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Small but mighty: The relevance of probiotics, & how they can benefit digestive health

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When it comes to great overall health and wellbeing, more people are realising it’s best to go with their gut.

That’s because a well-balanced gut microbiome is now considered even more significant for maintaining good digestive health, which in turn leads to better wellbeing overall. It’s a link that’s becoming common knowledge right around the world, too, with 60% of global consumers recognising the connection between digestive health and overall wellbeing.1

Consuming probiotics has also long been recognised as a good way to support digestive health, with people showing increasingly positive attitudes towards these products.

With digestive health a common concern in the US, for example, 31% of consumers agree probiotics are “essential for a healthy digestive system”.2​ This is reinforced by the type of symptoms American consumers say they were experiencing when they first sought out probiotics, with digestive issues such as constipation, gas and abdominal pain the three most common complaints (Figure 1).3

Figure 1 - High Res

This shift towards using probiotics for better digestive health is also reflected in the global probiotics retail market. Valued at $US52.61 billion two years ago, it’s expected to be worth $US77.85 billion by the end of 2024 (based on a CAGR of 5.8%).4

This demand is being triggered by an increasing number of people looking to take preventative action to support good health, especially with modern lifestyles and the accompanying stress, travel, infections, antibiotics and poor diets causing bacterial imbalances in the gut.

The reasons for consumers wanting to improve their digestive health are varied. The top reasons globally include a desire to feel more active or more relaxed, as well as improving the body’s natural defences and preventing illness.1​ People are also beginning to recognise probiotics’ benefits in areas like immunity and mental health.

But the really exciting potential of probiotics has emerged with recent advancements in technology and scientific knowledge, which has allowed us to identify different probiotic strains and then isolate them for specific health benefits. The need for brand and product owners to move beyond marketing probiotic species and start identifying individual strains is gaining traction as consumers become savvier about the products they’re buying and start to understand that health benefits differ by probiotic strain. 


Of course, this more granular focus brings greater scrutiny on the ability of brand or product owners to prove that their probiotic strains can deliver on promoted health benefits. This requires probiotic strains to be well researched, with clear and compelling clinical evidence.

Two such probiotic strains are Lactobacillus rhamnosus ​HN001 (NZMP LactoB 001) and Bifidobacterium lactis animalis ​HN019 (NZMP BifidoB 019), which have been clinically researched since the 1990s.

These strains were discovered and developed by Fonterra’s Microbial Fermentation Unit (MFU) during a screening programme of over 2,0000 bacterial strains derived from dairy cultures.

Established in 1927, Fonterra’s MFU has the largest dairy culture library in the world, with 40,000-plus strains. While its original aim was to develop dairy cultures for the manufacture of classic products such as cheese and yoghurts, the world-class MFU facility has more recently been responsible for driving the development of probiotics such as NZMP LactoB 001 and BifidoB 019.

Both of these strains have clinically supported benefits for gut health, which provides an opportunity to target common health concerns such as nutrient absorption, inflammation, and conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Everyone’s gut microbiome contains a unique mix of organisms and a balanced, functional microbiome is crucial to good digestive health and overall wellbeing. With the makeup of an individual’s microbiome influenced by many factors, probiotic supplementation is commonly recommended to support a healthy balance of gut microbes, especially for individuals who lead busy, active lifestyles – LactoB 001 and BifidoB 019 have been shown to do this in several crucial ways. 

NZMP’s probiotic strains have been shown to support gut integrity, which is particularly vital for good gut health. A permeable, inflamed gut allows pathogens or microbial components to enter the body (Figure 2), leading to weakened immune systems, inflammation, food sensitivities and nutrient deficiencies, so shoring up the gut’s defences has obvious benefits.

Figure 2 - High Res

Gut discomfort, a very common complaint that encompasses symptoms such as bloating, gas and constipation, has also been shown to be eased by NZMP’s probiotic strains.

Modern lifestyles also often lead to increased stress levels, and therefore increased risks of inflammation and infection which can be of concern for more active consumers. It’s a health issue that’s on the rise with the popularity of high impact, intense training programmes. Probiotic supplementation also has the potential to mitigate these issues by enhancing immune cell function, reducing inflammatory bio-markers and reducing risk to certain types of infection.

Intestinal tract infections are a common problem for the general population, however the risk for this type of illness is raised for those travelling internationally. Infection-related traveller’s diarrhoea is, for example, the most common gastrointestinal illness in athletes who travel for their sport5​. NZMP’s probiotics strains have the potential to reduce certain types of infection which may be contributing to the incidence of diarrhoea.

Lastly, probiotics are also well-known for enhancing the absorption of essential minerals, which is especially important for certain groups of people who may be on restricted or limited diets.


With digestive health the very foundation of general wellbeing, probiotic present a great opportunity for positively influencing consumers’ health. Given they address common issues that affect many adults, the ability of specific probiotic strains to target key health concerns will no doubt appeal to a wide range of people.

More information about the gut microbiome, probiotics and their positive influence on digestive health and overall wellbeing can be found in NZMP’s white paper​ on the topic.

Specific information about how NZMP’s probiotics products can help solve consumers’ needs can also be found at​.

As the emerging benefits of probiotics continue to capture consumers’ attention, NZMP will be releasing additional white papers exploring probiotics’ impact on immunity and mental wellbeing later this year.

Further investigation into the ability to use NZMP probiotics in alternative food and beverage applications is also underway, with more clinical trials planned to support emerging health stories. 

NZMP will feature at the USA’s leading food science event, IFT, this year. Visitors to IFT19 in New Orleans from June 2-5 are encouraged to visit NZMP at Stand #1310 to learn more about these probiotic advances and what they mean for your business and your customers.

Along with the new probiotic offerings, NZMP will be introducing other innovative ingredients, including functional proteins and a wide variety of protein-fortified foods.



  1. FMCG Gurus, Global Digestive Health, 2019
  2. Helping Consumers Manage Their Digestive Health – August 2017 - Mintel
  3. FMCG Gurus Q3 2018 Survey US
  4. EcoFocus, Frost & Sullivan
  5. Boggess, 2007

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