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Functional Foods: Tidbits and tips about the functional food industry

July 03, 2008 Written by Bakers Journal staff
Canadians and Functional Foods
A December 2006 report titled Demand for Food Products Supporting Health and Wellness, conducted by Decima Research for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, shows Canadians are interested in functional foods, but are generally not well informed on the topic. The results show that 34 per cent of respondents are relatively well informed, correctly matching at least five functional foods to the prevention of disease, 32 per cent are somewhat informed and 32 per cent are relatively uninformed, matching two or less functional foods to a specific disease. The report also shows that women, high-income earners and Canadians with more formal education know more about functional foods.

1398392baker1
Results of a Decima Research and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada report show few Canadians are seeking out functional foods with the exception of well known food/components such as calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.
The survey summary reports the following: The results reveal that top-of-mind, few Canadians are seeking out functional foods with the exception of well-known food/components such as calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. This suggests that once a food component and health linkage is made in the public mind, fairly large numbers of Canadians will make an effort to purchase products containing these components. This also suggests that many of the functional food/components tested in this study have not yet achieved public recognition at a level comparable to calcium or omega-3, and that public communications will be required to increase that awareness. The results from the lycopene and omega-3 case studies demonstrate that Canadians prefer natural/less processed food choices (tomatoes and fish, for example) over powders, extracts, pills or capsules, as means to get foods/components into their diet. This finding has implications for product development and marketing, as well as for the content of public communications.

When purchasing products in order to get a specific food/component into their diet, Canadians tend to prefer items that have a nutritious image (like yogurt, cheese, or cereal) over other types of foods (such as snack foods or desserts). This finding may also have important implications from a product development and marketing perspective.

The results of this research…confirm a desire on the part of many Canadians to learn more about the potential health benefits of foods beyond basic nutrition. The study also suggests that health professionals, books and magazines, and the Internet are among the various media that should be considered when preparing public communications about the health benefits of foods.

5622510baker2 The Canadian Functional Food Industry
The rapidly growing global market for functional foods and natural health products is being driven by the trend toward healthy lifestyles. Capitalizing on this trend, Canada’s active, research-oriented industry has experienced significant growth. In 2004, nearly 400 companies generated annual revenues of $2.9 billion Cdn, employed close to 13,000 people and exported $545 million Cdn worth of products abroad (Statistics Canada, 2007). This represents a 32 per cent increase in the number of companies, a 15 per cent increase in revenues and a 43 per cent increase in the value of exports over a two-year period. (Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

3478865baker3 Defining Functional Foods
According to Health Canada (Section 2.2), a functional food is similar in appearance to, or may be, a conventional food that is consumed as part of a usual diet, and is demonstrated to have physiological benefits and/or reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions; i.e., they contain bioactive compound.

A nutraceutical is a product isolated or purified from foods that is generally sold in medicinal forms not usually associated with foods. A nutraceutical is demonstrated to have a physiological benefit or provide protection against chronic disease.


Examples of Functional Food Components

Functional components Source  Potential benefits
DIETARY FIBRE    
Insoluble fibre Wheat bran Reduces risk of breast cancer or colon cancer.
Beta-glucan Oats, barley Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Protect against heart disease and some cancers; lower LDL and total cholesterol.
Soluble fibre Psyllium Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Protect against heart disease and some cancers; lower LDL and total cholesterol.
FATTY ACIDS    
Long chain omega-3 fatty acids – DHA, EPA Salmon and other fish oils Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Improve mental, visual functions.
PHENOLICS    
Lignans  Flax, rye, vegetables Prevent cancer, renal failure.
PLANT STEROLS    
Stanol ester  Corn, soy, wheat, wood oils  Lowers blood cholesterol levels by inhibiting cholesterol absorption. 
SOY PHYTOESTROGENS    
Isoflavones:
Daidzein
Genistein


Soybeans and soy-based foods  Relieve menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes. Protect against heart disease and some cancers; lower LDL and total cholesterol
Source: Reprinted from the International Food Information Council Foundation (the 2007-2009 IFIC Foundation Media Guide on Food Safety and Nutrition).
   


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