Regulatory concern sees EU drop in digestive product launches

Following a tightening up of claims legislation, particularly in Europe, launches of functional and healthy foods which claim digestive or gut health benefits have suffered a setback in the EU.

Over 3.2% of food and drinks launches recorded by Innova Market Insights carried digestive health claims of some kind in 2014, up from just 2.7% five years previously, indicating on going interest in the sector. However, EU launches using a digestive health positioning fell from 2.4% to 2.2% in this time; this is in comparison to the US, where the share rose from 3.3% to over 3.6%.

With the claims situation becoming more difficult, companies are also focusing on the use of specific ingredients, such as wholegrains and fibre, which may already be linked with digestive health in consumers’ minds. High fibre or source of fibre claims were used on nearly 3.4% of food and drinks launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2014, rising to 4.6% in the US. Wholegrain claims were used on 2% of global launches, rising to 3.4% in the US.

Wholegrain claims were particularly in evidence in categories such as cereals and bakery products. Bakery products lead globally, accounting for 21% of food and drinks launches using this type of claim, although this is equivalent to less than 6% of total bakery introductions. In addition, 5.5% of bakery launches used wholegrain claims. The two claims combined featured on 9% of bakery launches, rising to 16% in the US.

Within the bakery market, biscuits accounted for nearly half of launches using fibre related claims (excluding wholegrains), ahead of bread. In terms of significance, however, bread is a clear leader – with products featuring a high fibre positioning accounting for 15% of bread launches, compared with just over 9% in savoury biscuits and just 5% in sweet biscuits.

In the biscuits market, probably the key area of activity in high fibre products in recent years has been in breakfast biscuits, virtually all of which are promoted as high in fibre and/or wholegrains, and many of which have variants such as fruit and fibre in their ranges. This started in the UK in 2010, creating a new breakfast biscuits sub-category featuring a raft of new brands. It also heralded a welter of activity in other countries, including Germany, the US and Australia, as well as a revitalization of existing breakfast biscuit markets in countries such as France and Spain.

“There is clearly still interest in products for digestive or gut health,” says Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “This is reflected in ongoing levels of product activity, despite some of the current regulatory issues affecting health claims, particularly in Europe.”

Companies are tending to move to a more general health and wellness positioning for their products, she contends. “They are relying more on existing consumer awareness of ingredients such as probiotics and fibre, the health benefits that they offer and the kinds of food and drinks products that they can be found in,” Williams concludes.

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