In general, health food is food that is supposed to provide health effects for humans that go beyond a normal and healthy diet. This may be whole foods or organic foods but also dietary supplements. More specifically, functional food is described as food that gives an additional function - mostly related to health promotion or disease prevention - by adding specific nutrients such as vitamins or minerals. Herbal medicines are defined as one type of dietary supplements. Mostly, they are sold as tablets, capsules, powders, teas, extracts or dried plants. Just like the categories mentioned above, herbal medicine is used to maintain or improve health.
Countries in Asia Pacific are the largest consumer of functional foods worldwide. In Australia, sales of vitamin and dietary supplements increased drastically during the last years, from around 1.4 billion Australian dollars to over 2.3 billion Australian dollars. A similar pattern can be observed when it comes to sports nutrition in Australia; sales figures increased by almost 50 percent. The largest share of this category’s revenue comes from vitamins and supplements and is followed by sports nutrition and herbal products.
Results of a survey revealed that over half of the consumers avoid certain ingredients such as antibiotics or hormones in animal products, MSG, artificial preservatives, flavors, colors and sweeteners. In addition, a large share of the population avoids sugar or sodium. Generally, over half of the survey participants think that they eat a healthy diet. This might be due to the fact that more than 40 percent of Australians claimed to have added vitamins, minerals or supplements to their normal diet in the last year.