Functional foods, or “well being” products, have transformed their niche market over the past four years from a health-negative (low fat, salt, no added ingredients) sector into a health-plus area that claims enhanced benefits for specific workings of the human body.

Britain’s ageing population believes it has a growing number of health problems that need solving, but it also has more cash to spend on ways to keep healthy. In fact this group has made a robust contribution to a sector that trebled between 1999 and 2001, to just over £1bn.

Although one in four consumers buys functional foods, there is some consumer cynicism about their efficacy. While the major players take the trouble to have their functional claims on their ‘novel’ food approved - a process which took two years and 30 clinical trials in the case of Flora Pro-activ - many do not and that, it has been claimed, has stifled innovation and own label development in most functional sectors.

See what the challenge is for functional food manufacturers in this week’s Focus On WELL BEING in The Grocer - out Saturday.