Probiotics can offer something most functional foods don’t, says GoodBelly: Instant gratification

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

The GoodBelly brand engages with consumers about difficult subjects (digestive health, toilet habits) in a 'fun' and 'quirky', way, says CEO Alan Murray
The GoodBelly brand engages with consumers about difficult subjects (digestive health, toilet habits) in a 'fun' and 'quirky', way, says CEO Alan Murray

Related tags: Lactobacillus

Unlike many functional food brands, GoodBelly does not ask consumers to wait 40 years for a return on their investment, says Alan Murray, CEO of brand owner NextFoods. Most customers, he says, claim to feel a benefit within 12 days, which is about as close as you can get to instant gratification in the world of nutrition science.

While the probiotic strain used in GoodBelly under license from Swedish firm Probi (Lactobacillus plantarum​ 299V) may provide long-term benefits to the immune system, it also addresses more immediate symptoms of digestive discomfort (abdominal pain bloating etc) – so offers consumer an immediate bang for their buck , he says.

“The entire vitamin industry has been built around the ‘you better believe it’ principle. You know they are good for you, but you don’t feel any immediate difference.

“With GoodBelly, it’s very much a ‘feel the effect’ product. Our research consistently shows that about 80% of people feel the benefit they expect.”

What are probiotics?

According to the World Health Organization, probiotics are “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”

Why do people buy GoodBelly products?

 He adds: “Now I am not going to say that is the case for all probiotics, but that is the case for the patented strain that we use ​[the benefits of LP299V are supported by 17 human clinical studies]. We have a very loyal customer base, and that is particularly the case when customers come to us via our 12-day belly reboot program. Retail accounts that work with us to promote the belly reboot also see greater loyalty.

goodbelly protein shake
Thew new GoodBelly protein shakes contain pea and chickpea protein

“I’d say about a third of our consumers buy GoodBelly because they have a digestive issue; another third because they believe there is a preventive element; and another third are just experimenting because they’ve heard about it.”

Habit-forming

GoodBelly – which is now in 6,000+ stores nationwide from Sprouts and Whole Foods to Safeway and Kroger - has also made it easy for consumers to build regular consumption of its products into their lifestyles by putting LP299V in a format (a juice beverage) that many people already consume on a daily basis, he says.

It has also introduced non-dairy shots, which can be harder for consumers to incorporate into their routines, but can become extremely habit-forming once established.

"Many people like juice but they are worried about the sugar and the calories,” ​says Murray. “With GoodBelly we are offering a health benefit above and beyond what you get from juice, so people feel that the calories are worth it. It also tastes delicious.”

“We’ve also noticed, however, that consumers of the shots are more loyal than the quart ​[32oz juice] customers, because they have created a new habit or routine. They buy more and they are more valuable. It took a long time for the shots to take root, but a lot of consumers start with the quarts, then move to the shots, and never move off.

“There is very little overlap as well. You are a quart buyer or you are a shot buyer.”

Do we need probiotics?

gut-istock-VikaValter

For cynics suspecting our guts can function perfectly well without the ingestion of a daily dose of ‘good’ bacteria, brands such as GoodBelly say that this may have been the case a few decades ago, but that several factors have combined in the last 50+ years to upset the delicate balance of our internal microflora:

  • We don’t consume the wide range of lactic acid bacteria that we used to;
  • We take antibiotics, which wipe out good and bad bacteria alike;
  • We live longer;
  • We have a poor diet.
  • Basically, we are not very nice to our guts.

When Americans finally latch onto something, they do it in a big way

For a brand that’s been around for almost a decade now, the fact that it is still generating 20-30% growth year-on-year is encouraging, says Murray, who says the growth is coming from a combination of new accounts, good velocity/organic growth in existing accounts, and the addition of new skus, including a 15oz grab & go bottle [$2.99] and protein shakes [$3.49] containing LP299V plus chickpea and pea protein.

goodbelly grab and go
GoodBelly recently introduced 15 oz Grab & Go bottles to offer options to consumers on-the-go

As for consumer awareness of probiotics, it’s growing all the time, says Murray, although the level of engagement and understanding varies. “Some people will go away and research the science behind a particular strain, others will pick something up because they’ve heard about probiotics on Dr Oz, and others are looking at numbers [is there an efficacious dose]?

Americans lag behind other countries when it comes to awareness of probiotics

“I’d say that Americans are way behind Japan and Europe when it comes to awareness, but when Americans finally latch onto something, they do it in a big way, so when Americans get it, we’ll be off to the races.”

As for claims, a string of high-profile false advertising lawsuits against companies from Dannon to Yakult, serves as a reminder of just how careful you have to be when it comes to talking about ‘good bacteria’, says Murray.

“In general I’d say don’t go into the grey zone with your language, stick to tried and tested language or you are just inviting trouble.”

In the EU​, the term ‘probiotic’ is no longer permitted, making life very difficult for firms marketing probiotics, who have thus far failed to secure a single approved health claim for probiotics under the Nutrition And Health Claims Regulation (NHCR).

In the US​, the regulatory environment is a little more accommodating, with firms allowed to make structure-function-type claims (eg. supports digestive health) about probiotics, provided they can be supported by scientific evidence.

The probiotic strain in GoodBelly products is Lactobacillus plantarum​ 299v (LP299V), which was developed by Swedish firm Probi.

The subject of 17 human clinical studies, LP299V is "just right for those of us who experience occasional digestive upset... particularly good during and after a course of antibiotics... and can even help keep you regular,"​ claims GoodBelly.

"Plus, it does its job without dairy — which is great news for lots of people."

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