Consumers will pay more for functional benefits, research finds

Health benefits increase the appeal of established brands and generate added value — but a gap exists between consumers' understanding of ingredients and their benefits.

These are the two main preliminary findings of a major piece of research undertaken by Belgium-based ingredients supplier Beneo-Orafti and conducted among consumers in Spain and the UK.

In each country a range of applications was put to the test, with results demonstrating that consumers place a high worth on health benefits in terms of monetary value.

In Spain, for example, the survey found that an existing leading fruit juice brand with an added health benefit based on Orafti ingredients would still be chosen by 88% of the respondents even if it cost more than the standard product without the added ingredients.

The study also found that there was a gap between interest levels in ingredients and the health benefits they offer.? Although consumers knew the names of key ingredients such as vitamin C, calcium, wholegrain or prebiotics, they did not necessarily equate these with the key health benefits these ingredients provide.

In the UK, for instance, 'lowers cholesterol' was rated 7.86 out of 10, with a score of 10 being 'very appealing.' But plant stanols, which provide this benefit, were rated only 4.7 out of 10.

Orafti said the results indicated that, for consumers, the health claims made for a product were more important than the ingredients providing the benefits. This suggested that communicating health benefits over and above the ingredients included in a product could help manufacturers add significant value to already premium brands, it added.

In terms of the benefits considered most appealing overall, heart health, strong bones and a healthy digestive system were the top three in both the UK and Spain.

Orafti also investigated which kinds of benefits consumers found appealing in specific products. In fruit juice, for example, it was found that calcium absorption was rated the highest, with 45% considering this benefit most appealing.

Dominic Speleers, managing director of Beneo-Orafti said: "The results of the preliminary study in the UK and Spain show that there is no one-size-fits-all solution in these countries and that the most potential in a given category and for a given brand depends on many factors.

"Not only has this new consumer research provided Beneo-Orafti with a valuable consumer insight tool that is helping the company plan future product developments, but it can also be used by the company's business partners to develop attractive food concepts that appeal to the consumer and that are easily understood."

Survey findings from other European countries and the US will be released shortly.

* Read more results from Orafti's research in the January 2009 issue of Functional Ingredients magazine, which will focus on the major trends that will shape the industry over the coming 12 months.

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