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Nestle places confidence in probiotics for kids

By Lorraine Heller , 08-Jan-2009

Food giant Nestle is today launching a probiotics drink for children in the US, which the company claims is the only drink on the market to deliver immune benefits coupled with balanced nutrition.

The firm’s Boost Kid Essentials Drink, developed by Nestle HealthCare Nutrition, uses the increasingly popular concept of a probiotic straw to deliver the healthy bacteria.

The launch, which comes at a time of tight economies and a generally low consumer awareness of probiotics, is a bold move by Nestle, and demonstrates the group’s confidence in the sector.

Awareness

Probiotics, or ‘good’ bacteria that improve the balance of intestinal microflora and thereby help boost immunity, are just starting to pick up speed in the North American functional food market.

According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), 136 new probiotic products were launched in the region last year. This represented a 131 percent increase between 2006 and 2007 – the highest global growth.

But although the North American probiotics market is in the initial stages of sudden growth, awareness of the bacteria and their health benefits is still very low.

A survey conducted in August last year found that the vast majority of Americans know nothing about probiotics, suggesting more education efforts could help boost an industry still in its infancy.

The national survey, carried out by Opinion Research Corporation, revealed that only 15 percent of American adults were familiar with the healthy bacteria, while 85 percent knew “little to nothing” about probiotics.

Market muscle

With the launch of the new drink, Nestle is stepping up to category leaders Danone and Yakult, which have been largely accredited with helping to develop a global market for probiotics.

As well as the probiotics delivered through the straw, Nestle’s new Boost Kid Essentials also contains 25 essential vitamins and minerals, seven grams of protein, antioxidants. One serving is equivalent to 244 calories.

Targeted at children aged one to 13, and designed to be part of a child’s daily diet, the drink is marketed to “fill in nutritional gaps and help support the strong growth and healthy immune system” of children.

Nestle also highlights that the drink is free of high fructose corn syrup, the corn-derived sweetener that has received much negative attention recently as it is thought by some to contribute to obesity.

In addition, the drink, which comes in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavors, claims to be “digestion friendly” as it is free of lactose and gluten.

The drink is said to be available in retail stores nationwide.

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