The brand under DSM’s consumer health company i-Health entered the China market with products for infants and kids in 2014.
Since then, it has noticed that the adult probiotic market has been growing by leaps and bounds, especially with the rise of snackification of probiotics.
According to data from Lumina Intelligence, in terms of consumer engagement, while probiotics for children saw the highest number of online reviews – with over three million reviews as of June 2021, there was a yoy drop of 18 per cent.
In contrast, the number of online reviews for probiotics for general, adult, and infant health had increased by 93 per cent, 23 per cent, and 12 per cent respectively yoy.
The highest growth was seen in the categories of probiotics for women and pregnant and breastfeeding women – where both categories had over 300 per cent increase in the number of online reviews.
This was reflected in Culturelle’s product sales trends as well. The company said in an earlier interview that probiotics for weight management and women’s intimate health were its hero products, alongside probiotics for digestion and immunity, when it comes to its bestselling probiotics for adults.
As for the infant and kids probiotic market, the company said safety was of the topmost important priority for parents purchasing the products.
“The parents are really looking for a safe product. This is the number one priority, followed by the nutritional level, and functional benefits,” said Carrie Yang, marketing director at i-Health, Greater China region.
She went on to explain that the benefits that parents were looking for was better gut health, as well as better digestive and immune health.
While infant and kids market is its core business, the company is optimistic of China’s adult probiotic market growth in the upcoming years.
“In China, the kids and infant probiotic category is about 50 per cent of the entire probiotic market and adults another 50 per cent.
“This is very different from the US market, where the adult probiotic market is about 89 per cent, while the kids and infant probiotics market is about 11 per cent.
“In China, the adult probiotic market is underdeveloped, and it is growing at probably two times faster than the kids segment. We believe in the next few years, the adult probiotic segment in China will keep very strong growth momentum,” said Jason Zhang, regional VP at i-Health Greater China region.
“We are a family brand, providing solution for the whole lifespan – from baby, kids, to the aged population. In the short term, we will be focusing on certain areas to target a specific consumer group, since we need to build our brand equity step by step,” he added.
China’s adult probiotic market is expected to go down the trajectory of snackification versus the traditional formats of capsules and tablets.
“You will see two types of polarisation in how probiotics is consumed. One is the trend of snackification. In China, there are now a lot of local brands contributing to and driving this phenomenon.
“They adopt very innovative packaging design and also marketing campaigns to attract young female online shoppers.
“The other side of the spectrum is the more ‘professional’ products for people who are paying more attention to functional benefits – which need to be supported by clinical trials and scientific evidence,” Zhang said.
He believes that international brands such as Culturelle has a strong competency in the ‘professional’ probiotics segment, due to their expertise in clinically backed strains.
Whereas for the local Chinese probiotics brands, he noticed that most were adept at marketing innovation and consumer education.
Probiotics in the form of snacks mostly came in the form of yogurt. Today, it has expanded to biscuits, gummies, and beverages.
“These products are more convenient and can be taken by young people who even do not have digestion issues. Also, the consumers are not just enjoying the benefits of probiotics, but also the flavour and texture of the product,” Zhang said.
For Culturelle, the brand has also developed probiotics various formats, ranging from tablets, to sachet, to gummies, on top of blister-packed capsules.