With the ever increasing competition and the trend of healthy lifestyle, Russian meat processors can fill the unoccupied niche of functional meat products. These products have not only high nutritional value, but they also can improve consumer’s health and have a preventive effect on many diseases. Is this the “magic” food the modern consumers have been dreaming about? Marietta Aslanova, Doctor of Technical Science, Head of Functional and Social Food Technology Department of “Gorbatov” Food Systems Federal Research Center, Russian Academy of Sciences, told us about the functional food market and the new developments in this area.
Marietta Arutyunovna, what is the current situation in the healthy food market, and what is the difference between the Russian market and the world market?
– The healthy lifestyle is currently becoming a worldwide trend, the scale of which is related to a whole range of social, ecological and other factors. More and more consumers start choosing foods without unhealthy additives, GMO, fatty acid trans-isomers. Consumer preferences have a great effect on food industry development. That’s why the healthy food market currently shows a rapid growth. The statistics of qualitative changes in the food market shows that those foods are very popular in European countries, USA and Japan.
The world market of functional foods is growing very rapidly, by 15–20% each year. Currently, the world market of functional food sales is about 70 bln US dollars.
This is a reflection of the world consumer trend, when most people wish to improve their health and avoid dangerous diseases by changing their diet. However, different countries use different approaches to healthy product development and product assessment criteria.
What approaches are used?
– For instance, in Japan, the enriched foods constitute a separate category – “Foods for Specified Health Use” (FOSHU). These are brand new foods, developed specifically to reduce the risk of various diseases. The foods are considered “functional” after undergoing clinical trials and if the results show that they have a positive effect on human body.
In USA they use another approach. There are not specifically developed foods, but common foods enriched with necessary components. The “functional” status is given by FDA – Food and Drug Administration.
Like in Japan, however, they need scientific conclusions for that purpose. Russia, without doubt, also contributes to the development of the world market of healthy foods. Today, the interest of Russian consumers in healthy foods is high and continues to rise. There are more and more stores where you can buy such foods.
Please tell us more about the situation in Russian market. – In 2017, the healthy food market volume in Russia was 874,095 mln rubles. The healthy food market consists of five segments: “Better For You (BFY)”, “Functional Foods (FF)”, “Free From”, “Natural Health (NH)” and “Organic”. The largest market segment is “Natural Health (NH)”. In 2016, its volume was 469,644 mln rubles. The growing world demand for lactose-free and hypoallergic foods and beverages led to the increase of the “Free From” category. These are foods which don’t contain any ingredients that cause allergies or intolerance. In 2016, this segment grew by 15.1%.
What healthy foods are sold in Russian market? Are there any meat products among them?
– The healthy foods in Russian market are represented by the following groups: grain-based foods (including bakery and confectionery products), soft drinks, dairy products and fat-and-oil products. There also has been initiated the development of meat-based products. On the one hand, raw meat is a good basis for functional food development, and on the other hand, it is a source of functional ingredients. For example, meat is a functional food because it has a balanced amino acid profile, all essential amino acids, including tryptophane, lysine and methionine, high levels of minerals (iron, phosphorus, zinc, copper, chrome, selenium, fluorine, potassium), including essential, and vitamin В and РР complexes. It also has a high nutritional value and bioavailability. Some animal-based nutrients have a higher availability than the plant-based nutrients. Beef is a natural source of conjugated linoleic acid which proved to be a powerful antioxidant, anticarcinogen and immunostimulator. Healthy meat products can be divided into two groups: mass-consumption products and special products.
Do the functional foods fall into the group of mass-consumption products?
– Yes, this group includes the functional (including enriched) foods intended for all age groups. The distinctive features of these products are the scientifically proven and confirmed properties which reduce the risk of alimentary diseases. The special products include, for example, foods for athletes, for diet and preventive nutrition, including baby foods and foods for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
You said that raw meat is not only a functional food but also a source of functional ingredients…
– That’s right. The meat-processing industry mainly uses the following groups of ingredients as functional ingredients: dietary fibers, vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Those ingredients have well-known and proved physical and chemical properties specified in GOST. Scientists continue their studies in this field.
The list of functional ingredients is constantly expanding. For instance, researchers try to extract functional ingredients from the raw by-products of the meat industry (cattle abomasum, pork legs and aortas, etc.) for enriching functional foods.
What do the producers need to know about the development of functional foods based on raw meat?
– The scientific evidence and the selection of critical raw materials and functional ingredients are of paramount importance. However, the risk factors related to the meat production technologies should also be taken into account: for instance, high concentration of salt and fat, the use of curing, nitrites, processing additives, etc.
What is modified in the content and properties of meat products for the development of functional foods?
– The work here can be done in a number of different areas. For example, elimination or replacement of unhealthy components in the products (sodium chloride, sodium nitrite, fat, phosphates, etc.). And vice versa, the lack of functional ingredients with a specific physiological effect (vitamins, dietary fibers, etc.) can be compensated by adding them to the products. There is one more option: the functional ingredients can be preserved in their native state. The raw materials for functional food production can also be modified by varying the diet of the animals. You can also use nutritional combinations in order to create a balanced nutritional content of the products.
What types of meat products, in your opinion, offer the most potential as functional foods?
– Cooked sausages, pastes, canned foods, groundmeat products and beverage powder based on animal protein. It should be noted that meat products can have the “functional” status only if they meet a number of certain requirements. They must be special meat products with a specific chemical composition, containing functional ingredients. They must have a regulatory effect on the body, normalizing it entirely or its certain functions. These products are intended for continuous consumption as a part of the diet by all age groups of healthy population.
How can the common consumer tell the difference between these products and the common ones?
– The information about the distinctive features of functional meat products and their efficacy should be printed on the product’s label. Besides the general data about the nutritional value of functional meat products, the label should contain information about their distinctive features indicative of their nutritional and/or energy value, as well as the information about their expected positive effect on human health during the continuous use of such products.
Please tell us about the latest developments of Food Systems Federal Research Center in the field of functional foods.
– Our range of functional meat products is small for now. It is represented mainly by calorie reduced products (with lowered content of animal fats and added dietary fibers). We developed calorie reduced cooked sausages in which animal fats have been partially replaced by soluble (inulin) and insoluble (wheat fibers) dietary fibers, the use of which have a positive effect on intestines and digestion.
We developed cooked sausages for elderly nutrition, containing collagen peptides extracted from pork legs by using the enzymolysis method, intended for improving the human locomotor system. We also developed functional drink “Ostov” containing collagen peptides. It is currently on sale.
The Federal Research Center created a formulation of meat paste enriched by tissue-specific peptides extracted from cattle stomach. These products are intended for gastritis prevention. The Center also developed canned foods enriched by tissue-specific peptides extracted from pork aorta. These products are intended for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
Functional foods obviously need a powerful advertising campaign. What, in your opinion, can increase the demand for such products?
– In order to make the functional foods more marketable, we need to heighten the interest of producers on government level (by economic incentives), as well as the interest of consumers (by raising their awareness and informative advertising). Moreover, in order to use new functional ingredients, we need scientific evidence and clinical trials of the products.