Top 10 Functional Food Trends for 2004

'Functional' Replaces 'Tasty' as New Food Buzzword

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on April 16, 2004
From the WebMD Archives

April 14, 2004 -- Americans want healthier food. And the food industry is rushing to fulfill this new desire.

The new buzzword is "functional foods." You'll be seeing fewer labels promising "more taste" and more promising "low-carb," "all-natural," "less sugar," and even "alive."

A. Elizabeth Sloan, president of Sloan Trends & Solutions Inc., details 10 new trends that are changing the look -- and contents -- of grocery shelves. Sloan's report appears in the April issue of Food Technology.

The trends:

  • Better eating. Americans want less bad stuff and more good stuff in their food. Look for more foods that reduce heart-damaging trans fats, and more foods fortified with vitamins and minerals.
  • Carbs begone. High-protein and low-carb foods are selling like hotcakes used to. It is not just dieters. Two-thirds of people not on a diet want fewer sugars, carbs, and fats in their food.
  • Child health. Half of U.S. households would trade convenience for health benefits when it comes to feeding their kids. Also, kids themselves seem to be going for healthier snacks, such as yogurt.
  • Healing power. Heart-healthy foods appeal to two-thirds of shoppers. And 40% of consumers say they're changing their diets to reduce cholesterol.
  • Must-have ingredients. From fish oils to cholesterol-lowering plant sterols, Americans want healthy ingredients in their foods. Look for more products claiming health-enhancing properties.
  • Better beverages. Experts predict Americans will buy more bottled water than coffee or beer. Artificial flavors are losing ground to drinks with "all natural" claims. Antioxidant tea products are all the rage. And at least one brand of coffee is adding herbs and minerals to its beans.
  • High-Power. Energy drinks are the fastest growing supermarket category -- with sports drinks right behind.
  • Restaurants to the rescue. Want to downsize that? Responding to a drop in sales of take-out food and less eating out, restaurants are offering healthier alternatives. Menus now offer low-carb and low-fat alternatives, smaller portions, and fruit and milk instead of cookies and soda.
  • Natural gourmet. One-third of consumers want to be able to choose organic foods. And 30% of consumers want to have a meatless meal at least some of the time.
  • Small world. It's not just America. Our 130 million overweight citizens have a lot of company: 170 million more overweight people around the world. The global weight-loss market is a staggering $240 billion.

If this looks like the 80s all over again, Sloan warns marketers that the new health trend is the strongest yet.

"America's approach to health is different this time," she writes. "[It's] more aggressive, more sophisticated, and most assuredly here to stay."

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SOURCES: Sloan, A.E.Food Technology, April 2004; vol 58: pp 28-51. News release, Institute of Food Technologists.

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