Probiotics are unfamiliar to most Americans, finds survey

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Probiotics, Probiotic, Bacteria, International probiotics association, Us

A survey conducted last month has found that the vast majority of Americans know nothing about probiotics, suggesting more education efforts could help boost an industry still in its infancy.

​The national survey, carried out by Opinion Research Corporation, revealed that only 15 percent of American adults were familiar with the healthy bacteria.

Some 85 percent of respondents knew “little to nothing”​ about probiotics.

However, this is still a significant increase in awareness compared to several years ago, when the term was virtually unheard of by the American consumer.

According to Ioannis Misopoulos, executive director of the International Probiotics Association (IPA), “awareness is definitely low, but that is changing”.

“A couple of years ago, only 5 percent of Americans knew about probiotics,”​ he told this morning, adding that industry marketing efforts have already started to pay off.


The current survey was commissioned by Ganeden Biotech, which sells probiotic dietary supplements.

Conducted in the second week of August, it involved telephone interviews with 1000 adults in the continental US. According to Opinion Research, the margin of error is +/-3 percent.

Two third of respondents had never heard of the term ‘probiotics’.

As past of its efforts to help improve awareness amongst the public, Ganeden is producing a series of podcasts that will provide information on particular digestive health issues and the role of probiotics in managing digestive health.

Health benefits

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria found naturally in the human gut, and are crucial for good gut health.

When an imbalance occurs between probiotic and pathogenic bacteria, the result may be digestive problems such as diarrhea, irregularity or constipation. Regular consumption of probiotics is also said to ward off numerous preconditions for an array of diseases.

Some of the benefits of probiotics include immune stimulation, enhancement of bowel mobility, and reduction of inflammatory or allergic reactions.

According to the American College of Gastroenterology, there are 95m people in the US that suffer from digestive problems. Some 60m are thought to suffer from heartburn, and 50m from irritable bowel syndrome. In addition, it is estimated that around 20m people suffer from stomach ulcers.


Although digestive health still lags behind other health concerns, such as heart health, immune health or weight management, the market is slowly gathering speed, aided in large part by aggressive marketing for brands such as Yakult and Danone’s Actimel.

These two brands are generally credited with leading the probiotics category, with growth extending across the Atlantic from the European continent.

The probiotics market in the US, which has grown exponentially in the past few years, is predicted to still have significant room to grow for those companies that can effectively communicate the benefits of the ingredient to consumers.

According to Euromonitor data, the US probiotic spoonable yoghurt market alone went from $112m in 2001 to $294m in 2006.

The European food and beverage probiotics market is expected to more than double by 2013, according to Frost & Sullivan. The Strategic Analysis of the European Food and Beverage Probiotics Market,​ says the market is expected to rise from its 2006 position of $61.7m to $163.5m by 2013.

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