Industry Overview of the Functional Foods and Natural Health Products Sector

Canada produces a wide range of functional foods and natural health products that rank among the world's best in terms of quality, nutrition, taste and scientific research. These products cover the full range from adding herbals to food products, to drying and concentrating herbals into capsule format.

More than 750 Canadian companies are specialized in functional foods and natural health products, garnering more than $11 billion in revenues in 2011. The exact size of the market is difficult to judge given the availability of current data. However, market researchers agree that the global demand for these products is growing exponentially, outpacing that of the traditional processed food market.

Examples of how enhanced functional food attributes are developed

  • increasing vitamin and/or mineral levels, beyond mandatory requirements (for example, fortified soy beverages and fruit juice with calcium)
  • addition of bioactive ingredients (for example, margarine with phytosterols, muffins with beta-glucan, yogurts with probiotics, and drinks with herb blends)
  • enhancement with bioactive components through plant breeding, genetic modification, processing, or special livestock feeding techniques (for example, eggs, milk and meat with omega-3; canola oil high in carotenoids; and strawberries with enhanced levels of ellagic acid)

Examples of natural health products

  • components extracted or purified from plants (for example, beta-glucan from oats, antioxidants from blueberries, isoflavonoids from soy, sterols from wood pulp, essential fatty acids from marine or vegetable oil, and soluble fibre from fenugreek)
  • products ground, dried, powdered or pressed from plant materials (for example, echinacea, fenugreek, valerian and ginseng)
  • products produced, extracted or purified from animals or micro-organisms (for example, elk velvet, essential fatty acids, enzymes, carotenoids and probiotics)
  • products produced, extracted or purified from marine sources (for example, glucosamine, chitosan, algae, seaweed, kelp and fish oils)
  • vitamin and mineral supplements

Canada’s competitive strengths

Canada is committed to meeting the needs of its global customers through its competitive strengths:

  • Natural Resources – Canada's abundant natural resources, including fresh water and diverse plant, animal and marine life, are building blocks for an array of superior-quality agri-food products.
  • Collaborative Teamwork – Collaboration among governments, universities, health institutions and industry has helped this vibrant sector prosper through innovations leading to the production of diverse agri-food products with proven health benefits.
  • World Class Standards – Canada’s regulatory and food inspection systems are internationally recognized, resulting in sought-after products that are safe and nutritious.
  • Innovative Research – Canada has a strong network of research facilities across the country where scientific innovators are focused on developing next-generation products and technologies.
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