Functional Foods

The Functional Food Series: Part 2

The Gaps within categories of Functional On-Pack Claims and Innovations.

In Part 1 of our Functional food series, we highlighted the prevalence of categories promoting and innovating functional claims such as food for immunity, energy, digestion, heat health, metabolism and more.  We spoke about tea, tuna and smoothies and found that their success came not from explaining the exact ingredients in the recipes but from the functional effect they had on your body: immunity, energy etc.

At Elephants, we see this working as a benefits ladder – going from the product to the product features to the feature’s benefits to the emotional benefit this provides. 

After all, consumers buy brands based on functional and emotional benefits. As a brand, if you can make your target consumers feel something, there is a bigger chance they will do something. Humans buy brands that strengthen their beliefs in themselves, provide a sense of comfort and simplify complex decisions.

Whilst some brands within the drinks category (Innocent), food category (John West) and even the body care category (Radox) are using functional claims on front-of-pack, we at Elephants have identified some gaps which other brands could fill in different categories. 

Fresh vegetables and fruit

Many of us know that bananas provide slow-releasing energy, that carrots (apparently) help you see in the dark and that oranges provide Vitamin C, which aids in the protection of our immune system. Not only do fruits and vegetables aid with internal bodily benefits, but they can help brighten the face, lengthen hair and smoothen the skin.

Here at Elephants, we wonder whether fruit and vegetable brands could go further than claiming functional ingredient benefits (product benefits) and communicate benefits that might motivate consumers in other ways. On a grander scale,  this could aid in changing the long-term way consumers take up healthy eating.


Many scientists claim that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This being said, Elephants are surprised at the lack of cereal brands which are taking advantage of using functional benefits as a primary message on front of pack.

Cereals we can now choose from are more complex and interesting than ever before, with a large variety of nutritious seeds, nuts, grains, and dried fruits. Claims for all ages and life stages for cereal brands could range from healthy heart, to energy, to happy gut, to brighter skin, all driven from the ingredients within the pack. 

Milk alternatives

With the success of Oatly and an uptake of people committing to a vegan diet comes a new generation who consumes alternatives to dairy milk: soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, oat milk, and even potato milk!

But do these consumers understand the differences in benefits between each? They might know that cow’s milk is not so good anymore, but out of the many milk alternatives, which one suits a consumer’s specific need? Does oat milk provide good levels of energy? Does coconut milk make skin glow? Can potato milk whiten teeth!? The team at Elephants wonder if there is a gap in this category for more functional benefits on the pack to assist in consumer education and purchase motivation… 

We want to stress that brands would need to stop and think before jumping on the bandwagon with functional claims. At Elephants, we believe that the claim should resonate with the consumer and fit with the emotional and functional footprint of the brand to achieve real cut-through with consumers. 

Can you think of other brands or categories that could more confidently claim functional benefits on packs?

Have a look at Part 1 of our Functional food series.

Add a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment