Developing Functional Foods & Beverages for Preventive Nutrition

Discussions around the subject of preventive healthcare and preventive nutrition have become more prevalent over the past year when the impact of COVID-19 forced us to look at our habits with regards to taking care of ourselves and managing our own health.

Preventive health measures aim to look at how we can prevent certain illnesses and diseases occurring in order to reduce the burden on both the individuals themselves and society as a whole.

You may have heard the phrase, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The exact economic cost of illness is impossible to specify and depends on a wide variety of factors but we do know that taking care of our sick population can be expensive. While it is unrealistic to expect that we will ever create a world without sickness, we can work towards decreasing the chance of illness where possible.

The journey to achieving this, I believe, begins with nutrition. Maintaining a good level of nutrition plays an important role in the optimal growth, development, and well-being of individuals across all stages of their life. According to WHO, the burden of disease associated with poor nutrition continues to grow in the WHO European Region. Unhealthy diets, and being overweight or obese contribute to a large proportion of non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.  

Educating Consumers to Improve Their Nutrition

Brands and manufacturers within the food industry can only do so much when it comes to improving the nutrition-focused products and services they create. We can decrease calories to menus, simplify the nutritional labelling on our products, and update the Food Pyramid but these elements alone do not advance our food industry. We also need to work on improving the standard of nutritional education we receive as consumers in order to better our standards of healthy eating across the board.

Misinformation and lack of knowledge on basic nutrition begin at an early age and for those who have not chosen a career path around food science or nutrition, knowing what information to focus on and trust can be difficult. This is why we need to make more nutritional education easily available from an early age so we can share the correct information with students and show them where and how to further their education on this topic at an individual level should they wish.

FAO confirms that nutrition education in school that links classroom learning with active participation can help young consumers acquire the knowledge and skills they need to make good food choices and develop eating habits that will help keep them healthy and well-nourished throughout their lives.

Functional Foods for Preventive Nutrition

Access to Good Food is Important for Preventive Nutrition

When we limit an individual’s access to healthy food, we create a low level of food security. Food security refers to the situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Socioeconomic status and a lack of government support are likely to be some of the “fundamental causes” of healthy food inaccessibility globally so these are other areas that we also need to address if we are to solve our accessibility problem within the food industry. 

What part can functional food brands and businesses play in increasing global access to healthy food? We can use our resources to work on improving consumer-centric innovations in food-tech and across supply chains in order to bring down costs and create more accessible routes for healthy food to be shared on a wider scale.

Some brands have already started to innovate in this area. For example, genomics companies are helping us to better understand the relationship between our DNA and our reactions to food with the goal of helping us better understand food-related diseases. There are also more and more brands focusing on improving the quality of the ingredients they use in their products so we can offer consumers more nutritional value through functional foods and beverages.

A Growing Aging Market Creates New Opportunities in Preventive Nutrition

If we look at 2020 as an example, one of the most affected segments of our population during the pandemic has been the elderly. As populations grow and the senior segment continues to increase with it, it is important that we acknowledge the new needs of this growing category and work on ways in which we can fulfil these needs through the products and services we create.

A 2016 McKinsey study shared that 60% of the increase in consumption by 2030 would be driven by senior citizens aged 60 and over.

When considering products that would be appropriate for this segment of the market, building a portfolio of functional foods and beverages are a good place to start. Keep in mind to be specific with who you are targeting in your marketing and communications as the category includes a variety of different individuals across a wide age group (i.e. 60-90+ years old).

This is a key consumer category that likely has additional requirements in terms of health issues and we can aim to fulfil some of those needs through their nutrition. Other considerations are also important for products targeting the healthy ageing segment such as the type of packaging. For example, easy-open packs will be helpful here.

When developing products for this category, it is important to understand the exact problem you wish to address, and research which ingredients, combinations, and dosages can produce the desired effect. For example, Sarcopenia is caused by a loss of muscle mass so a product that is high in protein may be suitable. Alternatively, a decline in cognitive function may benefit from products enhanced with certain nootropics. The best way to begin developing new functional foods in line with preventive nutrition goals is to first understand the problem you wish to solve and then create a product that does just that. This is exactly what I do with my clients at iNewtrition. We look at problems in the food industry and use an innovation roadmap to create consumer-centric solutions using functional ingredients.

 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

When building functional foods and beverages for any consumer segment, your goal should almost always be to provide the highest value and quality at the most affordable cost. By doing so, we are allowing greater access to healthier foods and beverages and laying the groundwork for a healthier global population. 

Reaching big goals requires consistent small steps to be taken and in the case of preventive nutrition, we need to focus on increasing consumer education from the early years to help us create a food industry that works for us and for our health and nutrition needs into the future.

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iNewtrition is an Innovation as a Service (IaaS) agency for the functional food & beverage, and health & wellness industries. We provide agile customer solutions, end-to-end support, or can simply help you overcome specific bottlenecks to fast track innovation and product development. The services and expertise we offer are on-demand and available to you instantly via our online booking platform. Our skills combined cover every step of your innovation journey, from feasibility study, product design or development, to post-launch scale-up. Contact Raphaelle at [email protected] to start your journey.

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