inewtrition – Food Product Development Company

Consumers’ motivations and expectations toward functional foods

Picture of by Dr. Raphaëlle O'Connor

by Dr. Raphaëlle O'Connor

Raphaelle has over 25 years’ experience in the ideation,
development, and commercialisation of food chemistry,
food science, food technology, and nutrition.

A pair of glasses reflecting a colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables

Having a healthier life, living longer, looking fit, having the satisfaction of opening a beautiful package, or simply eating something tasty. What makes people buy functional foods among so many options they find on the market?

This article will discuss customers’ motivations and expectations when purchasing functional food products. Furthermore, it will paint a picture of the typical functional food consumer. Read on to find out more.

Functional Foods Definition

Changes in lifestyle, including poor diet and lack of physical activity, are leading us to a global epidemic of non-infectious diseases with life-threatening consequences. 

In this context, solutions that redefine the nutritional value of food and how they act on our bodies are essential. And functional foods play this role very well. 

Functional foods are those that influence specific functions of the organism. They look exactly like everyday food and can be a part of the daily diet. However, these products must provide a physiological benefit or help reduce the risk of certain diseases to be called “functional.” 

The way food manufacturers do this is by adding a beneficial component. They may also remove or substitute ineffective or harmful ingredients. 

The functional foods industry is booming, launching new products with a variety of health- related benefits, such as 

  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and cancer
  • Improve memory
  • Improve overall physical condition

What makes people buy functional products?

Before buying food products, customers examine various aspects, such as the potential benefits and risks. So, the success of a functional food depends on its effectiveness and its ability to meet consumers’ expectations. 

A review study looked at studies published over the last 20 years to understand further consumers’ needs and behaviour toward this type of product. 

The study results provided some interesting insights into consumer behavior. Let’s look at some of them in more detail. 

Consumer motivations to buy functional food products

Every consumer is different and has their own motivations; understanding them is critical to positioning your brand successfully. 

The greatest incentive for functional product customers is health. They understand the role of functional foods in maintaining good health. The longing for a healthier and longer life is one of the top reasons people include these products in their diets. 

Furthermore, the perceived reward is one of the best predictors of willingness to use functional foods. People who consume functional products feel morally rewarded and socially accepted for taking care of their health and well-being through their food choices. They may also want to cause a good impression about their healthy lifestyle to others. 

Another group of consumers believes that eating functional foods is a way of taking care of their health that does not require self-control or motivation. For them, it’s a quick and easy alternative to conventional diets. 

Do function foods have to taste good?

Besides the effects on health, sensory attributes such as taste, flavour, and texture remain critical for consumers. For some people, the potential for prevention or treatment of some diseases and taste are the main criteria for their purchase decisions. 

At the same time, many people don’t mind compromising on food taste as long as they keep the health benefits. 

Other relevant aspects when choosing functional food products

Packaging, including labels and health claims, is an essential factor influencing functional foods purchase. 

According to research, food claims & attractiveness, uniqueness, and credibility explain more than half of purchase intentions for this type of product. 

Lastly, we can’t forget about the product’s safety – people who are convinced that functional foods are safe are more willing to consume them. 

Painting a portrait of the typical functional food consumer

What if you could paint a portrait of a typical functional food consumer? What would they look like? Topolska and colleagues (2021) also addressed that in their review. 

Several elements influence food choices, including lifestyle, age, sex, personality, income, educational level, ethnicity, traditions, beliefs, preferences, and marketing available information. 

Functional food consumers typically are: 
– 18-50 years-old
– With higher education
– With above-average income
– Believe proper nutrition and product characteristics are important

Other things to consider

The review showed conflicting results regarding the effect of gender. While some studies have demonstrated high acceptance among women, others have shown that men are more likely to consume functional foods than the opposite sex. Another study showed no effect of gender whatsoever. 

Regarding age, it looks like older adults are more open to including functional products in their diet. In contrast, younger people may not be so easily convinced they can improve their unhealthy habits by eating functional foods. 

Either way, it’s important to remember that consumer behavior is complex, especially regarding food choices. Your customers consider various risks and benefits before making a decision. That’s why it’s crucial to collaborate with nutrition, health, and marketing experts. This way, you can choose the most appropriate, science-based messages for each audience.

inewtrition can help your business create multifunctional food products every step of the way, from business strategy, research and formulations, and launch.

Are you ready to innovate with focus? Contact Us or Schedule a free 15 minute consultation with Raphaelle.

In brief

The functional foods market is booming. Understanding your customer can give you valuable insights to guide your marketing efforts and beat the competition.


1- Topolska, K., Florkiewicz, A., & Filipiak-Florkiewicz, A. (2021). Functional Food-Consumer Motivations and Expectations. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(10), 5327.
2- Urala, N., & Lähteenmäki, L. (2004). Attitudes behind consumers' willingness to use functional foods. Food quality and preference, 15(7-8), 793-803.
3- Williams, P., Ridges, L., Batterham, M., Ripper, B., & Hung, M. C. (2008). Australian consumer attitudes to health claim–food product compatibility for functional foods. Food Policy, 33(6), 640-643.

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