KANSAS CITY — The functional foods category is a growing force, fueled by consumer desire for food and beverages with health benefits beyond basic nutrition.

Nearly half of consumers said that “weight loss/management” is a health benefit they are interested in getting from foods, according to The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation. About one-third of Americans listed “increased energy,” “cardiovascular health,” “healthy aging” or “digestive health.”

“Consumer interest in the relationship between diet and health has increased the demand for functional foods,” IFIC said. “Factors fueling U.S. interest in these foods include the rapid advances in science and technology, increasing health care costs, changes in food laws affecting label and product claims, an aging population and rising interest in attaining wellness through diet, among others.”

This consumer demand for fortified products has resulted in global revenue of $299.32 billion in 2017 for the category, according to Grand View Research. By 2022, functional foods are projected to rake in $441.56 billion.

Functional food sales chart

Seeking a slice of this success, several companies are launching innovation in the functional foods space, touting claims of improved digestion, increased energy and heart health.

New products packed with probiotics, known for improving digestive function and gut health, include Wildway, L.L.C.’s new functional smoothie beverage mixes crafted with probiotics, plant-based adaptogens and herbs. The blends are free from whey, dairy, grain, gluten and soy and are flavor-neutral.

Wildway Smoothie Bowl Starter Mixes are available in four varieties: Restore, Recover, Relax and Recharge. Each mix contains a blend of 15 to 20 grams of egg white protein, MCT oil powder, collagen peptides and blends of amino acids, functional herbs and plants and 1 billion CFUs of probiotics with the use of Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086.

The Recharge mix contains 70 mg of caffeine from guarana seed and added acetyl L-carnitine, while the Relax mix contains chamomile, lemon balm and green tea. The Restore mix features ashwagandha root, maca root and reishi mushroom, and the Recover mix contains L-Glutamine and collage peptides.

Kyle Koehler, Wildway
Kyle Koehler, co-founder of Wildway

“Food for us has always served a purpose,” said Kyle Koehler, co-founder of Wildway. “Food should do more for you than just satiate hunger — it should help you perform better, be better, do better — it should enhance your overall wellbeing. That’s what we’re really looking to dig into and develop with this line. That sense that food has a greater meaning to your overall wellbeing.

Probiotics from kombucha are the star in Vegan Rob’s new Kombuchabars. Made with kombucha, blended seeds, fruit and tapioca syrup, the bars are shelf-stable and available in four flavors: Banana, cranberry, dark cacao and blueberry.

Robert Ehrlich, Vegan Rob's
Rob Ehrlich, c.e.o. of Vegan Rob’s

“Gut health is the foundation for all health, and we are on the cutting edge in making kombucha more accessible,” said Rob Ehrlich, chief executive officer of Vegan Rob’s.

Also boasting a boost of probiotics, Ripple Foods’ Ripple Greek Yogurt Alternative, features live and active cultures, including Bifidobacterium Bifidum, L. Acidophilus, L. Casei, L. Bulgaricus and L. Rhamnosus, S. Thermophilus. The yogurts also contain 12 grams of plant-based protein per serving. Made with pea protein, sunflower oil, organic cane sugar and live active cultures, the yogurt alternatives are vegan, lactose-free, nut-free, soy-free, gluten-free and G.M.O.-free. Varieties include original, vanilla, strawberry, blueberry and maple.

Probiotics pair with protein in Earnest Eats’ new Protein + Probiotic Oatmeal, featuring probiotics and grass-fed whey protein. Available in Mighty Maple and Coconut Warrior flavors, the oatmeal contains 15 to 16 grams of protein and one billion CFUs of probiotics per cup. The certified gluten-free breakfast is made with a blend of ancient grains, including organic, whole rolled oats, puffed quinoa and amaranth.

Andrew Aussie, Earnest Eats
Andrew Aussie, president and founder of Earnest Eats

“Oatmeal is a morning ritual of health and centering for millions, yet there’s very few high-protein options available, leaving a huge gap in the breakfast category,” said Andrew Aussie, president and founder of Earnest Eats. “Our new Protein + Probiotic Oatmeal is turning traditional oatmeal on its head by combining the power of grass-fed whey protein with the benefits of one billion CFUs of probiotics in one nourishing cup. Instead of a bland, empty carb, minimal protein breakfast option, consumers will have not only a tasty, high-protein option, but one packed with probiotics for a healthy digestive system.”

Boasting the benefit of enhanced energy, Absolutely Gluten Free’s new TahiniBARs are grab-and-go sesame seed energy bars with 100 calories per bar. The certified OU Kosher and dairy-free bars are 100% gluten-free and available in three varieties: Cocoa nibs, pistachio and vanilla.

“Sesame seeds help boost energy levels and are an excellent source of copper, manganese, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, molybdenum, and selenium,” the company said. “These translate into a variety of health benefits, including cholesterol-lowering phytosterols, heart health, improved blood pressure and hormone balance, as well as cancer fighting and fat burning properties. Sesame also helps boost nutrient absorption and energy levels, too.”

Also offering an energy boost with the addition of vitamins, Apollo Gum Co. is introducing Golf Gum, designed to provide golfers with energy and focus. The spearmint gum contains B vitamins and 80 mg of caffeine, features a liquid center and is sweetened with xylitol.

Troy Widgery, Apollo Gum Co.
Troy Widgery, c.e.o. and founder of Apollo Gum Co.

“There’s an evolving consumer demand for cleaner supplements,” said Troy Widgery, chief executive officer and founder of Apollo Gum Co. “We’re creating the future of energy. Golf Gum’s liquid core delivery system rapidly releases the full benefits of specially-sourced natural caffeine and B-vitamins. Although the taste lasts for hours, you don’t have to chew it for more than a few minutes to experience the results of a pure, compact formula that provides smooth energy. Golf Gum also contains an effective dose of xylitol, a natural sweetener that has been proven to reduce the risk of cavities and strengthen tooth enamel.”

Click to view a slideshow of new products.