Manufacturers to Benefit from Increasing Prebiotics-Containing End Products

London, UK - 27th January, 2004 --Unlike probiotics, whose use is limited to chilled dairy and supplement products, the potential applications range for prebiotics is much broader. Prebiotics can be incorporated into a variety of end products including dairy, breads, supplements, cereals, snacks, beverages, chocolates, meat and confectionery. This presents prebiotic suppliers with the opportunity to significantly expand volume sales and revenue.

It also signals an opportunity for suppliers to build close ties with food manufacturers that can incorporate prebiotics into their products. A prominent example of this trend has been the Beneo project established by Orafti in collaboration with several food producers in Belgium, Switzerland and Spain. This project has successfully promoted the use of prebiotics in food applications.

Anna Ibbotson, Food Research Manager from Frost & Sullivan ( notes, "By encouraging the use of prebiotics in many sectors of the food industry, market participants can swiftly raise awareness amongst food manufacturers and consumers."

As prebiotic suppliers launch a swarm of new products, consumer perception is becoming increasingly favourable. From yoghurt drinks, gingerbread and fruit juice to low-fat sausage, chocolate and fibre-fortified crème caramel, the number of prebiotics containing products is consistently increasing.

The prevalence of gut health problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn's disease, has led consumers to search for effective preventative measures. Promotional efforts of probotic manufacturers have raised public awareness about beneficial bacteria, in general, and the positive impact of probiotic ingredients on gut health, in particular. This is set to have a positive cascade effect on consumer awareness of and the uptake of prebiotics.

The inclusion of prebiotic products along with probiotics in symbiotic dairy products (such as ToniLait's Symbalance yogurt) is expected to further improve knowledge of and demand for prebiotics.

At the same time, the supplementary properties of certain prebiotic ingredients apart from their prebiotic ability, is generating further growth opportunity. This has meshed well with the rising consumer interest in functional and health foods.

For instance, the beneficial gut and cardiovascular effects of inulin, a soluble dietary fibre, is well established. It is also known to boost mineral absorption and lower blood glucose levels. Oligosaccharides can be included in food applications as substitutes for fat and sugar while resistant starch can be used in the development of high-fibre products. Several prebiotics also have purely practical properties such as enhancing the texture and mouth feel of a food product, without significantly altering its taste.

"Although this widens the market opportunity for prebiotics, it can also make marketing of the ingredients more complex for prebiotic suppliers as it is not always easy to tell what customers are using their products for," warns Ibbotson.

Recent EU proposals to regulate health claims made on food and supplement products are expected to fundamentally impact the prebiotics market. These proposals seek to prohibit vague or 'soft' health claims that a foodstuff promotes general well-being while setting more rigorous standards for specific or 'hard' health claims. This is likely to produce both challenges and opportunities for suppliers in the prebiotic market.

"Claims that prebiotic ingredients are good for maintaining general gut health may not be permitted under the proposed regulations, potentially limiting some market growth," explains Ibbotson. "However, this also represents a considerable opportunity for those companies that have necessary scientific documentation to gain firm approval from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Scientific backup is expected to support 'hard' health claims while winning over consumers who value independent scientific evaluation."

The overall European prebiotics market is still at an embryonic stage. The $87-million fructan (inulin and fructooligosaccharide) segment is the most developed. The market for resistant starch products is still developmental with that for other prebiotics (galactooligosaccharides, lactosucrose, soy oligosaccharides and tagatose) even less advanced.

Leading suppliers in the fructan segment include Beghin-Meiji, Cosucra, Orafti and Sensus. Competition is, however, set to intensify following the entrance of several new market participants attracted by the growth potential in this segment.

Title: European Prebiotics Market
Code: B188

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