Gut Check: The expanding role of postbiotics in the digestive health market – article

EpiCor® postbiotic clinically shown to work through the gut to support immune health

April 6, 2023

5 Min Read
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As the science on microbiome health expands, it’s shedding new light on the 100 trillion microorganisms living in our digestive systems and how they impact our overall wellness, with digestive function now linked to immunity, cognition, mental wellness, and skin health. While probiotics have long played the starring role in microbiome balance, science now suggests that it takes a village of “biotics” to get the job done.

In turn, consumers are looking to the microbiome for “whole-body” health, prompting solid growth for the gastrointestinal support category, which hit $3.5 billion in 2021, according to Nutrition Business Journal. Though probiotics still make up the lion’s share of the market at 58.9%, new products featuring prebiotics and postbiotics are emerging with strong clinical evidence that could potentially lead the category to new heights.

For example, it’s safe to say that immunity and gut health now go hand-in hand, bolstered by pandemic-induced interest in immune health. Recent data from FMCG Gurus suggests that digestive health is a leading area of interest for consumers, with building immunity one reason behind this focus.


This interest has led to the rise of ingredients like EpiCor®, a postbiotic, whole-food, yeast fermentate from Cargill, which features more than a dozen clinical studies for its support of both gut health and immunity. “Given how foundational digestive and immune health are to overall wellbeing, we expect demand for products that support these critical systems to continue their upward trajectory, though perhaps at a steadier pace than the last couple of years,” said Arlene Fosmer, Managing Director of Human Health Technologies at Cargill

With interest in these combined benefits at an all-time high, “biotics” are taking center stage. Postbiotics are the newest member of the biotic family, with a consensus definition released in May of 2021 by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics.

Cargill sees plenty of upside for the new arrivals. “Our proprietary research finds nearly half (49%) of shoppers are familiar with postbiotics—a great start for this relative newcomer to the consumer space,” Fosmer said.


Explaining ‘biotics’

While still nascent, the postbiotic segment is gaining traction – in terms of clinical research, media coverage, consumer awareness and product sales, Nelson said. “It certainly helps that many consumers are already familiar with probiotics and prebiotics. While consumers may not know what each biotic does, they consider them beneficial to health—and that makes it easier to understand that postbiotics have health benefits too.”

Still, some people are understandably confused about what differentiates one “biotic” from another. Here are the basics:

Probiotics are the live beneficial microorganisms that live in our gut. They are the machinery that ferments fibers and prebiotics to create metabolites.

Prebiotics, like the fibers found in leafy green vegetables, are the fuel for the beneficial “probiotic” bacteria in the gut.

Postbiotics are fermented outside of the body by bacteria or yeast and contain the beneficial metabolites that support the body. They are produced using highly controlled conditions, and include amino acids, vitamins, and short chain fatty acids among other things.

The postbiotic difference

EpiCor postbiotic was discovered by a happy accident, in a real-life health story. Factory employees at an animal feed manufacturing facility were taking fewer sick days than their office-bound colleagues. To understand why, the company commissioned pilot studies and learned that its fermented feed product supported the immune health of the factory workers exposed to it. After years of clinical research into the safety and efficacy of the ingredient, EpiCor® was born.

The ingredient is made with a proprietary fermentation process using baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), which is deprived of oxygen through a highly controlled process. “Under these high stress conditions,” Fosmer explained, “the yeast produces a unique fingerprint of metabolites. After the fermentation process, it is gently dried using a proprietary heating process that kills off the yeast, while still preserving all the functional compounds.”

Like probiotics, the health benefits of postbiotics are determined at the strain level. “Postbiotics are unique, based on the microorganism, the fermentation medium and method used, and the post fermentation process,” she added.


“As the competition increases, many brands are looking for ingredients that can deliver health supportive benefits, especially around immunity and gut health. Backed by more than a dozen clinical studies, EpiCor® delivers on both counts.” – Arlene Fosmer, Managing Director of Human Health Technologies at Cargill EpiCor® has eight published clinical trials and seven pre-clinical studies demonstrating a wide range of health benefits, including nasal comfort2, daily immune balance3,4 and gut microbiome support.5

In addition to its clinical substantiation, EpiCor® also offers several processing advantages. Many immune-supporting ingredients cannot survive the rigors of modern food processing. Probiotics, for example, are inherently less stable than the metabolites in postbiotics because they must remain alive through processing, packaging and all the way to the consumer’s gut.

In contrast, EpiCor® is not a living organism, and has a low efficacious dose of 500 mg per day. It is highly heat stable, can handle varying pH levels, and has a three-year shelf life from its manufacture date. “These formulation advantages,” Fosmer noted, “make it possible to deliver EpiCor’s health benefits across a range of functional food and beverage applications.” This is also an advantage for consumers, who can be assured they are receiving the promised health benefits in the product.

Ultimately, postbiotics like EpiCor® help brands differentiate in the immune and gut health market. “As the competition increases,” Fosmer said, “many brands are looking for ingredients that can deliver health supportive benefits, especially around immunity and gut health. Backed by more than a dozen clinical studies, EpiCor® delivers on both counts.”

1. New Hope Network/Next Data and Insights

2. Moyad MA, et al. Immunogenic yeast-based fermentation product reduces allergic rhinitis-induces nasal congestion: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Adv Ther 2009, 26(8):795-804.

3. Moyad MA, et al. Effects of a modified yeast supplement on cold/flu symptoms. Urol Nurs 2008, 28(1):50-55.

4. Moyad MA, et al. Immunogenic yeast-based fermentate for cold/flu-like symptoms in nonvaccinated individuals. J Altern Complement Med 2010, 16(2):213-218.

5. Pinheiro, I., et al. (2017). A yeast fermentate improves gastrointestinal discomfort and constipation by modulation of the gut microbiome: results from a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled pilot trial BMC Complement Altern Med 17, 441.

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