FI Asia 2017

Healthy ageing NPD in Asia: Can functional foods follow supplements’ lead?

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Food firms are being urged to follow the lead of supplements and launch more functional products for Asia's seniors. ©iStock
Food firms are being urged to follow the lead of supplements and launch more functional products for Asia's seniors. ©iStock

Related tags Nutrition

The vast majority of new product launches targetting the main health concerns for seniors remain in the supplement space, with analysts arguing there is vast potential for the region’s food and beverage firms to help meet the needs of older consumers.

Joint health, heart health and cognitive health repeatedly come out as the top three health concerns of Asian consumers, who appear to place a greater importance to healthy ageing than their European counterparts.

Over the next two decades, more than 25% of the population in China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore will be over the age of 65.

In Japan alone, that figure will start to nudge 40% by 2050.

Speaking at FI Asia in Bangkok, Kevin Xiao from Innova Market Insights said this had led to an increase in new product development in the region, with joint health products increasing by 60% in the past five years, and heart health products by 27%.

However, the majority of these launches are found across supplements, rather than foods.

Xiao said mobility and joint health topped the issue of health concerns among Asia’s seniors.

Collagen rocks

In the food and beverage segments, he said dairy remained the most popular platform with products fortified with vitamin D, calcium or protein.

However, he said Asia was witnessing a rise in products containing collagen for improved joint health – in a move away from its traditional skin health claims.

Collagen is increasingly receiving more attention,”​ he said. “In Europe most collagen claims are for skin health, but in Asia we are seeing stronger growth ​for both bone and joint health.

“Dairy remains the main platform for collagen, but we are now seeing more juice products too.”

Xiao added that food and beverage products with heart health claims had considerable scope for growth in Asia.

In China alone, 30% of the senior population has taken a prescription medication for high blood pressure, with a further 17% taking one for another cardiovascular issue.

“We see that around 20% of supplement NPD launches are making heart health claims in Asia, but there are relatively few in food and beverage. There is a big opportunity to do more here,” said Xiao.

Soft drinks surge

Botanical products that have garnered traction in supplements could provide the basis for functional food products, he suggested, pointing to ingredients such as hawthorn, noni, ginger and garlic as being suitable for exploration.

While snacks remains the largest category for food launches with heart health claims in Asia, he said there was considerable growth in soft drink items.

Xiao added the food firms could also take greater inspiration for new products from supplements around brain health.

“We need to see if there can be better innovation to apply omega-3s and ingredients such as gingko biloba to food and beverage development in Asia,”​ he added.

“In some respects, supplements are taking the lead and food and beverage needs to catch up.”

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