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Overdoing health claims can put consumers off

By Sarah Hills , 24-Sep-2008

The health and wellness trend in food is expected to endure tough economic times but there is a danger that food manufacturers could over medicalize their products, according to a research specialist.

 

Products with a strong emphasis on health and wellness are still likely to have a strong appeal to an aging and increasingly obese global population, particularly in the US, Lee Linthicum, head of global food research, at Euromonitor International said.

Meanwhile global sales of health and wellness packaged food are forecast to grow more than 20 percent in constant value from 2007 to 2012.

Products that are likely to prove robust in the face of an economic downturn include those that promote satiety and those that help to lower blood pressure.

Cosmeticeuticals are also likely to become increasingly mainstream, such as foods that have anti-aging ingredients like collagen, which appeal strongly to women.

Linthicum added: “Products that tap into the increasingly self-consciousness of men over their appearance (the so-called metrosexual trend) are also likely to do well.”

However he warned of overdoing the science when marketing such products, as it could put consumers off.

Linthicum added: “Manufacturers are leveraging new innovations in food science and making those messages known. But at the end of the day it is still food you are talking about, so you can’t make it like medicine or over medicalize it.

“In the US there has been a lot of product launches lately which have not done quite as well as they could have done and I think that is down to consumer education.

“There is a fine line between too much science and consumer education.”

He said that in some cases products may not taste as good because of their functional benefits, in which case they may need to educate consumers of the benefits of the ingredients over taste.

It comes as the industry is seeing more market segmentation in the health and wellness category. Before Linthicum said there would be more general claims but now there is no “one size fits all solution”.

Consumers are being more choosey about what they are buying and this is resulting in more condition specific products, such as weight management and satiety, rather than simply saying low fat or low sugar.

However, it does not mean products have been reformulated as they may be simply repackaged for a specific target audience, changing how they are positioned and leveraging advances made in food science in the last few year.

Rising costs

Introducing new products can help companies alleviate the burden of high food inflation because consumers, according to a new report on the food manufacturing industry from the Conference Board of Canada.

This year has seen record commodity prices but launching new products is “the perfect way to mitigate cost hikes” because new prices can be introduced with fewer worries about price comparisons, said the report called Canadian Industrial Outlook: Canada’s Food Manufacturing Industry – Summer 2008.

It stated that new products entering the market were a significant source of profit because consumers have been particularly receptive to product innovation over the last few years.

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