Bakers Journal

Eating to Live (Better and Longer)

November 5, 2007
By Kelley C. Fitzpatrick M.Sc.

…the trend in functional foods to manage your health

Over the last three decades, the global market for functional – “healthier for you” – foods (FF), food bioactive ingredients and dietary supplements (termed “natural health products” [NHP] in Canada) has grown out of a demand for new products that can assist consumers in managing their health. Several trends have led to interest in these products by the industry, consumers, health-care professionals and government – one of the most significant being the movement away from a prescription approach to disease treatment to a focus upon long-term disease prevention.

The Opportunity
From an industry point of view, FF and functional ingredients offer a potentially lucrative way to add value to existing products, and to innovate with new ones, including in the bakery sector. Such products are being developed to create higher-margin lines for manufacturers, and inevitably their customers and shareholders. Of extreme importance, FF offers the opportunity to positively impact health-care costs that are becoming an increasingly significant burden to governments worldwide.

In 2004, world consumption of dietary supplements and FF was approximately $182 billion US, with the primary markets being the United States, Europe, Japan and Asia1. Of this, the 2004 global FF market was valued at over $70 billion dollars. Current and projected growth rates are more than triple that of conventional foods and pharmaceuticals, at ~9 to 12 per cent per annum. It is anticipated that, based upon past data, the industry will witness steady and continued growth beyond 2008, when projections of global sales for FF alone near $95 billion dollars2.


The Trends
Several macro trends are driving the growth of the global FF industry, including the rising cost of health care related to chronic disease. The World Health Organization’s 2003 report on diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic disease noted “the burden of chronic disease is rapidly increasing worldwide.”3  In 2001, chronic diseases contributed to approximately 60 per cent of all deaths worldwide, and 46 per cent of the total burden of disease. Almost half of these deaths were from cardiovascular diseases, obesity and diabetes.” The WHO estimates that chronic disease will account for 70 per cent of all deaths worldwide by 2020.   Obesity is a problem of growing concern, and according the WHO4, it has reached epidemic proportions globally, with more than one billion adults overweight, and at least 300 million obese. In the U.S.5, approximately 129.6 million Americans, or 64 per cent of the population, are overweight or obese. The percentage of young people who are overweight has more than tripled since 1980.

Canadian obesity rates, too, have increased over the past 25 years, with nearly one-quarter of all Canadian adults (up from 14 per cent in 1978-79) now considered seriously overweight, according to Statistics Canada6.

The increase in disease burden being experienced worldwide is related not only to obesity, poor diet and lifestyle, but also to an aging population. During the 20th century, the number of Americans aged 65 years and above increased 1,100 per cent. By 2010, the number of people over 50 years of age will increase by 48 per cent from early 2000 numbers; in contrast, the group aged 13-24 years will grow by only 16 per cent. By the year 2035, it is estimated that 70 million people will be over the age of 507.  A similar situation is occurring in Canada. According to Statistics Canada and reported by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada8, by 2016, about 44 per cent of the Canadian population will be 45 years of age or more. In North America, currently, more than 75 per cent of individuals who are 65 years of age or older suffer at least one chronic disease, whereas 50 per cent have at least two, a situation that imposes a tremendous burden on the health-care system.

An increase in disease incidence leads to overall increases in the cost of health care.  In most developed countries, these costs average between 9-14 per cent of the gross national product (GNP). In the U.S., health-care costs were $1.6 trillion in 2003, and are projected to reach $3.1 trillion by 2012 – or 17.7 per cent of GDP.9

According to Health Canada, in 2003, Canada spent approximately $121 billion on health care (averaging $3,839 per person). Chronic disease accounted for a significant portion of that burden. Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer combined cost the Canadian economy more than $55 billion annually.10 The direct cost of obesity to Canada’s health-care system is estimated to be $1.8 billion.

Recognizing these trends, the formulation of foods for health is one of the leading focuses of the food (and bakery) industry. Foods that deliver a well-recognized health benefit to consumers have been a significant market opportunity for many years. Surveys of top global food executives report that the development of more healthful products, as well as higher quality products, consistently rank among their primary new product development focus11.

Although obesity and related health conditions are causing concern on a global scale, this is only part of the reason why global sales of “better-for-you” foods reached almost $129 billion US in 200412. According to a 2005 survey, approximately two-thirds of food and beverage companies indicated their greatest growth over the next few years will come via products identified as better-for-you, organic, and obesity-addressing, or foods that provide medical or health benefits13.  In the latter category, the heart-healthy diet is currently the most important trend for new product development, and is projected to be so for at least the next five years.14 Other leading categories of interest for FF ingredient inclusion for health are natural ingredients, weight loss, cholesterol reduction, high fibre and energy enhancement.

The Consumer
Consumers are a critical driving force behind the development of FF/NHP. A number of consumer surveys have indicated that, increasingly, consumers believe that eating healthy is a better way to manage illness than through medication. The most common reasons that appear to motivate food purchase decisions are ensuring overall good health, reducing fat intake, following a physician’s advice, and controlling weight and cholesterol15. Since 1996, taste, nutrition, cost and convenience have been the key drivers of food choices for Canadians16. It is forecast that food will continue to be seen by consumers as a solution to present and pending health problems.17

Functional Food Ingredients
Innovative ingredients from traditional and specialty crops of significance to Western Canadian agriculture are available to the bakery industry, including novel fibres from oat- and barley-based concentrates,18 and from fenugreek.19 Pulse fibres and flours – especially those derived from peas – are interesting ingredients for their functionality in food products, including baked goods, snacks, health drinks and prepared meats, as well as for their health benefits.20

Hemp is one of Canada’s newest entries into the FF category21 and, according to research from AC Nielsen, is one of the key “good for you” food industry categories that is witnessing consistent year-over-year sales gains.  Data from SPINs indicates that sales of hemp foods in the U.S. have grown more than 50 per cent in each of the past two years.

Longtime staples of the bakery industry, whole and milled flax, continue to be of interest to the food industry, and are added to numerous products, including rolls, bagels, multigrain breads, muffins, cereals, pasta, energy bars and dry mixes for pancakes, muffins and waffles. In baking, milled flax can be substituted for the fat, and also some of the flour in baked goods – levels of which are determined by the desired textural characteristics of the finished product.

Mintel’s Global New Products Database reports that in 2005, 72 new products were launched in the United States that listed flax or flaxseed as an ingredient. In the first 11 months of 2006, there were 75 new products launched. This research reveals that omega-3 products, including flax, have one of the highest growth potentials of all FF ingredients.

A new ingredient for the baking category is Anthograin™ bran, prepared from purple-pigmented cereal grain, in which wholewheat kernels are treated with infra-red technology and de-branned to produce uniformly-sized particles.22 Anthograin™ bran has very high levels of total anthocyanins and phenolic compounds that are responsible for its purple colour and high antioxidant activity.

New ingredients are being developed that offer the nutritional benefits of the whole flaxseed, plus eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from fish oils. MeadowPure Omega 3 Ultra™ is a granulated, free-flowing powder of milled flax, in combination with either 2.2 per cent or 8 per cent fish oil.23 Antioxidants within the flax provide an increase in the stability and shelf life of the long chain PUFAs present in the fish oil, as the oils are naturally encapsulated in the milled flaxseed. MeadowPure Omega 3 Ultra™ is shelf stable, has no taste or smell, and is easily incorporated into dry formulations.
Canada’s FF ingredients industry is well established with innovative, entrepreneurial companies in all provinces. The current sector has developed many technologies, and most are protected in some manner (e.g., through trademarks, intellectual property, licensing, proprietary property, etc.).  Many companies have been spawned in Canadian public laboratories, and supported at the various stages of product research, development and commercialization by a number of public funding pools. The growing demand for healthier foods to meet consumers’ desire to lead healthier lifestyles represents significant opportunities for innovative new product development within the bakery sector.

Kelley C. Fitzpatrick, M.Sc., is Director of Health and Nutrition for FLAX CANADA 2015 in Winnipeg, Man. She can be reached at

1     Ferrier, G. 2005. Nutrition Business Journal. 2005. Functional Foods VIII. The Emergence of Healthy Foods. Vol. X. 10/11.
2     Ibid.
3     WHO Technical Report Series #916, 2003. “Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases”.
4     World Health Organization. February 2003. Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. publications/facts/obesity/en/
5     Statistics. 2004. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
6     Statistics Canada. July 2005. Canadian Community Health Survey: Obesity among children and adults 2004.
7     United States Census Bureau. 2005. Population Estimate.
8     Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. 2005. Canadian Consumer Trends. Food Value Chain Bureau. cons&page=intro.
9     Thorpe, KE, Florence, CS, et al. June 27, 2005. The Rising Prevalence Of Treated Disease: Effects On Private Health Insurance Spending. Health Tracking Trends.
10     Ibid.
11     Grant Thornton LLP. 2005 Survey of U.S. Food & Beverage Companies. 2005. Food Processing Magazine.
12     Ibid.
13     Grant Thornton LLP. 2005. “Appetite for Change. Trends and Transition in the US Food and beverage Industry”. 2005
14    Sadler, J. 2005. Future Health Food and Drink Trends. 2005. Business Insights Ltd.
15    Princeton Survey Research Associates. 2004. Consumers attitudes: Food and Health.
16     Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition. October 2006. “Tracking Nutrition Trends VI report”.
17     Ibid

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