Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fully Functional and Loaded... With Goodness?

"functional foods” poised to expand, despite general economic food trends.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Arnold Classic in Columbus Ohio. No, not a golf tournament, but an annual event in honor of the now-Govenator of California, featuring an entire convention center’s worth of sporting events (from the obvious body building to cheerleading, gymnastics, sumo wrestling, fencing, and my favorite, table tennis) over the course of a weekend. The weight lifting and body building contests take place in a big expo center and on break from the gymnastics competition (the reason I was there….), we wandered around, half watching the oiled and bulging men and women on stage, but more focused on the less-oiled but still bulging men and women on the floor hawking supplements, energy drinks, protein bars, candies spiked with hormones, you name it. So when someone says “functional foods” to me, this is the image that comes to mind.

In the last few years, though, functional foods have burst out of the body building arenas and GNC storefronts and plopped themselves down full force in the supermarket. Vitamin enhanced water, probiotic yogurts, and breakfast cereals with Omega-3 content take up a good percentage of the aisles next to organic and natural foods. After all, if you're already hawking one (typically premium-priced) product with a vague-but-promising-health-claim, why not put it next to all the others?

Seriously, though "functional foods" suffer from some of the same definitional problems as "organic" and "natural," it does appear from recent survey data that consumers have a growing interest and awareness of foods and beverages that provide benefits beyond basic nutrition. Whether those foods are enhanced by science or come by their "functionality" through nature is an entirely different can of worms, but for marketers, the important issue is that people’s interest in healthy products remain strong enough to vie with cost concerns. This week Marketing Daily reports on a recent study by F&G, highlighting some of the more promising trends for marketers. (probiotic yogurts and dairy drinks, enhanced bottled waters, and satiety-producing bakery products, which, so far, sound awful even when spun with weight loss marketing magic):

According to the report, consumers are shifting their attitudes towards healthier food options and are increasingly looking for products with “positive nutrition," meaning those with added ingredients perceived to offer health benefits versus the usual low fat, low sugar, low sodium options. “Functional properties, which enhance the benefits of a product, are proving to be the key to growth. This is especially true in emerging markets where consumers justify paying more money for products with added ingredients, rather than products that have had them removed,” says Euromonitor Industry Manager, John Madden.
Indeed, when I go back to the Arnold Classic this year, industry observers suggest that we'll be seeing a lot more functional foods and a lot less of the usual bad-tasting supplements. More importantly – and perhaps more deeply to the issue of a well-defined concept -- in January, science and technology publisher Elsevier is launching a new Journal of Functional Foods that will highlight recent scientific research and some retail trends. While most consumers – and many marketers – will not be slogging through the technical jargon to decide if antioxidants really do matter, the important point is for there to be a continued and respected outlet for research to support these claims. As functional foods move out of body building magazines, vitamin catalogs and infomercials, it becomes more and more important for consumers to know they have some verification of claims to health.

1 comment:

jessicalang said...

It is always interesting to keep up to date with the industries choices on how to present their products throughout their POS advertising campaigns and instore marketing measures. While in this example the choice of hostesses presenting the "functional food" is in fact a good one (you men out there appreciate it), new developments for POS-displays seem to be on the rise as well.

One of them that I have recently come across is a simple, yet highly effective way for a 3D representation of your customer's brand right in the moment of possible purchase. http://www.shapeshiftermedia.com has supplied us with their 3D floorgraphics for a couple of campaigns now. The increase in sales by using these 3D floor advertisements was dramatic.