US to lead world in functional food sales growth

Sales of functional food and drink will grow faster in the US than in Europe and Asia, forecasts show.

Growth in the US functional foods market will be 6.1% a year between now and 2012, compared with 4.7% in Europe and 5.6% in Asia-Pacific.

The market across all three regions combined will rise 5.7% a year over the period, down from the 7% a year registered in the previous five years.

The figures are contained in a new Datamonitor report, Functional Food, Drinks & Ingredients: Consumer Attitudes & Trends.

Growth will be driven by ageing populations, with older shoppers seeking out food and beverages that help fight disease, says the report. Products that help reduce the risk of illnesses such as osteoporosis and hypertension, will be particularly popular.

But younger consumers will also purchase functional foods and drinks with greater regularity, often as a quick-fix solution suitable for a busy lifestyle.

"Often, functional product consumption has been associated with aging populations aiming to minimize the risk of serious illness," said Michael Hughes, consumer market analyst at Datamonitor and author of the report. "However, lifestyle changes are leading to younger consumers purchasing functional foods with greater regularity, in order to combat day-to-day health issues, such as sleep deprivation, skin blemishes and even nail deficiencies."

The report also warns that the market faces deteriorating levels of consumer trust and confidence. Consumers are becoming less trustworthy of health claims made by food and drink manufacturers, often believing functional package claims to be either false or an excuse to command a premium price, it says.

"It is essential that manufacturers promote functional foods in a credible and honest manner and continue to educate consumers about the credence of emerging ingredients such as lycopene, prebiotic fibre and plant sterols," said Hughes.

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