The global food market shows a lot of excitement about gut health trends, focusing on gut health-related issues and innovation around probiotics, prebiotics, postbiotics, and synbiotics ingredients. According to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, probiotics are “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Prebiotics include certain dietary fibers and non-fiber substances that are selectively utilized by host microorganisms and confer a health benefit. Postbiotics include organic acids, enzymes, short-chain fatty acids, peptidoglycans and polysaccharides which are by-products of gut microorganisms that have gut health benefits.
Impact of Consumer Trends on Gut Health
Several major political, economic, sociological, environmental and technological forces, combined with consumer trends and current nutrition trends, spotlight health as a major force driving food trends and beverage trends. Consumer focus on holistic health trends can include probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics to improve gut health issues. Consumer trends research by Innova Market Insights shows that gut health is a priority and that ingredients associated with gut health are widely accepted. Food and beverage products and supplements that are targeted to gut health issues are highly desirable and purchased frequently. Trends involving fiber, including prebiotics, show fiber is a desired and highly accepted functional ingredient. Consumers of all ages take supplements for gut health. Fiber-focused gut health trends reveal show consumers also associate probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics with beauty, weight loss, reduced inflammation, better sleep and energy.
Probiotics Innovation Supports Gut Health Trends
Probiotics incorporate both well-established bacteria strains and new bacteria strains that are cultivated for specific health benefits. Several probiotic cultures are the most widely used in the food and beverage market to promote gut health. The probiotics Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are common, Bifidobacterium Bb12 is added to products for babies, Bacillus coagulans is the fastest growing probiotic strain in dietary supplements, and Lactobacillus acidophilus is the most widely used probiotic strain in North America, Europe, and Australasia.
Food and beverage products and supplements with gut health ingredients display gut health and other health claims. The largest proportion of products with probiotics also carry a protein claim. Immune health claims are present of half of supplements with probiotic ingredients, demonstrating the relationship between probiotics, gut health and immunity.
Probiotic bacteria for gut health appear mainly in dairy products, food and beverage products for babies and toddlers, and dietary supplements. Dairy products, the largest category for products with probiotic ingredients, have a long history of use of probiotics in cultured products. Probiotic cultures also are used in the dairy alternatives market. Penetration of probiotics in soft drinks is on the rise due to the popularity of kombucha beverages and the use of probiotics in meal replacements.
The Relationship of Prebiotics to Gut Health Issues
Classic prebiotic ingredients have a solid presence in the food and beverage market, while newer prebiotics are expanding gut health options for manufacturers and consumers. Prebiotic ingredients are fibers and related compound that are not fully digested in the human digestive tract. They travel through the gut to the colon, where gut bacteria consume them and release metabolites such as short-chain fatty acids that appear to confer health benefits. (Some of these metabolites are postbiotics.)
Prebiotics are most widely used in products for babies and toddlers and may appeal to parents who want to boost gut health in their young children. Prebiotic ingredients that have additional functions such as fiber, sweetness, and sugar reduction are part of current nutrition trends in sports nutrition products, cereal bars, and bakery products. Nearly 3 in 5 baby and toddlers launches contain oligofructose, a prebiotic fiber from chicory root. Over half contain galacto-oligosaccharide (GOS), which is present in breast milk. Another prebiotic fiber is 2’-fucosyllactose, an ingredient that helps formula come closer to the nutrition of human breast milk. One-quarter of cereal category launches, mainly cereal bars, contain oligofructose, the leading prebiotic ingredient used in the cereal category. Prebiotics are most widely used in cereal bars to help replace sugar and fat while adding fiber and moisture properties. Inulin is the top prebiotic in sports nutrition, followed by polydextrose. Use of polydextrose is growing as part of gut health trends. Polydextrose adds fiber and can help lower sugar and/or fat.
Postbiotics and Synbiotics are Latest Nutrition Trends
Nutrition trends involving postbiotics are the metabolic by-products of fermentation. They can be produced by bacterial strains or through processing using fermentation. Because they are not live ingredients, postbiotics retain their functionality during processing and can withstand the harsh digestive environment in the gut. Supplements and baby and toddlers are the main categories for launches with nutrition-targeted postbiotic claims. Postbiotic ingredients and claims are most common in the US. Products with a synbiotic claim include a combination of probiotics, prebiotics, and/or postbiotics.
Which Foods are Good for Gut Health?
Fermented foods and fermented beverages, including pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, yogurt, aged cheese, and kombucha, are very popular in current nutrition trends. These nutrition-associated foods are made using microorganisms to convert certain food and beverage components into lactic acid and postbiotic compounds. Consumer trends show that fermented foods and fermented beverages are considered to be natural. By-products of fermentation such as pickle juice and whey from yogurt production may have value as upcycled functional ingredients for nutrition purposes.
The food and beverage industry will continue to improve probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics to have specific functions that can be part of personalized nutrition approaches. Marketing success in personalized nutrition approaches may rely on helping consumers understand the connection between probiotics, prebiotics, gut bacteria, fermentation and digestive health.
This article is based on our report, “The Future of Gut Health: Exploring the Future of Biotics Ingredients on a Global Scale.”
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