According to Mintel Consumer Intelligence The US Functional Food Market report, approximately 75% of Americans would consider consuming functional foods in response to specific conditions such as osteoporosis or cholesterol. The market includes foods which are enhanced in some way or which ingredients have been added to produce a specific health benefit. The functional foods industry grew 14% in 2001 to a worth of $1,362 million.

Consumers are willing to look at products with added health benefits as a complement to a healthy lifestyle. Between six and eight out of ten people actively do things to improve their health. Relating this to functional foods, people who said that they would not buy these products almost precisely mirror the health and wellness activities of the general population. However, people who regularly buy functional foods, and those who say that they would like to know more about them, take actions towards improving their health at a significantly higher rate.

Women in the sample take more concrete steps to insure overall health and wellness than men, which is consistent with the overall level of interest in health matters usually attributed to women. Functional foods would therefore seem to have a ready audience among women, regardless of age.

The various groups of functional foods have varied success. The bakery and cereals segment reached a value of $728 million in 2001 and the bars, candy and snacks segment is valued at $105.6 million in 2001.  The research has shown that the bars and cereals food category is likely to lead with the highest value in functional food groups and the diary, snack and bakery segments is expected to continue growth at the highest rate.

Manufacturers have a challenge of translating claims into tangible consumer benefits. This will be helped by public health authorities who will continue to connect diet with chronic disease prevention and broaden the number of health claims allowed. This provides a background for manufacturers to communicate the particular benefits of ingredients and foods.

As for the future it is expected that all these findings and the addition of increased spending on TV and targeted print campaigns will naturally give functional foods more visibility. Emphasis on taste and lifestyle communication will also produce much higher levels of trial. The large number of new products being introduced will generate increased short-term sales in 2002. Long-term success will depend on the careful alignment of price, taste, convenience and clearly communicated health benefits.

Established in 1972, Mintel incorporates Mintel Consumer Intelligence, Global New Products Database (gnpd), and Mintel consultancy. Mintel is an independent company which operates offices in Chicago, London, Frankfurt, and Sydney. For more information on Mintel Consumer Intelligence, please visit our website at www.ci.mintel.com