Taking the consumer pulse in the current biotics market

By Asia Sherman

- Last updated on GMT

© SrdjanPav / Getty Images
© SrdjanPav / Getty Images

Related tags Probiota americas 2024 FMCG Gurus consumer insights biotics

At the recent IPA World Congress + Probiota Americas event in Salt Lake City, market research firm FMCG Gurus presented the current biotics landscape, painting a picture of a consumer base focused on day-to-day needs and value for money.

According to the company’s survey data, consumers developed a more proactive approach to health and well-being at the top of this decade—a behavior seeded by a fear of pandemic illness that drove sales of functional ingredients and products to meet a demand for “health at all costs”.

However, attitudes appear to be shifting as people take a more considered approach and struggle to stick to health and wellness regimens due to rising costs, lack of motivation and pickiness about efficacy and sensory appeal. 

“Post-pandemic, there is reduced fear of illness, and the recognition that issues related to mundane lives, such as busy lifestyles and financial costs, is also impacting the way consumers are looking at their health and well-being,” said Will Cowling, commercial manager at FMCG Gurus.

The surveys showed that 21% of global consumers in 2024 felt their health had improved over the last 12 months compared to 44% in 2022. 

Biotics in this landscape

Cowling said that within this evolving health and wellness market, most consumers are relatively new to probiotics—with 65% of those surveyed reporting having purchased probiotic products for less than two years and 67% confirming they would purchase a probiotic. Whereas the data testifies to increased awareness of probiotic benefits, it also shows that there is much less understanding of prebiotics and postbiotics. 

“This means that while the probiotic market is well-established and many consumers understand the benefits and why they should be in their everyday diet and lifestyle, it still showcases that prebiotics and postbiotics remain as a big opportunity there for some more education for consumers,” he noted, adding that many consumers are struggling to differentiate between the biotics and to grasp their potential complementary effects.

With the renewed attention on routine need states and minding of pocketbooks “at a time when consumers are less driven by fear and ignorance”, the presentation highlighted that claims supporting core areas like digestive health and immune health remain key to appeal to consumers.

“Promotion of the gut-immunity axis is something that will actually enhance perceptions of value and efficacy,” Cowling said. “If you can add in additional ingredients and promote the benefits of additional ingredients such as vitamins and proteins in your products, this is also going to create more value for consumers as they feel like they're going to get more for their money.”

He added that companies should also be providing the science to support the efficacy of clean, authentic and sustainable products.

Not going too niche

Understanding that increasing digestive health issues—driven by stressors like cost of living, time scarcity and over-reliance on digital devices—will feature as motivation for probiotic consumption, FMCG Gurus is advising companies not go too niche with the positioning of products. This includes finding the right balance between innovation and overpromotion of health claims to drive sales.

“If we overpromote health claims when consumers are less motivated by health, this can actually create a borderline challenge between efficacy and value of the product, but also consumers just being completely turned off by a product as well, and then actually not turning to them,” Cowling explained. “We also know that demonstrating efficacy will be crucial at a time when spending is more considered.”

Looking ahead to the landscape 10 years on, when more and more consumers have been educated around the gut microbiome, the firm sees great opportunities as long as brands do not stray with their probiotic positioning but target some of those core digestive health issues which consumers are looking to address.

“We know that consumers can sometimes feel that some products are being positioned as a magic bullet solution, and this is something which paints an unrealistic picture of the benefits they can actually provide,” Cowling said.

Also important, he noted, is for industry to communicate that product efficacy depends largely on consumers getting the basics right—eating a healthy balanced diet, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated and exercising regularly.

“These are all going to be key impacts on whether a product is effective or not,” he said.

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