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GoodBelly re-ups with Probi because its probiotic 'just works'

By Hank Schultz , 22-Feb-2013
Last updated the 22-Feb-2013 at 21:28 GMT

NextFoods, maker of the GoodBelly line of probiotic drinks, and Swedish supplier Probi have extended a supply agreement, the companies announced.

“We wanted to firm up that we had it through 2020 and the option to continue thereafter,” Alan Murray, CEO of NextFoods, told FoodNavigator-USA.  “And we wanted to come to a different royalty arrangement that worked better for both parties.”

Probi said it entered into the licensing agreement with NextFoods in 2007. Probi will get higher royalties as well as beter exposure of its ingredient on packaging and in advertising. The revised agreement includes an exit fee payable to Probi if NextFoods terminates the agreement prior to 2020. It also give Probi a high-volume outlet for its ingredient in a market where you can still say the word 'probiotic,' unlike Europe, where authorities have taken the position that merely using the name on packaging implies an unapproved health claim.

“During 2012, sales of the GoodBelly range increased by just over 20% and we believe that there is scope for the brand to grow strongly in the US market,” Probi CEO, Michael Oredsson said.

'It just works'

NextFoods uses Probi’s Lactobacillus plantarum299v strain (Lp299v) in its drinks.  Murray said extending the relationship with Probi wasn’t just a form of habit; the company has regularly sought for alternatives just to reassure themselves that there isn’t something out there that might be better.

“We’ve conducted at least a couple of trials a year on various alternative probiotics,” Murray said. “Every time we come back to Lp299v.  It just works.”

Murray said the company has obtained outstanding results with the strain. Surveys show that customers are highly satisfied with the performance of the product.

“We do an annual survey of our consumers, and consistently out of that we hear that 84% of them report they feel the effect that they expect when using the product,” Murray said.

That king of consumer acceptance has driven the company’s results, Murray said.

“We off to a roaring start again this year, up about 30% in same-store sales growth which is what we are looking for,” he said.

Stabilizing probiotics in juice

A big part of GoodBelly’s value proposition is to deliver probiotic benefits without the sour flavor usually associated with fermented foods, Murray said.  The juice portion of the drinks, which come in 11 different flavors, masks the post-fermentation acidity.  But stabilizing probitiotics in a juice matrix was a challenge, he said.  The company solved it by licensing technology from Swedish dairy foods maker Skane to keep the probiotic organisms stable on the shelf under those condiditons.  And Next’s vice president of R&D, Armin Salmen, PhD, tailored that technology to the specific GoodBelly formulations, Murray said.

GoodBelly’s success is part of a broader industry move to put probiotics into foods outside the usual corner of the dairy case.  Ganden, for example, has been able to put its BC30 spore forming organism into a variety of foods, including chocolate.  It makes a bigger pie for all purveyors of probiotics, Murray said.

“I think Jamie Lee Curtis did most of the work for us, and then supplement guys followed on,” Murray said. Good Belly, he said, is “for anybody who doesn’t want to eat yogurt and doesn’t want to swallow pills.”

The GoodBelly range includes two different shots, beverages and quart sizes.  The certified organic products (with the exeception of a couple of flavors because of supply inavailablity) are sold in natural channel stores and in some mass channel outlets too, Murray said.

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