Report advises companies to write off one third of consumers

The sizable minority of consumers who still refuse to buy into the functional food and beverage category are probably a lost cause, according to UK-based consultancy Leatherhead Food Research.


The sizable minority of consumers who still refuse to buy into the functional food and beverage category are probably a lost cause, according to UK-based consultancy Leatherhead Food Research.

In a new report, Future Directions for the Global Functional Foods Market, Leatherhead said the worldwide category for food and beverage products that make a specific health claim was worth $24.2 billion in 2010 – 150% more than in 2003.

However, Leatherhead said that in spite of this impressive growth, a recent SenseReach survey of 1,500 UK consumers suggested a significant proportion of shoppers remain highly skeptical of functional food and beverage products and that it would most likely be impossible to change their minds.

While a quarter of respondents in the survey claimed to consume functional products daily, and a fifth fortnightly, almost a third said they did not – and furthermore never would – consume functional products because they believed they did not work.

Leatherhead said this meant that companies chasing sales growth would probably be better off focusing on getting those consumers who do buy into the functional market to purchase more products more frequently, rather than wasting time and resources on the naysayers.

“The SenseReach survey supports the widely held view that consumption growth is more likely to come from increasing the frequency and volume of consumption of existing users rather than ‘converting’ those who do not buy into functional food products,” the consultancy explained.

Commenting on the strong performance of the market since 2003, Leatherhead said: “A number of factors have facilitated the growth of functional foods. Changes in consumers’ diets, lifestyles, and awareness and interest in their own health and wellbeing are important factors creating a demand-pull for products with the potential to deliver beneficial health outcomes.

“Supply-push factors are evident too. Expanding scientific knowledge and technological capability, particularly ingredient exploration and development, has led to increased product innovation. Consequently, the number of new product introductions making functional claims has been growing by approximately 28% per year and the diversity of claims and suggested health benefits have been diversifying.”

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