ARTICLE

Do Nutritional Foods Deliver on Their Promises? The Science Behind Health Claims

Introduction

In developing countries, increasing concerns about obesity and malnutrition have led to significant interest in improving traditional diets. As a result, ‘healthy eating’ is now one of the fastest rising food trends across the globe and is the biggest driver of change within the industry. This growing demand for novel nourishments is also seen in current research, which estimates that the global market for foods with health-enhancing properties will exceed $300 billion this year.

In developing countries, increasing concerns about obesity and malnutrition have led to significant interest in improving traditional diets. As a result, ‘healthy eating’ is now one of the fastest rising food trends across the globe and is the biggest driver of change within the industry. This growing demand for novel nourishments is also seen in current research, which estimates that the global market for foods with health-enhancing properties will exceed $300 billion this year.

Dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, are ideally placed to meet this growing demand. This is because they provide a cheap and familiar source of protein together with other vital nutrients needed as part of a healthy diet. To demonstrate the nutrient-dense composition of dairy products, it is important that their benefits are clearly communicated to consumers through accurate food labels.

Claim Your Space

Traditionally, food labels have carried details relating to a product’s compositional content, such as protein, fat and carbohydrates. However, as consumers begin to seek out healthier products with more transparent supply chains, producers now must utilize food labels to also communicate the ‘healthy’ and novel properties of their products. This is an effective means of both attracting and informing potential buyers.

Food labels play a crucial role in influencing the consumer choice, and are therefore carefully regulated in many countries to ensure consumers are not misled with inaccurate information. While these regulations vary around the world, there are generally three categories of claims that can be used on food and dietary supplement labels:

  1. Health Claims: Suggestions that a relationship exists between the product, or an ingredient, and a consumer’s health. This includes claims such as ‘Vitamin D is needed for the normal growth and development of bones in children’.
  2. Nutritional Claims: Declarations that indicate a food has beneficial nutritional properties through the nutrients it does or does not provide; for example, products may claim to be ‘low in fat’ or ‘reduced sugar’.
  3. Structure or Function Claims: Descriptions of the role that a nutrient or dietary ingredient that can affect the normal structure or function of the human body; for example, ‘calcium builds strong bones'.

Labeling provides the dairy industry with an effective tool to drive healthy food choices. Here, manufacturers can assign nutritional and health claims to food that establishes its effects on the dietary wellbeing of consumers. To continue meeting the market demand for new and nutritious foods, it’s vital that food labs employ powerful technologies to both develop novel formulations and to accurately measure their impact on human health and diet.

Claim Your Market

The dairy sector is currently expected to grow at a rate of 1.8% per year over the next 10 years. For new dairy products to thrive in this growing marketplace, novel and advanced technologies are vital. While the market for products that meet the healthy food trend is rapidly expanding, there is also a high risk that products entering this market will fail. Studies have highlighted that 70-90% of new health-enhancing products exit the market within two years.

These high failure rates are often due to poor product development. In particular, development that fails to meet consumer demands for not only healthy but also tasty and textually appealing food products. This approach leads to a mismatch between the needs of consumers and the features of new products introduced to the market. As such, it is important for product development labs to utilize the latest technologies to ensure inventive products exceed market demands.

Claim Your Innovation

High-protein dairy products are an example of the impact technological developments can provide in the industry. Today, food labs have the ability to isolate specific proteins within milk at high levels of purity and quality.

This has enabled the development of new dairy-based ingredients from the proteins found in milk. Futhermore, sensitive analytical tools allow for accurate measurements of the safety and quality of these new dairy proteins in a range of food matrices; which in turn, allows for easier certification by regulatory bodies.

One such example is seen in lactoferrin, a dairy protein known to have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. In 2012, it was approved by the European Commission as a “novel food”. This permitted its use as an ingredient in a variety of foods throughout the European Union including infant nutrition, dietic foods and sports nutrition.

Claim Your Label

Current research shows that 75% of consumers will switch to a brand that provides more in-depth product information. To compete in today’s constantly evolving food market, optimizing food labels is vital for all food companies. The challenge of producing high-quality, healthy and nutritious food products can only be overcome with commitment to innovation and quality control.

By implementing intuitive and robust food development and quality procedures, industry stakeholders can guarantee growth in an increasingly competitive market, and manage evolving consumer demands.

References:

Popkin, B.M., Adair, L.S. and Ng, S.W. (2012). Global nutrition transition and the pandemic of obesity in developing countries. Nutrition Reviews, 70(1), pp.3–21.

Öztürko?lu Budak, ebnem; Akal, H. Ceren (2018). Microbial Cultures and Enzymes in Dairy Technology. IGI Global. ISBN 978-1-5225-5364-9.

The Global Dairy Sector: Facts Sustainable production, processing and consumption of milk and dairy products benefit people and the planet, and can help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. (n.d.). [online] Available at: https://www.fil-idf.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/FAO-Global-Facts-1.pdf [Accessed 23 Dev. 2019].

Michael Heasman; Julian Mellentin (2001). The Functional Foods Revolution: Healthy People, Healthy Profits?. Earthscan. ISBN 978-1-85383-688-6.

Stein, A.J. and Rodríguez-Cerezo, E. (2010). International trade and the global pipeline of new GM crops. Nature biotechnology, [online] 28(1), pp.23–5.

Drago-Serrano, M., Campos-Rodríguez, R., Carrero, J. and de la Garza, M. (2017). Lactoferrin: Balancing Ups and Downs of Inflammation Due to Microbial Infections. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, [online] 18(3), p.501.

Fmi.org. (2018). Product: The Transparency Imperative: Product Labeling from the Consumer Perspective: FMI. [online] Available at: https://www.fmi.org/forms/store/ProductFormPublic/the-transparency-imperative-product-labeling-from-the-consumer-perspective [Accessed 9 Jan. 2020].