Only a quarter of German, French and UK consumers are familiar with the term ?functional foods,? according to a Leatherhead Food International report, ?Functional Foods and the Consumer.? The newer term ?wellbeing food and drinks? has already gained greater recognition. Seventy-five per cent in each country were prepared to buy well being or functional foods.
"The terms ?functional? and ?wellness? don?t really mean the same thing in the eyes of the consumer," said Leatherhead market intelligence business manager, Susie Johnson. "When people think of functional foods they think of foods that are linked to a specific health benefit but people want more holistic foods. They want multiple health propositions.?
A high level of respondents agreed functional foods could improve health, reduce the risk of disease and help maintain an active lifestyle in later life.
In the area of health claims, ?Promotes healthy bones? registered the most interest, ahead of ?boosts the immune system?, ?boosts the body?s natural defences?, ?increases resistance to disease? and ?gives energy?. Most respondents replied positively to at least some claims, and overall claim awareness was higher than in Leatherhead?s corresponding 1998 study. "If claims have a medical endorsement, more attention is paid to them," said Johnson.
The German, French and UK markets are dominated by dairy products and dairy alternatives such as dose-delivery probiotic drinks and anti-cholesterol margarines, and this sector accounts for a third of total sales.
Overall, consumers are purchasing a large number of functional foods even though most categorise them as ?healthy? or even ?wellbeing? foods. Encouragingly, most people who bought functional foods become regular purchasers.
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