The Netherlands-based consultancy said that while the majority of claims submitted for assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) under the regulation had been rejected, companies marketing products containing ingredients that had been approved were already taking advantage of this privileged position.
Innova said that this was illustrated by the fact that in 2010 it had tracked a 36 percent year-on-year increase in the number of products launched in Western Europe with a health positioning that featured the word 'proven.'
"Companies that have managed to uphold health claims so far have been quick to promote this through marketing use of words like 'proven' and 'scientific support.' " it explained. "The few European companies that have successfully navigated the EFSA health claims maze will be keen to highlight their ingredients from this perspective, to encourage a previously skeptical consumer to try out a new functional food product."
The health claims regulation had also seen companies migrate to safer 'passive' claims, said Innova. The company said it tracked a 4 percent year-on-year decline in the number of 'active health' launches in Western Europe in 2010 (i.e .products carrying ‘food plus’ functional and fortified claims).
Conversely, it had tracked 25 percent growth in the number of 'passive health' launches last year (i.e. products carrying 'food minus' better-for-you claims). Innova said this trend was due to "a cloud of uncertainty hovering over health claims."
Meanwhile, Innova claimed that vitamin K2 was set to become the "next big thing in functional foods" in the wake of growing evidence about its beneficial role in bone and cardiovascular health. The ingredient’s award of GRAS status for dairy foods in the U.S. earlier this year, following on from its EU Novel Food approval in 2009, would also help its development in the market, Innova said.
It added: "The number of product launches containing vitamin K2 remains relatively limited globally, although the Innova Database indicates that introductions recorded rose by over 40 percent in 2010."