Due to strong marketing campaigns and significant publicity, the concept of functional foods and beverages is no longer new to the American consumer. With lifestyle and diet playing roles in many of the top medical issues facing Americans, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, consumers are looking for easy ways to improve their health, particularly when they need something relatively quickly. Manufacturers have sought to help consumers by embracing the functional food and beverage segment that has been relatively strong in Europe and Asia for several years now.

Functional packaged goods products have been around for a long time, but the positioning has not always been so focused on the health benefits a product or ingredient satisfies and how it works. The key to functional foods now—particularly for consumers who can educate themselves online in minutes about which ingredients work for what—is positioning.

In the U.S., adult and childhood obesity concerns, along with the growth in type 2 diabetes, have prompted the introduction of a large number of weight-control products. Digestive health products, driven by the use of prebiotics, probiotics or fiber, have exploded in the last two years, as hectic lives and eating on-the-go have driven the need for such products. Again, tying to the major health concerns of the American consumer, cardiovascular health products and bone health introductions have jumped dramatically, as have several other key functional claims.

So, will the demand for functional foods continue? Although the answer is never definite, given the global scale in which consumers and manufacturers have embraced the concept, along with the continued growth over the last few years and the proliferation across categories, functional foods will most likely have a lasting impact on the grocery store as we know it.