Q&A: What’s Next for Functional Products? (A Chaucer Roundtable Discussion)

May 2023

We see it everywhere. “Immune boosting!” “Added protein!” “Energy boosting!” These and other functional ingredient claims litter store shelves, but what impact is this product trend having on the industry? According to some leading research, a product’s listed health benefits can have a significant influence on purchasing decisions for as many as 60% of U.S. food shoppers1, showcasing the power behind functional product claims you make. To meet the growing consumer demand for functional benefits, your business must use ingredients with proven health benefits within your new innovations. This can result in more purchases as well as greater marketing potential by meeting regulatory standards for how food producers advertise their product offerings.

We hosted a roundtable discussion with Shaby Fisher, Global Marketing Manager; Brittany Colasuonno, Marketing Associate; and Jerard Whitehead, National Sales Manager at Chaucer Foods, to learn more about the rising interest in functional products, discover what benefits consumers are seeking, and understand how to innovate alongside the trend.

Q: What do you think functional products and ingredients mean to the common consumer?

Shaby: Functional products and ingredients return flexibility back to the consumer. And I mean flexibility across a variety of needs. Instead of being forced into an unsustainable eating pattern or not being able to consume enough nutrients due the demands of a busy life, functional products provide the opportunity for every person to eat the foods and drink the beverages that nutritious, and just all around better tasting, which leads to a more enjoyable experience.

Brittany: I think that’s the key phrase — enjoyable experience. The food we consume has so much more to offer than just a great taste. It can be a motivating factor that weaves through every other part of your life. Now more than ever, people are focused on improving their health through food. This has placed functional products and ingredients on a higher priority for their daily intake. Myself, and many global consumers alike, prefer functional ingredients that supplement my personal diet preference or health choices over an ingredient that might lack the nutritional benefits that I want or need.

Jerard: I’d add to that that consuming functional ingredients promotes an effort to pursue a healthy lifestyle, prevent disease, and locate energy-boosting alternatives. Many functional ingredients are rich in antioxidants that help to neutralize harmful compounds, known as free radicals. By including functional ingredients and products within your diet, you can take proactive steps to help prevent cell damage and certain chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Q: Has overall interest in functional foods and beverages grown? If so, do you believe the trend will continue to increase? If not, what’s stopping it?
Shaby: Even three years later, the pandemic has changed the way we eat. What started as snacking because of stress and an inability to easily move or travel, turned into eating for our health — first as a substitute for movement and then as an addition to it. This sparked the emerging interest in functional products. Consumers started looking for products that could claim functional benefits like “immunity,” “energy,” and “digestion,” all because we want foods that can do something positive for their bodies.

Brittany: And the desire for something positive has increased as consumers have become more knowledgeable about their health and ways that they could boost it. What might have been a small fad has seeped into multiple health trends like functional nutrition. Like Shaby said, the pandemic transformed our consumption patterns to be more focused on the ingredient benefits. I’m not sure we’re seeing any signs of that slowing down.

Jerard: It might actually be speeding up. With information at their fingertips, global consumers have become more aware of ingredients and overall nutritional value. This has resulted in a growing interest in functional foods and beverages. Add to this that the pandemic has settled to where people are able to get out and move more. That added ability to improve your health and wellness through movement means that other trends, like functional ingredients, will be relied on more to supplement these other health-related ways people live their lives.

Q: What are the most popular functional benefits that consumers are searching for in the foods they purchase?
Jerard: Amongst global consumers, the most popular functional benefits are ones that carry claims to improve energy, overall health, and gut health. To pair that with the clean label trend, more people are requesting that these benefits be sourced from natural ingredients, like fruits and vegetables.

Shaby: And as people begin to incorporate more protein and fiber within their diets, it’s becoming more and more popular to fuel themselves for whatever their day might bring. Instead of a typical protein or fiber bar, shoppers want more snackable and fun alternatives, such as high protein cookies or fiber-filled smoothies

Brittany: Exactly! Why feel forced to take some supplements or vitamins when there might be delicious functional foods and beverages that can replace, or support, that? People are feeling “pill fatigue,” especially within the younger generations. This is creating an opening that alternative options can fill in the market and has already sparked a growing interest in better-for-you products with a range of the same functional benefits they’d receive from pills.

Q: What formulations, such as breakfast or on-the-go applications, work best with functional ingredients?
Brittany: I think plant-based formulations work well with functional ingredients. They carry a lot of the benefits of functionality naturally and there’s a large amount of overlap between the two trends. By combining these and using functional, plant-based ingredients, your business can offer a product that’s the best of both worlds.

Jerard: There’s also the growing on-the-go breakfast and snack trend. Smoothies and yogurts are ideal formulations to incorporate ingredients rich in functional ingredients like energy, immunity, and digestive health. On top of those indemand health benefits, the quick grab & go nature of these products offers the type of convenience that consumers, especially those in the United States, tend to demand.

Shaby: I agree with both of those. And let’s not forget the careful balance between better-for-you and maintaining great taste. We all enjoy a delicious treat, but still want to achieve our nutrition goals. Offering something that packs a boost in nutrition while having the taste of something that might feel a bit more indulgent is a great way to complement the varying wants of today’s shopper.

Q: In what ways can working with Chaucer and using Chaucer’s ingredients help a food or beverage manufacturer meet current and future customer demand?
Shaby: Naturally nutrient-dense, Chaucer’s freeze-dried fruits and vegetables supply the nutrition needed to fully innovate your product into a functional food or beverage offering that doesn’t risk requiring the addition of additives or other unhealthy options.

Brittany: On top of that, our ingredients are widely recognizable. When consumers know – and trust – the ingredients used, they often feel more comfortable trying new functional products for the natural health benefits. People reading labels more and seeing something they recognize and can pronounce, intentionally or not, can convince them that this is a healthier option. And usually, it is.

Jerard: I just want to call out Chaucer’s global teams, everything from R&D to marketing. They are all available to help our customers navigate the development of functional products. For example, our teams are able to field questions regarding innovation and ingredients, and also help you use the correct claims on the product labels. From ingredient to final product, we’re able to help your organization along the way. When you work with us, you’re never alone in this process.

Looking to join in on the conversation about functional ingredients? For more insight on how to
use Chaucer Foods’ freeze-dried selection to develop new functional foods and beverages,
contact us at customer.services@chaucerfoods.com and connect with our team.


1 “Top 10 Functional Food Trends,” IFT. 2022.

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