Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that reside primarily in the human gut. Prebiotics are indigestible fibers serving as a growth medium for probiotic microbes. When paired together—a combination known as synbiotics—these ingredients deliver a synergistic one-two punch by delivering the health benefits of probiotics with the material these microbes use to make energy.
Synbiotics have the potential to aid regularity and improve the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. The synbiotic combo has gained traction in dietary supplements and packaged foods. However, until recently, few options in the beverage space offered both to consumers. The original synbiotic beverage is kombucha, a fermented tea that contains both probiotics and prebiotics. While kombucha has certainly seen its star rise, its fermented flavor and aroma can limit its appeal to a broad audience.
Numerous opportunities to deliver synbiotics exist for brands thinking beyond kombucha. Whether to appeal to a popular health trend, a specific wellness benefit, or simply to amplify the health halo of a beverage, synbiotics offer a great deal of untapped potential.
Consider the following synergies with synbiotics:
While sweet drinks may not be falling out of favor, sugary drinks are under intense scrutiny. As more consumers try to reduce or eliminate refined sugar in their diets, beverage brands are turning to alternative sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit extract to capitalize on the trend toward less sugar.
Some alternative sweeteners function as prebiotics, such as isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO), a sweetener that is mostly indigestible in the body and contributes considerably fewer calories than sucrose. The ingredient is water soluble and creates a similar mouthfeel to sugar. By combining IMO with probiotics, beverage brands can offer a synbiotic product that appeals to consumers’ desire for health benefits and, specifically, sugar reduction.
Clinical research into the relationship between the immune system and the gut microbiome is ongoing, but several studies suggest probiotics may be useful for regulating immune responses to various factors (Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2011;27:496-501).
This article is continued in the “Probiotics: Macro trends in microorganisms” digital magazine. Click the link to read the full piece.
Jon Copeland is a research strategist at MarketPlace, a strategic partner to food and beverage, pet and animal, and health and wellness brands and businesses.