The functional food market in the United States has grown 31% since 2006, with beverages leading the way, according to a new report from Leatherhead Food Research, in the UK.

The newest report, “Future Directions for the Global Functional Foods Market,” indicates that the current U.S. market was worth $7.5 billion last year, led by “products offering specific health claims only.” The global market as a whole was valued at $24.2 billion.

U.S. breakdown
“The U.S. functional foods market differs from its counterparts in other areas of the world due to the high popularity of dietary supplements amongst sections of the population,” says the report. “This has led to high levels of awareness regarding the anti-cancer properties of certain botanicals. Another major market driver has been the use of permitted FDA structure-function claims associated with certain ingredients and medical conditions, particularly within the heart-health sector. This has been evidenced by the frequent usage of health claims relating to the cholesterol-reducing properties of oatmeal, for example.”

The main health outcomes driving the market are said to be anti-aging, heart health, bone and joint health, weight management, gut health, energy/mood enhancing and immune function.

While dairy is the biggest segment in the global market, representing 38%, the biggest segment is functional beverages, including energy and mood beverages. Functional drinks account for 50% of the U.S. functional food market, says the report, followed by cereal products, such as breakfast cereals.

Look South for future growth
According to the report, many of the future opportunities in the global functional foods market will occur in “less developed parts of the world, examples of which include parts of Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region. The beverage category is expected to remain a major driver of the U.S. market, especially given the recent success of the energy drinks and energy shots sectors. The increasing penetration of functional varieties in sectors such as fruit juices and ready-to-drink (RTD) tea beverages is also expected to aid further development of the category,” according to the report.

New ingredients
New ingredients are identified as a key driver of growth. The report states that much of the future growth is dependent on the rate at which new ingredients emerge. It has been seen in the past, many innovative ingredients are established first in the Japanese market.