Increased attention to disease risk factors, unhealthy kids, interest in high-protein products, and a demand for real-food solutions are driving the lucrative functional foods sector.
The healthy foods sector is alive and well and recovering quickly from a slight slowdown in spending that stemmed from the sluggish economic climate of the past several years.
Tough times have reminded consumers of the long-term value of staying healthy. Eight in 10 Americans are making some or a lot of effort to eat healthfully; 42% are very concerned about the nutrient content of the foods they buy (FMI, 2011a,b). Sales of functional foods and beverages were estimated at $38 billion in 2010; the overall U.S. healthy foods sector has sales of about $140 billion (NBJ, 2011a).
Self-treatment of minor ailments, supplement use, and interest in alternative therapies is at an all-time high. Thirty percent of consumers say they always or usually purchase grocery products labeled for improving specific health conditions (e.g., heart, digestive, or blood sugar issues); 36% say they sometimes do (Packaged Facts, 2012a).
The shift to positive eating continues. Young adults ages 18–24 remain the top users of functional foods and beverages (Mintel, 2009a). Oatmeal and yogurt are the products most frequently purchased for their specific health benefits (Packaged Facts, 2012a).
Consumers are increasingly balancing health concerns with pleasurable eating, spawning an unstoppable healthier menu movement in quick- and full-service restaurants. Just about one-third of the best-selling new foods and beverages introduced in 2010–11 carried a natural claim; one-quarter claimed added nutrients/nutrition, high fiber/whole grain, reduced calories or low-fat/fat-free content. In addition, one in 10 made a claim about energy, antioxidants, or trans fat (IRI, 2011a ).
Healthy foods are dominating new channels. Two-thirds of consumers say they’re more likely to shop in a convenience store that offers healthy options (CSNews, 2012). The top 10 fastest-growing drug store categories all feature edible products, and six of them include frozen or refrigerated products (Mitchell, 2012).