According to New Nutrition Business, probiotics and antioxidants will see a prosperous new year, but companies wishing to launch into the heart health market have missed the boat. Instead, products aimed at improving digestion will drive the market. In the 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition & Health 2008 author Julian Mellentin said that for heart health the "bus has left" and consumers have been overcrowded with products. Instead products aimed at digestion will see healthy growth. He said: "One of the most over-hyped and over-forecast growth areas of the last 10 years has been heart health. It is often identified by consumer research as being consumers' greatest health interest, but the reality in the supermarket is that very few consumers buy products primarily for their heart health benefits." Instead probiotics will continue to be a force to be reckoned with as they focus on digestive health - which, Mellentin says, is the biggest segment of the functional foods market. The report says that in Europe probiotic dairy products account for the lion's share of functional food sales. The reason for this is digestive health is a "wellness" issue, not like cholesterol-lowering or heart health which is a "death and disease" issue. Wellness benefits appeal to a wider range of consumers while "medicalised" benefits appear to a niche, he said. While consumer research might say heart health is the main health concern, sales of digestive health products are by far stronger and outsell heart health products. Probiotic carriers Mellentin predicts the next new carrier for probiotics could be fruit juice. While companies have been making steps to add probiotics into other products, such as bread and breakfast cereals, Mellentin says fruit juice has the opportunity to be more successful than any other category and to take a second place to dairy products. He said: "Fruit juice is consumed everywhere, appeals to all types of consumers, has little or no negatives associated with it and can be delivered in highly convenient packages to allow individual, on-the-go consumption." He adds that fruit is already set in consumers minds as a natural and credible carrier for digestive health. Indeed, the president of Danisco Cultures Fabienne Saadane-Oaks told NutraIngredients.com in November that strain stability and further development of new health benefits are the two main drivers which will push probiotics over the next few years. Science is continuing to research the role of probiotics and understand its health benefits outside of their traditional role in the gastro-intestinal system. "Research will reveal a wealth of new niches for makers of branded products in the future, but in the short term it's probiotics for immunity that have the strongest prospects," he said. While fruit juice might be an opening, it would still remain niche and the opportunities beyond dairy are few and far between. Antioxidants According to the report, another big trend in the industry is antioxidants which have become almost as favourable as probiotics, due to the fact they are easily understood by the consumer. Antioxidants have also helped dark chocolate to be reinvented as healthier, and the chocolate industry in the midst of a long-term repositioning of dark chocolate as an indulgent but healthy item. The word antioxidant signals healthy to a small but fast-growing group of consumers, Mellentin said. He added: "Antioxidants have been linked to multiple possible health benefits. This provides a number of possible directions for food marketers to take, including immune support, cardiovascular health and skin health."