The event, which is put on by NutraIngredients-USA in concert with the International Probiotics Association, featured sessions on marketing and science. It included a presentation by Matthew Oster, manager of consumer health for Euromonitor, on the size and trend of the market.
There are a number of data services that try to put a size on the market for probiotics. Unlike some competitors, Euromonitor can capture data specific only to probiotic supplements, whereas some other services include yogurts and other functional foods within the category of probiotic products, using more of a functional description of the product’s benefits rather than its dosage form.
Perception high; sales, not so much
Oster said the curious thing about the probiotic market in the United States is that the perception of the category on the part of consumers appears never to have been higher. More and more consumers are aware of what probiotics are and what they can do, and seem to believe the message, if survey results can be believed.
But the market numbers tell a different story, he said.
“Starting in 2016 and in every subsequent quarter we seen a slowing down of growth in the sales of probiotic supplements in the US,” Oster said during his formal presentation.
“In 2019 we saw the first negative quarter. We are now unequivocally in a slow growth setting,” he said.
Cannibalization among delivery forms
Oster said the chief reason for the slowing of supplement sales appears to be cannibalization from other forms. In that regard, consumers seem to view probiotics in the functional way that some of the other data services do, in other words, they’ll use the product that gives them the best results, regardless of whether its a functional food or a supplement.
“As consumers are trying to engage with these products they will generally go for the easiest products to understand,” Oster said.
Oster said postulated several ways in which the market could go in the future. Do the recent soft quarters presage a steady decline in probiotic supplement sales? In his view that’s unlikely.
“I think the most likely scenario is that this is temporary. There is continued interest in the microbiome. This has primarily been a digestive health category, but there are new areas, like psychobiotics, that will stimulate growth in the future,” he said.