Does the NHCR foster innovation in the EU food sector by encouraging collaborations?


*Corresponding author
Chair for Technology and Innovation Management in Agribusiness, Institute for Food and Resource Economics,
University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany


The implementation of the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 seems to have brought winds of change in the EU food sector. Insights from an empirical study indicated that although companies perceived to face some compliance challenges with respect to the NHCR, the regulation seemed to encourage collaborations in the EU food sector and thereby foster innovation. It could be observed that companies could deal with this regulation by adopting strategies like working on the data and evidence, communicating health benefits of products without using health claims, changing the communication medium or method, using already approved health claims etc. Overall, collaborations with sources of external knowledge appear to play a key role in the relationship between the NHCR and innovation.


Currently, functional foods - e.g. probiotic yoghurt, vitamin juice, omega-3 eggs - comprise one of the fastest growing sectors of the European Union’s (EU) food industry. By means of nutrition and health claims, these products present innovation opportunities to traditional food companies and also enable pharmaceutical companies to enter the consumer market (1, 2). These claims convey the ‘extra’ functionalities or non-observable (credence) attributes of functional food products to end-consumers. In the EU, regulatory frameworks governing nutrition and health were heterogeneous, and still evolving across Member States until the adoption of the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 (NHCR) on 1st July 2007. The NHCR is the very first regulation which harmonises governance of nutrition and health claims in the EU. It uses a pre-market approval system based on scientific evidence to assess these claims. This regulation is a unique development, since it belongs to the few regulatory frameworks which aim to promote innovation in the EU food sector. Therefore, the EU food sector largely welcomed the NHCR with the hope of o ...