Vitamin Retailer October 2012 : Page 31
Foods Function By Shari Barbanel With A continuously growing category, functional foods can offer benefits to a wide variety of consumers. I OCTOBER 2012 s WWW.VITAMINRETAILER.COM n 2012, Americans are busier than ever before. According to The United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), 85.8 percent of men and 66.5 percent of women in the United States work more than 40 hours per week. Further, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average productivity per American worker has increased 400 percent since 1950. Because of the long hours at work, family and other obligations, many consumers may opt for the easiest route possible when it comes to eat-ing meals—and the American diet has suffered as a result. But as consumers seek to lead healthier lifestyles, they want products that con-tain the vitamins and nutrients that their bodies need that can also easily fit into their daily rou-tines—and functional foods offer just that. According to a 2011 International Food VITAMIN RETAILER 31
Foods With Function
A continuously growing category, functional foods can offer benefits to a wide variety of consumers.<br /> <br /> In 2012, Americans are busier than ever before. According to The United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), 85.8 percent of men and 66. 5 percent of women in the United States work more than 40 hours per week. Further, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average productivity per American worker has increased 400 percent since 1950.<br /> <br /> Because of the long hours at work, family and other obligations, many consumers may opt for the easiest route possible when it comes to eating meals—and the American diet has suffered as a result. But as consumers seek to lead healthier lifestyles, they want products that contain the vitamins and nutrients that their bodies need that can also easily fit into their daily routines— and functional foods offer just that.<br /> <br /> According to a 2011 International Food Information Council (IFIC) survey, consumers are catching on to the functional foods concept, as 90 percent of those polled were able to name at least one functional food and its associated benefit. Further, U.K.-based Companiesandmarkets.com reported that global sales of functional foods are projected to reach $67 billion by 2016.<br /> <br /> “We have noticed a rise in functional foods products because with people working more hours a day, it is harder to spend time in the kitchen making two to three meals a day,” said Damian Paul, owner of The Source Natural Foods in Kailua, HI. “With everyone being so active with school and work, functional foods [represent a] health insurance to get the vitamins and minerals, as well as the greens and reds we all might be missing.” Paul noted that The Source Natural Foods carries approximately 50 different shakes and meal replacement drinks, several energy bars, cookies and breads with quinoa for higher protein.<br /> <br /> Category Growth <br /> <br /> Functional foods are appealing to a wide range of consumers—from parents who are looking for a “sneaky” way to provide nutrients for their picky eaters, to seniors who have trouble swallowing or want to cut down on the number of pills they take daily, they can all benefit from functional foods.<br /> <br /> “An interesting thing about functional foods is the diversity of the consumers that it attracts. This is also one of the main reasons the category is growing, despite a slow economy,” said Wes Crain, president of California-based Navitas Naturals. “People that make a commitment to their own well-being are going to change a lot of other things in their lives and budgets before they start to eat poorly. The audience includes young people who want to be healthy and eat real food that is less processed; Baby Boomers seeking to stay fit; foodies that want nutrition from delicious food recipes; moms, who can get easy recipes using functional foods off the internet; endurance athletes that want food instead of pills; and more. The consumer group is widening, for sure.” <br /> <br /> Brwyn Griffin, outreach and education marketing manager for the Port Townsend Food Co-op in Port Townsend, WA, noted that the Co-op staff often recommends functional foods as an alternative to taking pills or tablets. “Because of their effectiveness, absorption and quality, we are happy to recommend them,” she said. “Because they lack the binders and fillers necessary to form tablets or even the capsules themselves, the body can absorb the nutrients more effectively giving a more positive response.” Further, according to Mike Bush, vice president of business development of Ganeden Biotech in Ohio, maker of the probiotic ingredient, GanedenBC30®, functional foods are no fuss. “While a consumer must remember to take a pill or soft gel daily, replacing a food product with its functional food equivalent isn’t adding anything to a person’s daily routine. Our general thought is we want to have our organism in as many products that people normally consume on a regular basis,” he said. “It allows people to easily incorporate probiotics into their lifestyle without having to add new habits. Trying to get people to add new habits is the hardest thing to do, so why bother if you don’t have to.<br /> <br /> GanedenBC30 is the trademarked brand name of the patented bacteria strain Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086. It is a gram-positive, spore-forming bacterium that, once germinated, produces L+ lactic acid, supporting good bacteria in the gut while displacing non-beneficial bacteria. A high-survivability probiotic, or good bacteria, GanedenBC30 has many inherent physical properties that make it superior to other traditional probiotic organisms such as lactobacillus, acidophilus and bifidobacteria, and is intended for use in a wide variety of foods, according to the company.<br /> <br /> Grab-and-Go <br /> <br /> While functional foods can be a vitamin- and nutrient-rich replacement to food consumers eat on a daily basis, some manufacturers are intensifying their efforts by making it possible for busy consumers to throw the product in a bag and take it with them. “Vega considers packaging format and ease of use, pursuing the ‘grab-and-go’ category with single-serve packets and just-add-water formulas that provide consumers with options that meet the needs of their busy lifestyles,” said Emma Cutfield, education manager for Vega in Burnaby, BC, Canada. <br /> <br /> “Category growth is further supported using single-serve packaging to encourage trial by new consumers.” <br /> <br /> While Navitas Naturals is primarily a single-ingredient food company (specializing in superfoods), it launched a line of Navitas Power Snacks in 2011 that combine many of the company’s most popular foods in a convenient snack product that is ideal for busy, modern on-the-go lifestyles. This past March, Blueberry Hemp was added to the line, joining Cacao-Goji and Citrus- Chia.<br /> <br /> “In addition to hemp powder and dried blueberries, our Blueberry Hemp Power Snacks are made with many organic functional food stars such as chia, maca, lucuma, camu and maqui, as well as other wholesome raw foods including sesame seeds, cashews and sunflower seeds,” said Crain. “The bite-sized cubes have a delicious flavor, healthy whole-food appearance and rich chewy texture. There are no refined sugars, preservatives and artificial colors and flavors in Navitas Power Snacks, which are certified organic and gluten-free, and are GMO-free and dairy-free.” <br /> <br /> Special Requirements <br /> <br /> As functional foods have seemed to stake a claim in the market, some manufacturers are developing products for consumers with diet restrictions and allergies. “The trend we are seeing is the simpler the better approach,” said Benjamin J. Thomas, president of California-based Undefeated Sport, Inc. “Food, rather than supplements, natural rather than processed, things your body has needed since the dawn of time instead of the newest chemical out of a lab that has unknown side effects. We are paying great attention to the gluten-free, vegan market because of how important efficient digestion is related to sports performance.” <br /> <br /> Some manufacturers have even been inspired to create a functional food product after being unable to purchase a product for themselves. A diabetic, Jeff Cohen founded Granola Gourmet™ because he was frustrated with the lack of good tasting snacks that wouldn’t spike his blood sugar. Cohen took matters into his own hands and created a variety of low glycemic index (GI), 100 percent natural energy bars in his kitchen called 4Real Energy Bars™.<br /> <br /> “Granola Gourmet 4Real Energy Bars have been clinically proven to be low glycemic,” said Cohen of the California-based company. “They have been tested on people with diabetes to determine their glycemic index value by scientists at GI Labs, who developed the concept of the glycemic index. On a scale where 70 and above is considered high and 55 and below is low, Granola Gourmet’s 4Real Energy Bars have glycemic index values of only 19 to 25.” <br /> <br /> Additionally, a number of consumers are embracing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyles, and are searching for functional foods that can provide them with the nutrition that they need.<br /> <br /> “Recently, Vega has benefited from a turning tide and increased awareness of the plant-based concept in popular culture,” said Cutfield.<br /> <br /> “Consumers are better educated than ever before, influenced by well-publicized concerns regarding the detrimental impact of the Standard American Diet (which relies heavily on animal-based products), the conversion of prominent media personalities and professional athletes to a plant-based diet, and the emergence of popular documentaries exposing the ins-and-outs of conventional food production.” <br /> <br /> Vega SaviSeeds feature the sacha inchi seed. SaviSeeds are naturally rich in tryptophan, an essential amino acid, which is a pre-cursor to serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter.<br /> <br /> “Tryptophan is essential to maintaining mood and motivation when on a plant-based diet, or maintaining an active lifestyle,” according to the company.<br /> <br /> “The richest plantbased source of omega-3 on the planet, these amazing seeds on their own boast 17 times more omega-3 per ounce than wild sockeye salmon,” said Cutfield. “Vega SaviSeeds are gently roasted and lightly coated for an unmatched combination of taste and nutrition that’s glutenfree and packed with complete protein.Grown in Peru, Vega SaviSeeds are a nutrient dense snack—just a 1-oz. Serving size of SaviSeed is all you need.” <br /> <br /> Another trend in the functional foods category is products marketed to athletes and sports enthusiasts. “Our research has shown the most intense athletes and professional people who exercise and strive to eat right are tired of worrying about what is in their food,” said Undefeated’s Thomas. “On a professional level in sports, getting drug tested and testing positive is a career ender.” <br /> <br /> According to Thomas, Undefeated’s Sport Cookies have fueled UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) champions like Randy Couture, who is known for his natural lifestyle, Olympic and National Champion Coach Cael Sanderson and his two-time national championship teams, as well as undefeated NCAA Champion and London Olympic Games gold medal winner Jake Varner.<br /> <br /> Undefeated’s Sport Cookies contain DHA, omega-3s, barley, alfalfa, Real Salt™, pea protein and therapeutic grade essential oils. Sport Cookies are available in a variety of flavors including Chocolate Mint, Mad, Mad Macadamia, Peanut Butter Crunch, Cinnamon Raisin Oat, as well as its best-seller, Old–Fashioned Chocolate Chip.<br /> <br /> Facing Obstacles <br /> <br /> While functional foods are garnering attention from consumers, product development has a number of issues. According to Ganeden Biotech’s Bush, there is always some sort of challenge involved when developing a product— whether it occurs during formulations, inclusion, etc. He also noted that challenges vary, depending on the product.<br /> <br /> Additionally, functional foods can generate some confusion among retailers and consumers. Port Townsend Food Co-op’s Griffin explained that she grows frustrated over where and how to market functional foods in the store. “We are often challenged by how to merchandise functional foods,” she said. “Should we cross-merchandise? Keep them separate? [Put them in] grocery or wellness? It might help to have the manufacture speak to their intention.” <br /> <br /> It can be confusing for shoppers as well, according to Bush. “Consumers know that they need to do something, but they don’t know exactly what they need to do,” he said. “I think that the industry associations and manufacturers are doing a good job of clearing up that confusion.” <br /> <br /> To help people discover how easy it is to add functional foods to their diet, Navitas Naturals created the Smoothment (http://smoothment.navitasnaturals. com), an interactive, multimedia program that offers easy and delicious organic smoothie recipes that feature functional foods and advice from superfood gurus.<br /> <br /> “It’s a lifestyle movement to inspire people to upgrade the nutrition of one meal per day by adding a superfood/functional food smoothie into their daily routine,” said Crain. “In April of this year, we took the Smoothment on the road to dozens of stores up and down the East Coast. Our Executive Chef Julie Morris and our grassroots ‘street team’ conducted many functional foods classes and demo events to eager audiences. Our retail partners were quite pleased with the educational value. It was a big success and we will be doing more Smoothment tours throughout the country this fall and in 2013.” <br /> <br /> Undefeated’s Thomas agreed that taking the product to the people can assist retailers in appealing to their customers. “We participate in grand openings, local tournaments, sampling events, races, adventure runs and school fundraisers as a way to introduce our product and drive customers to our retailers,” he said. Undefeated provides clip strips for placement around the store, supplies retailers with cards printed with packing information and provides as samples for retailers to offer to customers because “the taste test is everything.” <br /> <br /> Vega offers retailers product demonstration and sampling programs. In addition, the company hosts ongoing training webinars every second month, which are open for its retail partners to attend. “These opportunities for continuing education not only provide retailers with regular insider information on Vega, but allow time for Q&A, connecting the retailer to the Vega brand, no matter their location,” said Cutfield.<br /> <br /> Through the combined effort of manufactures and retailers, American consumers now have tasty and convenient options to eat healthily, no matter how busy they may be. “Consumers have become more aware that they need to pay attention to what is in their food and where it is coming from,” concluded Crain. “Eating for health is as old as humanity, but people forgot about that concept for awhile and are now regaining that consciousness back.”<br /> <br /> “Consumers are better educated than ever before, influenced by well-publicized concerns regarding the detrimental impact of the Standard American Diet (which relies heavily on animal-based products), the conversion of prominent media personalities and professional athletes to a plant-based diet, and the emergence of popular documentaries exposing the ins-and-outs of conventional food production.”
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