Functional Foods and Natural Health Products - Canadian Industry

Canada has emerged as a global supplier of functional foods and natural health products (FFNHP). The market is robust and growing at a faster pace than the agriculture and agri-food sector overall. More than 750 Canadian companies are specialized in this area, garnering more than $11 billion in revenues.

  • Functional foods are foods enhanced with bioactive ingredients and which have demonstrated health benefits. Examples are probiotic yogurt, or pea fibre-fortified breads and pasta.
  • Natural health products are extracts derived from natural sources and which have demonstrated health benefits. Examples are omega-3 capsules or beta-glucan supplements.

For more detailed definitions, see What Are Functional Foods and Natural Health Products?

Regulations that Apply to the Industry

Regulating the FFNHP industry is important to maintain the high standard of food safety and quality for which Canada is known, while allowing the industry to innovate and market new products. A number of factors, such as the format and composition, determine whether products are regulated as a food or as a natural health product. Learn more about navigating the regulations for functional foods.

Database of Functional Foods and Natural Health Products

The Functional Foods and Natural Health Products Database supports sector growth by connecting buyers with Canadian suppliers of bioactive ingredients, products and services.

What Are Functional Foods and Natural Health Products?

Functional foods are similar in appearance to, or may be, a conventional food, consumed as part of a usual diet, which is demonstrated to have physiological benefits and/or to reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions.

They are developed through various means, such as:

  • fortification with vitamins and/or minerals, beyond mandatory requirements, to provide added health benefits (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); and
  • 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).

Natural health products are made from natural sources, sold in dosage form, and designed to maintain or promote health; to restore or correct human health function; or to diagnose, treat or prevent disease. They come in a wide variety of forms like tablets, capsules, tinctures, solutions, creams, ointments and drops.

Examples include:

  • 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) or from marine sources (for example, glucosamine, chitosan, algae, seaweed, kelp and fish oils); and
  • vitamin and mineral supplements.

Learn more about Canadian Functional Foods and Natural Health Products including research and development capabilities, examples of bioactive ingredients, Canadian success stories, and links to research networks.

Contact Information

Food Industry Division
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
1341 Baseline Road
Tower 5, 2nd floor
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0C5
E-mail: ffn-afn@agr.gc.ca