Heart health still tops the list of conditions that have the greatest impact on food purchasing decisions. It is fourth most popular category for new functional food introductions in North America and abroad (1). In 2012, 37% of grocery shoppers said heart health was very important - 38% somewhat important in their food selections. One-third looked for reduces the risk of heart disease claims (2).
Last year, 24% of consumers bought foods/drinks for cholesterol-lowering – the most purchased condition-specific category overall - 15%for heart/circulatory health and 15% for blood pressure management (3). Fifty-one million U.S. households have a member trying to manage cholesterol, 50 million blood pressure; 27 million heart problems/stroke and 18 million other heart issues (4).
Making dietary modifications for heart health
Dietary modifications for heart health continue to be both positive and avoidance in nature, with more effort still focused on avoidance vs. inclusion of heart healthy substances. While nine in 10 (87%) with chronic high blood pressure and/or cholesterol depend heavily on prescriptions to treat their condition, 50% are also using diet to manage their condition (4).
Although the number of shoppers who look for low fat/trans fat and low cholesterol claims has fallen slightly over the past five years, 61% of consumers are still watching the fat content of foods to reduce the risk of heart disease (5).
In 2012, 49% of consumers tried to avoid trans, 47% saturated and 46% total fats; 41% cholesterol; 41% salt/sodium (5). What has changed, however, is that 58% of consumers are making an effort to include healthy fats/oils in their diet (6).
There is strong scientific support for the role of fatty acids, in lieu of specific oils, in support of heart health. This is good news for consumers and the MUFAs, PUFAs, and omega-3 fatty acids. According to Sloan Trends’ TrendSense model, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) joined polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) as a mass market food opportunity in 2011.
In 2012, one-third (35%) of consumers made a strong effort to include more omega-3s/fish oil in their diet; fish oil/omega-3s top the list of nutrients consumers think they’re not getting in sufficient amounts. Four in 10 think that omega-3s are very effective for heart health (7).
With nine in 10 adults preferring to get their nutrients – and health benefits - naturally from foods vs. 53% from fortified foods – delivering naturally functional heart health promoting foods/beverages will have the highest appeal.
Whole grains, fiber, protein and vitamins/minerals were the most sought after ingredients in 2012; 44% made an effort to get more oat bran and 26% soy protein (5, 8). One in four consumers are making a strong effort to get more antioxidants; 28% more natural antioxidants from foods (7). Heart health and cancer are the two most marketable health linkages for antioxidants - and despite a setback due to negative attacks on the effectiveness of antioxidants for heart health by the American Heart Association in 2009, their marketability for heart health has rebounded and shows no sign of slowing down (9).
Resveratrol has recently joined polyphenols and flavonoids/flavanols as mass market phytochemical opportunities. Hydroxytyrosol and related polyphenolic compounds from olives are other hot up-and-coming natural antioxidants for heart health (9).
Magnesium, which has posted double-digit annual growth as a dietary supplement since 2005, is the third most used nutrient in heart healthy products around the globe and will be a hot product addition in 2013 (4, 10).
The shift to risk factors
With 83 million Americans already afflicted with some form of cardiovascular disease, it’s not surprising that the market for heart-healthy products is shifting from general preventative heart health to risk factor reduction. Moreover, concern for risk factors is shifting to include younger consumers.
For example, while 66% of boomers are concerned about high blood pressure, 48% of Gen Xers and 40% of Millennials - 68%, 54% and 40% respectively for cholesterol – the percentages of those worried about general cardiovascular/preventive health are much lower. Just about half of Boomers (46%), 34% of Gen Xers and 25% of Millennials are concerned over preventative heart health (11).
Datamonitor predicts that among heart health ingredients, the largest sector - cholesterol reducing ingredients - will have a compounded annual growth rate of 8.4% from 2009 – 2015; antioxidant heart ingredients 5.8%; anti-hypertensive ingredients 11.3%; and circulatory health ingredients 9.4% (12).
Up-and-coming heart markets
Stroke, atherosclerosis, minimizing blood plaque and improving circulation are among the new mass market opportunities for heart health (9). Over the past few years stroke prevention has quietly become a mega mass market opportunity. Food ingredients that help manage blood pressure, improve artery health/ circulation, and prevent platelet aggregation will be in demand (9).
According to Sloan Trends, circulation is a mass market opportunity. Two thirds of consumers are concerned about their circulatory health; one in five (22%) are very concerned (13). Fifteen-percent of consumers bought a food/beverage for heart circulatory health last year (3). Globally, 71% of consumers are extremely/very interested in circulatory system products (14). The circulatory benefits of cocoa flavanols have been well documented and health claims for cocoa flavanols and circulation have found support by regulators in the United States and Europe.
Atherosclerosis is another mass market opportunity (9) and is related to circulation. Atherosclerosis is very/important to 36% of Boomers and older (15). The market for controlling blood plaque became a mass market opportunity in 2012, but is currently much smaller than the aforementioned heart markets.
Lastly, heart-healthy foods and drinks for children are an explosive untapped functional foods opportunity.
One in eight children has two or more risk factors for heart disease, one in five teens abnormal blood lipid levels (16). With the American Academy of Pediatrics mandating that pediatricians begin monitoring blood pressure at age three and blood lipids not later than age eight, the state of kids’ heart health will move into the spotlight.
Only 40% of the kid-directed s $10 billion food/beverage industry involves better-for-you products (17) and this market is yet to be tapped.