Americans beginning to digest probiotic sell

The US probiotic foods market, which until now has lagged behind its European and Japanese counterparts, is showing signs of picking up, with a major dairy firm expanding its output and reporting growing sales for existing offerings.

Although industry journal, New Nutrition Business, put the European and Japanese probiotic food markets at about $3 billion each, and the US market at only one tenth of that ($300 million) in 2005, it would appear Americans are finally developing a taste for products that benefit their gut and digestive well-being.

Euromonitor forecast 37 per cent growth in fortified/functional dairy-product sales in the US between 2005 and 2010 (48 per cent in Western Europe), while AC Nielsen data shows drinkable yoghurt is the world's fastest-growing food category at 18 per cent, with growth in 40 of 45 markets polled. China led the expansion with 49 per cent. Drinkable yoghurt, along with yoghurt, are the two most common probiotic delivery systems in an international market worth about $10 billion.

French dairy giant Danone, which operates as Dannon in the US, launched its probiotic yoghurt, Activia, in January 2006, with a strong gut-health sell as it has done in the 27 European countries. This boosted sales beyond $1 billion and made it one of Danone's most successful global brands. It also sells in about 10 other international markets. Activia has quickly gained a significant share of the US probiotics market with sales climbing above $100 million in 2006, backed by a $45 million promotional campaign.

Obviously pleased with the progress of Activia in the US, Dannon has committed to expanding its probiotic portfolio in 2007. It will debut a dairy drink (DanActive), a nonfat yoghurt (Activia Light) and drinks, and a low-fat yoghurt aimed at children (Danimals).

"The successful launch of Activia in the United States proved to us that Americans are looking for healthier food choices with clinically proven, peer-reviewed functional benefits without sacrificing great taste," said Dannon chief executive officer, Juan Carlos Dalto.

US dairies such as Stonyfield Farm and Horizon are more actively promoting the probiotic content of some of their wares, some of which, like many yoghurt products, naturally contain probiotic strains, but have not previously been flagged to the consumer.

More than 80 companies market probiotics in supplement form in the US.

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