The functional foods market has seen a rapid increase in sales in the last few years with supermarkets across the country having to expand their health/functional food aisles to meet consumer demand. With an increase in an ageing population and more health-conscious consumers the main reasons for the rise.

While kombucha and protein have had their time in the spotlight companies are now having to think outside the box and experiment with new alternatives. Collagen has recently been spotted popping up on supermarket shelves. While the skin restoring protein has been popular in Japan and China for some time, it is only in recent years that it has been made readily available to Western consumers. Bulletproof coffee recently launched a range of Collagen-infused coffee products and Protein Water Co released a Skin Maintenance range of flavoured waters that harnessed the power of Collagen and hyaluronic acid.

Consumers aren’t just happy with eating plan boring healthy food they want to have their cake and eat it too. Consider ice cream, not only are consumers seeking more dairy-free options they also want it to be low in sugar and high in protein. The baking industry has also seen a rise in the number of enhanced functional items such as protein cookies. Taking out an ingredient is also no longer enough. Gluten-free wraps which were once niche and are now seen everywhere, need the benefit of added protein or a vegetable such as beetroot.

A recently announced change to New Zealand’s Industrial Hemp Industry is set to be implemented this month with the government announcing that the sale and consumption of hemp seed products would be legal as of the 12 November. While consumption and sale will become legal, the product will still have strict labelling restrictions such as; featuring the word ‘cannabis’ or displaying the cannabis leaf on the packaging.

Functional Food is described as food that beneficially affects a function in the body beyond usual adequate nutritional effects that results in an improved state of health or well-being. A functional food cannot be a pill or capsule or any form of dietary supplement and has to be consumed as part of a consumer’s normal food pattern.

Foods are regulated under the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. Before marketing, a functional food manufacturer must determine whether or not their product is a food or whether it is ‘a therapeutic good’.  After determining this packaging, labelling and the composition of the food all must meet the Food Standards Code. FSANZ offers 200 pre-approved health food claims as well as 13 pre-approved high-level health food claims.

“Food businesses self-substantiating a food-health relationship so they can make a general level health claim must notify FSANZ of the relationship before making a claim on food labels or in advertisements for food,” said a spokesperson for FSANZ.

In 2013 laws regarding health claims on food items were changed in an effort to reduce the risk of misleading and deceptive claims about food, provide a wider range of healthy food choices to consumers and to expand the range of permitted health claims which can be made about certain grocery product.

While the functional food industry may be booming manufactures and suppliers must be careful to adhere to the strict labelling and advertising rules with a failure to do so resulting in undesirable consequences.