Despite growth in the global functional foods market contracting, new product development (NPD) remains rife as companies attempt to delve further into the lucrative US$25.3bn world market, new Leatherhead research shows.
The report – Key Players in the Global Functional Foods Industry – showed that ‘activity’ levels remain high and the market continues to expand, with strong growth prospects in emerging economies across Asia.
Matthew Incles, market intelligence manager at Leatherhead, said that in particular there are opportunities in the development of functional food and beverage products for ageing consumers; a market segment that has “not been fully addressed”.
While global figures show a worldwide trend for living longer, Asia has a surging population over the age of 65, Incles told FoodNavigator-Asia.
In particular, “cognitive performance is a somewhat new area for consumers and there are under-exploited opportunities here, especially for ageing consumers,” he said.
He detailed that products fortified with fatty acids, like omega-3 and omega-6, targeted at older consumers would prove extremely successful across the globe but in particular in Asian markets.
“NPD in the functional food market has seen year-on-year growth, but products targeted at seniors remains in its infancy at the moment,” he said.
“In its infancy, a market is clearly going to grow a lot more,” he added.
Consumer enthusiasm not fatigue
Unlike Europe, consumers in Asia have a strong desire to buy into the functional food sector, Incles said.
“There is a long tradition of alternative remedies, therapies and herbal preparations which perhaps makes the transition to health benefit food easier for Asian consumers when compared to Western consumers who have typically taken care of health needs with pills,” he said.
These consumers also increased levels of disposable income to spend; a major market stimulant, he added, and “coupled with the sheer volume of people in the region, this is underpinning growth.”
Asia’s functional food markets are “more established and more refined” compared to Europe and the US, he said, with more “variety and weird and wonderful ingredients.”
India, China and Japan particularly strongly positioned in this vast region, he added.
The leatherhead report showed that Japan remains the world’s largest and most established market, worth an estimated US$9.75bn in 2011.
“Japan is exceptionally developed and in some cases products and innovation is around five years ahead of what we see in Europe,” Incles said.