Current and Future Development of “Functional Foods” in the European Union

The project gives a comprehensive picture of the state-of-the-art of “functional foods” in the EU in terms of research activities, pipeline products, market-industry structures, regulations and consumer’s expectations.

The objectives of the study were:

  • Mapping of companies, products and current market situation in Europe and forecasting future developments,
  • Analyzing current research activities, as well as future product developments, identify needs and trends in research,
  • Identifying technological barriers for growth and technological challenges,
  • Identifying non-technological factors for growth, such as consumer’s attitudes and expectations and the best ways to communicate on this topic with them,
  • Reviewing EU legislative framework, in particular health claims regulation and try to evaluate its impact on the growth of this food secto.

Fraunhofer ISI contributed to three work packages:

In Work Package 1 “Mapping industry and products world-wide with a focus on Europe”, we drew up an inventory of industries, small and medium-sized companies, start-ups that are active on the core business of marketing “functional foods” or related business. In addition, we listed the products available in the EU market and in the pipeline, and developed a categorization for the products that was used further on in the study. The partnerships between global food/drink companies, technology focused pharmaceutical industry, health care operators were described and impact of the collaborative strategy in comparison with individual strategy was discussed.

Work Package 2 “The market” intended to assess the market volume of products already on the market and some information on product failure rates. The market was analysed in 4 European countries (from Scandinavian, Mediterranean, Continental and Eastern areas) and the EU global market was compared with the United States and Japan. The distribution channels such as supermarkets, health food stores, etc., as well as their possible role in the innovation process were investigated.

In Work Package 3 “Research needs“ the current research and development activities in “functional foods” products in Europe were reviewed including national/regional/trans-national funding programs, private R&D programs and European funding program. The leading research institutes involved in the R&D activities were listed. Patents and publications in the food sector as an indicator of research and product developments in Europe, but also in US and Japan, were analysed. It was investigated who are the IP owners, what is the importance of the technology transfer from research to start-ups, SMEs and large companies, and what are the main differences/characteristics between European, US and Japan situation. The specific strengths or weaknesses of EU research and development compared to US and Japan were highlighted.


Duration: 01. April 2004 – 31. Dec. 2004

Funding: European Commission DG Joint Research Centre – Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), Sevilla, Spain

Coordination: Bernhard Bührlen at Fraunhofer ISI

Weblink: Joint Reseach Centre - IPTS