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Diet Foods 2.0

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Low Fat. Low in Sugar.Low Calories. These are the buzz words of yesterday for products geared toward weight management and healthier living. Today we see words like "Green-Tea Extracts", "Antioxidants", "Fiber Enriched", and "Probiotics", reflecting a significant shift towards functional foods. Ingredients found in functional foods often have promising benefits such as increased metabolism, suppressed appetite, cancer-fighting power, or aided digestion.

As MediaPost noted in a late October issue of Marketing Daily, this shift offers marketers the opportunity to grab the attention of weight conscious consumers. The opportunity is sizable, as the US continues to battle obesity. Euromonitor reports that functional Foods & Beverages saw growth of about 10% in 2007 worldwide, while non-functional F&B only grew 2-4%. Today, functional foods can be found in almost every aisle of the supermarket, including the dairy case, the bottled water shelf and even the bakery.

The level of research online behind functional foods is high. Exotic ingredients and new cutting edge formulas add new vocabulary to the every day weight management jargon, prompting consumers to search online about the meaning behind these new words.

Online, consumers can research to better understand the benefit of the functional foods and to compare reviews about whether the food or beverage will actually deliver on the added benefit, as well the trade-off on taste. Consumers want to hear it from the mouths of other consumers who, like them, have sought out the product because they believed that it would help them lose weight or become more healthy.

Safety also remains of great concern to consumers as many of these functional ingredients are quite new and are supposed to enhance or suppress certain body chemistry. The Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) has some regulation in place to help alleviate some consumer concerns. Functional foods that have been been US FDA approved can be marketed as food, while those that have not been evaluated by the FDA are supposed to be marketed as a nutritional supplement.

But even with this regulation in place, you can bet that the first place a consumer turns to, should they experience an increased heart beat as a result of consuming a new functional food, is to turn to the internet to see what's normal.

It will be interesting to see, come January 2009 and post holiday over-eating, which functional foods become all the rage as millions of Americans make the new year's resolution to lose weight.

Posted by Jenny Liu, Sr. Account Planner NY