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The New York Times reported that “with health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and digestive disorders all on the rise, a growing number of food marketers are selling what the food industry calls functional foods, which promise a host of health benefits, from cholesterol reduction to immunity improvements to easing of intestinal problems.”

Case in point: Dannon, which plans to spend $60 million in 2006 developing and marketing a new yogurt designed to speed up what is delicately called “intestinal transit time” – better known as improving regularity.

Or Elations, a new flavored beverage that contains glucosamine and promises "joint flexibility.”

Or PepsiCo, which is coming out with a new version of Tropicana orange juice containing three grams of fiber per serving.

All of these companies are positioning their products to avoid careful scrutiny by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to the NYT: “In making such assertions, companies are dodging Food and Drug Administration regulations that require a rigorous approval process for health claims. Marketers are not required to get agency approval for claims that talk about the body's ‘normal, healthy structures and functions,’ only for references to specific diseases or health conditions.”

Of course, it isn’t a foolproof strategy. Just ask the folks at Kellogg’s, which had to take its psyllium-enhanced products off the market when the fiber-enriched items didn’t generate much in the way of consumer enthusiasm. Or, as the folks at Cadbury Schweppes, which has had the underwhelming sales of the fortified 7-Up Plus to contend with.
KC's View:
The Times article doesn’t mention it, but it seems to us that one of the reasons that such functional foods will be successful is that as we baby boomers age, we’re looking for increased functionality – or, at least, close to the same functionality that we’ve gotten used to.

But we don’t want to take pills, if we can avoid it, because somehow that seems reminiscent of our grandparents, who lined up pill bottles on doily-covered dressers so that they wouldn’t forget.

Eating some cool new yogurt, or drinking some juiced-up orange juice, is just another way of convincing ourselves that we’re not aging…or at least that we’re doing everything we can to prevent the inevitable.

This is an important lesson for all marketers to learn, because it influences how every product targeted at boomers can and should be positioned. It isn’t a perfect business opportunity – yet. But it strikes us as an enormous opportunity just waiting to be properly exploited.