What are 'functional foods'?
'Functional foods' are foods that support human health and wellbeing,
providing health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Recently, many new
products classified as 'functional food' have been released by food
manufacturers. Many more are planned as experts envision exciting
functional food applications that may deliver an estimated annual value
for the global market in the vicinity of $47.6 billion.
These new products are addressing the interests of several consumer markets. A
few of these – often overlapping – markets comprise large groups of consumers
interested in how foods may positively impact:
- Effects of the aging process
- The relationship between diet and health
- Prevention or management of specific physical or health conditions
- Lifestyle, energy and/or mood enhancement
- Sports performance
- Health and nutrition of children, women, minorities
- Weight, satiety and appetite suppression
- Nutritional effects of organic or 'natural' foods
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Functional foods and consumers
The release of products intended to enhance health and wellbeing into
the marketplace raises important questions. Some questions concern the
interest of consumers, such as:
- Can products effectively addressing these interests be developed?
- Are they palatable?
- Do they work?
- How can the desired effect be achieved (in different individuals and under different circumstances)?
- Is what is said about them true?
- Are they worth the price consumers pay for them?
- What role should they play in an individual consumer's diet?
Functional foods and the Australian food industry
Functional food products represent an enormous opportunity for
Australia's food processing industry, the single largest employer in the
manufacturing sector. Questions associated with functional foods arise
whose answers may promote the commercial success and hence survival of
These questions include:
- What do consumers want functional foods to do for them?
- What new product opportunities are emerging?
- How can such product opportunities be cost-effectively realised?
- How can the desired effect be proved?:
- How can manufacturers meet food safety standards or other
regulations that may have preceded the development of some functional
- How can these products be brought successfully to the marketplace?