Companies looking to capitalize on the $43 billion global functional foods sector should not let marketing trump research, cautioned attorney Alan Feldstein of the law firm Collins, McDonald & Gann at the SupplySide West trade show.
The global market is estimated to grow to $54 billion by 2017, according to Leatherhead Food Research. But case studies indicate how companies can properly and successfully launch functional food products--as well as how companies can get dinged by regulators for making a range of rookie mistakes.
Among the more common mistakes are trying to fortify junk food, as when Coca-Cola tried to fortify Diet Coke Plus with vitamins and minerals.
“What they tried to do is turn soda into a product that had some health benefits,” said Feldstein. “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
The FDA came down on Coca-Cola for that one, showing that even marketing titans are liable to make mistakes.
Another similar example is Gamer Grub, a snack food marketed to video game players and referred to as a pizza-flavored performance snack. The problem here was its proprietary blend of choline and L-glutamic acid, and the fact that foods are not allowed to have proprietary blends--a tactic some supplement companies use to maintain a competitive advantage by not giving away their exact formulation.
On the other side, Knudson’s Simply Nutritious drink contains ginger and echinacea, with a dosage of 960mg echinacea, which is considered an efficacious dose. The company has been able to successfully market the product.
Feldstein laid out common-sense principles that should govern a company’s efforts to successfully launch a functional food or beverage.
- Truthful advertising, in net, has to not be misleading.
- Substantiate claims.
- Don’t let marketing overrule common sense.
- Functionalize foods that already have some health benefit, and not empty-calorie snacks or drinks. Examples include probiotics in yogurt, or antioxidants in ketchup.
- Beware the fairy dust principle – use enough of an ingredient to be effective and that support the claims being made.