With two thirds of the American population overweight or obese, it is apparent that consumers are not consuming the right nutrients they need to be healthy. Now that the growing millennial market is on its way to becoming the primary consumer demographic for food manufacturers, these health concerns have been brought to light and are considered important issues plaguing the nation. As people search for healthier alternatives in their diets, food manufacturers have all the reasons needed to invest in fortifying their products.
Fortification is the process in which food manufacturers enhance their products with added minerals and vitamins. This method has been shown to make products more appealing and can improve consumer health.
America Is a Wealthy Nation
It is no secret that the US is a wealthy, first-world country. Food is in abundance and food prices have dropped to a 60-year low. With all this access to food and nutrition, it is ironic how more than half the nation is considered to be unhealthy.
Americans spend an average of $7,000 annually on food items. About $3,000 out of that budget is spent on eating out, simply because people do not like to spend time on making food. This is evident in the rising popularity of frozen foods and ready-to-eat meals.
If food manufacturers fortify their products with some of the recommended vitamins and minerals, they will be able to appeal to consumers more. The frozen food industry is already producing nutrient dense meals that are finding a lot of success in the market. With expanded healthier options and easier preparation methods, food manufacturers can tap into that $3,000 budget.
Americans Are Falling Short of Nutrition Requirements
Last fall, Medical Economics posted data on “The American Nutrient Gap,” which highlighted the need for fortified foods in America. Data from the article shows that more than 90 percent of Americans fall short in their Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) or Adequate Intake (AI) of one or more vitamins and minerals.
Data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) and the US Departments of Health and Human Services revealed that Americans are not getting enough vitamin A, C, D and E as well as minerals such as magnesium, calcium and zinc. The report also says that Americans are not getting enough dietary fibre or choline. A similar report, Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition, by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), revealed that vitamin B6 and iron are also nutrients that are lacking in the American diet.
What is prominent in all these reports is that Americans have a very low intake of nutritious foods. Though there are supplements on the market that can help make up for the loss of vitamins and minerals in American diets, many consumers, especially older consumers, are turning away from taking pills.
Diseases like goiter and rickets are emerging in the demographics that are primarily consuming processed foods. The lack of nutrition in certain parts of America is causing negative effects on health like obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart problems. This means that food manufacturers can truly make a difference in national health and the American diet by fortifying their products.
The Market for Heathier Food Products Is Growing
This may be one of the most appealing reasons as to why food manufacturers should invest in fortification. Many market research organizations have conducted consumer studies that have found that healthier products are gaining popularity in the food market.
The global market for fortified and functional foods totals at over $12 billion annually. An online research study conducted by GfK found that consumers are more interested in low-sugar, GMO-free, low-salt and low-sodium products over the conventional low-fat options. These results are indicative of the growing health-focused market that manufacturers can tap into though fortifying their food products.
Previous Fortification Efforts Have Succeeded
Recognizing the need for nutrition in the American diet, many government organizations had regulated specific nutrition components in certain foods. When the mandatory fortification of the vitamin B, folate began in 1996, the country found great success. Known to reduce the risk of certain cancers, but more commonly known to support metabolic functions in the body and especially valued for its ability to reduce the risk of babies being born with a neural tube defect (NTD), enforcing vitamin B fortification was one of the best nutrition moves in that era.
The National Institutes for Health claimed that initiative was “considered one of the most successful public health initiatives in the past 50–75 years,” and that “national programs to mandate fortification of food with folic acid have reduced the prevalence of NTDs worldwide.” After full implementation of the program, NTD incidents decreased by 19-32 percent and reached the lowest prevalence of the condition.
Rickets was a common disease in America during the Great Depression in the early 1900s. After national voluntary fortification of vitamin D in milk in the 1930s, rickets became a rare disease. Now, this disease is returning due to high prevalence of lactose intolerance and low intake of vitamin D in America. A similar case was with iodine fortification in foods that resulted in the almost complete wipe-out of goiters in the US.
Fortification is the fastest, least expensive, and most efficient method to decrease health concerns with American consumers. By fortifying food products, manufacturers are able to appeal to the growing health-focused consumer demographic and also positively contribute to the health of the nation.