February 14, 2012
Consumers are still interested in products that address digestive health, but that interest comes with caveats. Mainly, consumers have to like the food products that deliver them. And, they do prefer food vehicles over supplements, according to an upcoming INSIDER Report on the digestive health market.
As Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director, Datamonitor, writes, in the United States, food categories accounted for nine of the top 10 digestive health categories. According to Datamonitors Product Launch Analytics, breakfast cereal was the top category and has been at the top the past five out of six years. Cereal bars was number two followed by bread and rolls. Functional drinks, at the number six spot, was the lone beverage category on the top 10 list.
Globally, the top product categories for digestive health food and drinks launches more or less mirrored those in the United States, with some exceptions, Vierhile says. While breakfast cereal was at the top of both lists, yogurt is number two compared to the number five spot on the United States. Conversely, functional drinks fell just outside of the top 10 list globally, while it's on the U.S. list at number six.
Vierhile says the biggest difference is the prominence of cookie and cracker products globally versus the United States. Cookies were the number five ranked food or drink category globally for digestive health launches and crackers were the number seven category, but neither cracked the top ten list in the United States.
Those foods also have to taste good, according to Vierhile. A 2011 Datamonitor global consumer survey found 38 percent of consumers worldwide are willing to sacrifice taste for healthier food products, he writes. In the United States, just 30 percent of consumers said they were willing to make that sacrifice. In Japan, just 12 percent of consumers are willing to swap health for taste.
However, consumers in emerging markets are much more willing to trade taste for health: in China, 68 percent of survey respondents said they are willing to make the trade-off. while 49 percent agree in Brazil.
When it comes to popular ingredients to aid digestion, fiber, prebiotics and probiotics are the category leaders. Vierhile writes that most bread and rolls launches in the United States have approached the digestion opportunity from the high fiber" angle, though a few have gone the probiotic route. Probiotics have been one of the major success stories in digestive health over the past few years, he sayd. More than half of American consumers are aware of the link between probiotics and a healthy digestive system, Vierhile notes. Smaller numbers may also be aware that probiotics can help improve lactose intolerance, bolster immunity, lower blood pressure, reduce diarrhea and may even help prevent colon cancer.
Mixing coconut with probiotics is a winning combination, at least in the United States, he says. He notes many coconut waters are fortified with both pre- and probiotics.
Vierhile says the use of prebiotic ingredients like inulin and oligofructose has grown markedly over the past few years. Product applications include everything from cookies to dairy products, breakfast cereals, infant formula and even pet food. However, prebiotics face a steeper consumer awareness curve than probiotics. According to a 2011 Datamonitor global consumer survey, 32 percent of consumers say the presence of prebiotics in food and beverage products generates a high amount" or very high amount" of influence when making product choices. For American consumers, the percentage was 24 percent. These numbers are slightly lower than those posted by probiotics at 34 percent and 26 percent, respectively.
Ironically, responses are lowest in some of the most developed markets responsible for the highest number of prebiotic (and probiotic) product launches, Vierhile said. Just 12 percent of Japanese consumers and 14 percent of Swedes say prebiotics have a high" or very high" amount of influence when making food and drink choices. For probiotics, the numbers are roughly the same at 15 percent for Japanese consumers and 13 percent for Swedish consumers.
Promoting more than one health aspect is not just only a winning prospect for pre- and probiotics, as Vierhile notes, many products combine digestive-promoting ingredients with those that benefit beauty from within. For instance, he writes of Kodilar Natural Life NutriMais Super Flour, which contains hydrolyzed collagen for sagging skin and wheat bran, inulin and papaya for digestive health.
While consumers are still interested, digestive health product launches are falling around the globe. In the United States, the percentage of new food and non-alcohol beverage products making digestion-related claims fell from a high of 7.7 percent of launches in 2008 to 5.9 percent of new product introductions through the first 11 months of 2011, according to Datamonitors Product Launch Analytics. And, in 2007, 4.4 percent of global food and beverage launches addressed the digestion opportunity, but this dropped to 3.6 percent for the 11 month period ended November 2011.
What can perhaps reverse this trend? Vierhile will discuss what Datamonitor expects will be the next big trends in the INSIDER Report, which goes live here on April 7. If you need more digestive information before then, be sure to check out INSIDER's recent slide show on the topic.
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