient suppliers for NBJ’s functional food and beverage issue, we asked participants to rate the impact the lack of efficacious ingredient dosage levels in functional foods and beverages is having or will have on this product category. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed said it would have a large impact, while 36% said it would have a medium impact.

Here’s what one survey participant said about the dosage issue as it relates to label claims: “The number of profitable companies in the space making unsubstantiated claims indicates that this issue doesn’t really play into consumers purchase decisions. It is unknown whether that’s because consumers are uninformed or disinterested. Meaningful change will likely come only from increased government scrutiny of the industry.”

Another survey respondent had this to say: “Lack of evidence far surpasses dose issues. Dose is always a problem but it’s my opinion that functional foods and beverages should not necessarily be the same strength as dietary supplements.”

Subscribers can read more about this complex and perplexing issue in NBJ’s 2010 Functional Food and Beverage issue. To order a copy or become a subscriber visit the NBJ subscription page.

Related NBJ links:

Functional Food and Beverages Are Finally Making a Big Splash in the United States

Global Functional Food Sales by Region 1999-2008 - Chart 243

Kraft, NextFoods Tap Sweden's Probi as Probiotic Functional Food Partner

Related Functional Ingredient Magazine links:

Probiotics: Strains Matter

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