Regulating Health Foods

Regulating Health Foods

Policy Challenges and Consumer Conundrums

Jill E. Hobbs, Stavroula Malla, Eric K. Sogah and May T. Yeung

With ageing populations, rising incomes and a growing recognition of the link between diet and health, consumers are interested in new food products, supplements and ingredients with purported health benefits. The food industry has responded with new food innovations, formulations and enhancements that comprise the growing health food market, manifesting the need to design regulatory frameworks to govern valid health claims.

Chapter 6: Industry and market trends

Jill E. Hobbs, Stavroula Malla, Eric K. Sogah and May T. Yeung

Subjects: development studies, agricultural economics, economics and finance, agricultural economics, health policy and economics


This chapter provides an overview of developments within the health foods sector in the USA, EU, Japan and Canada. The discussion of the regulatory frameworks governing the health foods sector in these markets is provided in Chapter 4 and provides a backdrop to the industry analysis presented in this chapter. The size of the sector, market trends and the research landscape in each of these markets are discussed. The challenges in defining what constitutes the ‘health foods sector’ in different countries complicate obtaining consistent estimates of the size of the industry globally and the relative importance of different markets. Nevertheless, while still a relatively small component of the global food market, it is clear that the sector has exhibited strong growth in recent years. In 2004, the World Bank estimated the global health foods product market to range between US$30 to US$60 billion, depending on which definition of functional food was used, which at the time represented between 1 and 3 per cent of the global food market (Kotilainen et al., 2006). With the caveat that accurate estimates are notoriously difficult to generate and are usually ‘best guess’ estimates, more recent estimates put the global market for functional food, beverages and supplements in 2011 at US$151 billion, with the sector forecast to grow to around US$207 billion by 2016, assuming a 6.5 per cent compound annual growth rate (BCC, 2011). Major markets for the industry include Japan, the USA and Europe (Klimas et al., 2008; LFI, 2011; NBJ, 2007a).

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