What is fortification, and what are some commonly fortified foods?
Euromonitor International identifies fortified/functional food as food which healthy ingredients have been added. To merit inclusion in this category, the defining criterion here is that the product must have been actively enhanced during production. The health benefit needs to form part of the positioning and marketing of the product.
Some commonly fortified foods include milk formula, dairy products, breakfast cereals and even confectionery products such as chewing gum. The fortified/functional foods market is one worth US$167 billion, and is looking to grow at a CAGR of five percent at constant prices from 2016 to 2020.
Why do certain foods need to be fortified, and what are the benefits of fortification?
Different foods are consumed at different times of the day or stages of the human life. It is essential to provide the much-needed nutrients to the human body especially when not all of these nutrients can be synthesized internally by the body.
Certain foods (and their nutrients) may not always be consumed by people due to various factors such as taste preferences, cost and availability. The nutrients could even be lost during the food production or cooking process. It could affect anyone from the busy city dwellers to those living in the rural countryside. Thus, fortification provides avenues for consumers to enjoy nutritional support not easily or commonly obtainable from their usual diet.
Which foods are commonly fortified in which regions, and what are the popularly used micronutrients?
Dairy is the largest fortified foods category in terms of value sales in 2015 across all the regions with the exception of Asia-Pacific where fortified baby food tops the fortified foods charts instead. Even in Asia-Pacific, dairy remains closely behind with value sales of US$28 billion while baby food stands at US$30 billion in 2015.
Other fortified foods categories vary more widely across regions, with breakfast cereals constituting a large part of fortified foods sales in the North America and Western Europe region while regions such as Australasia and Asia-Pacific have relatively much smaller sales of it. This is closely tied to the consumption patterns of the non-health and wellness counterparts of these food categories.
Vitamins and minerals are common micronutrients used in fortified foods with focus on various prime positioning such as general wellbeing, immune support and bone and joint health. However, other trending health ingredients include probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids and protein.
Probiotics is one of the most commonly used ingredients in dairy revealing the strong demand of digestive health positioned products. Thanks to the increasing popularity of digestive health positioned yoghurt products, probiotics-added products have risen exponentially in the Asia-Pacific region.
On the same note, the reversed has affected manufacturers in the European Union due to the new health claims legislation effective since 2012. They had to stop promoting their probiotic dairy products on the grounds of digestive health and shift them toward general wellbeing.
What are some expectations for the Asian markets in terms of consumer trends/ demands for micronutrients?
The overarching trend in most modern Asian markets is the increasing personalisation of nutritional food. Food players are moving away from products of mass appeal to more targeted consumer segments such as the loving parent, the time-pressed working adult and so forth. Products tailored and marketed to millennials (defined as those aged between 20 to 34 years old) are also increasingly common.
Digestive health and general wellbeing positioned products are growing in popularity in the Asia-Pacific region. Many consumers connect a healthy digestive system to improvements in their general wellbeing as well. There are also more products which have added oats and vitamins to appeal to consumers already familiar with the benefits of consuming oats.
There is an explosion of growth in probiotics dairy-based yoghurt in China in recent years due to the growing awareness of yoghurt as a healthy snack or as a replacement as a light meal. Many Chinese consumers are even purchasing probiotics yoghurt as gifts for their friends or relatives based on its health benefits and attractive premium packaging.
Note: Lee Wei Xuan will be speaking more about fortification at the upcoming Vitafoods Asia show in Hong Kong.