There’s no doubt COVID has heightened consumer awareness around health and wellness, with one result being increased interest in convenient functional foods that offer more bang for your buck, says Jane Wolfe

Although there is no universal definition of the term ‘functional foods’, broadly speaking, these are foods that have been fortified or enhanced – for example with prebiotics, probiotics, collagen, adaptogens, protein, vitamins or minerals – to provide targeted health benefits beyond their intrinsic nutritional value. 

And with a growing number of people seeking enriched foods to address issues including weight management, cognitive health, sports recovery/performance, skin health, gut health and menopause, natural health brands are only too happy to offer convenient products incorporating a host of active ingredients ranging from medicinal mushrooms, turmeric and CBD, to collagen, l-theanine and ashwagandha.

“It’s about taking familiar foods and enriching them to meet customers’ specific wellness needs,” says Rachel Chatterton, head of food development at Holland & Barrett (H&B). “Customers are increasingly wanting more from their food beyond just nutrition, and this is an area we expect to see a big expansion in 2023 and beyond.” 

In its 2023 Wellness Trends Report, H&B identified functional foods as a key area for growth, partly because people are looking to eat more sustainably. The global functional mushroom category alone is predicted to rise from $24.9 billion in 2022 to $47.2 billion in 2028, according to the report.

Consumer needs
So, what are the main health-boosting benefits that consumers are looking for from these foods? “People are moving towards food that multitasks for us and offers a variety of health and wellness benefits – from helping to relieve stress, to supporting sleep and relaxation, and energy and immunity,” says Chatterton. “We are always talking to customers to understand their needs further, and in the year ahead we’re anticipating functional foods will grow in areas that help our gut health and immunity, as well as supporting women’s health needs.

Customers are increasingly wanting more from their food beyond just nutrition, and this is an area we expect to see a big expansion in 2023 and beyond

“The pandemic has made us more aware of our health, but we’ve also seen a trend towards preventative health. And the impact of the pandemic has meant demand for solutions that support us with sleep and anxiety are increasingly popular,” explains Chatterton.

“We’re expecting functional foods to boom in the year ahead as we all want more from our foods and how they can support our health and wellness. From our breakfast to our drinks and snacks, we’ll see these added benefits being introduced across food categories.  

“In our 2023 Wellness Trends Report we have predicted that mushrooms will have their time in the spotlight, with supplements, extracts and mushroom-derived beverages all set to boom in popularity as we continue to explore functional plant-based meat alternatives. We’ll also see fermentation technology firmly in the spotlight as a growing tribe of start-ups transform mushrooms into meat-free protein. 

“And the growing trend for functional underwater finds such as sea moss is here to stay for 2023 – look out for our H&B Sea Moss Gel launching this year!”

‘Nuts that do more’
Natural Selection Foods launched its Nutri Butter brand at the start of the pandemic in April 2020 to ‘tap into the healthy eating and gut-friendly trends and shake up the nut butters category’.

Describing the products as ‘nuts that do more’, as well as being a rich source of protein the peanut butters are packed with natural ingredients such as turmeric, ginger, acai berry, bee pollen, chia seeds and ginger to support specific aspects of health.

“Additions are not new in the nut butter category, but the inclusion of health-focused ingredients with more specialized functional benefits is distinctive,” says Fatma Akalin-McGee, MD of Natural Selection Foods. “We chose to launch our Gut Friendly, Defence and Energise Nutri Butters as there were no products offering these benefits in the nut butter category. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic increased the demand for immunity-boosters and gut health products. Many people experienced fatigue as a result of COVID-19, and boosting energy levels in the wake of the pandemic and lockdowns became equally important. Consumers were also worried about their digestive health and diets with the pandemic underway. Gut Friendly has become the company’s best-selling line – it is the first ever peanut butter made with live cultures and prebiotics.”

Akalin-McGee cites a new report by Grand View Research predicting that the global functional foods market will reach US$586.1 billion by 2030, with revenue expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 8.5%.

Customers are increasingly wanting more from their food beyond just nutrition, and this is an area we expect to see a big expansion in 2023 and beyond

“Research also shows that consumers want personalized health and wellness products tailored to their specific needs and wantsCustomers are increasingly wanting more from their food beyond just nutrition, and this is an area we expect to see a big expansion in 2023 and beyond, and that they are looking to address emotional wellness. The FMCG Gurus Top Ten Trends for 2023 report (November 2022) suggests that turbulent living conditions and uncertainty will result in consumers looking to address emotional wellness in 2023.

“High levels of uncertainty and turmoil are having a negative impact on the emotional wellbeing of consumers, resulting in increased anxiety and poor sleep hygiene, the report says. This is resulting in consumers looking to boost their mental health and energy levels, seeking out natural and sustainable solutions to do this. Even in a cost-of-living crisis, I expect that we will see consumers looking to purchase products that offer a health and wellness benefit.”

Added perks
Holly Sedgwick, nutrition and innovation manager at Perkier, agrees that COVID provided a health and wellbeing wake-up call and focused consumer attention on improving their diets. “This has given rise to an interest in preventative health, particularly focusing on immune health,” she says. “Unsurprisingly given the past few years, 61% of UK adults post-pandemic say they plan to support their immune health through diet. Sought-after preventative health benefits could additionally cover areas such as cognitive health, heart health and even mental health in the future, as these are already becoming popular in the supplement market. Consumers appear to be looking for foods that can help them age healthily and prevent disease.”

Creating snacks which provide more than just a tasty bite, Perkier’s range offers the benefits of prebiotics, probiotics, protein and fibre to target gut health, energy and immunity. 

It has a line of +Immune Oaty Quinoa Porridges – in Original, Cranberry & Chia and Golden Syrup – which are enhanced with 100% RDA of the immune-boosting vitamins D, C and B12, as well as a collection of bars.

“Perkier bars are all bound with chicory fibre which is a great prebiotic helping feed your good gut bacteria,” says Sedgwick. “[The] Perkier Active Cultures bars including Madagascan vanilla also contain billions of live friendly probiotic bacteria, using two researched strains.” 

To help these probiotics journey through the gut, Perkier microencapsulates them using advanced technology to wrap them in protective shells, making them a thousand times more effective at reaching the gut alive than the dairy cultures found in yoghurts and kefir, according to the brand.

As this trend … develops consumers may become interested in more innovative functional food formats

The bars are also designed to keep consumers feeling fuller for longer, providing slow-release energy. “When we eat foods packed with simple sugars and limited fibre or protein, such as cakes and cookies, it causes our blood sugar to skyrocket and then plummet,” explains Sedgwick. “Perkier bars are packed with up to 25% of your daily fibre needs from fruits and chicory, and plant-based proteins from nuts, soya and quinoa. Our nutritious energy range also has no added refined sugars meaning any sugar found in the bars is from natural sources like fruits. When you eat a Perkier bar, the fibre helps you feel fuller for longer and prevents your blood sugar spiking, giving you the perfect steady stream of energy you need after a mid-morning snack.”

Sedgwick says she’s seeing a trend towards people demanding more information about what they’re buying in this category. “Consumers want clear science-backed functional claims, this can be seen in sustainability too where people want to understand where their food has come from and avoid greenwashing.

“Mounting scientific evidence, coupled with the media attention on benefits of gut health, has led to increasing interest from consumers in gut-healthy foods too. 45% of adults would like their diet to improve their gut health. Furthermore, 61% of over-60s would like to see functional foods with cognitive benefit claims. The high and growing percentage of consumers seeking functional claims on foods suggests that this category still has room for growth.

“As this trend … develops consumers may become interested in more innovative functional food formats, more niche and novel ingredients with researched health benefits, and personalized functional products.”

The fab four
H&B’s Rachel Chatterton gives the lowdown on four functional ingredient trends:
Lion’s mane: this tufty mushroom that looks a bit like a lion’s mane is a winner when it comes to supporting your general wellbeing. What’s more, there’s evidence to suggest it may support gut health.
Duckweed: the tiny green plants you often see floating at the tops of ponds are set to become a superfood staple. Duckweed is commonly eaten in Southeast Asia – it’s sustainable and very high in protein.
Sea moss: this seaweed superfood continues to grow in popularity thanks to its positive wellness benefits – from supporting digestive and thyroid function to its skin nourishment and mood-boosting qualities.
Ashwagandha: we’re also seeing a resurgence of interest in remedies and ingredients of the past, with key ingredients from the ancient practice of Ayurveda now being combined with scientific scrutiny. Take KSM-66 Ashwagandha, for example. This superior, clinically-studied form of ashwagandha can support emotional balance, relaxation and general wellbeing, and some studies suggest it can bolster our defences against stress – possibly through reducing the stress hormone, cortisol.”


Real Cola 

Gusto Organic
Tel: 07710 030525
E-mail:  [email protected]

If you are looking for a premium, delicious and ethical alternative to big brand cola Gusto Organic have you covered. Their range of three colas are crafted in Devon from their blend of organic spices and essential oils.  With Fairtrade and organic agave to sweeten and organic lemon juice replacing bone-rotting phosphoric acid Gusto’s exquisite range of colas are better for people and planet. Each cola contains the finest Fairtrade Madagascan vanilla and with African cola nut in place of synthetic caffeine their award-winning take on the world’s favourite soft drink is truly the gold standard. It’s time to switch!


The Naked Collective
E-mail:  [email protected]

Mude is a range of natural functional sparkling beverages brewed to refresh your mood using adaptogens and botanicals. Mude drinks are designed to help you at different stages throughout your day. Mude Work (Apple Flavour) helps you focus naturally through the use of Ashwagandha & Branched Chain Amino Acids. Mude Play (Mango and Grapefruit Flavour) gives you a natural boost of energy through the use of Green Tea & Branched Chain Amino Acids. Mude Chill (Mixed Berries Flavour) helps you relax and unwind naturally with Ashwagandha and Chamomile. Mude Sleep (Elderflower Flavour) helps you get to sleep and stay asleep utilising Valarian Root & Chamomile.



Gutfulness Ltd
E-mail:  [email protected]

Gutfulness is the latest wellness launch to hit the UK market, created by Gut Health and IBS Expert, Marilia Chamon. Made in the UK with just five natural ingredients, Gutfulness is a chewy and buttery high protein peanut snack, FODMAP Friendly certified, offering confidence and convenience to sensitive guts. Each bar contains 10g of protein and 165 calories per serving, and it is packed with gut-friendly fibre. Gluten free, soya free, plant-based and containing no artificial sweeteners, additives, preservatives or emulsifiers. Gutfulness is a nutritious and convenient snack for those that suffer with digestive symptoms, living busy everyday lives.


Locako Keto Collagen Brownie Bites

Kinetic Natural Products Distributor
Tel: 08450 725 825
E-mail:  [email protected]

Locako Keto Collagen Brownie Bites are a delicious low-carb protein hit ideal for healthy snacking or sweet treat, filled with collagen, nuts and pre- and pro-biotics. HFSS-compliant, with no compromise on quality of ingredients – soy free, low carb and low sugar – less than 1/3 of the quantity of the leading brand per serving. The protein hit from the grass-fed collagen helps support ketosis as well as contribute to healthy hair, skin, nails, joints and muscle health. Available in three tried and tested delicious flavours – almond butter cookie dough, chocolate orange and peanut butter jelly. Gluten-free.



The Fungtional Brew Company
email: [email protected]

Award winning alcohol free craft beer brewed with mushrooms for a more mindful beer! Gluten free, vegan and always hangover free!

Available from Fodabox, Locosoco, Suma, Direct