Functional foods as a marketing term was initiated in Japan in the late 1980s and is used to describe foods fortified with ingredients capable of producing health benefits. This concept is becoming increasingly popular with consumers because of a heightened awareness of the link between health, nutrition, and diet. Food manufacturers are enthusiastic about developing such products because the added ingredients give increased value to food. The global market for functional foods in the coming years is predicted to grow rapidly. Although Japan currently accounts for about one-half of this market, the fastest rate of growth is expected to be in the United States. Probiotic products represent a strong growth area within the functional foods group and intense research efforts are under way to develop dairy products into which probiotic organisms such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species are incorporated. Such probiotic foods may modulate gut microbial composition, thereby leading to improved gut health, for example, through improved tolerance to lactose in lactose-intolerant individuals or improved resistance to pathogenic bacteria. Large numbers of viable microorganisms are likley to be required in the food product, which should be consumed regularly to experience the health effect. The probiotic market, especially dairy products such as yogurts and fermented milks, has experienced rapid growth in Europe. The long-term exploitation of probiotics as health promoters is dependent on several factors, including sound, scientifically proven clinical evidence of health-promoting activity; accurate consumer information; effective marketing strategies; and, above all, a quality product that fulfills consumer expectations.
- Dairy products
- Functional foods