Both home-grown and international manufacturers and suppliers are showing faith in Australia and New Zealand's health and wellness foods category by investing heavily in the pre- and probiotic sectors—even if much of the public understands little about the potential benefits of these kinds of ingredients.
According to a Frost and Sullivan report, the pre- and probiotics segments in the two countries possess 'immense potential' despite mass-market consumers lacking 'a clear understanding of the specific nature of gastrointestinal functioning and the concept of probiotic action.' This potential is being fed by an increased interest in functional foods coupled with favourable media coverage of the benefits of probiotics, according to a Frost and Sullivan research analyst.
The report notes that with an ageing population, probiotics were at the forefront of research into ingredients that help combat age-associated degenerative diseases as well as tackle lifestyle-related diseases, such as high blood pressure. Research also indicates probiotics can assist in the battle against colon cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Making the public aware of these benefits is just one of the challenges faced by producers. Others include:
- Technological and research challenges
- Lack of specific regulation on probiotic count Poor communication of functional food concepts
- Extension of prebiotics and probiotics to non-dairy products.
Denmark-based Chr Hansen is the largest probiotic ingredients supplier to the Australian market, which is 80 per cent yoghurt-dominated. Other leading suppliers are DSM, Rhodia and Danisco. Fermented milks are the other major category with Yakult being by far the dominant end product.
Hansen is actively engaged in public education programmes, probiotics marketing manager Christian Bejder said. "It's vital the public knows as much as possible, especially in a climate where health claims regulations are so restrictive."
Despite the strength of yoghurt products, Bejder said his company, which has had operations in Australia for more than a century, has noticed a definite shift toward probiotic beverages.