Functional foods, beverages seen as biggest growth areas for probiotics, prebiotics

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Pill fatigue is a major factor in the slowdown in the sales of probiotic supplements, according to a longtime industry insider.

Mike Bush has been in the category for more than a decade, having helped to shepherd the Ganeden brand, which developed a proprietary strain of the probiotic organism Bacillus coagulans​, to the point of its acquisition by Irish ingredients giant Kerry. Bush is now the managing partner of GrowthWays Partners, an investment consultancy.

Sales slowdown in probiotic supplements

At the recent Probiota Americas 2019 event, put on by NutraIngredients-USA, Matthew Oster of Euromonitor laid out a slowdown in sales of probiotic supplements that his company has noted. For more about that slowdown, watch this video ​with Oster.

Bush concurred with that assessment, but said in his view the slowdown applies only to supplements. There is plenty of opportunity for probiotic ingredients in other delivery formats.

“The continued growth seems to be in food and beverage.  Consumers are telling us they are just tired of pills,” ​Bush told NutraIngredients-USA.

“They want to have their prebiotics, their probiotics, in foods that they normally eat.  So the onus is on the industry so that they have enough options, so that consumers are not forced to eat that same bar or consume that same supplement every single day,” ​he added.

On the supplement side of things, Bush said that condition specific products will likely see the strongest growth in the future. (Oster did say that while sales are in a soft patch, he believes it's a temporary phenomenon.)

Role for prebiotics

Prebiotics have a potential role here, Bush said, because of their demonstrated ability to provide more energy for the indigenous gut flora to thrive. The synbiotic story might be oversold in some cases, because there might be a paucity of data showing a given prebiotic preferentially feeds the probiotic organism packaged in the same product.

But Bush said that packaging these ingredients together still would make sense, because each would still do what they would normally do in isolation, i.e., positively affect parameters of gut health. But there is still a learning curve among consumers to understand fully the benefits of prebiotic ingredients.

“I think the prebiotic industry is where probiotics were maybe seven years ago, so there is still some work to do.  But I don’t think it will be as long of a ramp,”​ Bush said.

Probiota Americas

For more information on Probiota Americas, click here​.

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