Functional foods and herbals still in growth despite downturn

Functional foods and herbals still in growth despite downturn

Sales last year increased 6% to $31 billion as consumers became more proactive about their health and began buying more functional foods through grocery stores, the researcher said in 'Functional Foods and Beverages in the US, 4th Edition.'


Sales last year increased 6% to $31 billion as consumers became more proactive about their health and began buying more functional foods through grocery stores, the researcher said in 'Functional Foods and Beverages in the US, 4th Edition.'

"Consumers are re-evaluating their health, nutrition and lifestyle choices adopted years ago," said Tatjana Meerman, publisher at Packaged Facts. "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. This new, proactive approach is fundamentally different from the reactive tendencies of consumers in the past, who only treated health problems after they arose."

During the five-year period from 2003 to 2008, several functionally-oriented food and beverage categories performed well, including yoghurt, energy drinks, nutritional snacks and trail mixes, milk substitutes and soymilk, and refrigerated blended fruit drinks.

Packaged Facts said total US retail sales of functional foods and beverages would continue to grow at a steady pace through 2013 to reach approximately $43 billion in value.

Meerman added: "Though the market has not proven to be recession-proof, it has advantages that could prevent it from being as vulnerable as most other markets. Namely, in the short term functional products may save consumers money since these foods and beverages carry nutrients that shoppers would otherwise seek in expensive nutritional supplements. While in the long run, functional products save consumers money on medical expenses by helping to prevent illness and chronic conditions."

Meanwhile, US sales of herbal dietary supplements also increased in 2008, reaching an estimated value of $4.8 billion, according to a new report published by the American Botanical Council. The figure, based on an analysis of data from a number of market research firms, represented an increase of just under 1%.

"Many people believe that herb sales may be somewhat recession-proof," said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC and one of the authors of the herb market report. "It is highly likely — and the sales data support this — that many consumers, particularly those without health insurance to cover costs of conventional medicines, may be purchasing herbal supplements to help manage some of their health needs."

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