Very Low Calorie Diets
Despite an attempt to block new laws by manufacturers and distributors of very low calorie diet (VLCD) plans and products, the European Commission has proposed Regulation (EU) No 609/2013, to harmonise rules on ‘the essential composition of total diet replacements for weight control’. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a scientific opinion on the topic in 2015, prompted by legislators investigating the subject, and proposed a minimum protein content adjusted for the overweight or obese of 75 g per day, a minimum carbohydrate content based on the obligatory glucose demands of the brain and minimum contents of linoleic acid, alpha linoleic acid and micronutrients based on reference values established by the EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies. The Panel also proposed a minimum energy content of total diet replacements of 600 calories per day. While regulation is welcomed for consumer protection, industry members take issue with the proposed laws as formulation and manufacturing will become very difficult, ‘effectively wiping these products from the market’. Anthony Leeds, of the European VLCD Industry Group, believes products will be ‘substantially more expensive for consumers, taste unpleasant and be liable to turn rancid very quickly’—and warns consumers could then turn to other non-regulated diets and dangerous alternatives. The VCLD Industry Group called on Members of European Parliament to reject the proposal as several MEPs ‘recognised the issue and suggested the law may counter its intended purpose’ but the motion for resolution was rejected, and the regulation will enter into law.
As one industry faces possible decline, others emerge as gluten-free goes mainstream in the US and legal reform in Switzerland sees the nutritional supplements market open to new opportunities.
Gluten-Free Goes Mainstream
Although research shows only 1 to 2 percent of people worldwide suffer from a gluten intolerance, the idea that removing wheat and gluten from the diet is healthier is driving the demand for gluten-free products in the United States. It’s a similar story across the pond in Europe—data presented at the Allergy and Free From Show in London showed two-thirds of consumers purchased a free-from product for general health reasons, rather than for any allergy or intolerance. As with many trends, social media has spurred much of the boom in gluten-free, particularly in the US, as various celebrities and food bloggers championed removing gluten for health or weight management reasons. The global gluten-free market is estimated at €5 billion, although there is confusion over the term ‘gluten-free’ as definitions vary across the world. European Union rules stipulate gluten-free products must have a gluten limit of 20 parts per million (ppm) and does not allow products to contain oats, while in the US, the FDA requires the same 20 ppm limit but does allow oats.
Swiss Legal Reform Offers Industry Opportunities
Switzerland is not part of the European Union and until May 2017 had its own set of food regulations. Now, a new Swiss legal regime means nutraceutical and functional food companies can market in Switzerland following the same regulations as across the EU. The new rules aim to facilitate the entry of products originating from EU Member States into Switzerland and vice versa, but Swiss maximum levels for vitamins and minerals and prohibition of certain ingredients must still be considered. Importantly, food supplements are classed as foodstuffs, meaning general food regulations on food labelling, claims and the use of additives apply, though mostly in line with European rules.
Following from last week’s focus on avocados, new customer research released this week shows millennials are now going nuts for coconuts! Coconut oil gained huge popularity this year as a cooking oil, and research and consultancy New Nutrition Business says coconut’s ‘rebirth’ as a ‘star ingredient’ is due to the ‘affinity millennial consumers feel for coconut’ which is perceived as a ‘naturally healthy food’ by this group. Coconuts have boomed with a 318 percent increase in new product launches containing coconut between 2010 and 2016—and most people surveyed said they liked the taste of coconut. Interestingly though, the groups largely agreed coconut was a ‘naturally healthy ingredient’ but ‘they weren’t sure why’! Luckily for them, perhaps, the number of scientific studies on coconuts grew by 28 percent between 2010 and 2016.