The American market is rife with opportunity, according to Euromonitor International, noting U.S. probiotic sales accounted for $4.3 billion in 2016 (up 9% from 2015), and predicted 38% growth looking toward 2021. In fact, Euromonitor stated probiotics would outpace all other supplements in the U.S. through 2021, including supplements featuring ginseng, glucosamine, protein, fish oils/omega fatty acids, calcium, and other/combination dietary supplements.
Worldwide, sales of probiotics accounted for $39.9 billion in 2016, up from $30.4 billion in 2010.
“Consumer interest in probiotics and their benefits to digestive and immune health is growing for all age groups,” observed Dr. John Deaton, vice president of science and technology for Deerland Enzymes & Probiotics, adding that“more than 70% of Americans are familiar with probiotics.”
However, the benefits of probiotics for other health indications, such as immunity, sports nutrition, women’s health, and mood, to name a few, are becoming more well-known as clinical research continues to uncover the ways in which these bacterial strains support overall health.
Above all, Michael Bush, president & CEO of Ganeden, sees the main trend driving growth in the probiotic category as the desire among consumers to take a proactive approach in protecting their overall health and wellness. Consumers, he said, “are becoming much more aware of the benefits of functional ingredients, and the importance of consuming them consistently—whether through supplements or fortified foods and beverages. As they learn more about these ingredients, probiotic awareness is increasing—driving demand for probiotic offerings across all categories.”
A prime reason probiotics have seen such success is the prevalence of digestive health issues among consumers at all walks of life. In the U.S. alone, between 60-70 million people are affected by digestive disease, according the national Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), a service of the National Institute of Health (NIH). An additional 60 million people experience chronic constipation, while 20% endure symptoms associated with reflux (such as indigestion) at least weekly.
With such a wide audience impacted by gut health concerns, consumers are seeking safe, well-researched, natural ingredients, such as probiotics, to aid digestion.
“Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system,” explained Alan Rillorta, director of marketing for AIDP. “We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called ‘good’ or ‘helpful’ bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy. Probiotic supplements are designed to support and boost the beneficial bacteria in the human gut.” In fact, there are more probiotics in the gut than cells in the body, Mr. Rillorta noted, adding that the digestive system alone hosts around 1,000 different types of bacteria.
Due to expanding awareness for the importance of gut heath, consumers are clamoring for nutritional support from probiotic ingredients. However, food alone doesn’t always provide the beneficial bacteria needed to cultivate a healthy gut, Mr. Rillorta asserted. “Unless you’re eating a lot of yogurt or things like fermented foods, you’re not getting much in the way of daily probiotics. High quality supplements that are science proven are an excellent way to boost healthy gut bacteria.” While many consumers see gaining nutrients from real food as the ideal, combining probiotic food along with “high quality, easily absorbable and easy-to-incorporate” dietary supplements can optimize digestive function, he added.
Mr. Bush of Ganeden recounted interest in probiotics from a wide range of demographics, “from millennials and parents to athletes and seniors.” He cited a 2017 SSI Consumer Survey, which found parents and millennials ranked higher than all other groups for probiotic awareness, purchase interest, and willingness to pay for more products fortified with probiotics. “While all demographics want the traditional digestive health benefits that many probiotic strains provide, we’ve also seen interest in key additional health benefits (which are specific to our GanedenBC30, or Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086, strain) vary by audience.” For example, he suggested that parents expressed interest in the immune health benefits of the company’s probiotic for their children, while athletes and active millennials were intrigued by research demonstrating the strain’s benefits for protein utilization.
Dr. Deaton also suggested interest in probiotics for children was spurring innovation in the category. “As parents adopt probiotics into their own daily routine, more and more of them are interested in imparting the benefits of probiotics to their children,” he said.
Mr. Rillorta predicted that recent research demonstrating the benefits of probiotics for skin health would propel the ingredient in the personal care space. He anticipates this “will likely be the next big area of growth for probiotics.”
Another trend Dr. Deaton observed was the inclusion of probiotics in products geared toward sports nutrition, especially protein powders. “For athletes and fitness enthusiasts, optimizing digestion and immunity are major factors as they strive to improve performance. In a clinical study involving collegiate female athletes, researchers found that Bacillus subtilis DE111 had significant effects on body composition and athletic performance when consumed along with adequate post-workout nutrition.” The study’s results found DE111 produced statistically significant improvements in the reduction of body fat percentage compared to a placebo. The researchers also found a strong trend indicating improved performance in a deadlift exercise.
Likewise, aging consumers are turning to probiotics for support. Mr. Rillorta speculated that senior shoppers are on the lookout for products that will make them “better, stronger, more vital for longer” and this demand has been “a big driver in the probiotics market.”
Delivery & Dosage
According to data from Euromonitor, worldwide consumers are mostly getting their probiotics through consuming functional, dairy-based yogurts. Seventy-four percent of global consumers opted for probiotic yogurt in 2016, followed by 15% with sour milk products, such as kefir; and 11% taking probiotic supplements. Overwhelmingly, Asia-Pacific propelled sales for probiotic yogurt, with roughly three times the sales of North America and Western Europe, respectively.
Beyond yogurt, fermented milk and supplements; shelf-stable probiotic strains are now making it possible for inclusion in a wide range of functional foods and beverages. Shaheen Majeed, worldwide president, Sabinsa, said that thanks to shelf-stable strains, “probiotic use has expanded into functional foods like baking confectioneries, porridges, cereal bars, as well as in hot beverages such as coffee, and even frozen fudge frostings, apple juice, and glucose syrup. All this is possible because of increased shelf-life and greater stability of probiotics.”
Dr. Deaton noted the rising popularity of gummy formulas, but said consumers and marketers are looking for more options beyond traditional supplements and cold processed foods. He too noted the formulation challenges that can be faced in terms of keeping microbes alive through the processing of the food. “In these cases, our customers are insisting on a probiotic that can withstand higher temperatures,” he said, suggesting spore-forming probiotic strains such as Bacillus subtilis may offer a solution.
Mr. Rillorta suggested noticeable benefits and convenience were key factors for probiotic consumers. “Consumers want the benefits of probiotics—building healthy bacteria in the gut, which they now know is good for them—and they want it easy. Instead of just pills and powders, they want their probiotics in some of the foods and drinks they consume in their busy day. Chewables are a growing market as it makes taking probiotics easy, and better tasting, although the issue of too much sugar and instability for some probiotics in products like gummies is a downside.” He stressed transparency, clean label ingredients, and clinical research backing a products efficacy as growing consumer demands in the category.
As scientists continue to explore the human microbiome, new information is being gathered about how diet impacts health.
“As microbiome research progresses, we will be able to see a more complete picture of exactly how the billions of organisms of the microbiome interact and respond to changes in diet and supplementation,” explained Dr. Deaton. “When we’re able to profile the microbial population of a healthy individual and compare it to that of someone with a specific health condition, opportunities to influence the shifting of bacterial population through diet and supplementation will continue to emerge.” He predicted probiotics, prebiotics, and other ingredients that influence the gut microbiota will be key players in formulations for “a wide variety of health conditions beyond solely digestion, from mood to heart health.”
Mr. Bush underscored that specific probiotic strains benefit certain health conditions, so this must be taken into consideration when selecting ingredients. “Probiotic benefits are strain specific, so any research done within the category applies only to the strains that were studied. That being said, there are many probiotic companies conducting valuable research within the category, many of which are specifically looking at the depth of probiotic benefits beyond digestive health—from the gut-brain axis, to heart health and beyond. The significance of this research is that as additional health benefits continue to be uncovered, consumer awareness of probiotics will increase, along with their perceived value and importance—leading to higher demand and more probiotic launches. We also anticipate seeing launches using strains that are tailored to a specific health benefit—such as a probiotic for heart health, etc.”
With this in mind, he noted recent studies looking specifically at GanedenBC30have shown that the strain enhances the body’s utilization of both animal- and plant-based protein, leading to increased launches in protein-focused products. Additionally, Ganeden’s newest research looked at the strain’s immune health benefits when inactivated using different methods, resulting in the development of a new immune health ingredient, Staimune.
Mr. Majeed pointed to recent research that suggests consumption of probiotics is associated with immune support and protection against diarrheal diseases. “For example, Sabinsa’s LactoSpore is L-(+)-lactic acid-producing microbial preparation from Bacillus coagulans, which research has found to be safe and beneficial in the management of diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome when given as a dietary supplement in addition to either standard treatment or placebo for a period of 90 days. This study might be of great significance in determining the beneficial role of probiotics in managing diarrheal diseases, including drug-induced diarrhea, a relatively frequent adverse event associated with drug therapy. (Nutrition Journal, 2016.).”
Deerland’s research and development team has genome-sequenced for safety and clinically-tested for efficacy the Bacillus subtilis strain, DE111. The genome sequencing confirmed the strain contained no plasmids, antibiotic resistant, or deleterious genes, Dr. Deaton stated. “Two human clinical studies have shown the strain’s ability to control microbial populations, aid in digestion, maintain general health, and support regularity. DE111 has the ability to form spores that protect the microbes from harsh conditions until they enter an environment ripe for germination, such as the GI tract.”
A variety of new probiotic-infused products are available to consumers, with supplements, shots, and snacks touting a range of functional benefits.
For example, GoodBelly now offers a “gently flavored, dairy-free oatmilk” 80 ml shot, which provides 20 billion live and active probiotic cultures per serving. The product, called Straight Shot, boasts no added sugar, and 30 calories.
Farmhand Organics (previously MM Local), offers a line of certified organic probiotic sauerkrauts and kimchis, utilizing small batch, local sourced ingredients, and traditional fermenting techniques, tying into consumer trends valuing transparency and authenticity.
Omax Health recently launched Omax Triple Action Probiotic, with 50 billion CFUs. The 3-in-1 formula contains 10 strains and aims to target digestion, immunity, as well as urinary and vaginal health.
A new line from the popular Culturelle brand from i-Health, a division of DSM, is designed to help babies develop a healthy microbiome. In a press release the company noted, “Developing a healthy microbiome—the bacteria that live mainly inside the digestive system—during the first two years of life can set the foundation for a baby's healthy growth and development.”
The line includes: Culturelle Baby, with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), “the most clinically studied probiotic strain in infants,” and no GMOs, gluten, dairy or dyes; Culturelle Baby Calm + Comfort probiotic drops with Chamomile, to help reduce crying and fussiness due to occasional digestive upset; and Culturelle Baby Grow + Thrive, containing LGG and Bifidobacteriumlactis BB-12 probiotic strains to help support the healthy development of a baby's digestive and immune systems, along with vitamin D.
Culturelle Baby Calm + Comfort and Culturelle Baby Grow + Thrive are offered in drop form and can be dispensed directly into the baby's mouth, bottle or while breastfeeding for newborns up to 12 months, while Grow + Thrive is also available as a flavorless packet that can be mixed into cold or room temperature food or drink for babies 12–24 months.