Fortified foods get functional

As America?s interest in health grows, more consumers are turning to fortified foods. A Elizabeth Sloan sees innovative companies meeting the new demands and propelling a once-niche industry into the mainstream

From design-your-own nutrient smoothies to fortified eggs that help manage blood sugar, the North American market is alive with cutting-edge functional food concepts and intriguing new ingredients. Nutrition Business Journal reports that sales of functional foods reached $21.9 billion in 2003, up seven per cent on the previous year, while natural and organic foods topped $16.2 billion, up 13 per cent. Supplement sales also rebounded after five years to reach $19.6 billion, up 5.7 per cent.

With 13,285 new US food and beverage introductions in the past four years — and nearly two thirds (62 per cent) of Americans now regular purchasers — fortified foods and beverages remain the largest functional foods segment (see chart below). Cereals, bars and beverages top the list. It?s a category set for continued growth, fuelled by three major attitudinal shifts.

First, Americans continue to feel they are nutritionally deficient. The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) reports that 37 per cent of consumers believe they are deficient in calcium, 34 per cent soy protein, 31 per cent fibre, 31 per cent omega-3s, 31 per cent soy isoflavones, 28 per cent whole grains, 27 per cent antioxidants, 23 per cent vitamin C, 19 per cent lutein and 15 per cent folic acid.

Second, America?s 40 million young people aged 15-24 are taking an unprecedented interest in health and performance. A Buzzback Research study found that vitamins/minerals content was the fifth most important factor in deciding what foods they?ll eat — right behind fresh, easy-to-prepare, on-the-go meals and energising foods. Young adults are also most likely to think they aren?t meeting their nutritional requirements. NMI reports that 49 per cent of those under 35 think they?re deficient in calcium compared to 24 per cent of those aged 36-45 and 39 per cent aged 46-55. Third, nearly half of all consumers agree fortified foods can single-handedly deliver the day?s nutritional requirements — without additional supplementation.

Maximising the bioavailability of nutrients is the latest trend in fortified foods. Examples include adding inulin to yoghurt, such as Stonyfield Farm, Horizon and Mountain High brands, to improve the bioavailability of calcium. Lactoferrin, which is GRAS by the Food & Drug Administration, is being added to enhance iron absorption. Associated with heart health and increased energy level, the frequency of B-vitamin fortification has increased. And a re-emergence of rickets in children and its role in bone/joint health has put vitamin D back into the spotlight.

With mineral supplements sales jumping 16 per cent last year, marketers are looking to minerals to improve bioavailability. Increasingly linked to energy, the desire for iron-fortified products is growing, particularly for dairy products. Zinc is also getting more attention for its role in immunity and bone health. Lastly, choline, well recognized for its role in memory and cognitive function by the FDA, is another fast-emerging nutrient. Cargill?s Lecigran lecithin is high in choline and inositol; Secisoy is Cargill?s new soy-based lecithin.

With Americans expected to buy more bottled water than coffee or beer this year, fortified waters and clear, minimally flavoured beverages are skyrocketing in popularity. Hansen?s mildly fruit-flavoured Energy Water (E2O) with glucose, ginseng, taurine, B vitamins and electrolytes, and Ajinomoto?s Amino Vital ready-to-drink amino acid water have created two new powerful categories. Fruit waters and soy waters such as Leading Brands? Soy2O with natural soy isoflavones are yet another new direction.

Talking Rain Beverage Co?s Sparkling Ice Spring Water with fruit juice and vitamins C and E, and elegant ?quietly effervescent? fortified table waters such as CCW Holding?s Sanfaustino Aqua Minerale, with a natural bicarbonate effect, represent two of the latest carbonated water trends. A diversity of new nutritional ingredients such as Purac America?s Puracal XPure and Rhodia Foods? VersaCAL calcium; Novartis? Benefiber and Wacker Specialties? Cavamax W6 dietary fibres; and Eastman Chemical Co?s Vitamin E TPGS are all designed for use in clear fortified beverages.

Tropicana?s Essentials line includes a trendy mid-calorie option, Light ?n Healthy, with a day?s supply of vitamin C, calcium and one third of the calories in orange juice. Hansen?s Beverage Co?s all-natural, 100 per cent Juice Slams with 17 nutrients and Apple & Eve?s Water Fruits, with vitamins C, B3, B5, B6 and B12, are school-vending-machine friendly. WaddaJuice?s ?paediatrician-friendly? juice drink is sold in a baby bottle with a nipple, fortified with vitamin C and calcium.

Fortified yoghurt beverages enjoyed a 69 per cent growth rate in 2003. Even coffee is fortified! Caff? Botanica?s blend is made with organic herb- and mineral-infused gourmet beans. Skylar Haley?s achieV One are flavoured, single-serve coffees with 20g of protein and 19 nutrients.

Healthy snacks, which grew 41 per cent in 2003 to $5.5 billion, are projected by Mintel to reach $7.2 billion by 2008. Wellness bars account for 38 per cent of the $1.9 billion bar market, up 32 per cent last year according to Information Resources Inc.

With nearly one third of teenage girls skipping breakfast and one quarter of boys missing lunch and breakfast, portable healthy mini-meals are in high demand. Diet candy — up 93 per cent last year — as well as fortified cookies and candies such as Amerifit Nutrition?s Vitaball Vitamin Gumballs are meeting the need for healthier versions of America?s favourite treats.

Protein power
The $1.5 billion low-carb movement, new Recommended Daily Intakes (RDI) for amino acids and no cautionary upper limit set to limit high-protein products have spawned a race for novel, highly nutritious proteins. Soy protein tops the list of ingredients in a 2004 Prepared Foods survey food executives say will grow their business. Calcium is next, followed by dietary fibre, omega fatty acids, probiotics, whey protein, high oleic fats/oils, isoflavones, vitamin C and folic acid. Now being formulated into high-protein milks, such as Kidsmilk and bars like Next Protein?s Detour, the trend toward whey protein is just beginning. Corn Protein Isolate was unveiled at the July Institute of Food Technologists? meeting by Energetic Inc and the US Department of Agriculture. Egg protein, fish protein, Nitta Gelatin NA Inc Hydrolyzed Collagen GCP-1000 — which provides additional benefits for skin, hair and nails — Levapan Baker?s Yeast Extracts, and Dipasa USA?s sesame seed flour are other new high-protein alternatives. Canadian company Burcon has a canola-based, high-protein ingredient in the pipeline.

At the same time, dietary fibres, which are subtracted out from the total carb count resulting in low ?net carb? products, are in high demand. Roxlor International?s BakeFlora line, which is less than 85 per cent fibre, replaces sugar 1:1. More exotic fibres — like International Fiber?s JustFiber Bamboo, Cottonseed and White Wheat Fibers — are gaining in popularity.

Chronic disease
As the market shifts from prevention to treatment, ingredients that deliver risk-factor reduction have a bright future. With one in four Americans suffering from some form of heart disease, almost every consumer behaviour related to heart health has escalated.

New RDIs and a series of health claims for fish, plant and nut-based omega-3s, have sparked a long overdue wave of omega-3 products, including ?naturally fortified? products like Anchors? Heart Wise omega-3 milk. The latest heart-healthy products include White Wave Silk?s omega-3 fortified cholesterol-lowering soy milk; healthier oils including Heart Beat Foods? Smart Balance Natural blend of canola, soy and olive oil fortified with vitamin E and omega-3s; and a bevy of omega-3 nut butters, oils and toppings.

While plant sterol-containing products are still limited in the US, Cargill?s CoroWise instant water-dispersible plant sterol esters and ADM?s Euchol phytosterol ingredients will help broaden the range of heart-healthy foods.

A new medical category, ?pre-hypertension,? which afflicts 45 million Americans, brings the American blood pressure market to just under 100 million people. Tokyo?s Calpis Co?s Ameal Peptide is the latest milk peptide to be introduced with clinically proven effectiveness in controlling elevated blood pressure. ABIC Internationals? AMP blocks the bitter taste when potassium chloride is added to foods.

Although The NPD Group reports that Americans lost weight last year, with the Body Mass Index falling one per cent, the weight-control market appears to be easing (see chart p19). However, the market remains at a significant level with 46 per cent trying to manage weight for appearance and 42 per cent for health. Two new ingredients have recently gained attention. First, a long-term human study using Cognis? Tonalin conjugated linoleic acid (Am J Clin Nutr 2004; 79(6):1118-25) has confirmed a nine per cent reduction in body fat. Second, Forbes MediTech?s Vivola oil has been clinically shown to promote weight loss and cholesterol reduction.

With 1.5 million new cases of diabetes each year, nearly 80 million Americans being insulin resistant and energy remaining a mainstream concern, interest in managing blood sugar continues to grow. With a health claim petition submitted to FDA related to improved glucose metabolism, diabetes and possibly heart disease, Nutrition 21?s Chromax chromium picolinate is receiving unprecedented attention. A new National Institutes of Health study confirmed that chromium picolinate supplementation reduced carbohydrate cravings. GTC Nutrition?s Natureal GI oat bran concentrate and Matsutani America?s Fibersol-2 digestion resistant maltodextrin are two of the latest ultra-low glycaemic fibres. Bristol Meyers Choice line of foods is one example of diabetic products perfectly positioned for the up-and-coming blood sugar craze.

Sports & Energy
With the nation?s 40 million young adults about to enter the prime age for sports marketers, the $4.7 billion sports and energy beverage segment is set to explode. Energy drinks topped the list of the fastest-growing supermarket categories last year, up 39 per cent. Sports drinks rose 13 per cent. Natural energy sodas such as Blue Sky?s Blue Energy soda, and Bossa Nova Beverages? rainforest fruit drinks in Guarana Berry and Natural Energy versions target a broader audience.

Drinks that provide an immediate energy boost in new interactive formats, such as PowerBar?s Power Fast Fuel Gels, are gaining in popularity. Morinaga Milk Industry Co?s Chicken Breast Extract prevents lactic acid buildup; NutraSource?s new Glutacarob delivers a combination of glutamine and arginine; and Amax?s Oryzbran rice extract has a steroid component that helps develop lean muscle mass. Cargill, which announced self-affirmed GRAS status for its OptaFlex chondroitin sulfate, now offers a performance-grade OptaFlex Chondroitin that is 100 per cent water soluble.

Although the benefits of probiotics are still not well understood by US consumers, Dannon introduced the first ?daily dose? probiotic drink in the US — DanActive — in the past year. With three structure/function claims relating to gut health and immunity, DanActive is well poised to take advantage of American?s growing interest in intestinal health. On the ingredient front, Moringa Milk Industry Co introduced Triple Bifidus for Kids, a highly concentrated stable powder of BifidobacteriumB. infantis, B. breve and B. longum.

Intrinsic nutrition
A trend toward intrinsic nutrition is also helping grow the functional foods segment. Intrinsic nutrition is all about relying on a product?s inherent nutrients or the phytochemicals that occur naturally to achieve a desired health benefit. New health linkages for familiar phytochemicals, emerging food-friendly botanical/herbal extracts and new extracted phytochemical ingredients are a few examples.

Antioxidants are finally coming into vogue. New USDA research ranked blueberries No. 1 in total antioxidant capacity, followed by cranberries, blackberries and prunes. Kikkoman has introduced its GRAS Gravinol Grape Seed Extract, the only grape seed extract patented for use in protein-based foods. FlavexLC, an extract of citrus, is marketed by the Arnhem Group as a natural sugar substitute 1,800-2,000 times sweeter than sugar. Amax NutraSource?s Luo Han Guo is extracted from an intensely sweet fruit grown in China.

New research on Kemin?s FloGLO Lutein — mostly known for its role in eye health — indicates that oral lutein supplementation may also reduce the risk of skin damage. Cognis Health and Nutrition has petitioned the FDA for a qualified health claim linking consumption of XANGOLD Natural Lutein Esters to a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Decas Botanical Synergies? NutriCran Bio-100 cranberry powder contains the proanthocyanidins or condensed tannins thought to be the active component in preventing urinary tract infections.

With 68 per cent of Americans avoiding additives, naturally produced designer functional foods are popular. For example, designer eggs, enhanced with vitamin E and DHA through birds? feed, saw sales rise 22 per cent in the past year in the natural channel alone. ?Made in America,? ?all-American grown,? ?gluten-free? and ?allergy-free? are some of the new buzz words to describe up-and-coming health-directed ingredients. Gadot Biochemical Industries now offers GMO-free and Kosher nutrients, including calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Lastly, marketers are looking to nutrients to deliver more than just health. At a recent convention, BASF previewed the concept of naturally colouring beverages with nutrients and displayed the range of eye-catching colours possible when beverages were fortified with BASF carotenoids. Ingredients that are as good looking as they are good for you are going to be hard for formulators to ignore.

A Elizabeth Sloan is president of Escondido-based Sloan Trends & Solutions in California.
Respond: [email protected]
All correspondence will be forwarded to the author.

New products with health-related positioning claims, Jan 2001-June 2004

"Foods plus" positioning claims






Vitamin/mineral fortified












All natural












Added calcium












Added fibre












Source: Mintel's Global New Products Database

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