The probiotic developer has recently reported a 5 per cent decline in sales for the first quarter amid lower tablet sales and increasing losses but says it continues to focus on providing strong scientific support for clearer health claims that should help it gain a competitive edge on the marketplace in the long-term.
A number of contracts in Asia, with new product launches expected this year in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, demonstrate the value of claims. Asian consumers are familiar with the concept of gut health and respond to gut health claims on products, explained Jan Annwall, deputy managing director of BioGaia.
"I guess they are more used to gut health benefits whereas in the US, consumers don't want to read about bacteria in the intestine," Annwall told NutraIngredients.com.
He says the company is concentrating on products with clear health claims that will be easily understood and accepted by consumers.
"It is also important that the consumer feels the effects. If the bacteria is good for the gut, how does the consumer measure this? However probiotic gum will help stop bleeding around the gums, an immediate effect," he added.
Annwall acknowledged that such applications are verging on medical treatments but said that the firm needed to take a more pharmaceutical approach to the supplements business.
"We have to distinguish ourselves from the competition. We spend a lot of money on research and are building up good data."
He added that customers are increasingly making claims that Reuteri products strengthen the immune system rather than merely being good for gut health.
This claim is supported by two clinical trials, one carried out on infants and another, as yet unpublished, involving adults. The researchers found that people taking Reuteri supplements had less sick days than those on a placebo.
The company is also generating increasing revenue from the pharmaceutical sector, currently around half of its sales.
Sales have been boosted by a new product, Pro-Digesta Drops, recently launched in Italy by Rome-based Noos under the brand Reuterin gocce. The drops are largely sold through pharmacies for small children with gastrointestinal disorders and to help the immune system.
It is not clear what kind of claims the firm will be able to make in Europe under forthcoming legislation but the latest debates on the new law suggest that the more scientific data, the better.