Psst – Have You Heard About the Surge in Functional Health Beverages?

Improve your memory? Lift your mood? Relieve tension? A growing market of “functional health beverages” enhanced with herbs and other ingredients promise to improve your health. But do these drinks really offer health benefits? Judging by the reaction to these products the answer is a resounding, yes.

Americans want to be healthier and also discover the fountain of youth and longevity. The food industry is rushing to fulfill this new desire. The new buzzword is “functional health beverages and foods.” Functional beverages (also known as “neutraceuticals”) are beverages fortified with dietary supplements and herbal medicines. And they are becoming a multi-billion dollar industry.

Experts predict Americans will buy more bottled water than coffee or beer. Artificial flavors are losing ground to drinks with “all natural” claims. Antioxidant tea products are now the rage. And at least one brand of coffee is adding herbs and minerals to its beans. Energy drinks are the fastest growing supermarket category — with sports drinks right behind.

Japan was a pioneer in functional beverages and foods consuming nearly twice as many functional beverages as any other nationality. The Japanese have always made the direct connection between what you eat and drink and what you are, and they’ve long viewed their diets as being a primary source of health and medication.

Energy drinks have been established in Japan for decades and are also known as tonic drinks. Initially targeted at young consumers (and routinely used by this demographic as alcohol drink mixes), these drinks are now being aimed at people of all ages who need a healthy energy boost. People now understand that almost everything we take in has some kind of effect-this is a new kind of knowledge. Consumers are more empowered because of this knowledge, and companies are responding to this new found personal edification.

Other market sectors are continuing to expand. Enriched juices and juice-based drinks fortified with vitamins and minerals are gaining in popularity, as are herbal-infused beverages. All this goes well for the functional beverages industry. Functional health beverages are going more mainstream, because consumers have become much more holistic-minded, so companies are now meeting them in the middle. There is a consciousness out there now that very small amounts of something can have a very significant effect.

The functional beverages industry has attracted the attention of traditional beverage manufacturers focused on expanding their product ranges in the face of falling sales of old stand-bys such as carbonates. Pepsi’s purchase of Gatorade and South Beach Beverages Sobe, Cadbury Schweppes’ purchase of the Snapple and Mistic brands are a few examples. Products affiliated with major sporting brands, such as Reebok and Umbro sports and performance drinks, also are infiltrating the market. More sophisticated products, such as fast-rehydration drinks, are becoming popular, especially in Japan, where stamina enhancing sports drinks with added ingredients to aid performance are becoming more popular.

Wellness and nutraceutical drink products are increasingly being targeted at specific segments of the population, for example, age, gender, lifestyle and particular health conditions. Examples include Sunny Delight for children and drinks for women. Targeting specific segments of the population has been the motivation for many new products such as, women-specific products, issue-oriented products, for example, prostate and breast cancer prevention.

At present, the sports drink market is the most mature and therefore presents little opportunity for growth, which has become apparent already in the US and Japanese markets. Across all functional health beverage product lines, energy drinks are the fastest-growing sector, a trend that shows no sign of slowing in the immediate future.

The nutraceutical-wellness drink sector is the least developed but possibly the most exciting category, with drinks containing ingredients such as probiotics, prebiotics, soy proteins and phytosterols. Over-the-top premium pricing policies have also restricted sales in some circumstances, although a recent US survey showed 40 per cent of consumers were willing to pay a premium for products containing added nutritional benefits.

The same study ranked these benefits and found energy enhancement, illness prevention, heart health, anticancer effects, relaxation, mood enhancement and sexual enhancement were the most desirable. With interest in these kinds of products higher than ever, the future looks bright for this category. The 1990s fueled a health and lifestyle revolution that resulted in consumer demand for foods and beverages that provide both nourishment and good taste, at the right price. The beverage industry, with functional drinks, has successfully met those desires by selling a broad range of products–juices, energy drinks, smoothies, soy-based beverages, enhanced isotonics, enhanced water, teas that fulfills a nutritional need.

Claims for many of these drinks have not been proven and the amount of added ingredients is neither standardized nor identified on the label. And their safety — optimal doses, interactions and long-term consequences — isn’t known. Some skeptics believe the best approach for healthy living and feeling energetic is to eat healthfully, get regular physical activity and give yourself time to relax.

US consumers spent more than $25 billion dollars on ‘wellness drinks’ in 2005, making up 12% of all soft drinks spending across the US and Europe. The market represents a major opportunity for drink marketers, as consumers become aware of the link between diet and lifestyle.

What is important about the Wellness Industry? How about the definition: wellness is anything that makes you feel healthier, stronger, see better, hear better, feel better, or fight symptoms of ageing. The Sickness Industry’s definition is more in line with healthcare: anything concerned with being sick and treating symptoms of sickness. The Sickness Industry has little to do with preventing illness, being stronger or healthier which increases the popularity of the functional health beverages and food products. People are tired of popping pills for everything that ails them and are taking a more holistic or as some say looking at alternative health treatments rather than the traditional medical care that most of us have grown accustomed to.

The Wellness industry is going through a boom. Before the end of this decade, it is estimated that the Wellness industry may surpass the revolution. This is an exciting time.

Whether its drinks or spreads, yogurts or desserts, functional foods and beverages are among the fastest-growing categories in the food industry. If this looks like the 80s all over again, this newly discovered health trend has got to be the strongest yet. Consumers approach to health is different this time; it’s more aggressive, sophisticated, and here to stay.

Group VS Individual Health Insurance: You Do Have A Choice?

If you’re looking at health insurance, you know there are lots of plans out there to choose from. However, there are two definitive types available that sorts health insurance plans into two separate categories: group insurance plans and individual health insurance plans. Determining which type of coverage you want to subscribe to means sorting through all the different factors involved so you can find a plan you can afford that gives you the coverage you need. Which type of policy is going to give you the best health care and which one will you be able to afford?

Individual health care plans are plans that insurance companies sell to individuals and their families that aren’t a part of any particular group. This usually means as long as the doctor, hospital or other medical facility accepts insurance from the company you’re subscribing to, you can go wherever you want to receive medical care. Unfortunately individual plans are usually more expensive than group plans and fewer medical facilities accept those policies. This means that under most circumstances an “individual plan” isn’t what most people will ascribe to.

Group policies, unlike individual insurance plans are designed for larger groups of people to enroll in. Because insurance is based on statistics, becoming part of a group plan means that your overall insurance costs are reduced because the overall costs for a large group will be a known quantity so insurance companies know how to mitigate those costs accordingly. Group policies were initially designed for large corporations and other large groups that required some type of membership in order to be eligible. These have since evolved into two basic types of group insurance plans that anyone can become a part of: HMO’s and PPO’s.

Unlike finding individual health insurance plans, HMO’s or health maintenance organizations will require you to select a primary care physician such as a general practitioner in the program that will oversee your health care. Your initial contact for any health care issue will be through them and they will give you a referral to specialists, hospitals and other health care facilities except in the case of an emergency. This means all your health care needs are managed from a single point.

PPO’s or preferred provider organizations allow you to go to any doctor, specialist or facility in the network. Similar to finding individual health insurance policies where you’re looking for flexibility, these give you the cost benefits of a group policy with a lot more flexibility. There are still restrictions in that you have to find medical care that is a part of the network, but you don’t have the limitation of a primary care provider to manage your health care program.

While you do have a choice when it comes to finding individual health insurance versus group plans, the bottom line is the bottom line. Work with your health insurance professional to find the package that will give you the health care coverage you need at a price you can afford. The professionals will be able to present you with options that you’ll be able to understand and will help you make an informed decision.

Why a New Trend of Blue Collar Workers Are Outsourcing Their Medical Needs

Blue collar workers account for an increasing percentage of people outsourcing their medical needs to the medical tourism industry. Uninsured and underinsured laborers are tired of the rising medical costs and the astronomical costs of insurance coverage in developed countries.

Case after case is being shared about blue collar workers seeking alternatives to the out of control healthcare costs at home. A typical scenario is that of a laborer who suddenly finds himself in need of heart surgery or a knee replacement. The choice for many of these workers is to either do without the surgery, empty out the lifetime savings account, use the retirement account or sell their home. Like millions of others in need of a costly medical procedure, they simply cannot afford it.

In some instances, wait time is also a factor. In countries such as Canada, for those with needs that some of us might perceive to be a priority, there is a waiting list up to a year long. Reportedly, it is the bureaucratic red tape that is often the sole hindrance to timely medical care. A person can literally die waiting for approval for a life saving surgical procedure in a developed country, yet the same procedure can be obtained at a medical tourism destination with little effort.

Medical tourism offers hope to blue collar workers and others who are in need of medical procedures but cannot afford them, cannot wait for them, or do not want to use their retirement accounts to pay for the procedure.

In some instances, it is not the worker who is making the decision to have the procedure done overseas. Medical tourism facilities have started heavy marketing campaigns to Western employers, particularly those who employ the blue collar labor force. More and more, it is the employer who suggests (and in some instances, mandates) having the surgery done in another country.

The bottom line is that the worker in need of a heart bypass can obtain one in another country for $10,000 vs. $70,000 in the US. He can get a knee replacement for $6,000 vs. $50,000! It can be scheduled within a couple of weeks in another country, rather than wait a year or more in the US or Canada.

Ten years ago, the concept of medical tourism was new and received bad media coverage in developed countries. It was misunderstood and given bad press. Today, that trend has not only reversed, but medical tourism is being embraced as a viable option for people in need of affordable medical care.

Case studies and statistics verify that medical tourism offers top quality medical care in accredited facilities. A growing number of facilities that offer medical tourism are accredited by the IOS (International Organization of Standardization) and the JCI (Joint Commission International).

Many of the doctors who work in these medical tourism facilities have studied in the developed countries and then have returned to work in their home countries. A person in need of having a medical procedure done can rest assured that he will be cared for by highly qualified staff, with proficient translators standing by!

India has a goal of becoming the choice destination for medical tourists, and they are marketing to the blue collar workers who are need of both medical services and a long overdue vacation. Making the choice to obtain medical services in India means that the average laborer could travel with a companion to a state of the art facility in India, have the procedure done, and recover in a five star resort setting, for about 1/8 of the cost of having the procedure done at home.

If India is not appealing, there are multiple other options. Destinations such as Thailand, Costa Rica, Mexico, Singapore and Panama are also exotic choices for the medical tourist. In many instances, post-surgical recovery can be done in a beach front resort. Once the patient has sufficiently recovered from surgery, there are plenty of shopping and activity options available to the medical tourist.

The concept of going to a third world country to obtain a package of services that supercedes what is available at home is becoming more widely understood and accepted. Just as the economy has become a global economy, so it is with the medical field. It is becoming commonplace practice for a person to travel abroad for all types of medical procedures. We are seeing, in the 21st Century, that we are truly living in a world with no medical borders!

As insurance costs rise at home, and wait time lengthens in the midst of government red tape, blue collar workers are taking advantage of an industry that once belonged to the elite white collar workers. Medical tourism is a viable option for obtaining timely and quality medical services in a vacation paradise, for a fraction of the cost of the same medical procedure in the home country.

Copyright (c) 2008