Is dairy a hindrance and not a help for probiotics growth?

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Concerns have been raised about changing consumer attitudes to dairy, and the impact that could have on the probiotics sector. ©iStock
Concerns have been raised about changing consumer attitudes to dairy, and the impact that could have on the probiotics sector. ©iStock

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The vast majority of new product development for functional foods featuring probiotics “remains in the dairy space”, but this may be more of a hindrance than a help for the sector’s growth prospects.

That’s according to Emma Schofield, global food analyst at Mintel, who addressed the recent Vitafoods conference in Geneva.

While she argued that greater understanding of the benefits of pre and probiotics was slowly filtering down to some consumers, she said neither were fully understood by the wider public.

“Compared to vitamins, fibre and protein, understanding is quite poor,”​ she said. “There is still a big challenge to bring them to the forefront of people’s minds.”

She also cautioned about changing consumer attitudes to dairy, and the impact that could have on the probiotics sector.

“There are big challenges for dairy and yogurt. While they were once the go to solution for digestive health, for some people dairy is seen as more of an issue than a solution as they link it with upsetting their digestive system.”

New homes

That said, she claimed the vast majority of probiotics NPD remained in the dairy space and suggested that “probiotics need to establish themselves in new homes in every day food and drink essentials.”

She highlighted growing NPD in Europe which had seen probiotics added to fresh juices – which played on immunity claims in light of European regulator EFSA’s ongoing refusal to allow health claims for probiotics – and into ice cream and chocolates, providing “a balance between health and indulgence”.

It also appears that some food manufacturers are preferring to market products around the “live cultures​” instead of specifically mentioning probiotics.

There is also a similar approach with prebiotics, she added.

“Prebiotics are starting to challenge probiotics in term of NPD, but again consumers are not too aware of the ingredients and some of the names may sounds unnatural.

“So we see brands promoting their use of chicory fibre, not inulin, because the latter doesn’t resonate with consumers as well. They are skirting around actually calling it a prebiotic.”

Dominant force

In terms of popular prebiotic ingredients, she said chicory root would be hard to rival as a dominant force, but added that Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion root and tigernut were increasing in popularity.

In Asia Pacific, however, she cautioned that growing awareness of the FODMAP diet was a threat to prebiotic growth. Restricting FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) ingredients is claimed to improve symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders.

Some delegates at the event questioned the blurring of the lines between a “true probiotic”​ supplement and some functional foods which would have to be eaten in huge volumes to gain the same benefits.

Probiota Asia 2017​ 

Probiota Asia 2017 Master logo

The Probiota series is growing, and in October 2017, Singapore will host the first ever Probiota Asia event. Building on the success of the annual global Probiota and Probiota Americas events, Probiota Asia will focus exclusively on this high growth market and the challenges it faces.

Save the date: 11-13 October 2017

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