Live from Wellness Natural chemical free foods top trend list

March 24, 2010

Elizabeth Sloan, President of Sloan Trends Inc. and Contributing Editor for Food Technology magazine, kicked off this year’s IFT Wellness 10 conference on March 24 with a discussion on the top 10 functional food trends for 2010. The trends are:

1. Retro Health: Consumers who fall into the “boomer” age range are returning to their “tried and true” health solutions. We are seeing a big shift in food fundamentals—what is considered normal is healthier, lower fat food.

2. Naturally Functional: Consuming nutrients and health benefits naturally is preferred to fortification or dietary supplements. Interest is growing around phytochemicals (antioxidants, omega-3) that are present naturally in foods. In addition, flavonoids and polyphenols have crossed over into the mainstream, and we will probably see carotenoids and resveratrol following suit soon.

3. Functional Fill-ins: Consumers are looking for healthier snacks. In fact, 40% seek snacks that go beyond basic nutrition such as trail mixes, sugarless gum, dried fruit, and sensible salty snacks. Eight-two percent of consumers are seeking out snack foods that offer satiety and the ability to curb hunger. The older segment of consumers (age 65+) is looking for snacks that are smaller in size and confections that offer functional benefits.

4. Prime Timers: The older age group (age 55+) is least likely to buy functional foods and beverages; they tend towards taking supplements. However, this age group is looking for ways to control their cholesterol, help their digestion, maintain a healthy weight, and increase their immunity. In addition, among their top health concerns is maintaining/enhancing mental sharpness. This market is a significant area for growth in the functional food segment.

5. Chemical Warfare: Given the food safety issues that have arisen in the last two years, it is no surprise that 52% of consumers say that bacteria is the most important food safety issue, while 30% says chemicals are. This has lead to hesitancy towards food that is grown and raised outside of the United States. In addition, it has increased the desire for foods without preservatives, antibiotics, and chemicals. An issue on the rise is chemical migration of packaging into food, driven by the BPA issue.

6. Ailing Adolescents: Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign has underscored the need to address the issue of childhood obesity. One in three children is overweight and one in five is obese. In addition, 20% of teens have high cholesterol. These statistics point to the fact that solutions to these problems have not yet been tapped.

7. Meddling in Medications: Consumers are looking for more natural medical solutions and are choosing foods to address specific medical conditions. For the first time in years, people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol are changing the foods they are buying to help control their health issues. Sales of foods and beverages with probiotic claims grew 13% in 2009.

8. Daily Dynamics: Energy boost, mental focus, and alleviating stress are among the reasons that consumers buy functional beverages. Some of the top nutrients people look for in functional beverages include green tea, calcium, antioxidants, pomegranate, added vitamins, and ginseng.

9. Get the Low down: The economic recession has created a large group of consumers that have less discretionary income to spend on expensive health foods. However, this same group is still very interested in healthy eating. In fact, the lower income shoppers have a higher concern for the nutritional content of the foods they eat.

10. Finally Foodservice: Health is a hot trend in the restaurant and quickservice businesses in 2010. Menu labeling is becoming more widespread in fast food restaurants, making people more aware of the nutrient content of foods, and thus making the restaurants address the need for healthier foods. The up-and-coming opportunities for functional foods exist in hospitals and nursing homes.

Stay tuned for more news from the IFT Wellness 10 conference!