There’s a new food category trending and many companies are starting to take notice around the world.
According to the Million Insights market research report, so-called functional ingredients are set to take off and are expected to be valued globally at 96.1 billion by 2026.
This increase is due to the rise in health-conscious consumers, who want the wellness benefits associated with functional ingredients that go beyond basic nutrition.
These ingredients are rich in vitamins that serve many functions, such as decreasing heart disease, improving cognitive function, balancing blood pressure, as well as improving antioxidant activity in the body.
The growth rate could increase by 5.9 percent annually to meet the 2026 expectations for market value, creating a large window for food and beverage companies to invest in marketing and research when it comes to functional food for their products.
Functional ingredients can be contained in a variety of grains, oats, proteins, marine sources, fruits, and vegetables. A recent grain that has jumped in popularity due to its functional reputation is the hemp seed, which many food and beverage companies are adding into cooking oils, dairy alternatives, salad dressing, and baked goods.
Hemps growing attraction among consumers isn’t just its association with the cannabis plant, but instead, the functional food benefits hemp seeds contain according to a report from Grand View Research. The research indicates that consumers value omega-3 and omega-6 amino acids, which serve cardiac benefits, joint mobility, skin health and mood stability.
Hemp seed production is growing rapidly and is estimated to expand by a compound annual growth rate of 17.1 percent between 2018-2025. The nutraceutical benefits of hemp seeds are being credited for the growth, as each hemp seed is made up of 35 percent oil, which contains 80 percent essential fatty acids and 20.0 percent protein.
A food company that is profiting from consumers nutraceutical interests is one of North America’s largest mushroom producers. South Mill Champs recently released a new line of flavored mushroom snacks called Shrooms.
The fungi are quickly gaining a reputation as a functional food as it contains many antioxidants and antibacterial properties, although the nutraceutical benefits vary depending on the species of mushroom.
“Mushrooms are a true superfood. The list of natural benefits goes on and on. They’re packed with important nutrients like vitamins D and B, selenium, potassium, zinc, and copper, and are a great source of fiber,” said David Eberwein, the Director of Innovation and Business Development at Shrooms in an interview with Xtalks. “Mushrooms are also one of the only foods that contain germanium, a trace mineral that helps your body use oxygen efficiently and prevents against damaging effects of free radicals.”
The mushrooms snack line contains 14 variations of flavors that vary from savory to sweet and consumers have a choice between textures that are crunchy or chewy.
“We saw an opportunity to create something new and authentic using our 80 years of mushroom growing experience,” says Eberwein. “As the popularity of plant-based snacking continues to rise, we started thinking about ways to reinvent the mushroom to create convenient, better-for-you snacks that taste amazing and use the fresh, whole mushrooms we’re growing and farming every day. After much development, we’ve created a line of snack products that are unlike anything else on shelves today, and we’re excited to bring them to mushroom lovers everywhere.”
The products are non-genetically modified and contain zero traces of tree nuts and dairy, with most of the snacks classified as gluten-free, vegan-friendly and kosher.
Aside from health-conscious consumers and changing food habits, functional ingredients are trending globally because of a few other factors. According to the Million Insights market research report, it reflects the fact that young people are spending more money on their preferences for fortified high convenience foods in increasingly urban environments.
The report states the recent spike of interest for functional foods is most prominent in North America since health concerns like obesity, heart disease, digestion, and diabetes are on the rise.
Other regions that show interest in the global market of functional food are Asia-Pacific countries like India, China, and South Korea. These countries are predicted to have a large impact on market share for functional ingredients not just through capital investment but through government involvement.
In these countries, the government is promoting production growth and working with prominent industry players in the functional food market such as Archer Daniels Midland Company, Ingredion Inc., Golden Grain Group Ltd., FMC Co., Omega Protein Co., NutriBiotic, and Cargill Inc.
As the industry, government, and consumers embrace this new category of innovative health ingredients, expect to hear more and more about functional foods and their many benefits.