Bakers Journal

Editorial: Fabulously Functional

June 28, 2008  By Jane Ayer

As many of you may already know,
I’m pregnant again, with baby number 2. By the time you read this I’ll
be two months from my due date – and no doubt much larger and wondering
how to survive the heat of the summer.

A s many of you may already know, I’m pregnant again, with baby number 2. By the time you read this I’ll be two months from my due date – and no doubt much larger and wondering how to survive the heat of the summer. As an expectant mom, I’ve been taking prenatal vitamins for months. New for me this time around are vitamin D and omega-3 pills. Recent research on the benefits of this sort of additional supplementation to fetuses has obstetricians and midwives recommending pregnant women take both vitamin D and omega-3. Most of us in North America don’t get enough of either in our regular diets, so the pills are a way of making sure both mom and baby are getting the required amount. Now, I’m not a big fan of pills – I have trouble swallowing them, sometimes they upset my stomach, and often I forget to take them. But my rumbling, demanding (and seemingly ever expanding) stomach never lets me forget to eat. And I would much rather get the nutrients I need from the food I eat, than from popping pills. Which is why I love functional foods. And I think most Canadians feel more or less the same way. A study on functional foods and what Canadians think of them, conducted by Decima Research for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, shows most Canadians “prefer natural/less processed food choices over powders, extracts, pills or capsules, as means to get foods/components into their diet.” Canadians, apparently, “when purchasing products in order to get a specific food/component into their diet, tend to prefer items that have a nutritious image over other types of foods.” But the results also show that “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.”

Which means Canadian food makers have some work to do, not only in creating foods with an added functional benefit, but also in educating consumers about why those products are good for them and why they should be buying them.

Phillip Lee Wing of the Food Development Group (based in Richmond Hill, Ont.) is doing his part. He’s the man behind a line of healthy treats known as Armadillo cookies. We interviewed Lee Wing for our Final Proof column. Jam-packed with soy, omega-3, calcium, and inulin, these cookies promote what Lee Wing calls, “intelligent calories and intelligent snacking. We’re hedging our bets that consumers want to snack, but they want to snack well . . . and they want to feel good about it afterwards, knowing they ate something with healthy ingredients.”


Many other bakers are also stepping up to the functional food plate, to name just a few: Weston Bakeries recently launched its Wonder+ Headstart 100% Whole Wheat Bread, with added omega-3 DHA; Stonemill Bakehouse has numerous offerings with omega-3; and Edmonton’s Bon Ton Bakery has been selling its Omega Bread since 1989.

Considering stepping into the functional food fray? Agriculture Canada suggests consumers want products “as similar as possible to the conventional alternative, for example in terms of price, taste and convenience, to gain the acceptance of consumers. There is little empirical evidence that consumers are willing to compromise taste and convenience in order to switch to functional products.”

But give consumers something tasty, easy to eat, and healthy to boot, teach them why it’s so good for them and you’ll have a healthy product that will appeal to moms (pregnant or not), kids and anyone looking for something to satisfy that rumbling stomach and not feel guilty about it.

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