by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Functional-foods

Jul 25 2019

The elderly: a target group for marketing functional foods

In a way, it wouldn’t take much marketing to target this group.”

That’s me, they are talking about.

As a senior citizen, I am deluged with scam requests to fix my Apple computer (I don’t have one), unblock my Social Security checks (they are fine), and deal with my failure to pay appropriate taxes (I do).

Now I’m the target of sellers of functional foods?  Apparently so, says this video.

Functional foods, please recall, are those formulated with added nutrients or other components said to improve health in some way.  You can think of them as dietary supplements added to foods.

Like dietary supplements, functional foods don’t have much evidence backing up their health benefits, particularly because they are largely consumed by people who are already healthy.

Do they do anything beneficial for the elderly?  Show me the evidence, please (and make sure the studies you show me were not funded by the makers of the products that are supposedly beneficial).

The purpose of functional foods?  Marketing, as all of this makes clear.

 VIDEO: How to target the ageing consumer:  Despite seniors showing a strong interest in functional food and supplements, the number of products launched with senior claims in Europe does not reflect the population which means brands are missing out on a huge market, says Mintel. Read more

Jun 24 2019

Industry-funded study of the week: Nestlé’s latest

Estimation of Total Usual Dietary Intakes of Pregnant Women in the United States.  Regan L. Bailey, Susan G. Pac, Victor L. Fulgoni III, et al.  JAMA Network Open. 2019;2(6):e195967. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.5967 June 21, 2019

Question  How do the usual dietary intakes of pregnant US women compare with the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes for nutritional adequacy and excess?

Conclusions and Relevance.  This study suggests that a significant number of pregnant women are not meeting recommendations for vitamins D, C, A, B6, K, and E, as well as folate, choline, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc even with the use of dietary supplements.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Bailey reported serving as a consultant to Nutrition Impact LLC, Nestle/Gerber, RTI International, and the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Dr Fulgoni, as Senior Vice President of Nutrition Impact LLC, reported performing consulting and database analyses for various food and beverage companies and related entities. Ms Pac and Dr Reidy reported being employees of Nestle Nutrition. No other disclosures were reported.

Funding/Support: This research was funded by Nestle Nutrition. Nestle Nutrition and Nutrition Impact had a financial agreement for completion of the statistical analysis. Drs Bailey and Catalano received an honorarium for the time contributed to manuscript development.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: Nestle Nutrition had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Comment: It’s Nestlé, not Nestle, the company, not me.  Nestlé is the largest food and beverage company in the world, selling $94 billion worth of products in 2018.  This study is part of the company’s plan to focus on personalized nutrition—functional food products targeted to the personal nutritional needs of individuals.

We continue to invest in long-term innovation projects with the potential for high returns. Examples include infant and maternal nutrition, healthy aging, personalized nutrition, and understanding the microbiome.

It is in Nestlé’s corporate interests to demonstrate that pregnant women are deficient in essential nutrients as a basis for creating nutrient-supplemented products targeted to this group.  Are U.S. pregnant women really deficient in 13 nutrients as reported here?  This study’s conclusions are based on comparison of self-reported dietary intake to average daily nutrient intakes.  They are not based on laboratory or observed measurements of clinical signs of deficiency. To me, this looks like a typical industry-funded study with results favorable to the sponsor’s marketing interests, as I discuss in my book, Unsavory Truth.

May 22 2019

Annals of marketing: dairy-based functional drinks in Asia

A notice from FoodNavigator-Asia got my attention: Coca-Cola is partnering with the New Zealand dairy company Fonterra to produce “Nutriboost” products for Southeast Asia.

What are these?

  • Nutriboost Kids is targeted at children above three years of age, with each of its products being fortified with different occasion-based vitamins and minerals:…Morning Growth (fortified with vitamins for growth), Playtime (designed for stronger immunity) and Good Night (fortified with DHA for brain development).
  • Nutriboost To-Go is an energy-providing breakfast range enriched with oats and fibre.
  • Nutriboost Beauty is fortified with fitness and beauty-associated minerals like collagen and zinc.

Given the lack of evidence for significant nutritional benefits of any of these things, and the high prevalence of lactose intolerance among Asian populations, why this partnership?

  • Vietnam is the third largest dairy market in the ASEAN region.
  • To grow [sales] to 40 million or 50 million cases within the next five years.
  • Coca-Cola’s strategy is to evolve away from drinks with high sugar content.

The article doesn’t say how much money is going into this partnership, but both companies must think there is a big market for such products.

I’m not a fan of “functional” foods, alas.

Real food, anyone?

Jun 11 2018

“Functional” candy? Special report from Confectionary News

The industry newsletter ConfectionaryNews.com has a collection of articles on “functional” candy.  In this context, “functional” means the addition of something not originally present to enhance the food’s nutritional value.

In the U.S., confectioners have to be careful not to violate the FDA’s so-called “jelly bean rule,” one that says you cannot add nutrients to foods (like jelly beans) just to make them appear to be healthy.

But wouldn’t it be great if candy was a health food?  Spirulina chocolate?  Read on.

Special Edition: Functional Confectionery

The consumer trend towards better-for-you snacks gives confections made with functional ingredients an opportunity to scoop up their share in the health and wellness market.

As part of this special edition on Functional Confectionery, ConfectioneryNews talks to YouBar about its nutrition bars that meet individualized recipes for dietary and nutritional needs; Rainmaker which is currently testing its first line of branded protein confectionery products in the UK and Ireland; and Supertreats’ carob powder which is a healthy alternative to cocoa.

Jun 14 2016

BeverageDaily.com on functional drinks

The Beverage Daily newsletter always has something interesting from its business perspective.  Its June 3 mailing was a special edition—a collection of its articles—about “functional” beverages.  In nutrition-speak, functional means something added above and beyond the nutrients that were there to begin with.

Here’s what Beverage Daily says about them:

Once, beverages were simply about hydration. Now, people want hydration and more from their drinks.

Rich with innovation, the functional beverage category is full of exciting developments and new ideas. From beauty beverages to digestive health drinks, these beverages offer something extra to consumers.

The functional beverage market accounts for around 7% of total beverages by volume, according to figures from Zenith International. But the real interest is in value, with functional beverages accounting for around 13% of the beverage category in terms of value.

From my perspective, functional beverages are about marketing.  You want hydration?  Try water!

Nov 24 2014

NutraIngredients on Functional Foods

NutraIngredients-USA has a special edition on functional foods, those that have something supposedly healthy—vitamins, probiotics, antioxidants, omega-3s, etc—added above and beyond the nutrients naturally present.

I think functional foods are about marketing, not health, but that’s why food companies love them.

From the industry’s perspective, “getting nutritional ingredients into foods requires tackling regulatory hurdles, but food offers a mass market that dwarfs anything possible with supplements.

Here are some of NutrIngredients’ latest developments:

Collagen peptides: Functional Ingredients for a booming market: Functional ingredients are now more visible to the consumer than ever, with people becoming more aware of the benefits they can offer. Among all these ingredients, collagen peptides are increasingly recognized as a highly effective ingredient solution for manufacturers targeting the skin beauty and healthy aging market segments….

Pill fatigue is driving innovation in space between functional foods and supplements, experts say:  Is pill fatigue just a marketing ploy? No, say many experts in the field.  It’s a real phenomenon and it’s driving both dosage form innovation and the movement of bioactives into functional foods…

Functional Foods: The end of the processed foods era?  To understand Functional Foods you must see it as a strategy to add value to processed foods, says the president and founder of the HealthyMarketingTeam, Peter Wennstrom, in this guest article…

Phood booed: Why big pharma fails at functional food:  Faced with mounting difficulties in their drug businesses, many pharmaceutical manufacturers are looking at getting into functional foods and beverages, notes food marketing expert, Julian Mellentin in this guest article…

What’s driving functional food and beverage growth? Snacking, convenience, and consumer behavior:  With sales of $176.7 billion this year functional foods are a hot growth sector. But which ingredients, sectors and countries are the best bets for product launches?

‘The trick is to come up with something that actually works’: The elephant in the weight management room:  Two years on from revised European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) guidelines on weight management, the industry is still struggling to produce sufficient evidence to back claims. ..

Lemon myrtle: Aboriginal functional favourite revived by Sydney Games:  An indigenous Australian tree plant, used for tens of thousands of years by Aborigines before being forgotten after the arrival of Europeans Down Under, has the Sydney Olympics to thank for its remarkable comeback as a functional food in teas, chocolate, pasta and more…

Raisio brings cholesterol-lowering Benecol home for €90m>  “J&J should have sold it 10 years ago,” is one analyst’s appraisal of Finnish agro-food giant Raisio’s buy-back of the licensing rights to its cholesterol lowering, plant stanol-based Benecol brand today, referring to US market difficulties for the European sector leader…

Nov 7 2014

Weekend reading: health food regulation

Jill Hobbs, Stavroula Malla, Eric Sogah, and May Yeung.  Regulating Health Foods: Policy Challenges and Consumer Conundrums.  EE Edward Elgar Publishing, 2014.

I did a blurb for this one:

Regulating Health Foods systematically organizes the widely disparate definitions, regulations, and policies used internationally to govern functional foods, supplements and nutraceuticals, and does so from the standpoint of the industry and its regulators.  Food scientists, regulators, and industry professionals will especially appreciate its detailed international perspective.

This is a book for policy wonks and students who want to find out how various countries regulate food labels, or who would llike to know such things as how Codex Alimentarius guidelines apply to health claims.  The authors, who work at Canadian Universities, have pulled together vast amounts of detailed information about label regulations by country, with commentary.  Here is an example:

Japan currently provides an interesting mix between a purely generic system and a purely product-specific one.  Although the system is decidedly more product-specific.  Standardized FOSHU [Food for Specific Health Uses] lowers the costs to individual firms seeking claims on ingredients with well-established ingredient-health effect relationships.  At the same time, there are potentially significant returns to investment for firms wishing to market a new product with health benefits.

Jul 25 2014

Weekend thinking: NutraIngredients-USA’s special edition on cognitive health 

The role of specific nutrients in brain health isn’t something I think about much.  I’m of the opinion that a reasonably healthy diet takes care of health.  Stop worrying, be happy.

But I’m always interested in what the food industry is cooking up based on current research, and here’s a good sampling to ponder.

For this Special Edition, NutraIngredients-USA has a long hard think about cognitive health…

Cognition spans the lifetime, from development in the womb right through to old age. So, which ingredients have the best science? How are companies approaching this sector and what claims can they make? What’s all this about the gut-brain axis? And what’s happening with botanicals in this space?