The council, which was set up in 2004 by Groupe Danaone and Yakult Honsha, said the grants are designed to stimulate innovative research, support young investigators, and attract new researchers in the United States into the field of probiotics and gut microbiota. "Our two companies have demonstrated their long- standing commitment to advancing research in probiotics. This field continues to be one of the most promising for more discoveries that will benefit human health, which is why Danone and Yakult decided in 2004 to join forces and further encourage more research in a larger number of countries," said Sven Thormahlen, executive vice president R&D, Danone Research. The companies hope that the new initiative will contribute to bridging gaps in the field of probiotics and the gut. Probiotics have become a household term, largely thanks to the marketing efforts of big brands like Yakult and Danone's Actimel, which are credited with creating the category. The beneficial bacteria are found naturally in the human gut, and are crucial for good gut health. When an imbalance occurs between probiotic and pathogenic bacteria, the result may be digestive problems such as diarrhea, irregularity or constipation. Regular consumption of probiotics is also said to ward off numerous preconditions for an array of diseases. Danone and Yakult hope the grants they will provide will allow researchers to further explore the benefits of probiotics. "These grants will also further advance understanding about the relationship between probiotics and the intestinal flora and are anticipated to expand the already stable research platform," said Ryuji Chino, Yakult senior managing director. GPC will provide two annual Young Investigator Grant for Probiotic Research, each of a value of $50,000 over one year. The grants are designed to encourange researchers in the fields of gastroenterology, immunology, genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, microbiology, and infectious disease to foster innovative ideas, sustain independence, and advance science. The probiotics market in the US, which has grown exponentially in the past few years, is predicted to still have significant room to grow for those companies that can effectively communicate the benefits of the ingredient to consumers. The concept of friendly bacteria first gained foothold in Europe and has slowly made its way over to the US where, according to Euromonitor data, the probiotic spoonable yoghurt market alone went from $112m in 2001 to $294m in 2006.
The European food and beverage probiotics market is expected to more than double by 2013, according to Frost & Sullivan. The Strategic Analysis of the European Food and Beverage Probiotics Market, says the market is expected to rise from its 2006 position of $61.7m to $163.5m by 2013.