4 Insights to Note Before Entering the Probiotic Market

woman shopping for yogurt

Successful probiotic products have a few important things in common, according to this industry veteran

KerryDigest Fast Facts:
  • Probiotics are growing quickly due to the demand for clean label, consumer health concerns and the popularity of personalised nutrition, among other reasons.
  • Manufacturers can best enter the probiotic market by: 
    • Expanding their probiotic products beyond the customary applications;
    • giving consumers access to key details about their probiotics, including strain-specific data and research-backed health claims; and 
    • utilizing a quality, science-supported probiotic that remains viable in the finished product. 
KerryDigest Full Scoop:

The current surge in the popularity of probiotics and probiotic products can be attributed to a convergence of trends: better-for-you and clean label products are in demand; consumers want more control of their health, including what happens in their digestive tracts; a growing host of health problems that seem to be tied to gut bacteria and the imbalance of strains in the gut; and the buzzy emergence of personalised nutrition, wherein a custom diet offers optimal nutrition and wellness solutions.

Given the hype, there is untapped opportunity in the probiotic market, which is projected to grow at a 7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to a value of $64 billion by 2022, according to the research firm MarketsandMarkets. But special attention needs to be paid to the probiotic customer—who tends to be well-educated on nutrition and health—as well as to the actual probiotics, which, as living organisms, must be treated with more care than traditional ingredients.

Here, four often overlooked factors that can help you have success in the probiotic market.

Almost Any Shelf Stable Food or Refrigerated Beverage Can be Fortified

Nutritionally, supplements and fortified foods and beverages can offer similar benefits. But consumers are choosing the latter for one good reason: while it’s easy to forget to take a pill, eating is a must. Research from MarketsandMarkets shows that functional foods and beverages are by far the biggest segment of the probiotic market, currently standing at $38 billion and representing more than 80% of the total market.

When formulating foods and beverages with probiotics, it’s wise to select an application that’s already consumed on a regular basis—that way it fits right into a consumer’s routine. Anecdotally, it’s more common for a person to eat the same breakfast and snack day after day than the same dinner or lunch. As such, morning favorites such as orange juice, cereal and oatmeal are a few products to consider fortifying with probiotics, and so are prepackaged snacks. If you’re able to launch the same strain in more than one product, all the better—people like some variety in what they eat, and if they get good results from a particular strain, they may seek it out in multiple applications.

People Want Control

As consumers get more in tune with the benefits of specific probiotic strains, they are becoming loyal to those that work with their unique demands, such as digestion, immunity or protein utilisation. That’s why labeling a product as simply containing “probiotics” will no longer cut it. It’s not a best practice, according to the International Probiotics Association, in part because savvy consumers are becoming sceptical about this generic claim, opting to seek out strains they have prior experience with or looking for a branded strain that can provide research-supported health benefits. These informed consumers are helping to build the personalised health movement, and the more education and information you can provide, the easier you make it for them to select your product again and again.

Different Strains, Different Parameters

A frequent misunderstanding is that all probiotic strains are the same. In the world of probiotics, strain differentiation is not just important, it’s vital, because probiotic strains each possess their own distinct characteristics that may influence safety, efficacy, benefits and suitability for certain applications. When selecting a probiotic, it’s important to look at the research supporting that strain specifically.

In addition to ensuring you deliver the specific health benefits consumers are seeking, understanding the difference between probiotic types can help you identify a probiotic that best fits your product formulation needs. For instance, some probiotic strains are heat intolerant, which means they will be destroyed in your probiotic oatmeal just as soon as a consumer starts to warm up a bowl. Others may lack the resiliency and stability required to withstand common food or beverage processing conditions. It’s important to match the right strain to whatever food and beverage you plan to produce, because a probiotic is worthless if it’s unstable in your product.

Test Your Bacteria (and then test it again)

You’ve settled on a product and a strain. But before you take it to market, make sure the finished food or beverage you’re about to offer to consumers contains the efficacious amount of probiotic to support the benefits you are conveying.

If your company’s labs aren’t equipped to check these counts, see if your probiotic supplier can do so. (Some may offer to do so for free.) By using standard microbiological methods, it’s fairly straightforward to test how much of the bacteria is in a particular food serving. It never hurts to get a second opinion, and there are a number of validated outside labs that will also do this testing. To maintain the credibility that comes with a premium probiotic product, it is essential that all probiotic products support their claims.

The article “Probiotics: Dispelling Myths,” from the Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute, includes more information about navigating the world of probiotics. To learn more about opportunities in the probiotics market or about BC30®, a Kerry brand of probiotics found in over 900 products worldwide, contact Kerry—be sure to mention “probiotics” in the comment section.

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