November 16, 2009
LAS VEGASMore than 200 industry execs woke up early in Las Vegas on Saturday, Nov. 14, following SupplySide West to attend Probiotics: Market Opportunities and Consumer Trends. The post-conference workshop brought together experts in market demographics, functional food product development and scientific research to look at the health benefits of probiotics and the growing market awareness of the beneficial bugs. The event was developed with the International Probiotics Association (IPA) and co-sponsored by Chr. Hansen, Danisco, Institut Rosell-Lallemand, Morinaga, Nutraceutix and Wakunaga.
First up, Greg Stephens, Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), looked at market trends in the probiotics area. An increasing number of consumers, particularly those managing digestive health and immune issues, and interested in general well-being, are using probiotics and seeking probiotic-enhanced foods, with females more likely than males to seek out such products. Interestingly, while approximately 7 percent of Gen Xers, Boomers and Matures use probiotic supplements, the Gen X demographic has the highest awareness of probiotics, at 52 percent. At the same time, 70 percent of consumers dont know any specific health benefits of probioticsunderscoring the point that awareness doesnt equal understanding, according to Stephensforcing marketers to position products with clinical testing and consumer education to expand the market.
The need for testing to support claims that can educate consumers was the focus of the second speaker, Claire Kruger, Ph.D., Spherix, who examined the type of scientific evidence needed to support safety and health claims. She started with an overview of the standard of safety from a regulatory perspective, and what issues must be addressed during scientific investigation. In fact, the regulations vary according to how the product will be formulated and marketedas a food, drug, dietary supplement, etc. Suppliers and formulators must therefore consider whether theyre meeting GRAS (generally recognized as safe) regulations, dietary supplement ingredient regs or drug standards. This determination also impacts the type of claims that can be made in marketing, which must then be worded to appropriately reflect the level of substantiation.
Finally, Robert W. Hutkins, Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Lincoln, provided an overview of the state of the science about probiotics, including the basics of gut health and synergism with prebiotics. As the microbiology of the gut is quite stable, the evolving science on probiotics has tended to focus on intervention and the need for long-term ingestion to continue to realize the health effects. Among the health effects are reduced incidence of gastrointestinal disorders, modulated immune response, reductions in serum cholesterol and enhanced nutrient uptake. That said, health effects are generally species and strain specific; further, delivery in many matrices is challenging given the probiotics living nature.
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