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Mintel, the world’s leading market intelligence agency, recently attended Heathy Ingredients Japan 2022. Mr. Cormac Henry, Global Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, was invited to the event to share research and insights from a recent consumer report  titled, “Innovation opportunities in functional food and drink”, on the first day of the trade show. The session explored opportunities for brands to support consumers with their gut and neurological health, while helping educate consumers on the efficacy of functional food/drink to encourage product trial.

Picture: Mintel at Hi Japan

Hi Japan is the leading trade show for functional foods, supplements and nutraceuticals, and caters to the region’s huge demand for healthy foods.This year, the three important themes in the food industry, “health”, “taste” and “safety and quality” come together at Hi Japan.

Picture: Cormac presented

As the pandemic’s legacy lingers and inflation sets in, brands have an opportunity to help unsettled consumers optimize their mental and physical health through functional innovation.

“Mintel is committed to helping brands understand what consumers want and why, discover future business opportunities and identify areas for innovation,” said Cormac. “Our research shows that consumer demand for ingredients from outside of Japan is getting stronger as Japanese companies continually expand their health-related product innovation. I’m honored to take part in Hi Japan,  bringing the global insights perspective and offering expert recommendations that will spark functional food and drink innovation inspiration.”

In his presentation, Cormac shared case studies on functional food and drink trends and summarized a few future development opportunities, including:

Gut microbiome solutions and their link to immunity

Consumers are motivated to maintain gut health in the interest of their overall wellbeing. Links to disease prevention and improving immunity are also present. Mintel research shows that 45% of US consumers would be interested in digestive health products that also benefit other aspects of their health. Innovation is responding to this demand with 28% of food/drink products with a digestive claim launched in Western markets between Sept. 2021-Aug. 2022 also featuring an immunity claim, up from 16% two years ago, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD).

Helping consumers manage neurological health – stress, sleep & more

Since the pandemic, consumers have realized the importance of caring for their mental health and have made the connection between stress and sleep. Mintel research shows that 38% of Japanese consumers expect stress relief from routinely getting a good night’s sleep, while 40% of Chinese consumers say they have not used but are interested in using food and drink with fortified sleep-aiding ingredients. Adaptogenic ingredients, which support cognitive health through a restorative effect, offer opportunity to help consumers better manage their stress and sleep.

Educating on the efficacy of functional food and drink

Functional health is attracting innovation, but many consumers around the world question how effective it is. Mintel research shows that only 28% of US adults trust that drinks with functional claims will deliver the promised results, while 63% of UK adults say it’s difficult to know whether products with health benefits make a difference. Brands need to think about the educational marketing strategy that lead to consumers increasing trust in the efficacy of functional food and drink. Linking specific ingredients to specific functionality on product packaging can help consumers understand functional benefits.

Media interviews with Cormac Henry, Mintel Global Food and Drink Analyst, are available on request from the Mintel Press Office.