Functional branding: Kerry talks up APAC immunity and digestive opportunities for BC30 and Wellmune

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Internationally, food and beverage launches with digestive health claims had a positive CAGR of 25% between 2012 and 2016, according to Innova Market Insights. ©iStock
Internationally, food and beverage launches with digestive health claims had a positive CAGR of 25% between 2012 and 2016, according to Innova Market Insights. ©iStock

Related tags Functional ingredients Immune health Gut health branding

Kerry believes that clear evidence of growing consumer demand for probiotics, immunity and protein products across APAC will stand the firm in good stead for regional sales success for its functional branded ingredients, not least the patented probiotic strain GanedenBC30, which it acquired when it bought Ganeden late last year.

GanedenBC30​, a spore former, has clinical data to support digestive, immunity and protein utilisation benefits, and is found in more than 900 food and beverage products globally.

The Ganeden acquisition came three years after Kerry also bought Wellmune from Biothera Inc. Derived from the cell wall of proprietary baker's yeast, the evidence suggests that Wellmune 'primes' the innate immune system.

With these deals in mind, it is not surprising that Kerry is keen to extol the virtue of branded functional ingredients, arguing that they help increase consumer understanding and recognition.

Kerry's business development specialist (for GanedenBC30​ & Wellmune) Laura Collins spoke to NutraIngredients-Asia ​ahead of her presentation at the upcoming Vitafoods Asia. She said: "Today's consumer is more informed and selective, and takes a proactive approach to their health by paying attention to what they consume.

"We're seeing growing interest in consumers turning to functional foods and beverages that feature branded ingredients backed by clinical research. Branded ingredients give consumers a clear point of reference when browsing, and help them understand exactly what a product has been fortified with."

Collins further said this would allow manufacturers to showcase specific research and information, and that adding research-backed, branded ingredients into the formulation of everyday food and beverage products would help push functional products further into the mainstream.

Branded ingredients alone, however, are not sufficient to cement the mainstream status of functional food and drink.

Collins said, "Personalisation and targeted nutrition is also an important trend. Consumers are seeking tailored products for specific age groups and nutrition needs. Ultimately, they want to know they are getting the right health benefits for their current or future requirements.

"Manufacturers should look to create personalised products, and focus on formulating products by benefit, demographics, or lifestyle needs to appeal to additional consumer groups."

More knowledge, more confusion

Making science-based information accessible to consumers is important not just for branding ingredients, but also to help minimise confusion even as buyers have become more savvy and well-informed.

However, the ease of access to vast amounts of information can also lead to a degree of confusion among many consumers.

Using probiotics as an example, Collins said: "Many people know these bacteria help with digestive health. A 2017 Mintel report (revealed that) 42% of Chinese consumers are buying beverages with digestive benefits, and Japan was one of the first markets to embrace probiotics.

"But new research on probiotics has revealed additional health benefits, including immune health support and protein absorption. As more studies show the potential for probiotics, we will continue to see overall awareness and understanding increase.

"However, the greatest knowledge gap is likely the misunderstanding that all probiotics are the same. Both consumers and manufacturers must realise that the health benefits of probiotics are all strain-specific and must be supported by research on each specific strain."

Internationally, food and beverage launches with digestive health claims had a positive CAGR of 25% between 2012 and 2016, according to Innova Market Insights.

Asia is the largest market for probiotic-enriched food and drink, valued at $17.5bn in 2017, with China holding the biggest market share at 35.4%; Japan is a close second, with 34.6% of the market share.

Information on immunity

Another area where a knowledge gap exists is the immune health sector, Collins said. The category is thriving in some aspects, with 2017 Mintel data reporting that that the number of new product launches carrying functional immune health benefits increased by 23% between 2013 and 2017.

"Again, this can be a crowded space for consumers simply trying to obtain immune health benefits through convenient product applications. Beta-glucans, for example, continue to emerge in the immune health space, but understanding that not all beta-glucans are the same is important.

"Variations in source, strain and chemical structure all play a key role in the benefit they may provide, and solid research supporting its benefits is key."

While there has been a worldwide 40% increase since 2011 to 48% in the number of people actively buying immune health products, there remains significant untapped potential in the sector.

The ageing population is a key growth driver behind functional foods and dietary supplements for immune health, a trend that is expected to continue as the global population of consumers over 60 is expected to grow by 56% by 2030, according to Euromonitor data.

Collins said, "We see manufacturers addressing this market’s needs with innovative products that blur the lines between supplements and food and beverage, including dairy-based beverages, functional juice drinks, and enhanced waters that all provide immune support."

Predictions about protein

In addition to functional foods and dietary supplements for gut and immune health, Collins also predicts that innovations in the protein space will continue to grow.

"From a functional perspective, the appeal of protein has moved beyond the hardcore user. High-protein products are not only being used to supplement exercise, but also as weight-loss aids and energy boosters to support busy lifestyles.

"More than half of all consumers are protein users, and to meet today's diverse wellness needs, there is new demand for protein innovation.

"Specifically, we see the plant protein market growing due to drivers such as health and wellness, food safety concerns, allergies, ethics and sustainability."

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