Functional foods — ingredients, meals and preparations that serve a particular function and purpose beyond mere sustenance — are having a moment, and research shows that interest in them is increasing steadily. According to Tastewise’s AI-powered food trend and analysis report, over 37% of consumers are looking for functional benefits from their food; With extensive educational information available online, we can expect consumer interest in functional foods to deepen over time. Read on for a look at three insights into consumer behavior that sustain the functional foods movement.
- These days we want food to work for us in specific ways
General wellness, while interesting to consumers, is not as significant as specific functions. Consumers are increasingly well-educated about their health and wellness needs, looking for ingredients that will support the specific functions that they need; they don’t want food to be just ‘healthy’, they want ingredients that will specifically support skin health, gut health, sleep health, etc. Consumers look for food items that will maintain health before it deteriorates, and those that will encourage recovery after illness. These desires have led to a booming industry: by 2025, the global functional foods market size is projected to reach more than $275 Billion.
- Consumers are open to trying new things – just make sure they serve a function
If an ingredient serves a specific, in-demand purpose, consumers are jumping in headfirst. Ingredients that sometimes don’t see particular growth amongst general consumers are seeing explosive growth amongst consumers interested in functional foods. Take moringa; in the past 12 months the plant has seen a 337% increase amongst consumers interested in improving focus, but only a 34% increase overall. With increased interest in functional eating and an expansion of the functional food market, functional ingredients are more likely to be the next popular foods among the general public.
- Some popular ingredients work double duty
Two ingredients hit the sweet spot of functionality, and are hard-working across multiple wellness categories: papaya and ashwagandha. Consumers are picking papaya when looking to improve focus (up 171% in the focus category over the last 12 months) and tackle anti-aging concerns (papaya together with anti-aging is up 154%). Ashwagandha, a plant commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine otherwise known as Indian ginseng, has become increasingly popular with consumers hoping to improve sleep quality (ashwagandha is up 51% with sleep) and relieve stress (up 67%).