Sunday, March 28, 2010

Vitamin and mineral foods markets to flower in Africa?

Opportunities in emerging markets continue to flower for foods fortified with vitamins and minerals as growing urbanisation sees populations turning away from fruit and vegetables in Uganda.

With an annual growth rate of 4.0 per cent, and an economy marked as having 'great potential' by the US government, officials in Uganda, it would appear, are encouraging their citizens to turn to fortified foods.

"Fortified foods offer affordable and immediate opportunities to improve lives and accelerate socio economic development.

They eradicate vitamin and mineral deficiencies which is a problem in many families," said Jacinta Sabiti, a senior medical officer in charge of the micronutrients desk at the Ministry of Health, reports Uganda's daily news site 'The New Vision'.

Afflicted by years of chronic political instability and erratic economic management, today Uganda is enjoying firmer growth as steps by Yoweri Kaguta Museveni's government, in place since early 1986, towards economic rehabilitation start to bear fruit. In the fiscal year 2006-2007 the country witnessed a growth rate at a healthy 7 per cent.

Recent market figures on nutraceutical sales for the region substantiate the credence that emerging economies can deliver new opportunities for industry players.

In 2006, multivitamins were the biggest selling product in Africa and the Middle East, with combined sales of almost $300m, according to data gathered by Capsugel's global business development manager for dietary supplements Peter Zambetti, and pooled from Euromonitor, Datamonitor, Mintel and Nutrition Business Journal.

In addition, vitamin B saw sales of almost $150m, and vitamin C sold almost $75m. Calcium and child specific products stood at the $50m mark, with other products below $50m including minerals, vitamin E, tonics and fish oils.

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The figures are small when compared to the global nutraceutical marketplace that witnessed sales in excess of $52bn in 2006, according to Zambetti.

But they do suggest a budding marketplace.

And not necessarily just one-way, with African-sourced plants in turn targetting European shelves.

The southern Africa natural products trade association, PhytoTrade Africa, in collaboration with South African company, Afriplex, are hoping fruit from the iconic African baobab tree could soon receive novel foods approval.

Approval would unlock the EU market for this large green or brown fruit of the Adansonia digitata, (or 'upside-down') tree, enabling its use as a food ingredient in European food products, such as cereal bars and smoothies.

The de-pectinised fruit pulp could also be used as an ingredient in other products, like biscuits and confectionery, says PhytoTrade Africa.

Baobab has not been commonly consumed in the EU prior to May 1997, meaning that approval must be gained under novel foods legislation before it can be used in products for the European market.

The wheels were set in motion last year by PhytoTrade Africa when it submitted an application to the UK's Food Standards Agency.

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