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Nestlé enters functional foods ring as claims climate heats up

By Shane Starling , 30-Sep-2010

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On Monday Nestlé invited a media pack to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology near its Lausanne, Switzerland, base to tell the world about its big move into, as it called it, “the opportunity between food and pharma”.

In the next ten years, the biggest food company in the world is going to throw about 500m Swiss francs at Nestlé Health Science – the new enterprise that will kick into life in the new year to lead its work in developing foods that can ward off or even prevent disease.

In Lausanne the company spoke of the evolution of food science; the ability of healthy foods to ease public healthcare burdens; ageing populations; vulnerable populations – but there were few details about the ingredients to be studied and the products that are likely to come out the other of the pipeline.

One thing is clear though - Nestlé Health Science begins life at a time when proving nutrient-health benefit relationships has never been more difficult as regulators around the world bring new levels of scrutiny to the science backing supposedly healthy foods and supplements.

The new two-pronged company will be run at arm’s length from Nestlé’s core activities from and kick off by incorporating its Nestlé HealthCare Nutrition division which turned over 1.6bn Swiss francs last year.

The pure research part of the new set-up is the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences which has taken some real estate at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology alongside the likes of Nokia, Cisco and Credit Suisse. Little detail has emerged other than obesity, diabetes, neurological disorders and aging being focus points.

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