- Nearly three-quarters (70%) of global consumers, and about 60% or Americans, said they actively make dietary choices to help prevent conditions like obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol, according to Nielsen’s Global Health and Ingredient Sentiment Survey.
- Manufacturers wanting to get into the medical foods segment should consider the diseases that consumers most commonly treat through dietary choices, Nielsen said.
- The top five diseases for manufacturers to consider when developing medical foods are obesity, diabetes, lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance and Chron's disease, according to Nielsen.
Medical foods are still a relatively new category for manufacturers to focus on specifically, with only Nestle and Hormel making major announcements in this segment. But as the global population ages, the instances of medical complications will increase, and many consumers will prefer to manage their ailments with food.
This is a critical consumer for the industry to understand. It's one thing to be health-conscious, but another altogether to see food as a way to treat a chronic disease. This trend gives manufacturers the power to not only affect what and when a person eats, but also have an impact on medical treatments. This presents significant opportunities and challenges to companies seeking to capitalize on this fast-growing market.
Medical foods will undoubtedly go under much higher scrutiny than traditional processed foods. The additional attention is not only in terms of food safety, but also nutrition claims and marketing. Manufacturers don't want consumers to see them as selling medical foods that don't properly treat an illness, so a team of knowledgeable and experienced food scientists will be critical to ensure these products meet all regulatory and disease-specific requirements.