Probiotics sales proliferate at stunning rate in 2011

Probiotics sales proliferate at stunning rate in 2011

Sales of probiotics supplements alone, which account for only a little more than 6 percent of the market, totaled nearly $2.3 billion last year, outstripping soy products by about $200 million, according to market data tracker SPINS. The lion’s share of sales was in probiotic foods.

The market is being buoyed by a seemingly constant stream of research studies on the health benefits conveyed by various strains of probiotics, and probably by a megatrend noted by the advertising agency Sterling Rice Group (SRG) that it calls “Doctor Me.” The healthcare crisis, SRG says, is forcing people to take charge of their own wellbeing, aided by access to unprecedented information and options.

Mike Bush, vice president of business development at Ganeden Biotech, makers of GanedenBC30, one of the only strains that can survive the heat and stress of a manufacturing process, says that the probiotic-food sector is booming. “It’s everything from the yogurt and dairy, through kombucha and baked goods like cookies, pasta and pizza dough. As the US consumer begins to bridge the difference between digestive and immune benefits, we expect to see even more growth.”

Data bears that out. Sales of probiotics-containing foods grew 31.4 percent since last year, from $901,954 to $1.18 million for the 52-week period ending in February 2011.

Keys to future growth forecast a 7.6 percent annual growth rate through 2015. Another market research firm, Companies and Markets, predicts annual sales to reach $31.1 billion by 2015. But these figures could change dramatically with several variables, such as improved consumer education.

This is the key to future growth, Bush says, but probiotics studies are more complicated than most consumers are willing to pursue. To date, a few companies such as Yakult and Danone are doing a decent job of informing consumers through advertising. You could add Next Foods, makers of GoodBelly probiotic fruit drink, to that list. Next Foods puts forth a concerted effort through social media, and through such programs as its “Like Minded Brands” outreach, working in tandem with brands targeting LOHAS consumers for mutual promotion, providing access to each other’s consumer base.

On the supplement side, Bush points to good consumer education from Schiff, Proctor & Gamble and Bayer.

New applications and delivery

Beyond the positive influence of more studies expected to be published late this year and next, the next spike in sales might well come from new applications for probiotics on the horizon. Bush says that Ganeden is working on new research targeted at the lucrative athletic and performance markets, for instance.

New delivery systems that help probiotics survive the human stomach environment, such as a new coating system developed by the Danish company Bifodan, or the nanotech solutions of the Belgian company Vesale Pharma, have potential also to boost the market.

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