A new report from independent market analyst Datamonitor reveals that UK consumers are among the biggest spenders on functional foods and drinks in Europe, spending on average £110 (US$190) a year each. Over the past five years, the number of functional food and drinks consumers in the UK has more than doubled and is set to exceed five million by 2007.

"The growing popularity of food as medicine products is evidenced in the figures, with an increase of almost 50% in UK sales between 1997 and 2002. This is a real growth market, but if functional food and drinks are going to become true lifestyle products, they must offer more to consumers. As well as definite health benefits, they must meet consumers' two other main criteria - they must taste good and be convenient to include in the daily routine," comments Andrew Russell, author of the report.

Food taking centre stage in quest for health
Over the past five years, the number of functional foods consumers in the UK has more than doubled and is forecast to grow by almost 40% to 4.7 million in 2007. The UK, along with Germany has the highest spending functional food consumers in Europe, while Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden have the lowest. The rapid growth in the number of functional food consumers shows that the consumer base is expanding beyond those with specific medical needs to include others who are merely concerned about future health risks and even those who find that functional foods offer lifestyle benefits.

"Consumers increasingly see the link between food and health. Functional foods are filling an increasingly important part of our lifestyle, as we look to products enhanced with particular ingredients to get us through the day. There is an increasing demand from consumers who have no medical concerns, but who find that their lifestyle is improved or enhanced by the inclusion of gut health products in their diet for example," comments Russell.

Table 1: Number of functional foods consumers (m) Europe, 1997-2007
Millions
1997
2002
2007
CAGR 2002-2007
France
0.9
2.7
3.8
7.0%
Germany
2.5
5.4
3.6
6.1%
Italy
0.9
2.1
2.9
6.7%
Netherlands
0.3
0.6
0.7
5.6%
Spain
0.7
1.5
2.1
6.3%
Sweeden
0.1
0.2
0.3
6.7%
UK
1.6
3.4
4.7
6.5%
Other
1.4
3.2
4.4
6.4%
Overall
8.5
19.2
26.2
6.4%
Source: Datamonitor

Building healthy guts takes priority
Although the diagnosed and at-risk consumer groups are by far larger for both bone and heart health, gut health products generated the most sales by value in 2002 (£111m), and are predicted to reach £159m in 2007. The reason for this is that gut health products offer consumers far more benefits than merely improved health. Consumers asked why they buy gut health products list such values as "general wellness" and "lightness and energy" as reasons for choosing probiotic yogurts. In other words, there are mental and emotional benefits to knowing that one is eating healthily.

Table 1: UK functional food and drinks sales by purpose, (£m) 1997-2007
UK (£m)
1997
2002
2007
CAGR 2002-2007
Heart
68.8
100.7
145.1
7.6%
Bone
41.0
60.0
86.4
7.6%
Gut
75.4
111.2
159.3
7.4%
Energy
27.0
36.2
48.6
6.1%
Other
60.1
94.1
116.6
4.4%
Overall
245.3
366.1
507.4
6.7%
Source: Datamonitor
Expert Analysis

Changing Needs in Functional Food and Drinks

What is the future of functional food and drinks? How can current growth be sustained? Who are the next generation of consumers? The functional food and drinks markets stand at a crossroads and this report examines the changes that are necessary if this market is to continue its growth over the next five years. Investment and innovation can be targeted at profitable new consumer groups using this report's in-depth insight and analysis. Find out more here.

 

'Self-medication' will boost consumption of functional products
Driven by increasing levels of mainstream health-awareness, concern about modern lifestyles and the desire to look and feel good, consumers are taking increasing interest in the concept of 'self-medication'. The advice given to consumers about health issues increasingly focuses on diet and lifestyle as much as on medicine. As a result, consumers more readily accept the idea that changes in diet can have significant effects on health. This means that consumers are more likely to choose functional products based on their ability to make long-term changes to the overall quality of life.

One of the most important growth opportunities for functional foods lies in family health. Concerned parents want to be sure that their children are not just healthy, but protected against minor illnesses. Moreover, parents want to see their children succeed: at school, in sports and hobbies. An energy boosting diet can offer greater concentration and improved learning. "Appealing to parents and children can be tricky, however. Parents are attracted by messages about health benefits; children, however, demand novelty, taste and fun. A "dual brand" approach which targets children's needs while reassuring parents is the key to opening up this market" concludes Russell.