Food companies must educate consumers into a huge untapped market for functional food in the UK, says research from IGD.

Its Consumer Watch report says consumers have a positive perception of functional foods. Some 65% thought the food could reduce the risk of developing some ailments and 54% thought it could treat ailments.

Meanwhile 40% said it could cure certain ailments.

However a quarter of consumers questioned said they had not tried functional foods because they lacked knowledge and awareness of the products.

One third interviewed said they had bought a functional food and two thirds of those continue to buy them. Those who had tried a functional food said that among the reasons for not making repeat purchases were cost, the fact that there was no noticeable benefit, and taste.

IGD chief executive, Joanne Denney-Finch said: “To gain greater consumer acceptance of functional foods, communication and education are key.”