Malarkodi Mahendran, a senior consultant at Future Market insights in India, analysed the varying approaches while highlighting the business opportunities for heart health products in the region.
She said every 20 seconds someone in Asia has a chronic heart episode.
“One-third of all deaths in region are caused by heart attack or stroke, and they account for 17% of all health costs in Asia,” she told the Vitafoods Conference in Hong Kong.
With Asian consumption of healthy oils compromising just 13% of the overall total, alongside rising sales of soft drinks, processed foods and excessive levels of salt intake, she said the market for functional foods for heart health was tipped to grow from US$340.2m today to US$665.7m by 2026.
“The drivers for this growth are the rising consumer awareness of health benefits, the trend of adopting prevention rather than cure, as well as the growing ageing population,” she said.
The current market for heart health products is dominated by Omega-3s, followed by beta-glucans, soya proteins, phytosterols and antioxidants, she added, before suggesting strawberry powder, algae, cocoa flavanols, and tomato extracts could soon make their presence felt in the market.
Predicting India, China and Japan to become the biggest growth markets for heart health products, Mahendran went on to add that the sector was split by the approaches of global manufacturers and local players.
While MNCs are more focused on launching new products with new flavours, domestic outfits are focusing on fortifying and reformulating local staple foods.
She said Nestlé and Kellogg had both launched new fortified heart health products in the region lately, with a clear focus on clean labels and proven health claims.
However, some domestic players persisted in making claims that were “not always legitimate.”
“China, Indonesia and India have particular problems with counterfeit claims. At the moment, many consumers are not aware that the claims are dubious,” she said, adding that it could ultimately undermine the market.
She suggested three factors that could help boost the fortunes of heart health products in Asia, namely expanding products to suit all price ranges, diversifying the product range away from breakfast cereals, edible oils and dairy goods, and educating consumers that functional foods are not just for people with existing health concerns, as is widely perceived to be case today.