Regulatory concerns shift digestive health focus

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 10.07.47 AMDigestive or gut health has been a key focus for product activity in functional and healthy foods for many years, but with the tightening up of claims legislation, particularly in Europe, there has been a setback in terms of product activity in more recent times, according to a new study.

More than 3.2 per cent of food and drink launches in 2014 carried digestive health claims of some kind, up from 2.7 per cent five years previously, according to data recorded by Innova Market Insights.

This indicates that there is still ongoing interest in the sector, particularly in the USA, where the share rose from 3.3 per cent to more than 3.6 per cent. In Europe, however, share fell from 2.4 per cent to 2.2 per cent over the same period.

With the claims situation becoming more difficult, companies are also focusing on the use of specific ingredients, such as wholegrains and fibre, which may already be linked with digestive health in consumers’ minds.

High fibre or source of fibre claims were used on nearly 3.4 per cent of food and drinks launches in 2o14, rising to 4.6 per cent in the USA,  according to Innova Market Insights.

Innova Market Insights also found that wholegrain claims were used on two per cent of global launches, rising to 3.4 per cent in the USA.

Wholegrain claims were particularly in evidence in categories such as cereals and bakery products.

Bakery products lead globally, accounting for 21 per cent of food and drinks launches using this type of claim, although this is equivalent to less than six per cent of total bakery introductions.

In addition, 5.5 per cent of bakery launches used wholegrain claims. The two claims combined featured on nine per cent of bakery launches, rising to 16 per cent in the USA.

Within the bakery market, biscuits accounted for nearly half of launches using fibre- related claims (excluding wholegrains), ahead of bread. In terms of significance however, bread is a clear leader, with products featuring a high fibre positioning accounting for 15 per cent of bread launches, compared with just over nine per cent in savoury biscuits and just five per cent  in sweet biscuits.

In the biscuits market, probably the key area of activity in high fibre products in recent years has been in breakfast biscuits, virtually all of which are promoted as high in fibre and/or whole grains, and many of which have variants such as fruit and  fibre in their ranges.

This started in the UK in 2010, creating a new breakfast biscuits sub-category featuring a raft of new brands.

It also heralded a welter of activity in other countries, including Germany, the USA, and Australia, as well as a revitalisation of existing breakfast biscuit markets in countries such as France and Spain.

“There is clearly still interest in products for digestive or gut health,” Lu Ann Williams, director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights, said.

“This is reflected in ongoing levels of product activity, despite some of the current regulatory issues affecting health claims, particularly in Europe,” Williams said.

“Companies are tending to move to a more general health and wellness positioning for their products.They are relying more on existing consumer awareness of ingredients such as probiotics and fibre, the health benefits that they offer and the kinds of food and drinks products that they can be found in,” Williams said.

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