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Food companies marketing health benefits

Byline:Myra Lu

Many Taiwanese believe in the potency of Chinese herbal medicines, which often sneak into the diet in one form or another. Soups prepared with a concoction of herbs are thought to ward off colds and restore energy. Some even have a daily glass of water boiled with herbs like Chinese wolfberry, Astragalus root and red date because of their purported healthful benefits.

As attention gradually turns to more scientific endeavors such as biotechnology and the concept of preventive medicine, local food companies have begun to upgrade their marketing tactics and products. They are doing this to take advantage of people’s desire for nutritious food and their increasing awareness of what nutrition is, from a scientific standpoint. Taiwan’s health food market is largely dominated by imports, but that situation may soon change as supplements increasingly emphasize the use of Chinese herbs.

According to the Food Industry Research and Development Institute, Taiwan’s health-food market is worth roughly US$580 million. There are approximately 300 companies stocking the nation’s shelves. About 70 of them manufacture their own products for a total production value that fluctuates around US$147 million. Some of the most popular diet foods and supplements are chitosan tablets, chicken essence, fish-oil capsules and products made from the lingchi tree fungus, or Ganoderma lucidum–known in the West as reishi.

Researchers at the institute noted that local consumption of exotic products like bee propolis, grape seed extract, grain-and-herb powder, spirulina and Brazilian mushrooms has grown slowly but steadily in the past few years. These products are billed as immunity boosters, cancer inhibitors or just something that helps improve body chemistry.

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