But how does a brand bring the rapidly growing science of prebiotics—and the potential benefits of this nutrient less commonly understood by consumers—into the same limelight as probiotics? And how can these efforts help products stand out for all the benefits they can impart, while being well received by consumers?
Keep in mind these five keys to introduce a prebiotic-rich product to consumers and retailers:
1. Speak simply.
Just as the science of probiotics has been translated into consumer-friendly terminology and graphics over the years, so too must leaders in the prebiotic category learn to simplify the science and the message they want to impart.
With multiple mechanisms of action and numerous benefits that prebiotics or the by-products of prebiotic fermentation produce, it is important a brand doesn’t get caught in the weeds. Rather, brands must find ways to speak in a language that consumers can relate to and make sense of, and ultimately avoid anything that might cause confusion, lest people become alienated from the category.
2. Help consumers join the dots.
Probiotics set the platform for prebiotics and other gut health nutrients to have a story that they can tie themselves to. Irrespective of whether prebiotics have a benefit in isolation, tapping into a story that consumers already understand—such as probiotics and their role in gut health, or some of the prebiotics that are fibers and their role in digestion—can help them make sense of a new nutrient or ingredient that they otherwise might not recognize as offering benefits on its own.
3. Choose a benefit.
With prebiotics presenting such a vast array of potential benefits, it can be advantageous for a brand to hone in on a specific benefit to shape the message and assist consumers in identifying the product’s benefit.
Simply stating that the product contains a nutrient—particularly when it is a nutrient that is not well known—does not typically lead to an increased uptake of users.
On the other hand, highlighting a key benefit that prebiotics offer—especially one that relates to the benefits of the brand’s ingredients—consumers can better see what they will get out of consuming the product, ultimately making it a more attractive and understandable purchase option.
4. Partner with educational resources.
Raising awareness of a nutrient newer to many people’s lives is a big task; instead of going at it alone, look for partners to help spread the message.
Health professionals such as dietitians or gastroenterologists who are already in the space, online influencers who have taken a position around the importance of gut health, or even other brands that also promote gut health or prebiotics can all be big allies when it comes to educating consumers.
Look for partners with specific audiences and who know how to speak in a way that is well received. They can help translate the science into a level of education those around them understand, and ultimately help spread a positive message attached to the benefits of a brand’s prebiotic products.
5. Work collaboratively with retailers.
Many retailers are excited by the idea of innovation in the health and wellness space, and in particular, within gut health products.
Even though a brand is creating something new, retailers may still have ways to work with the brand or help it educate consumers.
Many major national retailers are creating specific areas for gut health products, where they can test newer emerging brands in the category.
Associating a prebiotic brand with other probiotic products already merchandised in these unique categories will help consumers associate with the benefits of prebiotic products, thus increasing their education.
Even though prebiotics are at an earlier stage in their lifespan when it comes to consumer understanding, calculated ways exist to bridge the gap between the current knowledge base and the level needed for consumers to understand—and reap the benefits—from the products a brand offers.
Keeping these five pieces of advice in mind is an excellent start.
Kara Landau, the “Travelling Dietitian,” is an Australian accredited practicing dietitian, author and founder of Uplift Food—Good Mood Food, a functional food brand focused exclusively on the mood-supportive benefits of gut-healthy prebiotic fibers and resistant starches.
Editor's note: Landau presented at Supply Side West in 2019.