As mounting research continues to confirm their role as a form of preventative medicine, more food marketers are looking into the benefits of formulating with probiotics. According to Probiotics: A Global Strategic Business Report from San Jose, CA-based Global Industry Analytics Inc. (GIA), the global probiotics market, though still relatively young, is forecasted to post almost $29 billion in revenues by 2015. What’s more, the market is also ripe for “impressive growth” as consumers continue to seek out preventative healthcare measures in an effort to combat rising healthcare costs. In addition, improved ingredient efficiency coupled with increased scientific evidence is another major factor contributing to market growth.
Probiotics have long been a mainstay in Europe (especially in Germany and the U.K.) and parts of Asia and worldwide popularity has gained momentum, especially in the U.S. Japan, the second largest market, is demonstrating signs of maturity, and is expected to grow at more moderate rates.
The report credited increased media attention for the push in demand and the uptick in a range of new at-market products that feature good bacteria on their ingredient panel.
“Globally, functional foods form the larger and faster growing segment in the probiotics market,” the report stated, noting that the vehicle for probiotic consumption varies from region to region. For instance, dairy foods such as yogurts and kefir containing probiotics are extensively consumed in Europe and Japan. Infant formulas, breakfast cereals, nutrition bars and cheeses are other popular delivery forms. The report also stated that the use of probiotics in functional foods is expected to speed up in the coming years.
Though the most popular method of probiotic consumption in the U.S. continues to be dietary supplements, the report proffers that the U.S. penchant for this delivery vehicle is hampering market growth. “The market for probiotics supplements, which are mostly delivered as powders, tablets and capsules is less developed in several markets owing to low awareness levels and lower availability,” the report stated. “Relatively few probiotic products are available on retail sale outside health food stores. Though these products represent a convenient form of consuming a probiotic product, consumers have greater preference for food and beverage probiotic products than for dietary supplements. Moreover the market lacks quality standards for driving steady growth."
A key factor that plays into the limited use of probiotics in food formulations relates to the delicate manufacturing processes that must be observed to preserve probiotic survival rates. “With advances in encapsulation techniques, the market is expected to perform better in food products as they guard the microorganisms from acidity, moisture and high humidity and ensures safe passage through stomach and small intestine,” the report stated. “With further advancement in technology, probiotics usage is likely to extend beyond the current realms of gut, dental and immune health to several other areas of human health.”
Soft drinks, chilled drinks and vegetable and fruit juices are expected to join the probiotics segment in the coming years; increased availability will no doubt favor heavily into market growth. In addition, the report noted that fortified products such as probiotic baked products, probiotic ice creams and probiotic chocolates are likely to gain in popularity “because consumers are willing to incur additional costs to enjoy the benefits.”
This trend will be boosted by increased awareness about the “gut connection,” or how “friendly” probiotic bacteria can positively impact a range of disorders that ultimately stem from problems in the digestive tract.
The report also forecasted that dairy products that integrate both prebiotics and probiotics—referred to as "synbiotic" products—will become more appealing. “Synbiotics in particular are extensively exploring the functional foods arena,” the report stated. “In this, a beneficial probiotic is applied into a proper dietary vehicle with an apt prebiotic. This method enables the live addition in the gut to metabolize the selective substrate. This would increase survival rates of the probiotics, simultaneously providing the benefits of the gut microflora management techniques.”
Enticed by encouraging new market potential, GIA affirmed that the probiotics market has been witnessing extensive scientific research as new probiotic strains and new applications emerge. “Global probiotics giants are putting in great efforts and applying their experiences learnt from traditional markets such as Europe and Japan, where these food supplements are already in wide acceptance,” the report said. “Probiotics are increasingly being targeted to provide relief in new areas such as inflammatory diseases, allergy prevention, cholesterol reduction and prevention of colon cancer, apart from traditional benefits that they provide in gastrointestinal problems.”