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The microbiome has captured the public’s attention. The complex system’s connection to multiple health conditions continues to reveal itself while consumers buy into the idea that prebiotics, probiotics and even metabolite-rich postbiotics can better their general health. While probiotic ingredients garnered the early momentum in the category, more evidence is emerging about the benefits of prebiotic supplements and food ingredients, which feed the good bacteria in the gut and serve the health connections within.
November 30, 2023
Probiotics have been the clear category leader in ingredient solutions for maximizing health outcomes and are the most widely recognized by consumers. But prebiotics are a promising category of ingredients that may offer a number of advantages over probiotics. Prebiotics are more resilient, versatile, and effective in smaller doses, and they can help to improve the gut microbiome in a wider range of people.
Probiotic strains, though, continue to evolve, and are being studied for their specific potential to improve a wide range of health conditions. Discoveries encompass how different probiotic strains work via varied mechanisms of action, each with their own unique influence on the human microbiome--it’s the next step in probiotic research evolution.
More importantly for product developers and marketers, probiotic strains are being identified and revealed to function within specific areas of activity in human health and wellness, including digestive health, metabolic health, immune function, skin health, and mental well-being. And very specific probiotic strains have been shown to be effective in reducing inflammation, boosting mood, supporting a healthy gut-brain axis, improving sports performance, and boosting immunity.
Read all about the battle brewing for microbiome category supremacy by downloading this free digital magazine. The articles include:
Where once there was gut and/or digestive health, the concept of the microbiome as more or less a synonym for both has hit the mainstream, explains Content Director Todd Runestad. To be sure, the microbiome includes more than just the intestines, and is the hippest trend to come out of the health and wellness movement this side of omega-3s and antioxidants. One manifestation of the expanding definition can be found in the winner of the 2023 Ingredient Idol contest at SupplySide West in the microbiome category. Digexin by NXT-USA took the honors; it’s an ingredient that stimulates peristalsis and helps a person increase the number of bowel movements from maybe three a week to perhaps daily.
Probiotic R&D continues to flourish with more strains on the market than ever, and research linking several of them to potentially aiding multiple health concerns. Those range from sleep, oral health and mood to heart function, fitness, and traditional digestive health and immunity, Lisa Schofield details. She found a lot of companies leading the way on targeted research, for example Chr. Hansen/IFF looking at IBS, Kaneka and AB-Biotics researching the digestion of human milk oligosaccharides, Lallemand Health Solutions exploring the gut-brain axis, and Nutralliance studying oral health, among many others.
In lieu of the processing advantages over probiotics—and consumers starting to catch on to prebiotic fibers—PharmaLinea’s Maja Orešnik wonders whether the tide is turning in the marketplace for biotic ingredients and supplement products. It’s a complicated question made more so by formulation obstacles. Those challenges for formulators and manufacturers relate to instability, overage, the need for a dedicated production line and higher production costs.
Developing digestive health supplements that succeed means looking at evolving consumer demographics, delivery formats, and using the right ingredients for specific gut needs, writes Jeremy Embola. He recommends an approach centered on variety when it comes to product development, market positioning and formulation strategies. Notable prebiotics already in the mainstream include psyllium husk, green banana, inulin, and beta-glucans derived from oats, yeast, barley and mushrooms.
Functional fibers and targeted prebiotics have the potential to deliver gut-healthy nutrients to wider populations and demographic groups. Nick Collias poses the pointed question, are prebiotics about to pass probiotics in the gut health market? He points to some of the inherent advantages of prebiotics, which include their greater resiliency in the gut, the fact that they can work in a wider range of products and on a broader variety of people, and prebiotics’ ability to decrease sugar content in products.
Examples of digestive health takeaways for your business include:
Probiotic strains for athletes are a growing area. One study found that triathletes consuming Lactobacillus plantarum PS128 experienced significant increases in endurance.
According to FMCG Gurus, 62% of global consumers have consumed probiotic food or drink products in the last 12 months. This number has been steadily increasing in recent years, as consumers become more aware of the potential health benefits of probiotics.
Historically, many prebiotic products have focused on quantity of the ingredient to deliver an efficacious dose, but the next generation of prebiotics aim to provide impact in a far smaller payload.
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