“The word probiotic is an area of scientific study, not a consumer-friendly marketing term that we use very much,” said Dannon’s Michael Neuwirth.
“If you look at our product marketing, the word ‘probiotic’ is not a dominant theme at all – it’s more the benefit of the product and the importance of ongoing consumption,” he told NutraIngredients-USA.com.
Dannon – the US branch of France-based parent firm Danone – has been widely accredited with driving the growth of the probiotics category in the United States via its active marketing efforts that have helped raise consumer awareness.
What consumers want
Last year, the US market for probiotics was worth $1,526.7m, up from $952.1m in 2003, according to market researcher Datamonitor.
At the same time, the American College of Gastroenterology estimates that 95m people in the US suffer from digestive problems.
“Consumers have told us that they are more interested in the benefit. Their first question is: ‘What will [this product] help me with?’ Only after that do they ask: ‘What is the unique ingredient?’ said Neuwirth, who is senior director of public relations at Dannon.
Adapting marketing strategies
Dannon has adapted its product marketing accordingly, he said. For example, the firm’s DanActive probiotic yogurt drink first highlights the health condition it is positioned for.
The most prominent wording on the product packaging is the term ‘Immunity’, followed by the claim ‘Helps strengthen your body’s defenses’. Underneath that, in smaller writing, is the mention ‘Probiotic dairy drink’. On the side of the packaging is the trademark name of the probiotic strain used.
Trademark name or scientific strain?
L. casei Immunitas is the commercial name for the proprietary strain of Lactobacillus casei in DanActive. The official scientific name for L. casei Immunitas is Lactobacillus casei DN – 114 001.
According to Dannon, using a trademark name for the probiotic strain rather than the full scientific name “makes it easier for consumers to identify and remember it”. The trademark name “always uniquely links back to the scientific name”, which is what all scientific studies are based on, said Neuwirth. Consumers can find full information on the scientific names on the websites of each product, he said.
However, the trade group International Probiotics Association (IPA) says that a trademark name is not sufficient, and the full scientific name of a strain must also appear on product labels.
“If a Trademarked name is used to identify the bacteria, the actual genus and species should also be included on the label. This information gives consumers the knowledge and chance to research the strains,” IPA states in its voluntary quality guidelines for probiotics.
IPA director general Ioannis Misopoulos told NutraIngredients-USA.com this morning: “If you use the term ‘probiotic’ you must go by FAO rules and identify what it means – so that means you must identify the strain or microorganism that confers a benefit to the host.”