Americans are hearing the good news on bacteria

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Probiotic, Lactobacillus, Lactobacillus casei

The message about the gut health benefit probiotics can deliver is
finally getting through to US consumers, according to a new report
on the state of the functional foods sub-category.

A new report from Business Communications Company​ entitled Probiotics: Ingredients, Supplements, and Foods​ estimates that total sales of probiotics were worth $764 million in 2005, with foods such as yogurts, kefirs and cultured drinks accounting for 65.2 percent of the total.

Probiotic supplements are also proving popular: capsules, tablets and powders are expected to make up 27.6 percent of sales.

Of the $51.7 million in ingredient sales in 2004, the Lactobacillus genus​ strain was by far the most popular, representing 58.2 percent of sales.

The growth curve for the entire category over the past two years has been steep, with an annual 19 percent increase. Overall sales were $626.7 and 525.8 million in 2004 and 2003 respectively.

Although this growth is expected to slow somewhat over the next five years, an annual growth rate of 7.1 percent will put probiotic sales at $1.1 billion in 2010.

Probiotics are cultures of live microorganisms that, when ingested in sufficient amounts, balance out the population of bad and good bacteria in the gut and confer health and wellness benefits on the host.

The United States has been relatively slow to catch on to probiotics compared with Australia and Europe, where products containing so-called friendly bacteria have been welcomed into diets since the mid- to late-1990s.

Part of the problem is thought to have been a failure on the part of marketers to capture the imagination of health-conscious consumers. For example, Danone's DanActive product has fared much better since the company changed its name from Actimel and ditched the bacteria description which - good or not - conveys negative connotations to the minds of Americans.

Research published last November by the International Food Information Service highlighted the need for the US probiotic industry to step up a gear and finance further research into probiotics in order to provide scientific proof of their health benefits and bolster consumer confidence.

In March 2005 Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, published a report stating that branded packaged cultured dairy products would be worth an estimated $5.9 billion in 2004. Including more sub-categories than Business Communications, Packaged Facts expects that the market will reach $11.4 billion in 2009 with a compound annual growth rate of 14 percent.

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