Speaking to NutraIngredients-USA.com, Euromonitor analyst Ewa Hudson said the market was ripe for new applications as more consumers are now familiar with the beneficial bacteria.
“Probiotics are growing (...) They are the ultimate health ingredient because they are positioned at healthy people to improve their wellbeing, so they appeal to the regular consumer,” said Hudson.
According to Hudson, the marketing efforts of Danone and its US branch Dannon played a big role in raising consumer awareness of probiotics. “Particularly in the US, this was a first step to make people aware that bacteria can also be healthy.”
Expanding categories and consumer groups
Currently, the large majority of probiotic products are positioned for gut health and immunity – the two health areas where the ingredients have the most scientific backing.
Hudson said most of these products target women and children – a market positioning that is clear from their advertising. “One potential area of opportunity is for probiotic products that target men,” she said.
However, manufacturers need to find ways that make probiotics particularly appealing to men, said Hudson.
This means expanding into different applications and health categories, towards the emerging areas of scientifically-proven benefits for the ingredients. These include oral health, such as fresh breath and mouth ulcers.
One example in this category would be probiotic chewing gum, said Hudson. “Men are concerned about fresh breath and oral health. This could be one of the faces of the future for probiotics,” she said.
Probiotic chewing gum
Chewing gum, mints and lozenges are considered ideal applications for ingredients targeting oral health because they allow for extensive contact in the mouth.
Probiotic ingredients for oral health are already being marketed by firms such as BioGaia and BASF in partnership with OrganoBalance.
“Probiotics are in line to become the next blockbuster functional ingredients in gum and mints,” wrote Euromonitor in a recent comment article.
Functional gum – which includes tooth-whitening gum and gum sweetened with tooth-friendly xylitol – is growing fast around the world, with sales estimated at $5.7bn in 2008, a 10 percent growth on the previous year. The overall global gum market is worth $19.6bn. However, Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) has no records of any chewing gum product that mentions ‘probiotics’ on its label.
UK-based research group Leatherhead Food International (LFI), agrees the time is ripe for more developments in the field of probiotics for oral health.
“The few studies completed in the area show oral health promise so we think it is time to take it further,” LFI head of food safety, Dr Evangelia Komitopoulou told NutraIngredients.com last year.
The center has embarked on a project in conjunction with the Dental Institute at King’s College in London to investigate various probiotic strains, dosage, delivery mechanisms and oral benefits such as reduced dental caries and halitosis. Although the concept was initially that this would be a collaborative project shared among different parties, LFI confirmed to NutraIngredients-USA.com that “one company is interested in taking this up as a confidential project”. Preliminary results of the two-year study were expected this year.
Health claim barriers?
However, as with all functional food categories, probiotic chewing gum is facing rigorous barriers to market in Europe, in the form of the new European nutrition and health claims regulation, which aims to develop a centralized list of health claims for use in the bloc’s member states.
In July this year, The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) rejected an article 13.5 (emerging and proprietary science) health claim submission from Sunstar Suisse linking p Lactobacilllus reuteri-fortified probiotic chewing gum and tablets with oral health.
EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) said that while decreasing the levels of mutans streptococci in the oral cavity and reducing the amount of dental plaque may be beneficial to health, the dossier did not demonstrate how the product in question, Gum Periobalance, helped this to be so.
Other trends highlighted include a quest for cheaper products, beauty from within and a renewed focus on weight management. To read those articles, click here .