Probiotics, prebiotics, postbiotics, and synbiotics have similar sounding names and all are involved with gut health. But they are different from each other. Probiotics are live microorganisms that have specific benefits for gut health and other areas of the body. Prebiotics are fibers and other materials that feed gut bacteria and confer gut health and other benefits. Postbiotics are mixtures of deactivated bacterial cultures and their metabolites that have health benefits. Synbiotics are combinations of probiotics, prebiotics and/or postbiotics.
Consumer Trends Support Gut Health
Consumers turn toward probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics to improve their gut health and holistic health. Consumer trends show that gut health is a priority and that consumers accept and believe in probiotics and prebiotics for gut health. In consumer trends research, gut health is named the top health benefit of probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics. Consumers also associate probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics with beauty, weight loss, reduced inflammation, better sleep, and energy.
Probiotics for Gut Health
Probiotics feature both well-established bacterial cultures and bacterial cultures that have specific health benefits. Foods, beverages and supplements with baby probiotics and probiotics for kids, along with dairy products, account for a majority of launches with probiotics. Specialty bacterial cultures, sports nutrition products, and products with probiotics for babies, including baby snacks, are growing fastest.
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 strong presence of Bacillus coagulans in nearly half of soft drink launches with probiotic ingredients in 2022-2023 H1 reflects its widespread use in kombucha products and other types of beverages. L. acidophilus has a growing presence in meal replacements, as well as kombucha, while L. plantarum is added to juice drinks and kombucha.
The fastest-growing probiotics for men, probiotics for women, and probiotics for kids have general health benefits as well as specialized health benefits. The most widely used probiotic bacteria cultures in the supplement market are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Streptococcus thermophilus.
Products With Probiotics Often are High Protein
The largest proportion of products with probiotic ingredients and/or a probiotic claim also carry a protein claim. Manufacturers of products with probiotics also attach claims regarding immune health and DHA. Nearly three-quarters of supplement launches with probiotic ingredients also carry a digestive/liver health claim. This reflects the association between probiotic strains and gut health. Immune health claims are present of half of supplements with probiotic ingredients, demonstrating the relationship between probiotics, gut health and immunity.
Prebiotics Include Fiber
Prebiotics are a type of fiber that feeds gut bacteria for improved holistic health. Several prebiotics, including inulin, oligofructose, and polydextrose, are widely used. Prebiotic ingredients in the food and beverage market provide fiber, have a mild sweetness that can help reduce sugar, and can replace fat. The top prebiotics are inulin-related fibers that nourish probiotic strains and boost gut health. Fiber is important to gut health and has been a foundation for holistic health for decades. Newer prebiotics offer a broader range of choices for manufacturers and consumers.
Prebiotics are Used in a Broad Range of Products
Prebiotic ingredients are growing in use in diverse applications such as sports powders, cookies, and chocolate. Global baby and toddler formula brands typically add the prebiotics oligofructose and/or galacto-oligosaccharide (GOS). Prebiotics may appeal to parents who are looking to improve the gut health of their children. Prebiotic ingredients and products with probiotics and prebiotics are desirable in products for babies and toddlers to help support gut health and immunity.
Most Postbiotics are Supplements
Product with postbiotic claims are primarily supplements. Supplements and products for babies and toddlers are the main categories for launches with postbiotic or synbiotic claims. Postbiotic ingredients and claims are most common in the US. A small but growing number of products include the word “synbiotic” on the label.
What’s Next in Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Postbiotics?
Probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics will continue to improve in providing specific holistic health functions and benefits for personalized nutrition. Marketing success may rely on helping consumers understand the connection between bacterial cultures, fermentation, probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics.
Watch for expanded understanding of the impact of probiotic strains on gut health and the cultivation of strains with benefits tailored to specific health conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Research into the impact of the health of gut bacteria on stress management, sleep, immunity and other conditions is expected to spark innovation in new probiotic strains, prebiotic fibers and postbiotic compounds. Expect to see additional fine-tuning of strains for specific health benefits and fibers for different life stages e.g., probiotics and prebiotics for babies and probiotics for kids.
Genetic mapping of the gut microbiome plus AI identification of functional ingredients will enable development of formulations that are tailored to personalized health.
Butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids appear to be key functional compounds generated by beneficial gut bacteria. Postbiotics and butyrate alone as an ingredient could provide benefits directly rather than relying on metabolism by gut microbes.
This article is based on our Ingredients Insider report, “The Future of Gut Health: Exploring the Future of Biotics Ingredients on a Global Scale.” If you are interested in reading our report on probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics, feel free to request a demo. You can do this by either booking a demo or using our Contact Form.