Healthy eating drives surge in functional foods


Exploring the numerous applications of ingredients that are naturally rich in nutrients, like mushrooms, nuts or hemp, has driven innovation within ready-to-eat segment focused on products for consumers with an active lifestyle. We asked Grégory Dubourg, the CEO of Nutrikéo, which natural foods have been the most popular for their functional benefits and where the functional foods segment is headed next.

Gregory Dubourg


Healthy eating is now a priority for many consumers. What is driving this trend?
“There are several key drivers. First of all, consumers are now aware of the link between health and nutrition. A good diet appears to be a natural way to take care of yourself vs. taking medication, for example. In addition, many food scandals have led consumers to regain control of their diet, by choosing healthier foods with simpler recipes, organic ingredients or home-made food. The time of minimalism has come! However, health systems are evolving towards more prevention and naturalness, with a strong emphasis on food supplements. Today's consumers are very knowledgeable about nutrition, and they are a part of the driving force behind tomorrow's innovations.”

Recently there has been a growth in demand for naturally functional foods. What are some of the most popular foods?
“Naturalness is invading the entire food sector. If we had to name the categories the most concerned with this, I would say:

  • Baby food, because parents want the best for their children. The regulation of baby food may be very strict, but parents expect more choice of organic, slightly processed products with nutrient preservation. They want ready-meals, but close to what they could have done themselves.
  • Beverages, because this product category has suffered from a bad reputation. The cause: too much sugar and too many energy drinks. As sodas have been decried, the field of innovation is filled with sugar-free drinks, plant-based waters (bamboo, coconut, etc.), relaxing drinks and the like.
  • Bars & granolas, the history of these products is close to the beverages one. For too long consumers have been offered ultra-sweet and additive-filled products. Now, convenience breakfasts and snacks offer healthier products: made of nuts and oilseeds, made with raw ingredients, or even to be made by yourself.”

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Ingredients such as turmeric and spirulina have seen massive growth. What is your prediction for the next big ingredients?
“The next generation of ingredients will be plant-based, but not only:

  • Mushrooms are ingredients of interest, which have been in the spotlight for several years now. But the market is really starting to increase: it should grow by 8.4% by 2024 according to Transparency Market Research. Mushrooms have multiple interesting applications, both in food and nutraceuticals.
  • Microalgae, as a renewable source of nutrients such as astaxanthin.
  • Non-animal proteins will help us to face challenges in health, animal welfare and environmental degradation. The sources are numerous: peas, hemp, insects (even if their future as human food is uncertain), mushrooms once again.
  • Then probiotics, prebiotics and other live biotherapeutics. Research in this field offers many perspectives: digestive health, of course, but also weight management, respiratory health, etc. The probiotics market should reach $50 billion by 2020 (vs. $14 billion in 2015).
  • And in the long run, the valorization of trees extracts from bark, wood or leaves.”

Do you think the trend for natural, unprocessed foods is likely to continue, especially as we see more future forward processing techniques such as lab grown meat? Why do you think that it?
“The trend grows towards the least processed products possible. However, the search for diversified products requires new processes.”

“There are indeed in vitro processes, such as the synthesis of meat from stem cells or genetically modified yeasts. But I rather believe in ancestral processes, such as fermentation, which have several advantages: vitamin intake, conservation without additives, taste... Kombucha, for example, which is a fermented drink, is a hit (+25% for the world market expected by 2021). We are also beginning to see products that are cold filtered or cold pressed (for fruit juices).”

What are your predictions for the F&B industry in the next 3-5 years?
“Tomorrow’s consumers are a little... schizophrenic. There is a demand to return to our roots... but with solutions suitable for life in the fast lane. More personalized solutions, but with responsible products, and at the same time with the development of expertise! These expectations of the future have, in some cases, become a reality, yet mostly with new challenges to overcome. In our 2018/2020 Trend Book, we classified consumers’ needs in 5 categories:

  • Back to basic desires
  • A quest to consume responsibly
  • Life in the fast lane
  • A need for personalized solutions
  • A developed expertise.”


To learn more about 'Developing products with naturally functional ingredients', sign up for Grégory Dubourg presentation on Tuesday, 27 November, 13.40-14.05 at the Hi Europe 2018 Conference, Discovery Theatre.