In the Nordic countries, the food industry is of significant importance to the economies. Strong cultural traditions mixed with high quality have been its strength, resulting in good reputation. However, that is not enough in order to be competitive in the global food market. The industry has to carefully observe the rapid developments in the food sector, which makes new thinking and innovations essential.
Functional food has previously emerged as a mega trend in the food market; in fact it was one of the fastest growing food segments in 2005. At this time, the Nordic Innovation Centre started to look into how we could help the Nordic industry exploit the potential within the functional food area. Nordic food industry with its traditions and infrastructure together with high qualified research on the relationship between health and food makes an excellent point of departure for success.
What has been recognised from the very beginning of the programme is that there are challenges and controversies related to the entering of this market, such as documentation of health claims, communicating functionality and achieving consumer credibility. To overcome such challenges, participation and cooperation from commercial industry, research organisations, and authorities and associations, was considered necessary when launching the programme. It has often proved to be a challenge engaging the industry in such projects. However, in this case, the industry participation was higher than average. Good feedback from the participants has given positive input on how we can design future programmes in order to best serve the Nordic industry.
The results presented in this synthesis report show that we have succeeded in creating platforms together with all stakeholders to discuss issues related to health claims and the idea of Nordic consensus when implementing EU’s directive and regulations. More than that, as a result this work, special areas of interest in the Nordic countries are now taken up by the European authorities.
Harmonization of rules and regulations in the Nordic countries, good practise in use and communication of health claims is important in the development of the Nordic functional food market. Without a common framework, the industry will find it difficult to launch new and innovative products.
There is still a way to go, but it is our belief that these projects have given valuable input for further development and commercialisation of Nordic functional food.
This synthesis report presents a summary of the work carried out in six functional food projects financed by Nordic Innovation Centre in the period from 2006 to 2009.