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Functional Foods: Tidbits and tips about the functional food industry


July 3, 2008
By Bakers Journal

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 WEB EXCLUSIVE5622510baker2


Functional Foods: Tidbits and tips about the functional food industry
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. 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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 componentsSource Potential benefits
DIETARY FIBRE  
Insoluble fibreWheat branReduces risk of breast cancer or colon cancer.
Beta-glucanOats, barleyReduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Protect against heart disease and some cancers; lower LDL and total cholesterol.
Soluble fibrePsylliumReduce 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, EPASalmon and other fish oilsReduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Improve mental, visual functions.
PHENOLICS  
Lignans Flax, rye, vegetablesPrevent 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).