Guest article

The Martian: Cultivating seeds of hope on Earth

By George Paraskevakos, IPA Executive Director

- Last updated on GMT

 © cokada / Getty Images
© cokada / Getty Images

Related tags Probiotics International probiotics association George Paraskevakos Global Retailer and Manufacturer Alliance

I recently came across, what was dubbed a space movie and recalled one of the reviews which stood out the most; “The Martian is a film about human error, the will to survive, and the responsibility that we have as human beings, not just to the work that we dedicate our lives to, but to one another as people.”[i] In my humble opinion, this fits the parable we have been going through this past year and since this global challenge began.

IPA’s work pressed on regardless of what we had to deal with. In fact, a little like the film, IPA continued to work for the industry and its future by sowing the seeds of sustainability, growth, faith, and credibility.

The webinars and virtual events continued to be the order of the day. We participated where we had the opportunity to pursue our work and continue spreading the good word about probiotics.

A glimmer of hope shined down on our everyday as we began to hear and see events popping up and the actual coming together with humans.

My first in person event in July planted the seeds to what we announced a few weeks ago; a collaboration with the Global Retailer and Manufacturer Alliance (GRMA) using IPA’s manufacturing guidelines to what will be the only probiotic certification standard for the manufacturing of finished probiotic products. The joint working group will start in Q1 of 2022, and we are hoping to have news to announce by the IPA World Congress and Probiota Americas taking place June 2022 in Washington DC.

Another fertile ground where we continued our forward-looking initiatives was in September at the Rome Probiotic Congress. In a closed workshop during that same week, we gathered with the International Dairy Federation (IDF) and other expert groups, to partake in discussions about the future of the new terms and definitions for all items “biotic”.  This being a longer-term effort but an equally very important project since the proliferation of many new terms using the extension ‘biotic’. We as a responsible industry need to create a road map for definitions, criteria of substantiation, proof of concept and scientific assessments that will help all stakeholders identify what all this means. 

The IPA Probiotic Resource Centers (PRC) will also continue to proliferate across the various trade show floors. My trip to Frankfurt ensured a first-time collaboration of the IPA PRC at the Fi Europe show which will be held in Paris at the Porte de Versailles expo, bringing innovation to the food and beverage industry.

The latter part of the year came with the announcement of the completion of the IPA probiotic course to be scheduled within the Master of Science program at SCNM in late 2022. The University’s dean Dr Gena Kadar was invited to the Rome Congress to give an overview and the importance of what I like to refer to as “educating the educators”. I truly feel this will blaze the path for a paradigm shift on how we reach out to the ambassadors of our industry and how we educate with accurate and truthful information.

Traveling to Porto in Portugal for the “Biotech Pharma Summit” enabled me to participate in a session of the brain-gut and skin microbiome world. Forward looking research presentations underlined the importance of our beneficial organisms and microbiome play in possible disease applications. This was a first-time opportunity to interact with the biotech and pharmaceutical industry.

IPA also published data for its membership, based on FMCG Guru’s survey results. The information underlined how our industry continues to grow not only from a market perspective but from a scientific one as well. The reports accentuated how consumers mindset shifted from treatment to prevention, and top of mind for many of them has driven thirst for probiotic products which support overall health maintenance and wellness. In that sense, the survey data continues to link consumer’s understanding for wellness and prevention to immune and gut health. These classical areas of science were the foundation for probiotics and what the category was built on. Self education is on the rise as people want to minimize their vulnerability to illness and many platforms show GI and Immune probiotic sales have spiked upwards. 

Moreover, speaking of trending north, we saw a continued surge in probiotic sales and a big growth spurt on e-commerce platforms with probiotics being reported as the number one VMS category on Amazon, during a collaboration webinar with Clear Cut Analytics.

In keeping with the movie theme, star gazing a little for 2022 we will see the continuation of research in the probiotic field, increased usage of the word microbiome and we will see more visible products being commercialized using the …biotic extension, such as (post, para, psycho, etc.…biotics).

Science will continue supporting the importance of probiotics in many new areas of human health, and the IPA regulatory manuscript currently outlining 28 countries regulations for probiotic products will add 8 more countries to this valuable tool, which is only available for its membership.

Finally, following the end of his inter galactic tour, the return to earth of the only probiotic comic Ivan Wassermann and his new side kick Stanley the probiotic puppet will return to the IPA PRC in Vegas. 

I conclude my piece by tying back to the title “The Martian; Cultivating seeds of hope on Earth”, MIT scientists suggest life on Earth descended from …organisms that originated on Mars and were carried here aboard meteorites. Space travel on rocks can be harsh but spore forming organisms have been identified and able to survive such a journey of millions of years. So whatever challenges we might be facing currently, we are more resilient than we can understand.

Wishing everyone a safe and healthy end of year and for COVID to disappear altogether in 2022!


For more additional information about IPA's work and inquiries on joining can be directed to​ 

[i]   Tinubu A. Entertainment editor at Stylecaster 2015



After the enforced hiatus in 2021, Probiota is back! Next stop? Copenhagen between 23 - 25 February 2022.

The early advance programme is now available to download​​​, where you’ll find more information on these core themes along with key focus areas for Probiota 2022.

These areas include:

  • Next Generation probiotics for weight management/ obesity
  • Fermented foods and dietary microbes
  • The global e-commerce market for probiotics
  • Beyond probiotics with postbiotics and phages
  • Latest advances in the microbiota-gut-brain axis
  • The opportunities of Live Biotherapeutics/ Pharmabiotics
  • Opportunities for the skin and oral microbiome
  • And surveying the regulatory landscape across Europe: From Brexit to EFSA

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