Probiotics are bacteria found in the gut that are understood to have health benefits. Although products cannot make bold health claims in most markets, research areas include gut health and immune health. Prebiotics are ingredients that stimulate growth of probiotics in the gut, and synbiotics are a combination of the two.
Data drawn from Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD) shows that new dairy products mentioning probiotic, prebiotics and synbiotics in their have been stacking up steadily over the past five years: from 70 introductions listed in 2002 throughout the bloc to 238 in 2006.
This is no surprise, since dairy was the first category for the introduction of probiotics, and is particularly suitable since chilled conditions and short shelf-life are required both for the product and survivability of the bacteria.
But ingredients manufacturers and scientists have been investigating ways to boost probiotic survival and make them suitable for use in other product types, such as through microencapsulation technology. Moreover, the probiotic concept has started to catch on, and prebiotic ingredients, such as inulin and oligofructose, are not so sensitive to formulation stresses.
The GNPD indicates that these developments are filtering through to finished products and driving pro- and prebiotic use in more categories.
Listings of new baby food products mentioning probiotic, prebiotic or synbiotic increased steadily from three in 2002 to 27 in 2006; snack product listings went from five in 2002 to zero in 2004 to 25 in 2006; and confectionery products from just one in 2004 and none the following year to 11 in 2006.
For beverage products - generally a popular format for functional products - the trend is less clear. While the number of listing increased from two and three in 2002 and 2003 respectively to 22 in 2004, the following year numbers slipped to six, before rebounding to 21 in 2006.
There are also indications of some interesting geographical trends. Overall Germany has the most probiotic, prebiotic and synbiotic product launches listed in the past five years (241), with the UK in second place with 144 (including 2007 to date).
In dairy, baby food, breakfast cereals and other categories combined, Germany leads the pack. But in the beverage and snack sectors, the UK is ahead.
Eastern European countries such as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Russia have also seen increasing considerably more products coming to market since 2004. So great has the momentum been, in fact, that these four countries show up in the top ten countries for launches, behind Germany, UK, Italy, Austria, Spain and Ireland. Data source: Mintel's Global New Products Database.