CHICAGO — The functional food market already reaches sales of about $20 billion to $30 billion per year, and the market has an estimated growth range of 8.5% to 20% per year, according to a report called "Leveraging Growth in the Emerging Functional Foods Industry: Trends and Market Opportunities" and released by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) in August.

The report defines functional foods as foods fortified with nutritional and disease-preventing qualities that aim to promote better health and well-being, prevent the onset of chronic diseases and increase longevity.

"Our study shows the tremendous need for education — for consumers, the industry, the health care profession and investors interested in this dynamic space — about what functional foods are and where the opportunities lie across segments," said Glenn Pappalardo, strategy retail and consumer team leader and director, Transaction Services at PwC.

The functional foods market represents about 5% of the U.S. food market, according to the report. The U.S. functional food market represents between 35% and 50% of global functional food sales with Asia-Pacific being the next biggest market.

When breaking down the functional foods market by food type, soft drinks and dairy products constitute 60% of the market. When breaking down the functional foods market by health benefit, energy is the largest benefit with 29% of the market.