Based on statistics broken down from one of its recent reports, Datamonitor said that a major driver behind increased consumer awareness has been the success of marketing campaigns for products such as Activia and Yakult.
"US Consumers are now more knowledgeable regarding the relationship between fiber and digestive health and are seeking out more ways of safeguarding their health with functional foods," said Mark Whalley, consumer markets analyst at Datamonitor.
The group’s comments, part of a geographical break down from a recent report on the global probiotics market, suggest that US consumers are becoming increasingly accepting of the concept of ‘friendly’ bacteria as awareness increases.
In 2008, Datamonitor valued the US market for probiotics at $1,526.7m, up from $952.1m in 2003.
Although the market is growing fast, it still remains well behind Europe, where probiotics have had more time to edge their way into consumer minds and guts.
Indeed, just last year a national survey carried out in the US 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.
A similar survey commissioned last year by LiveActive from Kraft Foods found that nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) said they are “not at all familiar” with probiotics and only 13 percent of those who were familiar with them could define them accurately.
“Recognition of probiotics still has some way to go. However, it seems that the more consumers use these kinds of products in everyday life, the more they believe in the benefits,” Whalley told NutraIngredients-USA.com.
According to Datamonitor’s statistics, from a report published in February this year – Opportunities in Digestive and Immunity Health: Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors – only a minority of consumers remain skeptical about probiotic product claims.
A Datamonitor consumer survey conducted last year revealed that only 14 percent of Americans found probiotic product claims to be untrustworthy.
“This is not surprising given the fact that digestive health has only recently become a mainstream issue in the United States,” said Datamonitor.
Around 38 percent of consumers trusted foods and beverages which make digestive health claims, while 47 percent were undecided.
Females were more likely to trust these products than males (41 percent compared to 36 percent), which could be expected given the fact that females suffer from digestive health problems more than males.
Digestive health is ‘mainstream’
In 2008, nearly 59.9 million Americans complained of heartburn, and this figure expected to rise to almost 73 million by 2013, amounting to nearly a quarter of the population.
According to Datamonitor, this increased awareness “is only the beginning of the digestive health movement.”
“In Asia Pacific countries such as Japan, the idea of drinking a daily Yakult is a far more normal and accepted part of life. As time goes on, the same culture is expected to develop across Europe and North America.”
"The real success of these products has been the way in which consumers have adopted them for a 'daily dosing' routine," said Whalley.