There are some 10 trillion bacterial cells inhabiting the human gastrointestinal tract, and yet there are only 10 billion human cells in the entire body. It raises the legitimate question of just what we are made of and who’s running the show here.
Probiotics—the so-called “friendly bacteria” populating the GI tract—are the No. 1 ingredient by sales in both natural and conventional retail channels, according to SPINS data. What’s more, our understanding of how bacteria affect our health—let alone how probiotic products might—has barely scratched the surface.
The probiotic market today is worth double-digit billions and promises continued rapid growth. Although the competition is deep, consumer demand is skyrocketing.
“We are only now beginning to understand the connection the gut has to every other part of the body,” says James Johnson, research analyst at Nutrition Business Journal. “If the current scientific understanding of the gut holds up, there is no reason why every food, beverage and supplement should not have a pro- or prebiotic inside.”
Sales of probiotic supplements and products are growing like the contents of a petri dish someone forgot to refrigerate overnight, totaling $1.4 billion in 2014, which is 18 percent higher than 2013 sales, according to NBJ. Those bugs will continue to bring in billions—an estimated $2.1 billion in 2017, and $3.1 billion in 2020. And every day seems to bring a new study touting the healthy powers of probiotics.
The leading target for probiotics continues to be women ages 18 to 40, says Mike Bush, interim president of the International Probiotics Association and vice president of business development at probiotic supplier Ganeden Biotech. There’s more potential for a finer focus on that demographic, like the Credible Cravings bar designed for pregnant and nursing mothers. He also sees great potential in probiotics-fortified food for kids and athletes.
Another opportunity is the infant formula market. While select infant formulas do contain probiotics, they represent only about 6 percent of the market by volume. By 2024, Lux Research forecasts the probiotic/infant formulas market will claim 72 percent of the infant formula market share by volume.
While the benefits are strain-specific and condition-specific, consumers mainly look for a general claim that they link to digestive health, says Bush. “Probiotics recognition is at an all-time high,” he says.
“We see the main trend in probiotics to be in functional food,” says Bush. “Consumers want probiotics in a way that’s convenient to their lifestyles. That’s why we’re focusing on fortifying foods that consumers are already eating,” he says, citing coffee, tea and cereal as examples of a few of the 85 food products that use the company’s Ganeden BC30 strain.
Ingredient innovations broaden category scope
Ganeden Biotech’s BC30 strain of Bacillus coagulans was the pioneer of the so-called “spore former” bacteria, which means it is protected by a shell that keeps the bacteria alive until it reaches the specific pH of the lower GI tract. The protective shell also protects the bacteria from the heat and shear processing conditions that are encountered in food and beverage manufacturing. With that unique attribute, the company is successfully integrating the probiotic into food and beverage delivery formats that consumers habitually turn to on a daily basis, such as coffee and tea.
Fellow ingredient supplier Sabinsa has its own spore-former, LactoSpore, which is finding success in applications ranging from digestion to sports and in product formats ranging from foods and drinks to even soap and topicals.
“Spore-forming probiotics such as LactoSpore have allowed formulators to test the limits when it comes to formulating with probiotics,” says Shaheen Majeed, marketing director for Sabinsa.
Majeed notes that marketers have wised up enough to begin asking about specific strains.
“This means that many non-strain-specific probiotics will find it difficult to stay on the market. Even the bacteria belonging to the same species are not equivalent in their physical and biological activity.”
Other advances in manufacturing technology, like Nutracutix’s LiveBac process, have ...
This isn’t the half of it. To read the rest on probiotics—including the science and marketing that are broadening the category scope—as well as the renowned Engredea SWOT analysis on probiotics, download the free 2015-16 Ingredient Market Forecast. Fully 10 different ingredient classes are covered, including caffeine and omega-3s. Click below to have the report sent to your email when it becomes available in mid-June.