Fortified foods vs naturally functional: Consumers consider both ‘worthwhile’, says IFIC

By Kacey CULLINEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers are open to fortified foods just as much as those that contain naturally occurring functional ingredients, according to the International Food Information Council (IFIC).

Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com at IFT 2014 in New Orleans last week, Marianne Smith Edge, IFIC’s VP of nutrition and food safety, said findings from the council’s 2013 survey indicated around half of consumers considered fortified foods worthwhile.

In addition, two-thirds of those surveyed trusted foods that had functionality, she said.

“When we ask consumers what they prefer – those foods that have naturally occurring fortification or those that are added – consumers say they like the idea of naturally occurring. What’s interesting though, is when we ask ‘what’s your preference?’ – it really was a tie.”

While consumers liked the concept of ‘naturally occurring’, she said they didn’t have a strong preference on what they would purchase.

“So, there are opportunities not only looking at healthful, naturally occurring but also for those foods that would have additional fortification in vitamins and minerals,”​ she said.

Within the bakery, snack and cereal category, she said there were opportunities to fortify cereal and breakfast bars in particular as most consumers had these products top of mind when asked about fortification.

Caution! Consumers expect fortification in already healthy foods…

However, Smith Edge warned that manufacturers should consider fortifying products that were already considered healthy by consumers.

“Consumers are somewhat skeptical of food manufacturers sometimes on food fortification if they think it’s viewed as adding health benefits of foods that already were not healthful. Or sometimes they view fortification as replacing nutrients that were taken out in the process,”​ she explained.

Manufacturers must therefore be aware of nutrients already in the foods and work on how they can enhance that profile, she said.

“Consumers are really looking for that transparency, but they want to make sure they are consuming foods that had healthful benefits in the first place.”

There’s a disparity between what is consumed and what people think they eat

IFIC findings paired up with NHANES data (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), which showed consumers lacked understanding on what they were getting enough of and what they needed more of in terms of nutrition.

“It’s not that surprising consumers feel like they’re very knowledgeable about nutrition. But as you mention, when it comes to perception versus reality, six out of 10 consumers think they’re getting an adequate amount of especially those nutrients deemed nutrients of concern in the 2010 dietary guidelines – potassium, fiber and vitamin D,”​ she said.

However, the truth was that only 5% were getting sufficient fiber in their diet, for example, despite 62% citing they consumed enough.

On the contrary, she pointed out that many consumers thought they were lacking B vitamins, when 90% were actually consuming enough – something she said had been achieved through successful cereal and bread fortification programs.

She said nutrient deficit gaps like fiber, presented opportunities for manufacturers to look at what products would be best-suited for fortification. 

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