Trending: Functional Foods Featured

Functional foods are trending among consumers now, but what are they and how can manufacturers use these to better cater to consumers? Ms Emil Fazira Bte Kamari, research analyst at Euromonitor International shares more.

Functional foods are getting more and more popular among consumers, but what exactly are functional foods? While no universal definition for the term exists, functional foods are identified as those that provide health benefits beyond its normal nutritional value, according to Euromonitor International.

This refers to food that has been actively enhanced with health ingredients such as calcium or Omega-3, hence the term encompasses fortified foods as well.

The fortified/functional food market in Asia Pacific was worth US$70 billion in 2014, an estimated 38 percent of global fortified/functional packaged food sales. Dairy, baby food and bakery comprised the bulk of this market.

Dairy, especially, has been successful in the region for fortified/functional position, shared Ms Fazira. Products such as drinking milk and yogurt are popular, and fortification in this sector has been increasing steadily over the past five years with double digits year on year.

The millenials, or young working adults, are the targets of these fortified dairy manufacturers. Being younger and more open to changes in conventional products, this group of consumers are also more educated to recognise the added ingredients and do not mind paying more for these products with higher health benefits. They hence are more likely to buy these products for themselves and their children than the older generations.

Innovation in the region’s dairy manufacturing sector is another reason for the success of fortified/functional dairy products. In markets such as Japan, Thailand and South Korea, manufacturers are becoming more creative with dairy packaging, ingredients and flavours, and are hence introducing fortified/functional variants easily. Fortified/functional dairy is expected to have a value growth of 11 percent over 2014-2019, said Ms Fazira.

Bakery is another upcoming sector for fortified/functional products in terms of break and packaged cakes. Though the value percentage of these bakery products in the region only recorded 4.8 percent in 2014, this figure is projected to grow to 5.4 percent in 2019. This projected growth will stem from increased fortification in bakery products because there is a lot of untapped potential, she explained.

For a stronger success in the functional foods market, Ms Fazira believes that manufacturers should identify which products to fortify with which ingredients, for which market. An example she gave, was that manufacturers catering to the Malaysian market could fortify dairy products with pre- and probiotics as there is a high rate of digestive health problems among consumers amidst their struggling economy.

Knowing the different groups of consumers and their specific needs therefore would allow manufacturers to produce products that could better cater to consumer wants.

Ms Emil Fazira Bte Kamari will be sharing more on functional foods at the coming Vitafoods Asia 2015 which will take place from 2-3 September at the AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong.

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