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Generation gut: Are millennials driving the demand for functional foods?

Wellness-focused food brands are embracing the health movement that has gradually gathered momentum in recent years. Driven by the rise of health-conscious consumers, the demand for brands and suppliers to deliver ‘health foods’ is higher than ever. Digestive health improvement products, in particular, have experienced key market growth as the demand for nutritional and fortifying food additives has increased.

What is driving the demand for functional foods and what can we expect as the market expands?

According to a report by Kerry Group, 65% of consumers seek functional benefits from their food and beverage purchases. The health benefits of vitamins and minerals are well known thanks to increased mainstream media coverage, and the population’s growing interest in the benefits of prebiotics and probiotics is driving an increase in new digestive-health orientated food and drink products.

Switched-on millennials are especially becoming aware of the health benefits of functional food products through social media. According to the Institute of Food Technologists, seven in 10 Millennials say they’re taking a more holistic approach to their health, looking for impactful benefits from what they put in to their body. A recent report from the Health Foundation also discovered that millennials may have a higher risk of developing cancer, diabetes and heart disease later in life.  

Millennials today make up about a quarter of the world’s population and are shown to be the biggest buyers of fortified foods, including prebiotics and probiotics. It’s no wonder, considering wellness is a daily, active pursuit for them. According to research published by Goldman Sachs, millennials exercise more, eat smarter and smoke less than previous generations. For them, ‘healthy’ doesn’t mean ‘not sick’ – it’s a daily commitment to eating right and exercising, and this active lifestyle is influencing everything in the food and drink industry. Viewing their health more holistically, millennials now say organic, natural and non-toxic products are part of maintaining their overall health, seeing them as alternatives to traditional medicinal routes. This insight is an appealing opportunity for food manufacturers to develop new functional foods and supplements appealing to this enlightened consumer group.

Projection for functional foods

Functional foods and nutraceuticals beneficially affect the body by promoting health and wellbeing and may reduce the risk of disease. They are creating a positive revolution in the food industry, empowering brands and their suppliers to develop innovative food and beverage formulations to help people get more nutrients from the products they are already consuming. Combined with a healthy lifestyle, functional foods offer great potential to improve health and wellbeing. What’s more, they sell at higher prices and contain larger profit margins than conventional foods, for profit-hungry brands and manufacturers.

As interest in this category of the foods has grown, new product developments have appeared, and functional foods continue to expand. According to Grand View Research, the global functional ingredients market is expected to be valued at $96.1 billion by 2026. Euromonitor also reports that cultures, vitamins, minerals, botanicals, bioactives, and prebiotics will be the fastest-growing global speciality food and beverage ingredients in 2019.

As consumers continue to learn more about the complexity of gut health and the implication it has for the wellbeing of the body and mind, the opportunity for digestive health orientated products is moving beyond probiotics, creating increased market potential for prebiotic-containing foods. First defined in 1995, prebiotics are a relatively new addition to the health and wellness landscape, but their function is known to be important for the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. 

This revelation is driving food manufacturers and biotechnology companies to research and develop microbiome-based products containing advanced forms of prebiotics that can be added to food, drink or existing supplements to enhance gut health. For example, biotechnology specialist Clasado BioSciences, develops and manufactures microbiome-based products that focus on consumer gastrointestinal wellness for the food and healthcare sectors, including its well-known prebiotic brand, Bimuno®. This patent-protected and clinically supported technology is a blend of galactooligosaccharides which enhances the level of intestinal health-promoting bacteria, such as bifidobacteria, and can be added to any food, drink or existing supplement to improve gut health. 

Outlook

Health foods have come a long way in recent years and today, the majority of consumers expect food and beverage manufacturers to deliver products with health and wellness benefits. It is becoming apparent that millennials are driving the change in the food landscape and the demand for functional foods. Thanks to significant developments and innovation surrounding the importance and complexity of gut health, we’ll likely see the introduction of more innovative, prebiotic-based, functional food products to aid with systemic wellbeing.

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