The International Probiotics Association (IPA) is holding a global conference on probiotics in 2008, thereby setting the stage for discussion on standards and regulations for the so-called friendly bacteria.
The IPA World Congress will be a biennial conference conducted in association with the American Gastroenterological Association Institute (AGA). It is set to include health professionals, academia and industry professionals and involve two days of presentations on probiotic-related topics.
"This will mark the first time where a probiotic conference brings together professionals from many different areas of the probiotic industry to outline key developments in probiotic medical research and product development," said IPA executive director Ioannis Misopoulos.
The 2008 IPA World Congress will be held at the Beverly Hilton on April 11-12. Originally founded in 2001, IPA became fully active in 2005 and began forging a network between researchers, academia and industry.
The organization's long term goal is to establish a certification program and third party testing based on standardized methodology surrounding probiotics.
Probiotics are described as beneficial bacteria that populate the gut. When an imbalance occurs between probiotic and pathogenic bacteria, the result may be digestive problems such as diarrhoea, irregularity or constipation. Regular consumption of probiotics is also said to ward off numerous preconditions for an array of diseases.
IPA says there is a difference between different ingredients labelled as probiotics. The crux of the issue is one that has manifested itself across various categories of the functional food and nutraceutical industries: not all products labeled as probiotics behave in the same manner.
This is presents a challenge to the bottom line of those manufacturers who do practice solid science, as other companies can piggy back off their research and use similar claims. It is also a concern for consumers as they may be missing out on potentially beneficial effects of one product over the defects of another.
As such, IPA wants to encourage transparency and self-regulation for the global probiotics market.
While Europe has been the bastion of probiotics, the nutraceutical concept has been a lot slower to develop in the US. Some have posited that the notion of 'friendly basteria' was not appetizing to consumers this side of the Atlantic.
Despite this hurdle, Datamonitor recently reported that probiotic drinks and yoghurts were leading the entire US functional foods category, valued at $21.3b in 2006.
According to Euromonitor data, the global probiotic spoonable market went from $1.7b in 2001 to $4.1b in 2006. Over the same period in the US, it went from $112m to $294m.
Danone has been a key player in getting the message out to North American consumers through its advertising campaigns. Since the US launch of its Activia probiotic yogurts in January 2006, sales have surpassed the $100m mark in retail grocery sales.