Probiotics market developments
The area of probiotics has been an area of high interest, with strong market status and future growth projection. Constantly improving scientific...
Probiotic market developments
Unlocking and understanding market potential
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Probiotic market developments
Strong sales growth coupled with consumer interest is fueling growth projections.
The area of probiotics has been an area of high interest, with strong market status and future growth projection. Constantly improving scientific insights into the mechanisms at work in the gut, as well as the complex interactions between the digestive system, the microbiome and other health outcomes are opening up further opportunities for the established probiotic and the evolving prebiotic sector.
In recent years, the supplements market has successfully capitalised on the growth in knowledge of probiotics and growing consumer interest. We have seen specific supplements as well as food and drinks products move into this digestive space with greater speed. But to date, the very limited scope for specific health claims, certainly in Europe, has played part in restricting market growth across both supplement and functional food sectors.
Nonetheless, the global probiotics market is an area of fast growth and countless opportunities for innovation—for both consumer brands as well as ingredient suppliers.
Growth opportunities in the probiotics market
According to the International Probiotics Association (IPA) the total global retail value of prebiotic sales rose from $38 billion in 2013 to $44.8 billion in 2019, with 13% ($5.8 bn) from supplement sales. The US is still the largest single market with $2.25 billion, followed by Italy with $680 million and China with $620 million in supplement sales.
The greatest potential for probiotics is in:
- Immune health
- Cognitive health
- Women's health
- Infant nutrition
A report from Transparency Market Research valued the probiotics segment in 2018 at $6.76 billion and forecast CAGR of 8.3% to hit $12.75 billion by the end of 2026. As other market research organisations point out, valuing any market where substantial sales are made through online channels can be tricky.
However, underlying attitudes certainly seem to be evolving. Consumer awareness of gut health is growing, particularly among adults in their 20s and 30s, according to Mintel. It reports that, in the United Kingdom (UK), 64% of adults overall agree that actively looking after their gut health is important in supporting wellbeing. This proportion rises to 72% in the 25-to-34 age group. This is supported by an IPA report that suggests over 10 million adults in the EU are probiotic users, and more than 350 million adults consume them regularly in the APAC region.
Asia Pacific is expected to be both the largest and the fastest growing regional segment by 2025. According to Grand View Research, “new prebiotic launches, innovations in delivery systems and the presence of key players have laid the foundation for a healthy and strong growth of the region.” The rise in disposable income and the increase in demand for nutritional food products, along with the growing technology base further enhance the rising demand for probiotics in the region.
Over 10 million adults in the EU are probiotic users, and more than 350 million adults consume them regularly in the APAC region.
Mintel notes the significant gap between consumers appreciating the importance of gut health and those taking supplements to support it. “People are looking to food and drink for this benefit, fuelling the explosion in fermented products such as kefir and kombucha, while the vitamins and supplements market is failing to capitalise on this trend to the same extent,” Clifford says.
UK dairy brand The Collective underlines how kefir has been outperforming the wider Active Health Drinks (AHD) category, of which it is a part.
It quotes IRI (market research company) figures suggesting that, while AHD as a whole (said to be worth just over £200 million) grew by only £2.12 million (1.1%) in the year to January 2020, kefir drinks alone added £5.5 million growth to the category. The Collective efir grew by a healthy 97.1% over the same period, it says, while bigger AHD brands, such as Actimel and Benecol, are losing market share.
Innovation in ingredients and delivery
Regional specifics drive combined growth
Asia Pacific has not only seen the strongest growth with regards to the probiotics market, but their considerable production and consumption of probiotics is followed by strong innovation in probiotics, most notably in China, India and Japan—where a variety of probiotic-containing products are available in supermarkets, ranging from fortified drinks to candies containing probiotic strains.
Whether for supplements or functional foods, the use of multiple strains of bacteria in a single product has become prevalent.
Experts project that liquid probiotics will dominate the global market as the demand increases in comparison to dry probiotics, due to its application in yogurt, which is the most popular food source. Other products that use liquid probiotics include kefir water, probiotic juices, and yogurt-based drinks, which are healthy options for daily supplementation.”
In terms of ingredients, we can expect to see the bacteria segment dominate the market as it is driven by an increasing interest of consumers in urogenital and vaginal health, where we are starting to see growing amounts of product innovation. However, yeast is also projected to see rapid growth in the segment of probiotics.
Click here to hear about nutritional support for the gut and immune system with Dr Caroline Childs
Whether for supplements or functional foods, the use of multiple strains of bacteria in a single product has become prevalent. So, too, has an emphasis on the survivability and the viable count of those specific strains—an issue that has been given greater prominence by the IPA.
CityDietitians has seen evidence of consumers catching up with these concerns. “Many are becoming savvier to differences between the probiotics count on the day they were produced and the number of living bacteria reaching the gut,” says Medlin. “Manufacturers are starting to realise they need to take this into account.”
New UK-based supplements brand Kinerva, which has a dual coating applied to its live bacteria, points out that product labelling can be misleading. “It may only provide a cumulative count, and not the colony-forming units of each individual strain,” says CEO Adnan Wahid. He adds: “Some products use specific strains which are scientifically proven to reach the gut alive, and may simply be chosen for their survival rate, and not for their health benefit.”
Download the 2020 Vitafoods Insights digestive health deep dive report
When it comes to prebiotics, strong ‘natural’ credentials can help in supplements as well as functional food markets. As Australian company Marinova reports, the EU assessed its Maritech fucoidan extracts as being substantially equivalent to the parental seaweeds from which they were extracted. These long-chain polysaccharides have also been given EU Novel Foods approval.
What's next for probiotics?
Consumer engagement with fermented products, including kombucha and kefir, seems likely to continue as an indicator of a wider awareness of gut health, with its expanding implications, benefitting supplements as well as foods.
The bacteria segment is expected to keep dominating the probiotics market with new impulses for growth from the increasing employment of bacteria to maintain urogenital and vaginal health.
CityDietitians believes synbiotic products could prove a major opportunity in supplements, but only if brand-owners grapple successfully with questions of format and presentation. “The same is true of psychobiotics, which are a nice idea,” says Medlin. However, despite signs of success in Canada, commercial potential in Europe will be, as ever, contingent on what health claims, if any, are permitted in this area.
Areas with highest growth potential over the next five years
- Multi-strain probiotics
- Infant & baby probiotics
Another area which is ripe for development, according to Medlin, is the babies’ and infants’ probiotic market. Products could be delivered in packaged baby-foods and in supplements.
“In the supplements market, sachets can work well for kids,” she says, adding that probiotics are seen as having a particular role to play where the very young have been on a course of antibiotics or where they have been bottle-fed.
Consumer behaviour and understanding
Consumer understanding of gut health spans across a large range. At one extreme, early adopters have a good understanding of the different types of probiotic bacteria and their health benefits, while the majority of consumers are
unaware of the complex processes in the gut and struggle to differentiate for example between prebiotics and probiotics.
“Today, there’s much more general awareness of the relation between gut health and general wellbeing, immune health, cognitive function and so on,” says Sophie Medlin, colorectal dietitian and director of City Dietitians in the UK. She makes the same point about consumer awareness of the microbiome and its significance.
“People are interested in it, but also confused by it,” she says. “Information can be extremely difficult to communicate clearly.” Here as elsewhere, she argues, the services of a healthcare professional can be invaluable in bridging the communication gap. That is not to say that non-medical influencers and brand ambassadors do not also play an important role on social media, even for the bigger brands. “Because they are non-medical, there are no regulatory implications, but the brand still gets its message out,” says Medlin
The majority of consumers are unaware of the complex processes in the gut and struggle to differentiate for example between prebiotics and probiotics.