Claim evolution

by Keith Nunes
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The tipping point for the digestive health trend came in 2008 when the number of functional claims used on products in the United States jumped 67% from 54 in 2007 to 166 in 2008, according to Mintel International Ltd., Chicago. Even in 2009, functional claims related to digestive health held strong with 170 products featuring the claim. As the digestive health trend has progressed, it has become associated with other trends such as immunity, weight management and satiety, and may further evolve into a “hybrid claim” associated with a combination of all four trends.

“Digestive health and cardiovascular health claims were the top dogs when functionality came into play in the U.S. in 2008,” said Kristen Walker, a senior analyst with Mintel.

Today, Ms. Walker said the two claims are still No. 1 (cardiovascular) and No. 2 (digestive health), but that the variety of claims being used is represented by the fact that the “Other” functional claim category Mintel uses to track claims beyond the most popular ones is growing rapidly.

“The growth of the ‘Other’ category speaks to the variety of functional claims reaching the market,” Ms. Walker said. “But despite the variety, the claims highlight an overall interest in wellness that consumers are expressing through the success of many of these products.”

Primarily featured on dairy-based products such as yogurts and grain-based products such as snack bars, the digestive health claim has now made its way to a variety of products. This past year, for example, Planters, which is owned by Kraft Foods Inc., Northfield, Ill., launched its NUT-rition Digestive Health Mix, which is high in fiber and features pistachios, almonds, cranberries, granola and cherries.

R.C. Bigelow, Inc., Fairfield, Conn., launched Bigelow Herb Plus Lemon Ginger Tea with Probiotics this past February, and Maramor Chocolates, Columbus, Ohio, has introduced Sweetlife Chocolates, a dark chocolate product that also contains probiotics, which the company claims “restores digestive balance and supports a strong immune system.”

Ms. Walker said the benefits of fiber, prebiotics and probiotics have prompted companies to increase their efforts in associating their products with the digestive health trend.

“There are a few different ways companies have associated themselves with these trends,” she said. “Companies that feature products naturally rich in whole grains are calling out that they are also sources of fiber. Planters’ NUT-rition product has the natural fiber from the nuts and fruits, but also has polydextrose.

“There are also pastas making digestive health claims. We are seeing products that may not traditionally be associated with digestive health linking themselves to the trend.”

Ms. Walker foresees a future where companies focus on producing hybrid products that may be associated with a variety of trends, such as weight management and digestive health.

“There have been interesting things happening with GNC’s WELLbeING,” she said. “They are mixers and shakes for weight management, but they do a good job of marketing them as general health products as well. They contain fiber to keep you full, but also enzymes for digestive health.”

Lorraine Niba, regional marketing manager – Americas for FrieslandCampina Domo, Rolling Meadows, Ill., the manufacturer of Vivinal GOS, a prebiotic ingredient, said that currently, when it comes to digestive health, consumers better understand fiber than prebiotics and probiotics. But she said the potential additional benefits of prebiotics and probiotics may be a primary differentiator in the future.

“I don’t think they (consumers) really know what they are,” she said. “There is a role for additional consumer education and as they learn more there will be more opportunities.”

Study evaluates yogurt drinks with prebiotics, probiotics

URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, ILL. — Manufacturers wanting to develop yogurt drinks with prebiotics and probiotics should strive for a medium level of sweetness and high viscosity for maximum consumer acceptance, according to a study at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Results of the study appeared on-line April 14 in the Journal of Food Science.

Researchers took three prebiotics: soluble corn fiber, polydextrose and inulin from chicory root. They added each prebiotic at levels of an excellent source of fiber (5 grams of fiber per serving) or a good source of fiber (2.5 grams of fiber per serving) to a yogurt drink base. Three additional yogurt drinks contained 5 grams each of the separate prebiotics along with a mixture of probiotics (Bifidobacterium lactis Bb-12 and Lacobacillus acidophilus LA-5). A control sample had no prebiotics or probiotics.

The yogurt drinks then were evaluated by 110 consumers for overall acceptance, acceptance of aroma, appearance, taste and texture, and purchase intent. Higher levels of the prebiotics with probiotics drove consumer liking compared to lower levels without probiotics.

In terms of ingredients added, inulin from chicory root and polydextrose were preferred over soluble corn fiber. Yogurt drinks with these prebiotics included and probiotics were characterized by a medium level of sweetness and high viscosity. 

Danone withdraws two health claims before E.F.S.A.

PARIS — Groupe Danone has withdrawn two health claim applications currently before the European Food Safety Authority (E.F.S.A.). The claims relate to the health benefits of two Danone products, Activia and Actimel, which contain probiotics and aid in digestive health.

“…We said earlier this year that engaging a scientific dialogue with E.F.S.A. was to us appearing more and more necessary, and that we did not want to keep working in the process without a number of things being clarified, and in particular, with respect to the nature of the evidences provided when submitting the claims, and with respect to the process,” said Pierre-Andre Terisse, chief financial officer for Groupe Danone, in a conference call with financial analysts on April 15.

Danone’s decision to withdraw the claims relates to decisions made by the E.F.S.A. in October 2009 when the agency published a series of opinions on a list of “general function” health claims gathered by European Union member states. The claims related to the benefits of probiotics received an unfavorable review because there was a lack of information on the substance on which the claims were based, according to the E.F.S.A.

Mr. Terisse said an opportunity to have additional dialogue with the agency has emerged with the announcement of a meeting on June 1 between the E.F.S.A. and companies participating in the claims process.

“In the meantime, and in order for the time for this dialog to take place, we’ve decided to withdraw two claims for which an opinion was expected to be rendered very soon,” he said. “This means that we will, in the coming weeks and months, continue adapting our communication, as we have done in France since the beginning of January” with advertisements running without claims.

Mr. Terisse added that whether Groupe Danone resubmits its claims will depend on whether the company gets more “clarity” from the E.F.S.A. in the coming months.

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