'Functional foods' offer new opportunities for Canadian cropsDate posted: October 15, 2003
The functional foods and nutraceuticals industry is one of the fastest-growing areas of opportunity in food production, and western Canadian agriculture is well-positioned to cash in, says Kelley Fitzpatrick of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals at the University of Manitoba.
"Interest by the general public is growing worldwide in the prospect that food and food products can promote and maintain health," says Fitzpatrick, the Centre's Marketing and Research Development Manager. "Currently, Canada accounts for three percent of the global market, but there's major opportunity for that to grow. The Canadian nutraceutical and functional food industry has garnered a great deal of attention in recent years from several sectors, and several crops grown in the Prairies have been identified as excellent candidates for value-added processing as functional foods."
Current world consumption of nutraceuticals and functional foods is estimated to be between $70 and $250 billion annually, depending upon the product categories that are included in the statistics, she says. Predictions are that the value of the functional foods and nutraceuticals industry will expand ten-fold over the next decade, growing three-to-four times the rate of the conventional food industry.
"It's becoming increasingly clear that people prefer to get their health benefits from the kitchen cabinet rather than the medicine cabinet," says Fitzpatrick. "This is a growing trend worldwide. The Canadian agricultural community needs to determine where we fit and where our potential lies within this trend. Once identified, we can then really push the button to develop these products and capture the full market advantage of the unique health-enhancing properties of our crops."
Traditional crops such as wheat and barley share in the potential, she says. "These crops are exciting from a Canadian point of view because of the amounts we can produce. Any way that we can find to add value to wheat gives a large, immediate boost to our industry. One of the reasons wheat and similar crops grow well in the climate of Western Canada is that they produce 'bioactives' that improve their production potential. Often, these same bioactives carry health benefits for people as well - it's just a matter of identifying, developing and marketing them."
Fitzpatrick provides further perspective on the fast-rising potential in functional foods in two new feature articles available to producers, industry and others. "Breaking forward with functional foods," which examines the specific potential for wheat, barley and other Prairie crops, is featured in the October, 2003, edition of Western Grains Research Magazine, available on the Western Grains Research Foundation Web site, www.westerngrains.com. "New frontiers in functional foods," which looks at the bigger picture of functional foods, is available on the Meristem Land and Science Web site, www.meristem.com.
Western Grains Research Foundation, (WGRF) at www.westerngrains.com is a farmer funded and directed organization set up to fund research that directly benefits Prairie farmers. The Foundation administers the Wheat and Barley Check-off Funds, which allocate approximately $4 million annually to wheat and barley breeding programs.
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