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Consumers embrace foods with functional health benefits, but not when they appear as if they emerged entirely from a laboratory (i.e., as medicine). The more scientific and opaque the formulation and the more potent the health benefit, the more consumers would rather just have a pill and a doctor involved.

This has led consumers to differentiate products along a continuum from scientifically functional (e.g., cholesterol reducing butter substitutes) at one end to inherently functional foods (e.g., yogurt) on the other.

Key Insights for Marketers

  • The list of potentially healthy ingredients/nutrients is changing

rapidly — almost on an annual basis

  • A broader array of functional benefits are being marketed Popular culture (e.g., TV media, Health and Wellness websites, web communities, face-to-face social networks, etc.) continues to be a critical engine to evangelizing food nutrients (e.g., anti-oxidants, omega fatty acids, etc.) to a broader consumer audience as well as making the health benefits of these nutrients clear and compelling.

  • They are added as enhancements to inherently functional food categories (e.g., orange juice with added calcium; yogurt with added probiotics) The category in which a functional food/beverage lives is the most important factor affecting consumer reception. Unfortunately for marketers, most food categories are not seen as culturally accepted mediums for strong functional benefits. Therefore, the actionability of enhanced functional food design is not guaranteed for just any food or beverage brand.

Finally, consumers react very differently to nutrient plays

  • (e.

    g., rich in omega-3 fatty acids) vs. functional benefit plays

  • (e.

    g., helps naturally regulate your digestive system). Knowing

which to foreground in product design and marketing is critical to marketplace success and consumer engagement.

For marketers, the most promising category lies in the middle of this continuum: enhanced functional foods. These are a burgeoning category of products in which a base product with inherent health functionality (e.g., orange juice) has another targeted functional nutrient added to it (e.g., orange juice + calcium).

Consumers accept added functional nutrients in foods and beverages the most when the following conditions are met:

  • The overall impression at shelf is non-medicinal

  • Popular food culture has assigned the added nutrient(s) a commonly understood health benefit (e.g., omegas are good for your heart)

OPPORTUNITIES IN FUNCTIONAL FOODS | THE HARTMAN GROUP, INC.

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