FUNCTIONAL food and nutraceutical companies could face the same validation processes as pharmaceuticals in the future according to a dairy industry leader.
Fonterra Innovation technical manager of new business Angela Rowan told the Nutrition Society of New Zealand’s annual conference in December that foods developed by these companies are now facing tougher scrutiny over claimed health benefits.
“We’re seeing increasingly high standards for functional foods and getting close to pharmaceuticals,” she said.
“In developing foods for the future we need to determine the relevant health targets to deliver the needs of consumers tomorrow, and we need to understand the regulatory environment.”
She warned food processors might have to go beyond simply developing a nutraceutical formulated with novel ingredients, and asked: “Do we actually need to guarantee that it’s still bioactive?”
According to Rowan, only 5% of products succeed in the market.
“Part of the challenge when working in a commercial environment is how to pick the right targets to allow focus and timely delivery of a pipeline of value-creating options for the future,” she said.
“It has to be a very big opportunity for us to invest in.”
Rowan predicts that development of high-end novel food applications will generate intellectual property that will allow some protection from competition in the market.
“At this end of the spectrum the risk is higher, the investment needed is generally high, but the rewards can be great,” she said.
“At the other end of the spectrum we could envisage consumer education activities that grow the general awareness and acceptance of consuming more milk and dairy.”
Rowan added that this could involve whole-category promotion, rather than branded products.
According to Rowan, functional foods are recording global growth of 8-10%, with dairy one of the fastest-growing applications of the functional foods category.
“Increasingly popular targets are weight management, diabetes, glycaemic index and sports performance-enhancing foods,” she said.
“Future targets are eye health, cancer prevention, cognitive function and cosmeceuticals.”
Rowan has spent the last two years with Fonterra working on value-added nutrition opportunities in milk.
“Why invest in functional foods?” she asked.
“It is to make money for shareholders, to deliver value-added products to leverage the growing health market, to create new knowledge and to future-proof by creating a pipeline of propriety offerings over several years.”