Limited consumer awareness threatens to restrain the development of probiotics markets, finds a new Frost & Sullivan report, yet sales of the healthy ingredient are still set to almost triple in value over the next six years.
The European probiotics market will grow to reach $137.9 million in 2010, with the US market projected to reach $394 million.
But consumer knowledge of probiotics is currently extremely low in regions such as the US and UK, restricted to a few specific products. Even in northern Europe, where probiotic products have been widely accepted, penetration into the target market has been lower than anticipated due to relatively low awareness levels.
"Increasing public knowledge of probiotics has been cited by most companies as their first priority. However, many probiotic manufacturers are not in direct contact with the consumer and must rely on marketing investment by end-users such as dairy companies," explained Frost & Sullivan food industry analyst Lyndsey Greig.
Probiotics suppliers also need to enhance credibility through independent scientific studies. Products supported by comprehensive scientific documentation and proof of efficacy are likely to make the strongest gains, particularly when specific health claims are being made, given consumers' greater confidence in the products, reveals the report.
And while dairy and dietary supplements are currently the main application areas for probiotic products in food, manufacturers are working to develop new applications for probiotic ingredients and to expand their use within existing product segments.
"As improvements are made in the stability of probiotics, and a greater understanding is reached as to the mechanism of action and properties of different strains, new applications for probiotics are being developed. This extended product range is likely to result in a greater probability of probiotics reaching a larger percentage of population, whether through conscious consumer choice or otherwise," added Greig.
In 2003, the total European probiotics market comprising the four main application areas - dairy, animal feed, supplements and infant nutrition - was estimated at $40.3 million (€34.6m), with the US market valued at $143.9 million. Within the EU, dairy constituted the main human food application, whereas supplements were a much bigger market in the US.
But as competition intensifies, participants will need to make comprehensive efforts to advance the probiotic concept and raise public awareness, warns Frost & Sullivan. Initiatives will involve collaborating with competitors for overall promotion of probiotics, increasing consumer understanding and updating healthcare professionals and food companies about latest industry developments, the report suggests. Disseminating information within the industry and among regulatory bodies will also be critical to success.
For more information about this report, European and United States Probiotics Market (B187), contact Noel Anderson at Frost & Sullivan.