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New Food Ingredients are Providing the Opportunities for the Functional Food Industry

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In recent years, the implementation of the “Health China” strategy and the upgrading of food consumption awareness show the support of the national authorities and also reflect the importance consumers place on the functional ingredients and nutrition. “Functional food” industry has an increasing demand, based on the research, the market size of functional food will exceed 600 billion RMB this year.

This article will introduce what the “functional food” is and how the new food ingredients boost this industry.

What is the definition of functional food?

Actually, there is no definition of functional food from the regulation point of view, which means currently there is no food category called as functional food based on the regulations, therefore, it is unable to provide the definition from the regulation. It is more like a concept, commonly referred by the industry. Functional food includes health food (food supplement), but the scope of functional food is more than just health food (food supplements). Based on the active ingredients and nutrition of the products, functional food consists of functional carbohydrates, functional lipids, plant ingredients, probiotics and other food products. With the high incidence of “lifestyle diseases”, the reasonable intake of functional foods could modify organic functions of the humans to some extent.

Looking back to 2021, new functional food ingredients inject new impetus into the market

According to the requirements in the food safety law, new food ingredients are required to undergo the safety assessment by the China authority National Health Commission before being used in the food products. In the recent years, with the high speed of development of functional food in China, the new food ingredients are continuously being innovated and applied.

For instance: Representative of 2021: Sodium hyaluronate

Studies have shown that hyaluronic acid has certain effects in promoting the body repair, smoothing the skin, protecting the health of the gastrointestinal tract, etc., and it is easy to take orally. Sodium hyaluronate is in sodium salt form, and it improves its water solubility and facilitates the application in food. As back in 2008, sodium hyaluronate has been approved as new food ingredient, but its application scope is in health food (food supplement) only. However, in January of 2021, the application scope of sodium hyaluronate has been extended to common food categories such as beverages and candies. After the approval published, a number of multiple products containing sodium hyaluronate have been successively developed and marketed. The topic of “why the beauty related ingredient sodium hyaluronate can be taken orally?” is one of the nine top hotspots of food safety and health in 2021.

Looking forward to 2022, new functional food ingredient are still hot

As of May 18 this year, based on the official and draft approval of China authority NHC, many of the approval related to functional food ingredient

Ingredient: Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) disodium salt

  • Status: Approved (No. 1 notice of 2022)
  • Approved Scope: beverages

The main component of the substance PQQ, is a new type of oxidoreductase prosthetic group, which naturally exists in the organs and tissues of microorganisms, plants and human beings. This ingredient can be involved in catalyzing redox reactions in living organisms, and its research and application mainly focus on the antioxidant, protects nerve cells and promotes bran health.

Ingredient: Sugarcane Polyphenols

  • Status: Approved (No. 2 notice of 2022)
  • Approved Scope: all kinds of food categories

This ingredient is extracted from sugar cane, and its main component is total polyphenols, which have strong antioxidant activity and can reduce the GI level of food or beverages. It has been approved in several countries and regions including Taiwan, USA, EU, Australia and New Zealand.

Ingredient: Arabinoxylan

  • Status: Draft approval
  • Intended approved scope: all kinds of food categories

Arabinoxylan is an insoluble fiber extracted from grasses such as bagasse, wheat bran, and corn husk. At present, it is widely used in the food or dietary supplement industry. After it was approved finally, it is believed that it will be widely used in the food industry.

Which points should be paid attention to when applying for the new food ingredient?

When applying for the new ingredient, the dossiers shall be prepared from the safety and nutrition point of view, and it shall emphasize less on its function. For instance, applicants could to prove the safety of the ingredient from the following points:

Own Characteristics

1) Clarify the structure, physical and chemical properties, production ingredients of the new ingredients;

2) Collect the research data or clinical trial data (including public data) on the safety of this ingredient.

Consumption history

1) The approved use of the ingredient in the China or other countries;

2) The sales proof of the commercial products containing the ingredient on the market.

3) Consumption history of this ingredient from the literature and papers.

Test report

1)Analysis of the main ingredient and possible harmful substances naturally presents;

2)Test reports on pollutants, microorganism, physical and chemical Aspects;

3)Sufficient toxicological evaluation report.

Safety evaluation assessment

This report is also the necessary report to be submitted for a new food ingredient application. The assessment shall be conducted by the qualified institution.

Besides, the characteristics of each food ingredients are different, the research shall be conducted based on their characteristics. Apart from the content mentioned in the table, information such as quality specifications of the food ingredient, effective test method as well as the stable production process shall be submitted for the application.


With the development and progress of the science, the research on food function has received much attention. After each new functional food ingredient gets the ingredient approval, it will boost the innovation and upgrading of the food industry. Also, behind the application of any emerging functional ingredient, there are a lot of long-term scientific studies to prove its safety or effectiveness on the human body.

The good news is that in recent years, more and more functional food ingredients have got approved in China. Enterprises that intend to apply for the new food ingredient need to prepare sufficient dossier materials such as R&D and safety assessment, and avoid taking "detours" to shorten the timeline for getting new food ingredients approved, and accelerate the develop the application of the ingredients.

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