Prebiotics set for prosperous future in Europe

The value of the European market for products containing prebiotics will almost treble within six years, according to Frost & Sullivan.

In a new report, titled 'The European Human Food & Beverage Probiotics Market,' the analyst said the continent's prebiotic products sector was worth €296 million ($421m) in 2008 but that by 2015 it would rack up sales of €767 million ($1.1bn).

Volume sales would also rise sharply over the period, from 92,000 tonnes last year to 205,000 tonnes in 2015.

Growth would be driven by the expansion of more established markets for prebiotics, such as dairy, beverages and infant nutrition, and the diversification of prebiotic ingredients into new sectors such as snack products and meat products, said Frost & Sullivan.

The increased frequency of published research results detailing the benefits of prebiotics — and effective marketing campaigns communicating these benefits to consumers — would also help sales.

The majority of the market was controlled by manufacturers of fructans (inulin and fructo-oligosaccharide), said Frost & Sullivan. But lactose-derived prebiotics (galacto-oligosaccharide and galacto-fructose) were becoming increasingly important segments. There was also good potential for the nascent segment of resistant starch prebiotics.

Although consumers might find it difficult to distinguish between the messages offered by probiotic and prebiotic products in the market, it was widely accepted that all these products had the same goal of improving digestive health, said Frost & Sullivan. The marketing efforts of large food manufacturing companies had contributed positively to raising awareness in the digestive health sector.

"Prebiotics in food and beverage products are attractive and extremely useful in a wide variety of applications," said Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Deborah Cross. "They have properties for enhancing texture, general fibre provision and, most importantly, their primary market driver is their high functionality, which corresponds with the increasingly health-driven market in Europe and the growing importance of digestive health to consumers."

One European company benefiting from the growing popularity of prebiotics is Beneo-Orafti, the Belgium-based supplier of inulin and oligofructose, prebiotic ingredients derived from the chicory plant. The company recently announced that its consumer-facing Beneo label — used to communicate that a product contains an effective dose of prebiotics — was now being used on more than 350 products in 30 countries all over the world.

Meanwhile, Dutch dairy group FrieslandCampina Domo and Australian company Warrnambool Cheese & Butter Factory have opened a new joint-venture prebiotics manufacturing plant in Australia. The move is designed to tap into the potential for growth in the prebiotics markets in China, South East Asia and the US.

The Great Ocean Ingredients factory has the capacity to make 15,000 MT of galacto-oligosaccharides, to be marketed under the brand name Vivinal GOS and used in infant nutrition, dairy products and drinks.

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