Growth Asia Summit 2022

“Postbiotics promise’: Morinaga on huge opportunities across functional food and beverages

By Tingmin Koe contact

- Last updated on GMT

Postbiotics can be added into an array of food products, including baked cookies. ©Getty Images
Postbiotics can be added into an array of food products, including baked cookies. ©Getty Images

Related tags: postbiotics, Morinaga, Functional food

Japanese dairy giant Morinaga has detailed how it believes postbiotics hold great promise in the future of functional food and beverages.

Dr Chyn Boon Wong, lead research associate at Morinaga Milk Industry spoke about the above during her keynote presentation at Growth Asia Summit held in Singapore between October 11 and 13.

She was presenting the topic “Postbiotics for immunity and healthy ageing: The case for LAC-Shield as the next waves of biotics.”

Citing data from Innova, she pointed out that over the past five years, 85 per cent of food and beverage, as well as supplements launched in North America, Europe and APAC contained the word postbiotics as part of the product name, description, claims, or ingredients.

“The biotics space is expanding, we have prebiotics, probiotics and now the postbiotics.

“Due to its nature, postbiotics hold great promise in the food and beverage segments, mainly because they are de-activated.

“They can achieve certain delivery formats and also overcome certain manufacturing conditions that might be more challenging for live probiotics to thrive in.

“This is also one of the reasons why we have seen a lot of growth in the postbiotic market, because they have infinite possibilities,” ​she said.

So far, Morinaga’s postbiotics ingredient – heat-killed Lacticaseibacillus paracasei ​MCC1849 trademarked LAC-Shield – has been incorporated into over 1,000 types of products in Japan, including bars, cereals, energy drinks, and powder drinks.

The postbiotics was selected from several thousands of bacteria strains, including L. bulgaricus, L. helveticus, L. reuteri,​ from its Morinaga Milk culture collection.

It was selected due to its ability to induce the highest amount of interleukin-12 (IL-12) which is crucial for immune health, Dr Wong said.

“It is one of the most important cytokines that induces immune response when we are attacked by foreign invaders and also determines the subsequent immune response that our body produces to help us control resistance to infections.”

For immunity, healthy ageing

So far, LAC-Shield has been studied for its effects on areas such as supporting immunity and influenza vaccine response in healthy adults and the elderly who tend to have a weakened immune system.

Findings published on Beneficial Microbes ​showed that 12-week supplementation of LAC-Shield could prevent cold and provide symptom relief, while helping to maintain a positive mood at the same time.

“Consumers are not that afraid of the COVID-19 virus anymore, but we see that they are still worried about being prone to illnesses and infections. They are afraid that there could be another wave of infections or emergence of new virus.

“And so, they still want to take care of their immune system, which is driving the immunity market,” ​Dr Wong said.

For the elderly, it was found that supplementation of LAC-Shield could improve influenza vaccine response.

The immune system tends to get weaker with age, causing increased susceptibility to infections. In particular, a weakened immune system in seniors could limit vaccine efficacy.

“For example, influenza vaccine effectiveness is 70 to 90 per cent in healthy adults but drops to 17 to 53 per cent in elderly. LAC-Shield could improve influenza vaccine response, especially in those with reduced immunity,” ​she said.

In particular, antibody production and the number of vaccine antigen induced by the vaccine have increased, following the supplementation of LAC-Shield, according to findings published on the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.

Potential mechanisms

One potential mechanism of LAC-Shield is its ability to strengthen the natural defense system by the production of IgA production.

“Following the intake, LAC-shield will be recognised by antigen-presenting cells, such as dendritic cells in the peyer’s patches and subsequently induce the production of IL-12 – the key activator for innate and adaptive immunity.

“Then, it will stimulate a cascade of immune response for the production of antigen-specific immunoglobulin A (lgA) and help us eliminate harmful bacteria and virus,” ​Dr Wong explained.

What exactly is postbiotics?

The definition of postbiotics, also known as parabiotics, has been a topic for debate.

Last year, the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) published a statement​ in the scientific journal Nature Reviews ​that postbiotics is defined as ‘a preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the host’.   

“This definition has highlighted a few key points, that postbiotic must be derived from microorganisms, be it a probiotic or not. They have to undergo a deliberate process to terminate the cell viability, and they must not contain any viable cells.

“More importantly, it must have a clinically-proven health benefit and it must be proven safe for consumption.

“This clarified definition actually brought a lot of noise in the industry, but it is also seen as a major milestone in the biotics space, making postbiotic a globally recognised category,” ​Dr Wong added.

Meeting consumers’ preference

Postbiotics, being de-activated or ‘dead’, could be added as a functional ingredient in more types of food and beverage products – which is also how consumers prefer to support health.

As ‘live’ bacteria, probiotics are often limited by the types of dosage formats that it could be applied to. For instance, some probiotics need to be kept chilled to keep it ‘alive’ and functional.

“When asked what format do you prefer to support health, 71 per cent of the global consumers say they seek for functional food and drinks to certain extent.

“In particular, they are looking for products that could be easily incorporated into the daily diet, is tasty and healthy, and that the product has a certain proven health benefit that can blur the boundary between groceries and medicines,” ​she said, citing data from FMCG Gurus’ report titled ‘Evolving Trends in the Immune Health Market – Global Report.’

In the case of LAC-Shield, Dr Wong pointed out that it could withstand harsh manufacturing conditions such as heat, acidic conditions, and pressure.

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