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Novartis withdraws “Functional Foods” from international markets

Functional milk hoped to increase the consumer's energy Keystone Archive

The Swiss pharmaceuticals giant, Novartis, has withdrawn so-called Functional Foods from trial markets in Switzerland, Austria and Britain. The company said consumers had been put off by the price of the scientifically-enhanced products, as well as the distinctive taste.

One-and-a-half years after its launch, Novartis said it was shelving high-nutrition products, in the “Aviva” range which included drinks, biscuits, muesli and granola bars.

“The main reasons for the lack of response from consumers were pricing and taste,” Mark Hill, a Novartis spokesman, told swissinfo. “One of the additional factors was the fact that consumers were not necessarily ready for this kind of product,” he added.

Hill said that in Britain, for example, there was “a high degree of uncertainty about what food goods actually contain.” In 1998, the British media whipped up public concern over genetically altered food, nicknamed “Frankenstein Foods”.

Functional foods have “scientifically proved benefits” and contain added ingredients to improve health, Hill said from Novartis’ offices in Basel.

The first range of products served to reduce cholesterol levels. “This included a snack bar, breakfast cereal and biscuits. Then there was a range of products with bone benefits and a further range of products with digestive benefits,” Hill said.

However, the news of the withdrawals does not spell the end of Novartis’ venture with Functional Foods. “In the United States, we have a joint venture with Quaker Oats and we will look to bring new products to the market,” Hill added.

Novartis said the hi-tech food market in the US is worth between $10 billion and $20 billion, with a growth potential of 10 per cent per year.


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR