FoodPro / AIFST Convention 2017

Food firms should stop ‘dawdling’ and address major public health problems with functional products

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Reducing sugar or fat is 'no longer a sufficient approach' to tackle Australia's public healh problems. ©iStock
Reducing sugar or fat is 'no longer a sufficient approach' to tackle Australia's public healh problems. ©iStock

Related tags Nutrition

Health and wellness concerns will spur sales of naturally functional foods in Australia, but major food firms need to “stop dawdling” and maximize the opportunities.

Speaking at the Australian Institute of food Science and Technology summit in Sydney, the founding director of Food & Nutrition Australia Sharon Natoli said the growing demand for more healthy and natural products was not easy for the food industy to get to grips with.

“This represents a fundamental change in what we think about food and how we buy food,”​ she said.

“We need to transform thinking from what are the healthy and nutritional products that will help me sell, to how can we address the big health issues through our products.”

She said traditional reformulation approaches such as sugar and salt reduction, or adding fibre, were no longer sufficient to make significant improvements to public health.

She predicted within five years that single nutrient claims, such as reduced fat, would  be far less prevalent on supermarket shelves.

Naturally functional

“It’s similar situation with free-from,”​ she added. “I think this will continue to grow but people will be far more concerned with what is naturally functional and really understanding what a product can offer them, be it chia, turmeric, omega-3 and so on.”

When it comes to creating functional products to meet public health needs, she said it was clear the food industry needs to do more.

“Some companies are still dawdling…they need to realise that younger people in particular want a more simple way of eating.

“We need to see more around personalised nutrition and generally move from simply selling food to solving food problems. Obesity, chronic diseases and ageing populations are big problems and there are a lot of way food companies can solve these if they move from profit to purpose.”

“This is one of the greatest opportunities for our food businesses.”

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